Wedding Dress Alterations Advice

The lovely Kayln of Rose’s busy working on a bride’s dress.

Last week’s blog was all about finding the perfect dress, so it’s only “fitting” that this week’s blog is about alterations (pun intended).

I am by no means a seamstress. My mom and grandma sewed when I was a child. I had a number of clothing articles that my mom made for me.

I remember visiting my grandma, sitting on her giant sewing counter watching her work, and getting to flick the lever that raised/lowered her needle. I have attempted some sewing over the years, but it’s a skill I never mastered. Aside from an apron I sewed for a friend once (with my grandma’s assistance), my skills are pretty much limited to sewing on a button and tacking down loose beads/rhinestones (which is now part of my job).

At Sinder’s we recommend several seamstresses in Ottawa and the Valley whom we’ve been working with over the years, who have proven their abilities, and made us feel confident in recommending their services. We always ask if you use any of these men/women (or even if you use someone we don’t know yet!), please let us know how their workmanship is and their quality of service so we can ensure that we continue to recommend the best people in our area!

To find out what you should know about wedding dress alterations I took the long journey all the way across the street from our shop to Rose’s Custom Sewing and Alterations. Rose’s has been in business since 1979, and we’ve recommended our brides to them for over 20 years. We know they offer great sewing services and customer services. With the hum of the sewing machines going I asked these friendly ladies what you as a bride need to know about and do when coming for your wedding dress alterations.

Love the tuxedo nails to go with the wedding dress!

1. Budget
When making your budget for your wedding attire it needs to include the costs of alterations. The average cost of alterations is $350-$500 and of course this varies depending on your dress, how well it fits you, beading or embellishments, and so many more factors. If you want to be sure of the cost it is best to take your dress with you to a qualified seamstress and have her provide you with a written estimate.

2. Time Line
The ladies at Rose’s recommend coming for your first fitting 3 months before your wedding day if possible. That way they have time to make sure it is done properly without rushing and you don’t have to be stressed that the dress won’t be ready in time. It is possible to have alterations done with less time before the wedding. However, the closer you are to the wedding day, the bigger the chance the seamstress won’t have time to make the alterations you want, and there could be a rush fee which will increase your costs.

3. Small Entourage
Like wedding dress shopping you should only bring a small entourage when you go for your fittings. As I said last week, the more people there are, the more opinions there are, and that can leave you confused. Stick to bringing a small group of people whose opinions you value and trust.

4. Proper Undergarments and Shoes
When you come for your fitting wear (or bring along to change into) the undergarments you will be wearing under your dress on your wedding day. What lies between your body and the dress will affect how the dress fits. For example, think about how your tops fits the days you wear a push-up bra compared to the days you don’t. You don’t want to be pulling at your dress the entire day of your wedding because you wore a different bra than when you were fitted. The seamstress will be up close and personal with you when she’s checking the fit and pinning your dress. This often includes looking at the underskirts of the dress. For your modesty, and respect for the seamstress, don’t forgot to wear underwear to your fitting (again, experience has shown that some brides need reminding of this!). *

It’s also important to bring the shoes you will be wearing on your big day to the fitting so your dress can be hemmed to the right length. Even if the rest of the dress fits your beautifully, the affect will be ruined when eyes travel down and see that the dress is a few inches too short, or puddling around your feet because it’s too long. If you don’t have the shoes you are going to wear on the actual day then bring along a pair of shoes that are the same heel height you will be wearing.

*Please also be considerate of scent sensitivity. With the seamstress being so close to you for a period of time perfumes and other scents can be irritating and even cause an asthma attack.

5. Additional Costs
The more lace and/or beading on a dress, the higher the alterations cost will be. This is because it requires extra work for the seamstress. The lace/beading must first be removed before the alteration is made, and then reattached afterwards and this is all done by hand. Optional alterations will also increase your costs. These include things beyond making the dress fit properly, such as changing the neckline, adding loops over the buttons to create a more finished look, making a dress with straps be strapless, or removing the back of a dress. An experienced seamstress can do almost anything you want to a dress, provided you have a budget to accompany your wish list.

6. Taking a Dress In/Out
It’s just about impossible to have a dress fit your body entirely perfect upon delivery. When you order a dress you usually order the size that fits the largest part of your body. You then have any areas that are too big taken in. If you purchase a dress that is too big all over it can be altered to fit you. As a general rule, it’s recommended that you don’t purchase a dress that is over 2.5 inches big on each side (5 inches total). While a dress that is larger than this can be altered to fit you, it requires much more work since the dress has to be taken apart, panels re-cut, etc. and this will increase the costs of alterations dramatically. A dress can be let out only if there is a seam allowance, or if you order extra material to be added to the dress. So if you gained a small amount of weight since you ordered your dress, or you found your dream dress off the rack but it’s a smidge too tight don’t panic right away. Check with your seamstress to see if the dress has a seam allowance so they can let it out to fit you better, or if it would be possible to obtain matching material and insert it in an unnoticeable way.

7. Lacing is More Forgiving than a Zipper
A lace-up/corset back is more forgiving to small weight fluctuations than a zipper is. Unlike a zipper, the laces can simply be loosened/tightened to accommodate the small change in your body. If you are worried about minor weight fluctuation keep this in mind when purchasing your dress (not all, but many designers offer the option of zipper or lace-up for their dresses, depending on the style of the dress).

8. You Get What You Pay For
When deciding on which seamstress to use, price should not be your only deciding factor. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Many of the seamstresses we know have had brides show up in a panic, with their dresses in pieces, because they went to a person with a great price and who claimed s/he knew what s/he was doing, but actually didn’t. Ask friends and family members who were married about where they got their dresses altered, and if they’d recommend the person.Many bridal shops will recommend local seamstresses. While this is helpful, it doesn’t necessarily mean they know the person’s work, they simply may be passing on a business card; so ask the stylist if she’s seen/heard about the quality of work from the seamstress.

Your wedding day is your most photographed day in your life. You want to look wonderful on the day and in your pictures for the years ahead. How your dress fits can really impact how you look and feel on your big day. But also remember, no matter how pretty your dress is, or how well it fits, true beauty comes from within and when you feel your best it will make you shine.

If you have any questions regarding wedding dress alterations please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you with an answer.

Thank you to Kayln for letting us take photos of her at work, and Tara of TaraLee Anderson Photography for capturing the moment.

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Sinders Bridal House