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5 Tips to Unspooling Gown Alterations

February 20, 2019
wedding gown, dress alterations, dress designer, dress maker, dress fitting, wedding gown questions

You have found it. THE dress. It is nothing like you expected you would fall in love with. Or maybe it was the dress swooshing around your imagination since childhood. In either case, you zipped yourself into it and you knew.

This is only the beginning, I’m afraid. Because it is rare for that perfect dress to fit, well, perfectly. We are all born with a unique mish-mash of mom and dad’s proportions, and because of that you might need additional bust support, some length off the bottom, not to mention multiple bustle options and additional creative elements to add a bit more flair. It’s mostly unavoidable, your dress is going to need a tune-up, and believe it or not, that’s a good thing. When all eyes are on you, the dress will appear made just for you, to your contours and personal style.

Now that we have accepted this fact, let’s dive into some tips to make the process as seamless and satisfactory as possible.


1. Look, it’s going to cost you some money.

This is the painful part of course. Alterations can run anywhere from a breezy $75 all the way up into the gulp-inducing several hundreds of dollars. It’s going to depend on a few factors, like the complexity of what you are having corrected, who is performing the service, and how much time has been allotted to complete them. The best thing you can do to stomach these necessary fees is to consider the alterations a built-in cost of the dress. For instance if your budget for a dress is $3000, when browsing, limit your search to dresses in the $2500 range. The money left over is already set aside for adjustments to the dress, veil, accessories, etc. No surprises, and no scrambling for additional funds.

2. These things take time, and multiple fittings.

If you don't want to see a tailor’s blood pressure shoot upward in real time, give them a month to perfect your dress. To you, a month is eons. Handing your dream gown over to a stranger for weeks on end can be agonizing, and your faith they won’t ruin or lose your dress is all you have to go on. 

First, calm down. These seamstresses don’t want to ruin your dress any more than you want them to. They are in this business because they are good at what they do, they love happy brides, and they are passionate about their craft. Because of this however, trust them when they ask for several weeks to complete your alterations and see you through multiple fittings. You will likely need more than one fitting. Give the dress the time it deserves, the more the better.

3. Your neighbor's cousin’s gardener’s sister should not be completing your alterations.

You are going to be tempted to cut corners and find a friend to take care of these things for you. Professional tailors are the only people who should be even touching your dress once purchased. They know the delicate fabrics, how to navigate around beading and lacework, they understand how your dress is supposed to move when you are gliding on a dance floor, where the darts go so that when you sit down to eat the entire thing doesn’t split up the backside. The person who hems your jeans is likely not skilled in shaping your dress. And when your friend with a sewing machine gets it all wrong and you are down to the wire, you will have no recourse. Stick with the experts, ideally the personnel who sold you your dress will have a great recommendation, or a reputable tailor in your area with proven wedding gown experience.

4. For the first time in your life, size UP your dress.

This is not a dig on your winter weight, and it’s not a fun game the sales staff plays to convince you to pay for alterations. This is a practical measure taken by people with experience, who know it is much easier to take a dress in than it is to make a small dress bigger. Imagine spending what feels like a fortune on your fairy tale dress, to discover there’s just nowhere to go with making the dress big enough to fit you. Purchase a dress that is just a touch too big, no more than one step up from your current size. This gives just enough play at the seams, but not so much play that the entire cut of the dress would change by removing large swaths of fabric.It stands to reason that you should be at or near your desired weight while trying on dresses in the first place. Huge variations in your body dimensions make alterations an impossible task, so get to whatever weight you want and stay there. And don’t overthink this part. You are beautiful just the way you are, and an ideal size for the person dying to marry you.

5. Make each fitting an au naturel dress rehearsal.

If you want an accurate visual for how your dress will lay the day of your wedding, it should follow that all of your fittings would include the little details that complete the look. Bring with you the jewelry, shoes, veil, bra, underwear, and any shaping undergarments you are planning to wear. Switching from one bra to another can alter the bust line all together, and throw off measurements for the rest of the dress. And your jewelry might not appeal to you as much once paired with the dress. Your fittings are opportunities to trial options both under and over your dress.Additionally, if it’s a hot day outside, cool down before trying on your dress to avoid any sweat or deodorant transfer. And while on the topic of transfer, imagine your dream gown smeared with self-tanner or make-up. Instead show up to your fittings baby faced and fresh, and bring with you your maid of honor or trusted family member. You will need this person with you as another set of eyes, to learn how to zip, button, or tie you in, handle your train and bustle, and do lunch with you afterward. These are happy moments to be celebrated, so share them with someone you love.

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