Much Ado About Alterations

Fit for a Queen (or a Bride)

During your bridal gown fitting, the seamstress will determine the length your hem should be.
During your bridal gown fitting, the seamstress will determine the length your hem should be.
Image Courtesy Kleinfeld Bridal

Who among us doesn't love shoes? We give you permission -- no, we command you -- to go buy your wedding shoes before you slip into the gown at your first fitting. In order to hem your dress to the perfect length, the seamstress needs to account for the height of your shoes. You'll also need to bring along the lingerie you want to wear on your wedding day. Trying on your lingerie with your dress helps ensure your undergarments don't create unsightly bulges or lines under the fabric.

Show up with an open mind. It may take more than one appointment to get a perfect fit, so don't despair if the dress puckers or pinches. At some salons, such as Kleinfeld, you'll pay a flat fee for any and all alterations ($595 to be exact). Other salons will charge per alteration. If you've purchased your dress from a boutique that doesn't have an on-site alterations department, you'll want to find a reputable seamstress.

There's no need to panic if you're less than thrilled with the appearance of the dress (after all, it's probably been a few months since you've seen yourself in the design). "Alterations is the time to change a dress," Randy says. "You can add on a brooch, a sash around the waist, beading under the neckline or under the bust to give the dress a different look." You can dip the neckline or back a little lower, too.

Many consultants will recommend ordering some extra fabric when you place the order for your dress so that you can create other accents for the gown. You should order the fabric when you're ordering the dress because every batch of fabric comes from a particular dye lot, and the color will have unique characteristics. With that extra material, you can add straps or detachable sleeves to the dress, or even bows and roses.

Wait to make these aesthetic alterations until you've seen what you look like in your new, custom-made dress -- not the sample you tried on in the salon. For instance, if you want a ball gown and the sample you've tried on needs just a little more volume in the skirt, hold on to those pouf dreams. Remember that the sample has been hanging inside a bag for months and has been tried on dozens of times. Poufy skirts deflate. When you get your gown, you might be surprised by how perky the petticoats are. You might even have more pouf on your hands than you can handle! During alterations, petticoats can be removed layer by layer until you've got the shape you want.

Here's the bottom line. Any changes you make to the appearance of the dress should wait until you know exactly what you're working with. It's easier to make a plunging neckline than to bring it up 3 inches.

To quote the inimitable Heidi Klum, "In fashion, one day you're in, and the next day you're out." But you won't look fashionable on your wedding day if you can't get into the dress. And you'll have an unhappy groom on your hands if you can't get out of it. We explain the ins and outs next.