What You Might Need
Seamstress Kim Trickey, owner of Sewing Solutions at the Bridal Loft in Portland, Ore., says the most common alteration requests she sees are shortening or hemming a dress, taking in the sides and adding a bustle. However, she’s also been asked to add length to a gown, create a bottom that can come off to leave a shorter reception version of the dress, and add a capelet. Vintage, heirloom or used dresses often have special requirements like reducing the fullness of a skirt, removing a long train, or taking off the sleeves and changing the neckline to update the style, Trickey adds.
Other ways to personalize your dress include adding straps (spaghetti, halter or two-versus-one), sleeves (cap, short or long) and trading out a zipper for a corset back, says Kim Smith, director of the alterations division for David’s Bridal.
If your dress is way too small – many gowns come with a minimal seam allowance to allow for changes of about one size up or down – you can have a corset back installed or side panels put in when matching fabric is available, says Trickey. But these and other major alterations aren’t always possible and may affect the gown’s integrity or silhouette.
Even if you have weight loss goals, Smith advises purchasing the dress that fits you now, as it’s easier to eliminate a little fabric than make it magically appear.
Smith recommends making your alterations appointment the day you purchase your dress. Ten to 12 weeks before the wedding is ideal, adds Trickey, in case multiple fittings are needed. Aim to have your dress back in your hands two weeks before the event.
What to Bring
Your bra, shapewear, slip and shoes can all affect the look and fit of your gown, so definitely bring the actual items you plan to wear on your wedding day, notes Smith.
What You’ll Spend
According to Trickey, the price range for average alterations is approximately $100 to $400 dollars. Smith advises including the cost of likely alterations when determining a budget for your gown. “And,” says Smith, “keep in mind that buying a $99 sale gown that has to be completely reconstructed to fit you won’t save you money – or stress – in the end.”