Wedding Dress Alterations: What You Need to Know

Let me tell you a story about wedding dress alterations. 

Recently, a bride brought me her dress. She’d bought it at a boutique and parts of the dress were several sizes too big. To make it fit, I took in the bodice which made the front straps move really far to the side which made the back become wide which meant I needed to cut down where the strap came out of the fabric so that it didn’t cut the bride off at the armpit.

I call this type of course correcting the domino effect of wedding dress alterations, and it’s not an usual situation for a bride who buys a pre-made dress (so, you know, most brides). Unfortunately, the domino effect happens a lot even though ? we don’t talk about it.

Why don’t we talk about this?

We don’t talk about how much labor wedding dress alterations take for two reasons. 

The first reason is that often, the people at the boutique or online store where a bride buys her dress sincerely don’t know how much or how little will be needed to alter the dress. That’s understandable. The person who sells you a wedding dress isn’t often a trained seamstress or designer. 

The second reason is a lot more gross: We don’t talk about how much labor alterations take because if we did, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t buy the dress to begin with. What seems like a good deal off the rack looks much less attractive after you tack on the $800, $1,200, $2,000 worth of alterations the dress will need to fit. 

These numbers aren’t bloated, by the way. Those are actual figures and the reason they’re so high is because they capture the hours of labor that go into altering a dress. 

What’s a bride to do?

The most important thing is to be informed. If possible, get an estimate for alterations before you buy your wedding dress or, if that’s not an option, get an estimate within the timeframe you may have on returning the dress. 

Another option is to make a dress from scratch. It’s easy to assume that ordering a custom dress will naturally be more expensive but, in my experience, it often isn’t. 

This is because there are no hidden fees or last-minute expenses. You and I work together to design your dress from the ground up. This dress is created for your one unique body and, as such, we don’t have to worry about alterations (and how much they cost). We spend more time working on the design and having fun with that instead of worrying about the fit.

It’s about risk

It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that buying a wedding dress off the rack is “less risky” than designing a dress ourselves. That makes sense. For many of my clients, our interaction is the very first time that they’ve ever designed a piece of clothing. 

But when you factor in the cost of altering someone else’s work, the time it takes to do so, and the labor (mental, emotional, and physical) to get it all done on a tight any deadline, it’s worth considering another option. Nobody wants to deal with dominos, particularly when planning a wedding.


Want to talk more? Great! Contact me.

Image by Abbey Elaine