Saying yes to the dress is one of the best wedding planning moments. Before you move on to the next item on your checklist, take time to think about getting that gorgeous dress tailored. Even if it only needs a slight adjustment like a hem, every dress should be altered to achieve that perfect fit. For budget-conscious brides especially, alterations can make an off-the-rack dress look like a much more expensive custom gown.
Whether your bridal salon has an in-house seamstress or you are working with a local trusted tailor, we’re breaking down what you need to know about dress alterations, fittings, and how to prepare for your first appointment.
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Budget for Alterations
It’s always good to factor alterations into your total dress budget. If you can consider this cost before buying your dress, even better. Tailoring costs can vary widely depending on how many alterations are being done, the skill level of your tailor, and where you are located. Typically, it will cost between $400 to $1,000 on average to have a wedding dress professionally tailored.
Dresses with more ornate beading and appliques, or made from delicate fabrics like chiffon or charmeuse, will require a more skilled hand and likely end up being more expensive. Also, the more you want your dress customized, the more you will spend on alterations.
While it’s very convenient to use a bridal salon’s in-house tailor, and they may be more familiar with specific styles or designers, do not feel limited to this option. Check reviews, ask friends and family for recommendations and feel free to shop around with local seamstresses as well.
Leave Enough Time Before Your Big Day
Make sure you have plenty of time to get your dress perfectly tailored by purchasing your dress at least eight months before your Big Day. This will leave enough time for your dress to arrive, plus factor in an extra two to three months for alterations. If you know you want extensive adjustments, add an additional month to this guideline.
Usually, this process takes three fittings but can be longer if you add a lot of customizations. During peak wedding season, tailors’ schedules can get pretty tight, so don’t delay getting started on this process. Once you’ve selected a seamstress, book your first fitting about three months before your wedding.
From there, they will give you an estimated timeline for follow-up appointments which typically includes a second fitting around the one-month mark and a final fitting one to two weeks before your Big Day. Your first appointment will likely be an hour-long visit but expect shorter appointments after this. Your final fitting is focused on minor last-minute adjustments, so many times, you can leave with your perfectly tailored dress in hand.
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What Sort of Alterations Can Be Made?
Most brides know their dresses can be hemmed, bustled, and taken in, but there is a wide range of other lesser-known alterations. For example, your tailor can add interior silicone strips or bra clasps to help your dress or undergarments stay put. They can add horsehair trim to the hem to create a specific flowy effect or work their magic to sew in bust support or design convertible sleeves or overlays, and more.
Your options are vast, so it’s best to consult with your trusted expert in advance since they will know what works best for your dress depending on its detailing, fabric, and size. Standard alterations would include adjusting the hem, straps, bust, waist, and hips and adding a bustle. Here are some other alterations to consider:
Adjusting the Neckline
If your dress is low-cut and you prefer a more modest look, or if it’s too high and you prefer a plunging neckline instead, your seamstress will be able to help. Custom requests like this are pretty common. Your seamstress can use nude mesh, appliques, and more to give you the neckline coverage you desire.
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Converting the Sleeves
Let’s say you purchased a long-sleeve gown but really preferred a cap sleeve; your tailor can undoubtedly accommodate this request. A big trend right now is removable sleeves in billowy fabrics or lace. It’s a great way to change your look from ceremony to reception and is perfect for a fall wedding to keep you warm if it gets chilly as the night goes on.
Creating Drama in Back
If you want to add some stunning details to the back of your dress, your seamstress can offer suggestions. Many brides request a lower backline or have illusion mesh added for support. From longer trains to large bows, cascading buttons, beading, and appliques, there are a lot of options to make your exit as wow-worthy as your entrance.
While developed for function so you wouldn’t be tripping over your dress when dancing post-ceremony, a bustle can also make a big statement. From hooked American bustles to ruched ribbon-held Australian bustles, your tailor will find the style that makes your dress look even while boogieing down.
But Don’t Go Overboard with Alterations
There are many options to choose from, but be careful not to ruin your dress with too many alterations. You chose your wedding dress for a reason. Don’t add so many embellishments and extensive adjustments that it turns into an entirely different style that no longer resembles the dress you picked.
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What if My Weight Fluctuates?
Since your fittings are typically scheduled within three months from your wedding day, brides will not usually have a drastic weight fluctuation in that timeframe that majorly alters their dress. By booking multiple fittings, your tailor is also given more than one opportunity to get your dress fitting like a glove.
While it’s always easier to take in a dress that is too large, there is usually extra fabric that can also be let out an inch or so if needed. If weight fluctuation is an issue you anticipate, speak to your bridal consultant and seamstress about your concerns as soon as possible so they can give you personalized recommendations, such as ordering a slightly larger dress or sourcing specific fabric.
Prepare for Your First Fitting
Now that you’ve set your alterations budget, figured out your fitting schedule, and decided what alterations you want, it’s time to get ready for your first fitting appointment. The two most important things to bring with you are your wedding shoes and your undergarments.
Your shoes are essential to determine the appropriate hem length. Most tailors opt for a hem that “kisses the floor,” hitting just above the ground to allow you to easily walk but still create a flawless silhouette. If you’re planning on switching shoes from ceremony to reception, it can complicate finding that perfect hem length. Be sure to speak to your seamstress and see what they’d recommend.
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You also want to be sure none of your dress detailing is lost, so ask how they will keep trim details like a scalloped edge intact. This can be done by taking the dress up from another spot or re-beading and re-stitching. Before any cutting is done, make sure you are comfortable with your tailor’s approach.
Your bridal consultant can likely suggest undergarments that work best with your dress cut and style. Whether you need a strapless bra or a boned corset, there are plenty of options out there. Even if your dress is low-cut, you can still find shapewear that will not show. These days, most brides wear shapewear; even if you work out all the time, shapewear can still help create smooth lines that will look great in photos.
If you already have your jewelry and accessories, like your handbag or headpiece, picked out, bring those to your first fitting too. This will help you get an exact idea of how you will look on your Big Day and allow your tailor to perfect your overall vision.
Know What to Expect
At your first fitting appointment, you’ll likely be trying on your actual dress for the first time. Do not panic if it doesn’t fit quite right yet. That is what tailors are for! Together, you’ll go over how it should properly fit and ensure that you are comfortable. You’ll then discuss any additional adjustments you want to be made. This is your time to ask questions and get feedback from the expert in front of you.
Most of the structural changes will have been made before your second fitting but might not be perfected. This is the time to speak up if you don’t like anything or it’s making you uncomfortable, like boning poking out or a bust that doesn’t feel supported enough. Don’t be shy; now is the best time to talk to your tailor about fixing these issues.
At your third fitting, your seamstress will likely have those final adjustments completed and use this time to ensure everything is perfect and that you are happy with the alterations. If there’s something minor like a loose bead, they might even fix it on the spot. This is also the appointment where they will show you how to bustle your dress. Our pro tip is to ask them to video it so you can share this with your Maid of Honor or whoever is helping bustle you on your wedding day.
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Should You Bring Along a Trusted Friend or Family Member?
This is much more technical than buying your dress, so it’s best to either go solo or select someone who can come with you to every fitting. This way, you’ll prevent any confusion since you don’t want them to bring up a new issue later in the process that was never discussed.
If you want to bring a trusted friend or family member with you, you can, but we recommend limiting it to one person. Pick the one who will help you get ready on your wedding day or someone who has a background in fashion or tailoring. Your seamstress can even give them a mini tutorial on bustling your train or lacing up your corset in person.
Consider Custom Extras
If you don’t have a veil yet, ask your seamstress for a quote on a custom one. This is one of the best perks about having a go-to tailor. They can design something unique and beautiful for much less than the cost of one you would find in a store. While you are at it, you might even want to ask them for a custom mask or cover-up that matches your dress too.
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Follow these tips and guidelines, and we’re sure your dress is going to look even more stunning than you could have imagined. Once you see the difference a few alterations make, you’re probably going to want to have all of your clothes tailored. Just wait until after the wedding, okay?