Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Dress Alterations

Once you've found your gown, take it to a pro who can fit it perfectly to your figure. Here's what to know before you go.
The Knot
Updated Jun 08, 2018

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. The most important thing to keep in mind is the more labor intensive the request, the more time and money you should allow for the process of creating your dream dress. With the help of a professional seamstress or tailor, you'll be ready for your wedding day with a gown that suits your figure flawlessly.

When to Go

It's important to time your alterations right. If you bring your gown in too early, 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 let the seamstress work their magic. 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.

Where to Go

If you purchased your gown at a bridal salon, you can most likely get dress alterations done there. It's possible the salon might not offer alterations though, in which case you should head to a seamstress or tailor who specializes in bridal gowns. Ask the salon if they have recommendations—they'll likely be able to point you toward a great pro. And remember 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—boning, hems, bustles and so on—that it's best to find a professional who's seen and worked on such gown components in the past.

What to Bring

When you head to the tailor or salon, bring more than just your gown (just like you did to go wedding dress shopping)—take your undergarments, shoes and accessories to 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 Take With You

While you might have legions of bridesmaids, it's not a good idea to bring everyone 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.

What to Expect

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 and 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.

Still searching for your wedding dress? Shop at bridal salons near you.

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