There are two very important aspects to the perfect wedding gown. The first is finding your dream gown. The second is altering the gown to fit you perfectly! Unless you actually had your gown custom-made, then most brides can expect to have a series of alterations done on her gown to achieve the perfect fit.
One of the most important things to understand is that altering a bridal gown or formal dress is an art form, and not all tailors have the expertise to properly adjust these garments. Just because they can hem hundreds of pants, does not qualify them to work on formal wear. It's apples and oranges! You can also expect to pay more for bridal gown and formal wear alterations than on everyday street clothes.
We have two full-time seamstresses who combined have over 45 years experience specializing in wedding gown and formal wear alterations. We will alter gowns that were not purchased at our store as well. So if you're in need of a reputable and talented tailor please contact us (757-461-6004). If you are not local but want to make sure you find a tailor who is qualified we recommend calling your local bridal stores to see if they will do alterations on outside merchandise or call a fabric store or friend who may be able to offer a referral. Your local dry cleaner may also have someone they can recommend. No matter what, do your homework. Make sure the seamstress you meet with has plenty of years altering wedding gowns, and that they work for a reputable company.
Here are some other tips to ensure your alterations process is stress-free and the look and fit you desire is achieved:
1. The standard turn-around time on wedding gown alterations is 6-8 weeks; bridesmaids is about 2 weeks. But this can vary. If you plan on having a bridal portrait prior to your wedding and/or you will be having any custom work done to your gown or your bridal party dresses (ie. changing the neckline or adding sleeves etc.) you may want to give yourself a couple more weeks. You should build this time into when you want to order your gown. Delivery on a wedding gown can run anywhere from 4-8 months. This is why it's so common for a bride to purchase her gown a year or more in advance of her wedding date.
2. When you receive your gown you may make a fitting appointment then or wait until you are ready (if time allows). If your weight does not fluctuate you can schedule your first fitting well in advance of your wedding date. If you are planning to lose a significant amount of weight (over five pounds) or are known to fluctuate in weight, we recommend you not start your fittings until your weight has become more stable. If you have a question about when to start fittings, ask your seamstress what she recommends.
3. I get asked all the time "how much will my alterations cost". We don't have a crystal ball and what you can expect to spend cannot firmly be determined when you buy your gown or bridesmaid dresses. I can tell you alterations are almost always needed unless you are 5'10" tall and have perfect proportions. The work that will need to be done and the fees incurred are based on a woman's proportions along with the style and complexity of the dress, and how well it was made. General rule though is, the more proportionate a woman is the less alterations and fees she will have. A woman who is more disproportionate will most likely need more work and her fees may be higher, but the dress itself is a huge factor as well. We do have an itemized price list readily available so you can get a "ball park figure".
4. Your undergarments and foundations are vital to the perfect fit. Time and time again we have clients in the wrong bra, or no bra at all and that compromises the overall fit. We sell seamless long-line bras, bra cups, and silicone bra cups. Our seamstresses can advise you on the best fit. I also recommend going to a bra fitting salon in your market - especially if you have a full bust-line and/or the back of your gown requires a special undergarment. Locally, we send our clients to the Full Cup. 1860 Laskin Road #121 Virginia Beach, VA (757)226-9441. If you are wearing a ball gown you may need an additional petticoat. Ask your seamstress her advice on additional petticoats, spanx, or other body shapers. If you do wear these, then you need to make sure you have them at every fitting. Bring your shoes to all fittings as well.
5. Make and appointment. Know when the alterations hours are and make time to build your alterations appointments into your "time-off-requests" at your job. Your alterations appointments are just as important as the appointments you would make to go to the Doctor or the Dentist. Most bridal gown fittings are made by appointment so the seamstress may give you her full attention at each fitting. It is important to arrive on time for your appointment so that the seamstress has enough time to service you properly. It’s courteous to provide 24 hours notice if you wish to cancel or reschedule a fitting.
6. Alterations are a process that takes place over several visits - on average three. The first fitting is very important, as this is when the fit of the dress is first customized to you. During the subsequent fittings the fit and accessories are fine-tuned. Fittings are a subjective process. Do not hesitate to tell the people assisting you in your fittings if you are unsure or unhappy about something. They are there to help you. Try to relax and enjoy the process!