Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Dress Alterations

You've found your gown, but it's not quite the perfect fit—yet.
by The Knot
White strapless wedding gown
photo by Hunter Ryan Photo

Even if you’ve found your wedding dress and signed on the dotted line to officially make it yours, you still aren’t ready to head down the aisle quite yet. Most gowns need some sort of alteration, and the scope of work can vary greatly, depending on where you purchase your gown and how many changes need to be made. With the help of a seamstress or tailor, you’ll be ready for your wedding day with a gown that fits flawlessly.

When to Go

It's important to time your alterations right. Bring your gown in too early and you might not end up with a proper fit. (You may lose or gain weight after your gown is altered, which could affect the dress's overall look and fit.) Bring your gown in too late, and you run the risk of not allowing enough time to have all the changes made. We recommend allowing two to three months from your first fitting to your last as an ideal timeline to make all the alterations. Also keep in mind that the amount of times you need to go for fittings depends on how much you're getting done to the gown—on average, most brides go for three or four fittings.

Who to Go To

If you purchased your gown at a bridal salon, you could most likely get any alterations done there. But if your salon doesn’t offer alterations, be sure to go to a seamstress or tailor who specializes in bridal gowns—in other words, this isn’t a job for your local dry cleaner unless they know the intricacies of formal eveningwear. Wedding gowns have so many complex details, from boning to hems and bustles, that it's best to find a professional who will have seen and worked on such gown components in the past. (Hint: Use our marketplace to find a reputable shop.)

What to Bring

When you're ready for alterations, don't just bring your gown—take your undergarments, shoes and accessories to your fittings as well. With all of the pieces in place, it'll be easier to envision your overall wedding day look. Your undergarments and shoes will ensure the proper fit and length of your gown, and your hair accessories or veil will help you maintain the right overall balance. If you don't have the exact shoe you'll be wearing, bring something similar in height.

Who to Bring

While you might have legions of bridesmaids, it's not a good idea to bring them all to your fittings, but you’ll definitely want someone to come with you. Consider inviting your mom, another trusted relative or friend to accompany you to your fittings for their reliable opinion and another set of eyes. And because your maid of honor will need to know how to do the bustle, it's a good idea to bring her to your last fitting so she can learn how your gown works from the pro.

Endless Possibilities

Whether you found your gown at a couture salon or a bridal sample sale, the options for alterations are nearly endless. Many tailors who have worked on bridal gowns are used to reworking fabrics, opening up hems and can practically redesign a dress. This is particularly common when a bride wants to modernize her mother's gown—a seamstress can use the same fabric but create an updated style for the gown.

Just keep in mind that the more labor intensive the request, the more time and money you should allow for the process of creating your dream dress.

Find a seamstress or tailor for alterations here.

Shopping for your gown? Search our wedding dress galleries for inspo here.

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