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Article: The Complete Guide To Wedding Dress Alterations

lace wedding dress on womans body while another womans hands zip her up

The Complete Guide To Wedding Dress Alterations

So you've found your dream wedding dress, but it doesn't fit as perfectly as you'd hoped; this is when you need alterations. Having alterations carried out on your wedding dress by a seamstress is the critical step in making sure a standard size/off-the-rack wedding dress fits you like a glove. With this blog, we're taking you through everything you need to know about bridal alterations.

What does a seamstress do?

The first important question to ask before you even begin looking for someone to change, fix or alter your wedding gown is 'what does a seamstress do?'. A seamstress is someone highly proficient in sewing, garment construction, and clothing alterations or repairs. Seamstresses can remove parts of an item of clothing, or add something new and unique to a pre-existing gown, while also making sure the garment fit is perfect to an individual's body, among many other potential changes to a garment.

When it comes to bridal alterations or wedding dresses specifically, a seamstress can handle the sewing and alterations to aspects of the gown, including but not limited to the hem, sleeves, straps, or other parts of the dress. 

Reasons you may need alterations.

  • When you buy a gown off the rack, the dress is made in a standard size. However, human bodies are so unique and different that it's rare that anyone ever fits into a standard size gown perfectly; this is where alterations come in handy.
  • You might buy something off the rack and want it customized in a way that is uniquely yours.
  • Another reason alterations can come in handy is if you've got a second-hand dress or a hand-me-down wedding dress. Over time, gowns can naturally take some damage and may need to be repaired, or, if they've been worn by someone else and fitted to their body, you may need it changed to re-fit your body shape.
  • It's entirely natural for a woman's body to change over time, and when it comes to wedding gowns, brides often buy them months or sometimes years in advance. You may have had a wedding gown made to fit you perfectly but then lost some weight, at which point you'll need alterations to ensure it's still a perfect fit on your big day.

Where can I find a seamstress?

One of the fastest and easiest ways is to take it to Google. Search 'bridal alterations *enter city/town name here*' and have a look through all your local options that are within travel distance. One thing we'd always suggest is searching for and finding a seamstress that specializes in bridal alterations. There are so many seamstresses around Australia specializing in a whole range of alterations, so finding a seamstress that specifically handles wedding dresses/bridal gowns is essential to ensure that they're capable of the work you're seeking. 

How do I find the best seamstress for my needs?

Finding a seamstress alone can be a difficult task, but once you've discovered one, how do you know if they're the right person to trust with your wedding dress alterations? Here are four tips for you to keep in mind when considering a seamstress for your bridal alterations.

  1. Lean on Google Reviews: People love to talk about the level of service, quality, and satisfaction they've received from businesses. When it comes to alterations, this is often the case to suggest it to future brides, so they'll be satisfied on their special day or deter others from places where the alterations didn't go to plan. It's important to note that while Google Reviews aren't consistently wholly accurate, they can be a pretty good starting point to get an idea of a business and its reputation with its customers.
  2. Utilize Social Media: Use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (and the brands' website) to see what the seamstresses or brands are capable of and the work they've carried out in the past. You can also read comments left by other brides to see what they've had to say about the alterations they've had carried out in the past, which is a great way to hear from other real brides like yourself.
  3. Be Careful: Don't agree to anything until you've had a face-to-face meeting with the seamstress and spoken to them about the work they're capable of doing and the work you're specifically after.
  4. Ask Around: Ask friends or family that have been married for suggestions and opinions. It's a great way to find seamstresses from a first-hand source that you know you can trust.

What should I bring to an alterations appointment?

Knowing what to bring to an alterations appointment will vary based on the work you need, but there are a few safe options to take with you.

Apart from needing the dress itself, you'll want to take along any heels or footwear you plan on wearing on your wedding day. This is specifically important for having your hem altered but is a good choice for any alterations. It's essential to know the overall outfit so that the alterations will make your dress fit perfectly, including the length. 

Another good idea is to go to the consultation with any undergarments you plan on pairing with your wedding dress. Things like shapewear and other underwear can impact the overall fit of the gown, and the last thing we want is a dress to fit perfectly until the wedding day when you've got the complete look on, and it's too late to fix the situation.

To be safe, you should always be upfront and ask your seamstress beforehand what you'll need to bring along with you; after all, they're here to help you.

When should I book my alterations appointment?

Once you've found the right seamstress for you and your needs, timing is the next important step. You'll want to have your wedding dress altered as close to your wedding day as possible, within reason.

It's common to have alterations carried out from anywhere between two weeks and one month before the particular date, but this will vary slightly based on the Brides needs, seamstresses' availability, and difficulty of the work involved. For example, some seamstresses may require more time than others, while some brides may need their gown bake in their hands ASAP if they're heading away for the wedding.

To be on the safe side, reach out and talk to your seamstress in advance - ask what their turnaround time will be and what their availabilities are in advance to avoid any mixups, confusion, or delays in having your work done promptly. You'll also want to factor in the difficulty of the alterations because the more complex the job is, the more time your seamstress will need, and this may require multiple fittings or appointments for the work to be carried out.

Important note: every seamstress will have their turnaround time for bridal alterations. At Euphorie Studios, our seamstresses team only requires approximately two weeks to turn around an alterations project, sometimes less. While it's possible to carry out alterations in less time, this time frame gives us leeway to ensure our work is of the highest possible quality and delivered on time. Be sure to discuss the time frame for work with your chosen seamstress. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Wedding Dress Alterations

We've completed thousands of bridal alterations and spoken to so many brides. We wanted to take you through some of the more frequently asked questions we've had over the twenty years of Euphorie Studios to give you a bit more information before booking or seeking any bridal alterations.

What do I need to bring to an alterations appointment?

When you're going to meet with a wedding dress designer or seamstress for your first alterations consult, there are generally three main things that you'll need. The first, and most obvious, is the dress. The seamstress that carries out the alterations will need to see the dress physically to give an exact quote and understand the work you're looking to have carried out.

Secondly, bring along any undergarments you've chosen to wear with your wedding dress, as they can impact how your gown will look after being altered and how it'll fit on your body.

The third thing you'll need will be the footwear, shoes, or heels that you plan on making a part of your overall wedding day attire. Having your footwear is an essential part of the alterations because if you were to have the hem on your wedding dress altered without factoring in the height increase of your shoes, it could have disastrous consequences.

How long before my wedding should be dress be altered?

Timing your alterations is essential — you'll always want to make sure that the work is carried out and completed in time for the wedding day but don't do it too early, or you'll risk needing a second set of alterations if your body changes between that time and the wedding date.

(Here at Euphorie Studios, our preferred time frame is typically around 3-4 weeks before the wedding date. We generally only require two weeks maximum to carry out wedding dress alterations at our Brisbane studio, although in some cases we can do it in far less time, depending on the nature of the work you'll need to be completed) 

How much do bridal alterations cost?

The cost of alterations can be a tricky one as every dress can be unique; with so many fabric choices and ways that the gown can be constructed, it'll often be hard to give exact quotes, not to mention the near-endless ways wedding dresses can be customized. Additionally, every seamstress or bridal store will have their pricing methods individual to them as well. One major factor in alterations pricing is the amount of time it will take to carry out the work. For example, cutting a raw hem on a wedding dress is far less time consuming than hemming a gown that is fully beaded with lace on the bottom, so while they're technically the same job (hemming), the context of work involved is different, which means the pricing would be too.

We'd always suggest discussing your expected budget for wedding dress alterations with the seamstress or designer you'll be working with so that you can get an honest opinion on what will be possible within that budget based on what you want to be altered.

What is a wedding dress fitting?

A fitting is an appointment you'll make with a seamstress or designer to have the wedding dress altered to fit correctly for your body. Some alterations will be simple enough to require one fitting, while others may take multiple if the work is more complicated.

Do I need alterations if I buy a custom wedding dress?

If a wedding gown is custom-made, it will be created uniquely to your specific body measurements and will not require any further alterations. However, suppose something unforeseen has come up and delayed your wedding day after picking up your custom dress, and you now need alterations for a better fit. In that case, we'd strongly advise you to contact the designer of your wedding dress before you search elsewhere, if possible.

What alterations can I have done on my wedding dress?

There is a whole range of possible alterations you may want or need on your gown, from adding sleeves or shortening the straps to adding a corset back or fixing the hem, so it's perfect for your height. Once you've got a gown in mind, you might be curious what alterations are possible or should be considered, so we wanted to take you through some examples of alterations you could consider.

Essential hem work: When you buy a wedding dress off the rack, the gown is made in standard sizing and made to a specific height, usually much taller than the average person. If that's the case, you'll want to shorten the hem of the dress to fit your perfect height, or you're at the risk of dragging your hem along the ground during your wedding, or worse, causing yourself harm if you trip over your dress.

Adding a waist stay: This is something you may not have heard of nor realized you need, but it is an excellent thing for gowns that have been made out of heavier fabric. A 'waist stay' is essentially adding a ribbon or elastic strip inside your wedding gown so that it keeps the skirt of your gown sitting perfectly around your waist to prevent it from pulling down on the top of your dress. Having a waist still will help you avoid needing to reposition or re-adjust your gown all of the time constantly.

Adding sleeves: With wedding gowns being available in so many different forms and styles, sometimes you'll find a dress that is almost perfect but missing that extra touch to make it your ideal choice, such as sleeves. If this is the case for you, it's usually relatively easy to discuss the option of adding sleeves to a gown with a designer or seamstress.

Shortening the straps: When you buy a gown with straps off the rack, the straps may be too long, which means the dress won't sit the way you'd want it to on your body; theres an easy fix to this — having the straps shortened. Your seamstress or designer of choice for your alterations will be able to shorten the straps and make sure your gown sits perfectly.

Taking size aspects of the gown in/out: With all of our bodies being different, each part of our bodies can look different in wedding gowns, too, and some brides may need their dress taken in or out in different places. Some examples of this are that you may need the gown taken in around the bust or hips, among other options, and seamstresses can handle that for you.

Tip from our designers: We always suggest to brides that are shopping around for wedding gowns to buy slightly bigger if you're worried about the fit. As our creative director Keoula likes to say — "it's much easier to take a gown in than it is to take it out. Buy bigger if necessary and have it taken in to avoid any pre-wedding complications!"

Neckline Alterations: Sometimes, you'll find the perfect gown; it's your absolute dream dress except for the neckline or something similar. Seamstresses can handle alterations on that for you, too, to give it the perfect fit and look that you're seeking.

*note: this is far from a complete list of possibilities; there are so many more potential ways you can customize your wedding gown to make it fit better, look different or be uniquely yours even if it's off the rack. 

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