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Bridal Alteration Advice from a Wedding Dress Designer

Melody Lane Photography | Ali tending to a bride’s bustle on the wedding day


I got into the wedding biz as a fashion designer and opened my business in 2010. I quickly realized that our local community needed a fun and exciting twist for bridal shows. That is why Upstate Indie Weddings is here! We redefine wedding traditions and transform your wedding planning experience! In my bridal business, where I make custom wedding gowns, reconstruct vintage gowns and provide creative solutions for brides – I’ve done just about everything you can imagine. So allow me to share my true expertise in bridal alteration advice for the brides among us! When you’re searching for your wedding dress, keep these things in mind!

FIT AND BODY TYPE

Always consider your body type when selecting your wedding gown. This is a dress that you’ll wear once, but it’s also a dress that you’ve never worn before! My best bridal alteration advice is to try on a lot of dresses. This way, you will see how they look on your body. It’s a bit deceiving, and sometimes disappointing when you see a photo of a dress you love that doesn’t look the same on you. Alterations can’t always make it so.

Moonshine Photography | Victoria’s Bridal Shoppe


  1. Strapless

  2. If your dress doesn’t come with an interior waist band, consider having your tailor add one for some added security to keep the dress up.

  3. You can add straps and or a yoke to the dress if you’ve fallen in love with her, but you’ll need an experienced designer to do this. It’s no simple feat.

  4. Don’t try to lower the back neckline of your strapless dress or it will loose support that you will want.

Moonshine Photography | Megan Dailor Photography | Lovely Bride Rochester


  1. Off-the-shoulder

  2. Trims can be added to give the illusion of an off-the-shoulder to strapless dresses quite easily. However, dresses that have a strap aren’t that easily turned into an OTS style.

  3. Tightness is a big factor for OTS silhouettes, especially if you try and turn an over the shoulder strap into an OTS strap.

  1. Backless

  2. Backless dresses provide ZERO support for your breasts unless there are straps across the back, around the shoulders or across the neck. If you’re looking for support and structure, my bridal alteration advice is to consider a dress that has illusion netting across the back. You’ll be so much happier. Trust me!

Made by Anatomy | Faye Kolkman Photography | Nicole Gatto Photography | Sarah Wintle Photography


  1. Sleeves

  2. We are asked A LOT to add sleeves to dresses. This definitely takes a skilled designer who has experience not only setting in sleeves, but in drafting them to fit as well. A sleeve can be made of matching fabric, netting or a complimentary fabric to create a new look overall. Sleeves added to an armhole are a bit less time consuming that sleeves and the creation of an armhole by adding straps or a yoke.

  3. Plunging V

  4. Keep in mind how low and exposed these styles are. Those of you who found the dream dress but feel too exposed, consider using illusion netting or lace to cover up.

EMBELLISHMENTS

Beading, lace applique, intricate seaming, boning… all things that add interest and/or structure also add time. Anything that has to be removed prior to accessing the area to be fitted will add to the time, therefore the cost. Shiny pretty things are lovely and cost more for a reason! Here is some specific bridal alteration advice in regard to embellishments.

Made by Anatomy


  1. Sizing up/down can become truly arduous depending on the construction of the dress and the placement of the beading. Take a look at the dress above. The alterations cost nearly half as much as the dress due to how much needed to be fitted and the all over beading.

Lovely Bride | Victoria’s Bridal Shoppe | Made by Anatomy


  1. Hemlines – Lace and applique, as well as inner trims like horsehair or hem tape have to be removed before any work can be done. Once the new hem is cut and finished, they then need to be put back on.

Left: Victoria’s Bridal Shoppe | Lovely Bride


Alterations Made by Anatomy


  1. If your dress has intricate seaming or paneling, be it a plain fabric or from lace trims, will need to be matched up. Sometimes other seams will need to be adjusted in order to make the dress look like it used to when fitting.

Lovely Bride Rochester


  1. Beading and applique always add time to the overall construction of the dress. A tailor’s overall goal is to make the dress look exactly as it did when it came in!

Buffalo Alterations Made by Anatomy


  1. Another element of beading that adds so much time is ensuring that all of the beading is secured. Once you open up a row of beading things get risky!

BUSTLES

If you don’t want the hassle of a bustle, my bridal alterations advice is to remove your train. However, if you plan on dancing the night away or are getting married in a barn – you’ll want your wedding dress fabric up and off the ground. The train is so beautiful and romantic, but also a pain in the ass. 😝 Work with your tailor to determine the best bustle for your dress design. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Victoria’s Bridal Shoppe


  1. Dresses made of stretch crepe are so popular right now. They are also so heavy, and when there is a long train, the bustle could become a hassle. A 5′ bride wore a lace top, crepe skirt with a Cathedral train and we had to make two layers of under bustle for her. Good thing we were invited to the wedding so we could bustle it for her!

  2. Bustles can add bulk. That’s just the nature of the beast.

  3. Your bustle can also pull down on the back of the dress due to the weight of all of the train fabric gathered to a few spots.

What Makes Alterations Expensive?

“That’s easy to do, right?” I hear this so often in fittings and it always  makes me chuckle. I always tell my clients that everything is fixable, but the amount of time varies. If you want to save money on alterations, find a tailor who takes shortcuts. Want to ensure that your dress will look and feel exactly the way you want all day? My bridal alteration advice is not to skimp on the fixes. Here are a few of the things that really add up, and the amount of hours it can take to execute them.

  1. Full sweep skirt hems – ballgowns, full tulle skirt, or any kind of skirt with tiers (layers) are so time consuming. Most styles of this nature also have multiple layers of fabric: the self layer, interlinings, linings, netting or crinoline, etc. Each of these layers are often clean finished in different ways: rolled hem, blind stitched, or cut edge. Each layer has to be pinned properly on the person, then marked on the table, cut and clean finished. A skirt of this nature (with no embellishments or hem trim) can take up to 10 hours.

  2. Bustles with more than 10 points take a very long time. Once you figure out the placement for each point, you have to attach the fixtures one by one. Under bustles can be very complicated. We color code ours so it’s easier for the client. A 27 point under bustle takes up to 7 hours.

  3. Items that need to be removed before working – applique, beading, boning, trims, etc. It’s hard to put a number on this, as it’s specific to each unique dress, but here are some averages:

  4. All over beaded dresses can take an additional 6-15 hours depending on how much fitting is required.

  5. Lace scalloped hemlines on a fit and flare dress with no train or a train can add an additional 3-8 hours depending on if the lace can be machine applied or needs to be hand stitched.

  6. Moving boning out of the way and replacing it adds another 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how many seams are boned.

  7. Buttons or zippers are always avoided if at all possible. However, sometimes it’s unavoidable. If a zipper has to be removed or replaced, it can add 1-2 hours. If buttons need to be removed and replaced, it can add 1-3 hours.

  8. Lastly – the amount of time that is spent on and with each client adds up. If  you’re working with a good tailor, they are there to answer emails, phone calls and discuss any of your concerns. Fittings take time and it all adds up. It’s a very high pressure job, working with clients with very high expectations – so we tailors give all of our time and attention to our clients.

Average wedding dress alterations take between 10-15 hours in my experience. Bridal alteration tailor rates range based on level of experience and location from $18-$50. When you do the math, there you have it. To sum up my bridal alterations advice: when you’re looking for an alterations tailor, consider the cost but also research the work. If you don’t see photos of dresses like yours, ask the tailor about it. Make sure that you like the environment of the tailor shop. You’ll want to be comfortable speaking your mind and asking for what you want. Lastly, trust them! They are the professional and know more than you. 😝

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