The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Alterations
By Raashka Mannie

11 January 2021

Everything you need to know about wedding dress alterations.

You’ve done it: you’ve found the perfect wedding dress. It flows, it glimmers, it glitters, it shimmers. It makes you feel like you’re floating through a castle, on your way to meet your one true love as a romantic song swells in the background - but there’s a snag. A literal snag, because you might be tripping over the hem or the train to your gown isn’t as nearly as mermaid-like as you’d dreamed. It’s the ideal wedding dress, sure, but how do we make it ideal for you?

Bridal wear extends beyond the moment you find ‘the one.’ The truth is, all brides and romantics have to plan for the nitty-gritty of it all: alterations, fittings and adjustments. This is how the seemingly perfect wedding outfit turns into the flawless masterpiece that you envision yourself in every night as you drift off. Getting there requires the help of trusted and talented sewists - for that, we have Nazneen from Alter Me to explain the ins, outs and roundabouts of stitching, sewing and everything in between.


Image by Samantha Donaldson Photography


1/ So what exactly are wedding dress alterations?

“Wedding dress alterations are what ‘perfects’ the dress,” Nazneen shared. “The outfit isn’t 'the one' for you until it fits you perfectly and is the way you pictured it on your special day.”


2/ How long do wedding outfit alterations usually take?

“Alterations turnaround depends on the amount of workload we are currently handling,” she said. “Our usual turnaround is three weeks, but a busy season can take four to five weeks. That said, we’ve also completed alterations for brides under three days! During busy seasons, I tend not to say ‘no’ to anyone as I try to help as many as I can. The last thing brides need to hear is that their dream dress can’t be altered. When it comes to dressmaking, our turnaround time is a minimum of three months.”


Image by Proshot Photography and Mikayla Bollen Photography


3/ What are the common types of wedding dress alterations?

“The most common kind of wedding dress alteration is shortening of the length. Majority of brides that are average height require this, even if it is only a centimetre or two. The last thing anyone wants is to be unable to walk down the aisle, or having to pick their dress up as well as their bouquet! Another common alteration is a shoulder lift; this is done to the straps/the shoulder area on the dress, so it doesn’t fall off the shoulders. Shoulder lifts are required when the person is shorter from the shoulders to the bustline.”


4/ What kind of budget should we be looking at for alterations?

“This is slightly difficult to answer as it very much depends on the dress,” Nazneen replied. “How many layers it has (especially the hem and if that requires altering), what fabric it’s made of (usually beaded and overlapped lace is much more time-consuming), and details such as that factor into the number. We usually say an average of $500, but we never give quotes without looking at the dress first.”


Image by Sophie Isabella Photo


5/ When and how do I decide that I need to get my wedding gown altered?

“Once you’ve received your wedding dress, try it on at least six months before the wedding date. If it feels tight, then you know how much weight you might need to lose. If it fits perfectly, you’ve got your shoes, and it’s just the length that requires altering, you can get that altered at any time. To be on the safe side, get it altered two to three months prior to the wedding date. If you don’t know whether or not your dress needs alterations, you can come to see us, and we’ll guide you to make the right decision.”


6/ What are fittings like? Can you walk me through the process of getting it done and how many I’ll need? How much time should I budget?

“Our bridal alteration process is designed to be easy and stress-free for brides. The last thing brides want to hear is that something can’t be fixed, so we have to sometimes complete the impossible!” Nazneen said with a laugh.

“Our process starts with the booking of a forty-five-minute consultation, where they come in to wear their dress, and we discuss the changes they want and the look they’re going for. After that, we pin the alterations so they can experience exactly how the dress is going to look and feel. Once they’ve approved, we will give a quotation and take the dress for alterations. They’ll be booked in for a pick-up appointment, which is when they will come in again to try on their wedding dress, making sure everything is done to perfection. 

Some alterations, such as adding an entire back to a backless wedding dress, may require three to four fittings. Every alteration is timed according to their wedding day, so there’s no panic or rush.”


Image by Proshot Photography and Mikayla Bollen Photography


7/ What should I wear to a fitting? Do I need to bring anything?

“Always bring everything you plan on wearing with the dress to your consultation appointment,” Nazneen advised. “The pinning of the dress will be done accordingly. For example, if you require shapewear, definitely bring that with you as the dress might need to be taken in slightly more in certain places. Bring your shoes to the fitting so we can see the entire look and make sure that you can glide along comfortably in your wedding dress. Also, a tip for you: always wear nude underwear, white never works!”


8/ If my weight is fluctuating as I get my fitting, how do we deal with that?

“That’s not a problem. We work alongside our clients to have their dress ready and perfectly fitting for their special day. I always say there will be some point in time where you will stop losing weight, or I remind you, around a month away from the wedding date, ‘Check your weight and make sure you do your best to maintain it.’ Quite frankly, not many lose too much weight in a month, so this should be their ideal weight.


Image by Sophie Isabella Photo


9/ Is there such a thing as “too many alterations”? What if that ruins the dress?

“Funny enough, yes and no!” Nazneen informed us. “We’ve sometimes completed over five different alterations for gowns to look completely different because that is how the bride imagined it. However, there are also times where we could not perform certain alterations because their original dress wouldn’t allow it, which means there wasn’t enough fabric to play around with and so the structure of the dress would not hold the design they wanted the dress to be. We always guide you to make sure you understand your vision for your outfit and make sure this is possible to achieve before we start any alterations. If it is to ‘ruin’ the dress, we won’t proceed.”


10/ Can you alter wedding dresses of any kind, e.g. if they’re too big, too small and so on?

“Yes, we can! Changing between two sizes is not a problem - but it does get difficult when changing four to five sizes in either direction. We’ve altered many gowns that couldn’t fit our brides before. For example, we’ve turned gowns that have a zip at the back into corset backs for the dress to fit them. This has been a popular remodel in 2020.”


To find out more about wedding gowns, alterations and the ever-fascinating art of bridal style, check out Alter Me's profile and be prepared to be blown away. You'll be dressed to the nines, on cloud nine.