Wedding Dress Alterations (The Ultimate Guide)

Looking beautiful on your wedding day is not just about your hair and makeup, it’s also about your dress and how well it fits. 

If you’re like most brides, achieving that perfect fit will mean minor, or even major, wedding dress alterations. And, after shelling out hundreds — or thousands — of dollars on your dream wedding dress you could well face a bill of anywhere from $100 to $500 or more for dress alterations.

If the alterations process is new to you, not worry. Our guide will help walk you through everything you need to know about wedding dress alterations and fittings.

Photo by Dai Wedding

What Are Wedding Dress Alterations?

Wedding dress alterations are the changes your seamstress or dress stylist will make to ensure your gown fits like a glove.

To fit you well, your wedding dress should support and accentuate your bust and complement the shape of your figure. The skirt should be long enough to cover your shoes, but not so long that you’re tripping over it. Whether your gown’s train length is short or long, your wedding dress alterations should also include a bustle.

The alteration process can also include more extensive changes such as adding sleeves or straps, adjusting the neckline or adding fine details such as beading, rhinestones, pearls or lace appliqués.

Do I Need Wedding Dress Alterations?

Yes. Almost every bride will require at least a few alterations to ensure her dress is a perfect fit. Most wedding gowns follow European sizing — and the size chart varies slightly from designer to designer — so it’s rare for a bride to find a dress that’s a perfect fit for her body.

Once you’ve chosen your dream dress, the bridal salon you shop at will take your measurements and match them to the designer’s size chart. In most cases, your measurements will fall in between two sizes on the chart and that means choosing the size that will accommodate the largest part of your body — usually your bust or hips.

A wedding dress that is too big for your hips or bust is far easier for a seamstress to alter than one that is too tight. While it is possible to let out a wedding dress that’s a bit too small, it’s a more challenging and costly alteration.

How Much Do Wedding Dress Alterations Cost?

Wedding dress alterations are often one of the largest unexpected costs a bride will face during the wedding planning process.

The average cost of wedding dress alterations is between $100 to $250 but can go up to $500-$1,000 if your dress requires extensive customization. Less expensive dress alterations, however, typically cost as little as $50.

Average salons and seamstresses will charge a certain amount for each alteration. Higher end wedding boutiques, however, typically charge a set fee that ranges between $500 and $700, no matter how much or little you need done to the dress. And that could mean shelling out a lot of unnecessary money.

Some of the most common alteration costs include:

  • The hem: $150-$250 — This will depend on how many layers your dress has as well as the complexity of the work. Lace hems are particularly costly to adjust. While most gowns need to be shortened, if you’re tall, you could need the skirt lengthened. Your height will be a huge factor in the cost of the hem alteration.
  • Side seams: $30-$75 per side — If your wedding dress has a beaded or lacy bodice the cost of your alterations will climb. Intricate lace and beading can hinder an alteration, so  your seamstress may need to remove the beading or lace to make the changes and then sew them back on.
  • Bustle: $40-$150 — A bridal gown with a long or wide train will need a bustle. Your seamstress or stylist will help you to choose a bustle that best suits your dress. Depending on the style that you settle on, at least a few bustle points will need to be sewn in to fully lift the train of your wedding dress off the floor and secure it to your skirt. 
  • Bra cups: $20-$40 — If you’ve chosen a dress that makes wearing a bra difficult, this alteration is more than worth the cost.

Other alteration options include:

  • Adding straps or sleeves: $50-$400 — The price of adding straps or sleeves will depend on the complexity of the design and the amount of fabric used. Cap sleeves, for instance, will cost less than full lace sleeves. 
  • Shortening sleeves: $80-$160 — The price for shortening sleeves is also dependent on the amount of work involved.
  • Changing the neckline: Minimum of $250 — Whether you want to add an illusion neckline to a low cut dress or make the neckline lower and more dramatic, you can expect to spend a minimum of $250. The harder the alteration, the more expensive it will be.
  • Adding a corset: Minimum of $150 — Removing a zipper in favor of a corset can give your dress a stunning back view — but it comes at a price. You can expect to spend at least $150 or more.
  • Shortening train: Minimum of $250 — The cost of this alteration will depend on how much you want removed as well as the length and width of the train. The price will go up even more if the seamstress has to contend with a lot of lace or beading.

What Is a Wedding Dress Fitting?

Now that you have the low-down on wedding dress alterations, it’s time to talk about fittings.

Wedding dress fittings are the appointments you’ll have with your seamstress or stylist to have your bridal alterations completed. The average bride needs three fittings before her wedding gown will be ready to be worn. 

When Should You Schedule Your Wedding Dress Fitting?

Your first fitting should take place roughly 3 months before your wedding, the second fitting at the one-month mark, and your final fitting two weeks before your wedding.

You may need an additional fitting if you’re adding extensive design changes, such as long sleeves or a lot of lace.

How Long Does a Wedding Dress Fitting Take?

Your first wedding dress fitting usually takes about 1 hour. This is the appointment when your bridal tailor will assess your dress and what types of alterations will be needed. 

Your second and third fittings should not be as time consuming. It is simply a chance for your seamstress to check on the accuracy of her bridal alterations and make changes as needed.

Typically, your gown goes home with you at the final fitting, which should take less than thirty minutes.

Alteration Dos and Don’ts for Wedding Gowns

Once your wedding dress shopping is complete and your dream gown has been chosen, it’s time to turn your mind to scheduling fittings and considering the alterations your wedding dress will require.

To get you through the alteration and fitting process like a pro, here’s everything you need to know for a perfect-fitting wedding gown:

Do ask about in-house wedding dress alterations 

Planning a wedding is a lot of hard work. So, if your dress needs alterations — and if you’re like most brides, it will — ask your bridal salon if it offers alterations. 

If the salon has seamstresses in-house, not only will this save you from having to find a different bridal tailor, but you may get your alterations done at a lower rate as a thank you for purchasing your dress there. As an added bonus, in-house alterations may mean the seamstress assigned to you has worked with the same dress before. 

If the bridal salon doesn’t provide seamstress services, ask for recommendations on tailors who specialize in wedding dress alterations.

Do schedule your fittings early

Fittings are not something you’ll want to leave to the last minute. As soon as you’ve picked out your wedding dress and know when it should arrive at the bridal salon, it’s wise to get your fittings set up.

If you wait until you need the alterations done to try to get an appointment, you may be out of luck getting in with a good quality bridal tailor. The best seamstresses book up quickly, so scheduling well ahead of time can save you a lot of disappointment.

Don’t make them too early

While making your appointments early is great, don’t schedule them six months before your big day. To ensure your gorgeous gown fits to perfection, your fitting should be eight to 12 weeks before your nuptials.

If you go earlier than that, you run the risk of your weight changing and your gown being too loose or too tight on your wedding day.  

Your second fitting should be roughly four to six weeks prior to your wedding date while your final fitting should be about two weeks before you walk down the aisle.

Do bring the right bridal accessories 

To ensure your first dress fitting goes off without a hitch, bring the shoes and undergarments you plan to wear on your wedding day.

Whether you want to wear heels or cowboy boots, your seamstress will need you to wear them at every fitting to ensure the hem of your gown is perfect.

The bra you wear is also key. If you plan to wear a padded bra on your wedding day, then you’ll need to wear it to the fitting to ensure the bust fits well. Likewise for any shapewear or Spanx you plan to don. Shaping undergarments can alter your waist and hips, so wearing the garment to your fitting is key if you want a good fit through the torso.

Don’t be afraid to speak up

One of the biggest mistakes a bride can make is failing to speak up if she’s not satisfied with how her gown looks at her second fitting. 

If you’re not happy with a change made by your seamstress or something seems off with the fit or look of your dress, now is the time to make your opinion known. If you wait until your final fitting to express concern, you may not be leaving your seamstress with enough time to make changes.

Don’t bring too many people with you

Bringing an entourage to your gown fitting consultations can result in chaos, especially if your friends or family members are opinionated. While it’s perfectly fine to bring someone with you, bringing more than two people is a breach of etiquette and will make it harder for your seamstress to do her job.

The key is to choose someone whose opinion you value whether that’s a family member or one of your bridesmaids. At your final fitting, it’s wise to bring the person who will be helping you to get dressed on your wedding day. That way she can learn directly from the seamstress how to lace your corset, tie a bow properly or bustle your train. 

Don’t worry

If you’ve chosen a seamstress with extensive experience working on wedding dresses, try not to worry when you see your gorgeous gown stripped of its lace and beading. Your dress isn’t going to look perfect in the early going, so it’s important not to let that throw you.

Experienced seamstresses all have their own method of altering wedding dresses. Some will focus on altering the sides before starting the hem while others won’t replace beading or lace until they’re sure the gown is a perfect fit. As long as your gown is looking good by your final appointment, there is little reason for concern.

Don’t forget dress preservation

If you’re getting your wedding dress altered at the bridal shop where you purchased it, don’t forget to ask if they can also preserve your gown for you after the wedding. 

Although more expensive than dry cleaning, dress preservation is essential if you want to protect your gown from yellowing, dust and other types of damage. This professional process of cleaning bridal gowns includes treating, pressing and preserving them so it will look just as fabulous years down the road as it did on your big day.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend brides take their dresses to be cleaned and preserved immediately after the honeymoon.

Final Thoughts

From getting your measurements taken to perfecting the hem, wedding gown alterations can seem like a tedious process. But each appointment is an essential step in getting that perfect fit. So, instead of seeing the alterations as something to be endured, enjoy it in the knowledge that you’ll look like a million bucks on your special day.

Related Articles
Related Articles