12 Wedding Dress Alteration Tips From an Expert
Whether you’re currently in the process of looking for your dream wedding dress or you’ve already purchased it, you probably have a lot of questions about the alteration process. After all, your gown might be one of the big-ticket items in your budget, so making sure it fits properly is essential. To help you feel comfortable and gorgeous in your dress on your big day, we talked to Lara Sims Prawat of Los Angeles’ Folklore Dress Studio about some wedding dress alteration tips you should know.
A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Lara began making wedding dresses in 2012. A year later, Folklore Dress Studio was founded. Lara has worked there ever since, and as the studio’s Owner, Designer, and Dressmaker, she’s well-versed in all things wedding-gown related.
Ask the expert: Wedding dress alteration tips you should know
1. Do I need to get my dress altered?
Almost every dress needs some type of alteration so that it fits you how you want it to. Unless it’s custom-made, wedding dresses are usually based on a generic model, so to get your gown to fit your unique body, having alterations done is crucial.
“Consider yourself lucky if your dress fits well already and you need minimal alterations,” Lara told Wedding Spot via email.
2. How much do wedding dress alterations cost?
“Alterations can range a lot, and much depends on the dress itself and how complicated it will be to alter, and how much altering you’ll need,” Lara said. “You can expect to pay $400+.”
However, every dress, every person wearing that dress, and every tailor or seamstress, are different. With that being the case, it’s best to chat with your bridal stylist as you’re gown shopping so you can plan and budget accordingly.
3. Where do I get my dress altered?
“I highly recommend picking a seamstress or tailor that specializes in wedding gowns,” Lara said. “Wedding gowns are much more intricate, complex, and delicate than regular clothing or even bridesmaid dresses, so you want someone who has the knowledge to work on them.
“Many bridal shops give you recommended seamstresses, but if you are on your own to choose, look for places that have great online reviews. If you have friends who have gotten married and enjoyed their alterations experience, you can ask them to recommend their tailor as well.”
4. When should I start the alteration process?
“Personally, I like to begin the alterations process about 2-3 months before the wedding date,” said Lara. “Other seamstresses may have different schedules or preferences. It is a great idea to talk to your preferred seamstress in advance to figure out the best time to schedule your first alterations appointment. If you start this process with less time before your wedding date, you may find that the tailors are already booked and you may not be able to work with your preferred person.”
5. What if my weight fluctuates?
“I always tell my brides that this is OK! Some weight loss or gain can happen with the stress of wedding planning, and since alterations are a multi-appointment process, there is usually time to adjust the dress according to your body’s changes,” Lara said. “However, if you are doing some dieting/exercise that could cause you to lose LOTS of weight, definitely make that known to your seamstress from the beginning. She or he may change the alterations process for you to accommodate your weight loss.
“When I work with brides who are planning for lots of weight loss, I typically book their subsequent alterations appointments very close to their wedding date to give them the maximum amount of time to lose weight, and so I don’t have to redo alterations too many times on the dress. I usually book my workload carefully to set aside enough time to do their alterations and adjustments in the shorter time frame we have planned.”
6. What should I bring to my appointment?
“Always have your wedding shoes,” Lara said. “Their height is important in figuring out the hem length, which nearly every bride needs. You can bring undergarments too, and if you have multiple options, your seamstress can help you to decide what will work best.”
If you’re planning on incorporating wedding accessories like earrings, necklaces, handbags, and so on, we recommend bringing those as well.
7. What if I don’t like how my dress fits after my second appointment?
“Please make that known to your seamstress,” Lara said. “They are there to do the work to make your dress fit you the way that you like. Your dress may not fit well once you pick it up from the shop, which is why you start on alterations. But it may not yet be perfect at the second fitting either, so definitely let your seamstress know what you still would like to be fixed. I’ve found it usually takes a total of 3-4 fittings for the dress to be perfect.”
8. How much of a dress can be customized?
“Bridal seamstresses should be able to do quite a lot — some examples are adding sleeves or straps, deepening a neckline, lowering the back, even making you an overskirt or lace topper for an alternative look,” said Lara. “Sometimes the amount of customization will depend on the way that the dress is constructed. It could compromise the structure or integrity of the dress to do certain customizations. It’s a good idea to reach out to the seamstress before your first fitting and talk with them about what customizations you’d like to do, just to make sure that it’s possible, and that they feel confident in doing that type of customization.”
We also recommend asking the bridal shop before you buy if you have an idea of what customizations you may want to make just to be safe.
9. Is it better to order a dress that is too large or too small?
“If you’re in between sizes, or measuring for one size in your bust and another in your hips, it’s always better to order larger,” she said. “Dresses can be taken in, but not all dresses can be let out.”
10. Does the fabric of my dress affect the alteration price?
“Yes, certain fabrics are harder or more time-consuming to work with,” she said. “If your dress has lace, beading, or lots of layers, you can expect the price to be higher since lace and beading are more intricate and require more time to take apart and put back together during alterations. The more layers it has, the longer it will take to alter or hem them all, and will affect the alterations cost.”
11. What are the most common alterations?
“The standard adjustments are a hem and bustle, and some body adjustments, such as taking it in through bust, waist, or hips,” said Lara.
Additionally, Finland-based bridal studio, Heili Bridal, lists some of the other most common alterations as:
Adding a waist stay. A waist stay is a ribbon or piece of elastic that goes on the inside of your gown around the waist to create a more form-fitting silhouette. It’s usually recommended for strapless gowns so you don’t have to be pulling your dress up all night.
Shortening the straps. Some wedding dress designers may leave the straps a bit longer so more brides are able to wear their gowns. It’s easier to shorten a strap than make it longer.
Altering the closure. This is for the bride who wants detail in the way the dress closes. Some brides are fine with the standard zipper, but others want elegant buttons running down the back or some other creative detail.
Altering the neckline. Some brides want a more plunging neckline and others want to be more conservative, so this alternation allows for customization to fit your desire.
Altering the back. Altering the back doesn’t just mean creating a low-back dress. It can be altered to add details like beading, lace, or a sheer panel as well.
Adding sleeves or doing other special alterations. This basically encompasses the idea of taking a dress you like, but isn’t your dream vision, and turning it into exactly what you see in your mind’s eye. Some examples of this are adding fabric, lengthening the train, layering fabric, adding embellishments, or taking a vintage gown and updating it.
12. Should I bring anyone to my appointment?
“Make sure you bring someone whose opinion you trust, and someone who has your back,” said Lara. “Everyone has opinions, but it’s your wedding day, so you can be selective about what types of opinions you’re bringing into your alterations appointment. Ultimately, bring people that will build you up.”
Put these wedding dress alteration tips to use!
At the end of the day, pretty much any alteration can be done to a wedding dress given the correct amount of time, planning, and budget. Just always remember to communicate and be as transparent as possible throughout the whole process.
Up next: If you’re just starting your wedding dress journey, take a look at our wedding dress style guide. And remember, no matter what dress you choose and what alterations end up being done, you’re going to look stunning. Enjoy the journey!