Wedding Gown Alterations FAQs

You have found your perfect wedding gown. You probably had to order it, unless you were lucky enough to find a sample dress. It finally arrives and you anxiously try it on. Suddenly, your dreams are dashed as you realize the gown doesn’t look exactly as you thought it would. You may not even be sure what’s wrong with it.

Now is the time to consult your dressmaker or alterationist. An experienced professional will be able to look at the dress and know immediately what is wrong with it. After a bit of pinning, you should be able to see your dream dress again.

Here are some questions you may consider about altering your wedding gown.

1.  How much time should I allow for the alterations?

Depending on your area and how many professional alterationists work there, it could take up to 6 months to get the dress finished in time. You might want to call your alterationist before you order the dress and ask what the turn around time is. You don’t want to add stress by not having enough time to do the adjustments properly.

2. How can I trust an alterationist with my gown?

Many bridal salons have either alterationists on staff (David’s Bridal) or they have someone to refer you to.

If not, a personal referral is always good, so you might ask your family members and friends who they have used.

Do use a professional and ask them if they work on bridal gowns and if so how many years have they been in business. Reviews on some of the websites like yelp can be helpful but not always since businesses can easily “stack the deck” with their friends or family members writing the reviews.

3. What kind of alterations are possible?

That depends on the level of expertise of your dressmaker or tailor.  Some bridal alterationists will only do hems and bustles and only on easy fabrics. They won’t touch beadwork or lace.

A seasoned dressmaker or tailor will have the skills to do just about anything you want with the dress, whether it’s changing the neckline, letting out the bodice or doing a complicated bustle. Keep in mind, though, that the more complex the alteration and the construction of the dress, the more expensive it is.

Which brings us to our last question:

4.  How much should I allow in my bridal budget for the alterations?

Because each dress is so unique, they have to be priced individually. Just as there is a wide range of costs for buying the gowns, there is a wide range of alteration costs as well.

Some rules of thumb: the more costly the gown, the more costly the alterations. This is because the more expensive gowns have more complex construction and (usually) more layers of fabric, all of which must be altered individually. A professional will be able to tell you exactly how much the work will cost at the first fitting.

If you are a “regular misses size”, say size 6 to 12, you probably won’t need much more than a hem and a bustle. This can cost in the neighborhood of a couple of hundred dollars.

If you have an unusual shape, say more (or less) than a B cup size, or petite or plus size, the alterations costs could double.

If you want the dress “restyled”, in other words, have the shape of the dress changed or the neckline change or sleeves designed for it, the costs can really add up.

My best advice to avoid high alterations costs is to get the closest fit possible, keep the styling simple, and get your alterations done in time so there will be no rush fees.

Keeping these tips in mind will insure that you will look your best on your wedding day!

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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3 Responses

  1. Avatar Terri Waller says:

    Thanks Barbara I shared this on my facebook page too. Wonderful and practical tips!!!!!

  2. Avatar Lisa says:

    A dressmaker client also mentioned that her girls all seem to diet like crazy, so there also has to be a final fitting the week before the wedding. OK, ladies, stress is one thing, but you need to stay strong, and no matter what, you WILL be the most beautiful woman. In. The. Room.

  3. You’re welcome, Terri, and thanks for sharing! Lisa, I tell the clients that once I start working on the dress, they are not to change body size or there will be an extra charge; that seems to help. The really tricky ones, though, are the pregnant brides! I literally have to wait till the last minute to do the alterations. You never know how those babies are going to grow!