10 Most Common Wedding Dress Alterations That You Should Know About

We all want a beautiful wedding dress that fits us perfectly. It’s easy to forget when we look at photos of brides looking gorgeous in their dresses that there is so much that goes into making sure the dress fits perfectly on your big day. Sometimes you can take your wedding dress home from the store, but this is a rare occurrence and most brides will need some alterations made to their dresses before the wedding. 

Every bride and dress is unique, and therefore different alterations will need to be made. Usually when you buy your dress the sales assistant will let you know about what alterations you need, while sometimes you will be informed of alterations when you visit your seamstress.

But if you aren’t sure what alterations need to be made, don’t be afraid to ask. Consultations are usually free and speaking to a professional seamstress will make sure you know exactly what alterations are needed.

Plus, if you plan to train or lose weight for the wedding, a professional seamstress can take your changing body into account when making the alterations.

Below we have listed some of the 10 most common wedding dress alterations, as well as some other types of alterations and some tips about fittings.

Making the hem shorter

It is common for manufacturers to make wedding dress hems extra long to accommodate taller customers. Therefore, shortening the hem is one of the most common alterations.

It can be hard to put a price on how much shortening the hem will cost, as it will depend on the layers of the dress, and if there is lace that will need to be removed before being added back to the final hem length.

Train loop and button

Train loops are small ribbon loops attached to the train of your dress that allow you to lift the train later in the day so you can move around the reception easier. There are two types of train loops. There’s a long train loop that you hold in your hand while you dance, and a short one that buttons right under your bottom.

The short loop has 1-3 loops and buttons to gather the train and is the more popular kind of train loop because it leaves your hands free. There are also several styles of bustles.

These are overbustle, under, or ‘French’ bustle, drawstring, or ‘Austrian’ bustle, a waterfall bustle and more. Some store bought dresses have train loops/bustles, but a lot of gowns have these attached later.

Taking in or out on the hips and waist

Because all bodies are different it’s hard to manufacture dresses to fit everyone. This is why taking in a dress in or out on the side seams is such a common alteration. 

When you are shopping for a wedding dress, always consult the sales assistant how much the dress size can be altered. Usually it’s easier to take the dress in because you don’t have to worry about the old seam showing. 

A wedding dress should fit well on your waist, bust, and hips. If you are shopping for a dress off the rack then remember to consult a sales assistant about alteration possibilities. 

Making the straps shorter

Like extra long hems, many wedding gowns are made with rather long straps to fit a wide variety of brides. Making straps shorter is a very simple alteration.

Adding a waist stay

A waist stay is a ribbon or an elastic band that goes inside your dress and fits snugly on your waist. If you have a strapless gown without a stay, it’s recommended to add a waist stay.

It does a fantastic job of keeping your dress in place and prevents it from sliding down, meaning you won’t have to yank your strapless dress up. It’s also an easy alteration to make.

Altering the neckline

Neckline alterations are a very popular request and can really transform a dress. Alterations on the neckline can either mean opening the neckline or closing it. The cost of altering a neckline can vary depending on what style you want.

When consulting a seamstress about this kind of alteration, be sure to have photos of dresses to hand that have the kind of neckline you want.

Altering the back

Regardless of the style of your wedding dress you can always make alterations to the back. If you want the back to be open this will involve removing some of the material. Or, you can also have a lace back added to a strapless gown. 

Just like altering your neckline, when discussing with your seamstress about altering the back, make sure you have inspirational pictures. However, altering the back can be quite an expensive alteration.

Altering the closure

Closures on a dress are things like zippers, and altering the closure means you can have these zippers swapped out for buttons or a corset back. Altering the closure is a common alteration, and quite easy to do. 

Adding sleeves or another special alteration

It’s not always possible to find the perfect wedding dress off the rack. This is when bigger alterations need to be considered. 

One of the common larger alterations is adding sleeves, but you can also ask for a fuller hem, a big train, or for more lace. Even if you are getting a made to measure gown, that doesn’t mean you need to compromise on your style.

Other types of alterations

Adding bra cups: Bra cups can add a little boost to your bust, smooth out the shaping of your dress, and go a long way in improving the comfort and fit of your dress.

Adding layers: If you’re dreaming of a giant ball gown, then your seamstress can help to make that dream a reality. You can also add a layer of sparkly tulle or even a colored liner to your dress.

Custom accessories: You may want your veil or headpiece to match your dress perfectly, and your alterations team can help to find matching or complimentary lace, tulle, or other textiles to make your accessories appear as if they’ve come from the same designer.

Wedding Dress Alteration Tips

Stick to a schedule: The process of wedding dress alterations and fittings is a lot less stressful if you buy your dress early, as this gives you more time for fittings.

It’s recommended to buy a dress 10 months before the wedding if possible, as ordering the dress and the dress then arriving in the salon can take up to 5 months. Schedule a fitting eight to 12 weeks before the wedding, and a final fitting no less than 2 weeks before the wedding.

Don’t order a dress too small: While many brides order a dress that is too small as motivation to train and diet in order to fit into the dress, this isn’t actually a good idea. Taking in a larger dress is easier than letting a smaller one out. Go for a gown with structure. About 40% of wedding dresses have built-in corsets, which can be easily tightened or loosened.

You can also ask if the designer will build new cups if your bust size changes, although some designers won’t do this. If you’re unable to find a corseted gown you love, go for an A-line dress instead. Usually, the slinkier the gown, the harder it is to alter if you gain or lose weight.

Bring your wedding shoes, accessories, and undergarments to every fitting: This is so you can get a true fit of the dress. For the best possible tailong, you’ll need to wear exactly what you will be wearing on your wedding day, including shapewear like spanx or a strapless bra, to get the best possible tailoring. During the alteration process, you should be able to see and feel what you will look like on your big day.

When your tailor adjusts the hem, make sure to wear the shoes you’ll want to wear to the wedding so you’ll be the same height you will be on your big day. If you haven’t chosen your wedding shoes yet, bring shoes that have a similar height to the shoes you’d like to wear in order to avoid an inaccurate alteration.

While jewelry and other accessories may not change the fit of your wedding dress, they do add to the overall look. For example, how your necklace looks may influence how you want your neckline to look.

Try not to panic about losing or gaining weight: If your dress doesn’t fit after you’ve ordered it, or even after it arrives, don’t panic! If you lose weight, your gown will be taken in at each fitting appointment until it’s just right.

Likewise, if you gain weight the seamstress can open the seams and release some extra fabric. If there isn’t enough fabric to work with, fabric can be ordered from the designer and a panel can be added to the dress.

There isn’t such a thing as too many alterations: If you’ve bought a larger dress to accommodate specific parts of your body, or you’ve found the perfect dress that wasn’t your ideal fit, remember that this is what dress alterations are for! If you do choose something that isn’t your typical size, remember it’s always better to purchase a gown that is too big rather than too small.

A gown can always be made smaller, but it’s harder to make gowns larger. Depending on the style and embellishments on the gown, the style shouldn’t be affected by alterations. 

Bring a friend: It’s always good to have a supportive friend or family member with you at alterations to not only get you feeling excited and positive about your fittings, but relaxed too. It’s easy to get stressed out about alterations, and while seamstresses will make you feel at ease, it’s comforting to have a familiar face with you.

They also act as another set of eyes, and can weigh in if you’re unsure about a certain aspect of the alteration. They’re also on hand to take plenty of photos!

How Many Fittings Will You Need?

How many fittings you’ll need will vary for each bride, depending on the number of alterations required and how much your body changes during that time.

The gown will take shape when the seamstress starts pinning and tucking the fabric and sculpting it your body at your first fitting. You should get a better idea of how the gown will fit around the second fitting.

The alteration process can often be completed in just two fittings, but most brides are told to expect their dress to be ready at around three fittings. It’s important to keep in mind that your wedding dress was ordered according to the largest measurement (between hips, bust, and waist), and it is unlikely it will fit properly at your first appointment.

Either way you should schedule your final fitting one to two weeks before the wedding, since it is unlikely your body will change much in those final weeks.

How Long Does A Dress Fitting Appointment Last?

The first fitting will generally last an hour as your seamstress begins to assess your dress and discover what alterations are needed. At the first fitting you will meet the fitter who will be present at every fitting until your big day.

Following this first hour-long appointment, each subsequent fitting should be shorter since the dress is getting closer and closer to the perfect fit.

Final Thoughts

There are two kinds of alterations that can be made to your wedding dress. These are ones you absolutely need to get done to ensure the dress fits properly, and alterations that make the dress more to your style.

Both types of alterations are important, as your wedding dress should be as perfect as possible for you. You don’t have to settle for a dress that isn’t exactly what you want, and once all the alterations are done you should be left with your dream dress that fits you like a glove.