Fit is everything when it comes to a wedding dress. Here are seven key things to know about bridal alterations.
1. Plan to order your dress eight to 12 months in advance of your wedding and stay on schedule. “Having your dress in and waiting in alterations for a couple of months is always less stressful than waiting for the dress to arrive and cutting it short for alterations,” says Tracy Ponec of Rhylan Lang in the Old Market. If you’re planning a fall 2020 wedding, it’s not too early to begin dress shopping.
2. Be aware that seamstresses are extremely busy during prime wedding alterations season, April through October. As soon as you order your dress and have an approximate delivery date, it’s a good idea to reserve a spot on a seamstress’ calendar. Rhylan Lang makes in-salon alterations available to brides who subscribe to its VIP service. “When the dress arrives, we store it until it goes into alternations and never has to leave the store until you pick it up a week before your wedding,” Ponec says.
3. Budget for alterations. Most seamstresses who specialize in bridal gowns charge per service rather than a flat rate. Customizations beyond simply fitting the gown — adding lace or beading or reshaping the silhouette, for example — can add up quickly. “There’s no way to give you an average (cost) for alterations,” Ponec says. “There are too many variables from dress to dress.” Consulting with a seamstress or a knowledgeable dress consultant before you buy is one way to make sure a dress still falls within your budget after alterations.
4. If your bridal consultant recommends a custom measurement, opt for it. Some designers offer the option of a specified hem length. The customization, known as a hollow-to-hem measurement, involves a charge that’s often comparable to having the dress altered by a seamstress, Ponec says. “If a custom measurement is beneficial to the bride, we’ll highly recommend it,” she says. That’s often the case with a petite figure, in order for the dress to be in proportion to her height and build.
5. Consider your fabric choice. The slinkier the fabric, the harder it will be to fix the fit if you gain or lose weight. A dress with all-over lace or a high-low hemline poses different alterations challenges and considerations. And added expense, if an alteration can be done in the first place.
6. Wear your wedding shoes for both your gown arrival appointment and your fitting. Opt for a hemline that grazes the ground so you can walk, dance and mingle comfortably, gracefully — and safely.
7. Bring your undergarments and accessories to the gown arrival appointment so you can see your overall look. Bring a friend, too. An extra set of eyes at your fitting is always a good idea. Choose someone who has a great sense of style and an opinion you trust.
Before the alterations stage, take these dress-shopping tips to heart.
For bride tribes
- Watch what you say while the bride is changing behind the curtain. She can hear you.
- Wait for the bride’s reaction before offering your opinion. “You can really break a bride’s spirit with negative comments,” Ponec says. Remember: “You’re not the person wearing the dress.” If a style or fabric isn’t the most flattering, say, “I like other things better on you,” or something equally constructive and/or tactful.
- If you’re pulling gowns for the bride, it’s OK to knock her out of her comfort zone – to a point. “The goal is to find the dress that she feels the most comfortable in,” Ponec says. Not something that speaks to you.
- Don’t plan more than two store visits in a day. And if you don’t love to shop, hold your store visits to one per outing. “If you’re not a spur-of-the-moment decision-maker, don’t rush it,” Ponec says.
- That first dress-shopping experience can be overwhelming. Use it to rule out, narrow or affirm a particular style or silhouette. “On the other hand, if you’re feeling it and love it and everyone is there, by all means say yes to the dress,” Ponec says. “Dress shopping is all about making you feel beautiful. A bridal gown should make you feel beautiful.” If it does, it’s The One.