Wedding Gown Alterations

One of the first articles I wrote for was about “Do It Yourself” wedding dress alterations. I wrote it in 2008, and every once in a while, I go through the archives to remind myself what I have written so I don’t repeat myself. (Yes, I’m THAT age.) Anyway, I still get questions from that article. I apologize for not answering them in a timely fashion, and I‘m always amazed that people are still reading my articles four years later!

I also get phone calls and emails from people who’ve read the article and have questions on specific problems. I got two of those calls just recently, both (coincidentally) from Washington state.

They were good questions and I figure if one person wants to know, there are probably others who are pondering the same problem, so I will attempt to answer the questions in this forum.

One question was about “blending” the neckline of a strapless gown when you take in the sides.

A strapless gown slants from front to back at the neckline (see photo). This means that when you take in the side seams, the back won’t match up with the front. The back is lower. The more you take in the dress, the lower the back will be. There are several ways to deal with this dilemma.

“Blending” or “truing” means to redraw the neckline seam, creating a smooth transition from front to back. When you stitch the layers of the neckline back together, you would start the seam at about the front dart and lower it until it meets the back panels at the side seams. If there is enough seam allowance, you can raise the seam line slightly as you meet the back panel. This method slightly reshapes the neckline and it works just fine if you are only taking in the seams from ½ to ¾ inch.

If you are taking in the sides more than an inch, you will have more discrepancy between the back and the front. In this case, you may not want to blend the seam because it can look too drastic.

You may want to consider taking the dress in on another seam, the center back, for instance. This would require removing the zipper, possibly buttons and loops, so examine the construction carefully before you decide to go this route. Also, pull the dress back at the zipper and make sure the rest of the dress looks good. The reason we usually do alterations on the side seams is that we want to keep the same balance back to front. It can look funny to have the side seam pulled back too far.

Another solution is to add some form of “dart” to the front side of the bodice. If the dress has ruching, you can “ruche” it or gather it more.

If a traditional dart will work with the design of the dress, it’s best to fit it directly to the bride. Do this before you take in the side seams.

At the first fitting, pin the side seams so that you have an idea of how much to take in. Take apart all the layers at the neckline. Pinch out the amount of the alteration and measure the discrepancy between the front and back. Then unstitch the side seams and have another fitting with the front and back “hanging loose.” You may want to baste the layers to each other for ease of handling. Pin the sides together at the neckline. Now fit your dart, keeping in mind how much you will need to pinch out in order to fit into the back bodice. Then pin your side seams again.

It helps to study the design of the dress and figure out what will go with the design. In other words, you wouldn’t want to add a dart to a style in which the dart looks added (for example, a Grecian style goddess gown). It would, however, look perfectly normal in a more tailored satin style.

If you are not sure how to solve the problem of blending, try looking at pictures of wedding dresses in magazines or on the internet. If you are still not sure, feel free to contact me, either in this forum or through my email or phone. I’m always glad to help do-it-yourselfers!

Another reader asked what to do with the lace layer if you are taking in or letting out a dress, which I will answer in an upcoming article. Not to be a tease, but I am currently working on such a project and I’m taking pictures of the process which I would like to include in the article. Since I have many local readers, I don’t want to take a chance of accidentally showing pictures of a dress before the bride actually wears it. So, please look for my next article on altering lace wedding gowns.

Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or

Barbara Stone
Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or
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4 Responses

  1. Avatar Amanda says:

    Help! I went for my fitting today with my heart set on changing my straight neckline Ito a sweetheart, and the seamstress tells me that she can do it, but she advises that there is not enough support in the top and that it may be open and too far away from my chest, and possibly fall outward if we do It. She's never had it happen before but just wanted to advise me that it could… Instead she suggested that awful gathering of the fabric in the middle to create the shape and I hate that. I don't know what to do! there's a possibility it could be perfect.. But also that it could go wrong and once the dress is cut that's it. What would you do? What's your experience with this?

    Please Help!!! I'm already not really happy with my dress choice.. The one thing I knew would make me much happier would be this!

  2. Hi, Amanda…I hope it's not too late to help. I stop checking for comments after the first couple of weeks…sorry!

    Necklines can be changed on wedding gowns…all wedding gowns…all the time. But it is an advanced alteration so maybe it's outside of the skill set that your seamstress feels comfortable with. You might want to find a more experienced dressmaker or tailor in your area. If you are near me, please feel free to call me!

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