For many brides, wedding dress alterations are unexplored territory, and it may be a confusing process to understand initially.
Who knew wedding dresses aren’t typically scaled for size like regular dresses? Or that bra cups could be sewn into a dress? And did you know you could add just about anything to your dress, from lace to sleeves, during the alteration process too?
If you want your dress to truly fit like a glove on your big day, alterations are the key to ensuring the correct fit, so always keep an alteration budget in mind when shopping for your dress—because you’ll need it! Depending on the number of alterations needed, the price can range anywhere from $50 to $1000.
And keep in mind that alterations also take time—two to three fittings are typically the minimum to ensure a proper fit. Most alterations can be done in-house by the bridal boutique (like our own team here at The Poinsett Bride, who work some alteration magic) and start two months before the final wedding day date.
What else do you need to know about the alterations process, and which types of alterations are the most common for wedding dresses? Let’s break down the topic in a bit more depth below.
Types of Alterations for Wedding Dresses
There are two main types of alterations for wedding dresses: basic hemming and customization options. Basic hemming will ensure your dress fits your body’s specifications, while customization includes more detailed options.
For your gown to fit your body properly, you’ll need some basic alterations, including hemming the length of the train, taking in/out the sides of the gown, and adjusting the bustline. It’s rare for a dress to fit a bride perfectly right off the rack, so expect a few basic alterations to look your best on your big day.
Customizations can be a bit more costly than basic hemming details, so if you hope to make your dress look one-of-a-kind, you’ll need to set aside a major portion of your budget for this. Options can range from simple, such as adjusting straps, changing the sleeve lengths, and adding buttons to ornate, like building sleeves, applying lace, and adding beading. Additionally, since most dresses don’t have a built-in bustle (to tie your train up so you can move around more easily), expect to add it to your alteration budget if you want one.
Important Things to Know Before Your Alteration Appointment
There are a few key things to know before scheduling your alteration appointment, so we’ve highlighted a few of the most important below.
Depending on the amount and types you intend to do, alterations can range from reasonably inexpensive to $1,000 or more. Some boutiques may charge for specific services (like creating a bustle or shortening your gown), while others may simply charge a flat-rate fee that covers any type of alteration you may need. It might be best to shop around and plan for the salon that offers the best pricing package for your specific needs.
Plan Ahead of Time
Because of the time considerations of altering a wedding dress, we typically recommend buying one at least ten months before your wedding date. Earlier is always better, especially if your dress has to be ordered, which can sometimes take up to five months to arrive at the boutique.
Your alteration appointment should be booked at least 8-12 weeks before your wedding day, with a final appointment about two weeks before your big day. However, if you plan to customize your dress, your initial appointment should be booked even earlier.
Be Mindful of Your Weight
While weight gain is natural throughout the month according to our menstrual cycle and can certainly be dealt with throughout the alterations process, any significant weight fluctuations may prove a bit harder to address. This means that it’s important not to buy a dress you hope you will fit into on the day of your wedding to inspire weight loss. It’s much more challenging to loosen or add panels to a dress that’s too small than to take in the seams of a dress that’s too large. So don’t fear buying a larger size for your wedding gown— it’s much better to have one that won’t cost an arm and a leg to alter!
Bring Any Accessories With You To Your Appointment
Wearing different undergarments and accessories can significantly affect the tailoring of your dress, so it’s crucial to wear everything you plan to wear on your big day to ensure the best fit possible. If you plan to wear a specific bra or underwear, it’s essential to wear it on the day of your alterations. Likewise, any shoes you intend to wear, and any other accessories that may affect the tailoring should be worn to your appointment.
Top 6 Most Common Alterations
Each bride will need some kind of tweaking to her wedding dress before the big day, but do you know which alterations are the most common?
1. Hemline Adjustment
Most wedding dresses are made in a standard length, usually designed for a bride who is 5’10”. Considering most women aren’t this tall, you’ll likely need to adjust the hemline to suit your exact height so that your train isn’t dragging along the floor.
2. Strap Adjustment
Straps are usually made too long for alteration purposes— having them too long is much easier to fix than having them too short. So if you’ve got a strappy gown, you’ll likely need this adjusted.
3. Adding Bra Cups
With plunging back and necklines, wearing the right bra will likely prove more than a little challenging on your big day, so most brides opt to have a bra built into the dress itself.
4. Adding a Bustle
As mentioned earlier, most dresses have a bustle, which is designed to lift your train so you can move around more easily during the reception. A bustle is meant to be invisible until it’s necessary to use it, and most tailors are well accustomed to accommodating one.
5. Taking In or Letting Out the Sides
Everyone’s body is built differently. If you haven’t experienced the magic of an outfit sewn to hug your every curve, your first trip to a tailor will be quite the treat! A great tailor can make your dress look as though it was built specifically for you.
6. Altering the Neckline or Backline
Some dresses may look great on the rack, but sometimes that deep plunge line doesn’t look as good as you’d like. If a plunging back or neckline is revealing a bit too much, then your tailor can easily make some minor changes to help it fit your silhouette just the way you’d like it to.
Every bride will likely need alterations to their dress before their big day. Because most wedding dresses are designed with the intent to be altered, your dress probably won’t fit your body properly without hiring a tailor to adjust the fit. Prepare for at least 2 to 3 alteration adjustments before your wedding day, and don’t wait until it’s too late to shop for your gown. With a little bit of forethought and some thoughtful budgeting, alterations will be totally worth the extra expenditure so that your gown truly pops on your big day.