5 Ways to Make Your Wedding Dress Totally Your Own

Personalize your look with these custom alterations.
by Kate Traverson
bride at wedding dress fitting with stylist

Wedding dresses certainly aren’t one style fits all. On a day when all eyes are on you, let your personality shine in a gown that’s as unique as you are. The good news: The dresses you try on in a store or a salon are just a starting point. “The great thing about a wedding dress is that it can be customized in so many ways, unlike clothing that comes directly off the rack,” says Shelley Brown, fashion and beauty editor for The Knot. Read on for her expert insight on how to own your look, then talk to your stylist at David’s Bridal about making that vision a reality.

1. Add Sleeves

Fell in love with a strapless dress but looking for more coverage or support? Ask your stylist about adding sleeves or straps. Bonus: they’re on trend. “Sleeves are actually having a huge moment in bridal after years of strapless styles being the most popular,” Brown says. At David’s Bridal, most gowns can be customized with cap sleeves or straps, and many silhouettes can even be altered with long sleeves. Or if you’re looking for a less permanent option that you can switch out between ceremony and reception, consider a jacket, capelet or dress topper. Some are even designed to look like part of your dress.

Pro tip: Brown recommends asking your stylist if adding sleeves might affect the fit of the dress. Will it raise the neckline or change the shape of the back? For example, putting long sleeves on a V-neck gown may not alter the look as much as adding them to one that’s strapless. And don’t forget to factor in your timeline—custom alterations might require extra fittings or take additional weeks to create.

2. Customize Your Bustle

“Bustles are little-understood alterations,” Brown says. Every dress with a train needs one, but not many brides know that each bustle is custom-made to suit her gown and preferences. These tricky systems of hooks, buttons and ties are designed to pull your train off the floor so you can dance all night, and they need to be carefully planned and sewn in a pattern that works with each individual silhouette. To avoid confusion, Brown recommends asking your seamstress to explain your options. Depending on the gown, there are usually five types of bustles to choose from: under, over, royal, ballroom and bow bustle. Your bridal stylist can demonstrate what each one looks like and help you decide which style works best with your dress. “Make sure you like the way your bustle looks because it’s going to be in all your reception photos,” Brown says.

Pro tip: Definitely bring someone from your bridal party or a family member for your fitting. Your stylist can show her how to properly tie the bustle so that she can re-create it for you on your wedding day. Isn’t that what friends are for?

3. Modify Embellishments

Depending on your personal style, you might feel like your dress could use a little more, or even a little less, embellishment. The easiest way to up the wow factor is to add a sash—this versatile accessory accentuates the waist with beading or delicate flowers. For even more personalization, see how much control you have over the existing details on your dress. “I’ve seen brides add more appliqué or 3-D florals to create a texture or make it feel a bit more fashion-forward,” Brown says. Conversely, if you’d like to tone it down, ask your stylist if it’s possible to remove elements. “In a lot of cases, if your gown has certain kinds of embellishment, like lace appliqué or beading, you can ask for less of that,” Brown says.

Pro tip: Look to your stylist for ideas. A little background about you goes a long way toward helping them realize your vision. “Try to describe your personal style. If you’re not too glam or not super-flashy, then tell them that,” Brown says. “Give them a feel for what you’re like outside the bridal salon.”

4. Lace It Up

Swapping out a zipper for a corset closure adds a romantic finishing touch for brides looking for a dramatic back, and they can be added to most silhouettes at David’s Bridal. But a corset-style closure isn’t only for looks. If you feel like you might need a little extra breathing room (or eating room—hello, cake!), a lace-up back gives you some leeway in the bodice.

Pro tip: Ask about cost up front, and share your budget with your stylist. “Keep in mind, the more intricate your gown or the more delicate or sensitive the material, the more expensive it tends to be to change it,” Brown says.

5. Make It Personal

Aside from aesthetics, there are also sentimental details you can add to make your wedding dress extra meaningful. Take a cue from tradition, and find a creative way to incorporate something old, new, borrowed or blue. Stitch your loved one’s initials in blue inside your bodice, close to your heart, or sew a charm with a special meaning into the hem. “Those are ways to customize that don’t feel so obvious but are still very personal to you,” Brown says.

Pro tip: Ask Mom or Grandma if they have any special mementos they can lend you for the day (something old and something borrowed: check!). “I love the idea of incorporating heirlooms somehow,” Brown says. She suggests creating a secret pocket inside your gown to hold your treasured keepsake.

Presented by The Knot and David’s Bridal, this sponsored series features fashion tips and style inspiration to help you plan a wedding that’s truly your own. Visit DavidsBridal.com to make an appointment with an expert stylist and start the search for your dream dress.

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