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wedding dresses - alterations

Wedding Gown: Wedding Dress Alterations

You've found your gown, but it's not quite the perfect fit...yet.

Photo: Michael Carr Photography

Many gowns need at least some sort of alteration, but keep in mind that your alteration issues can vary greatly, depending on where you got your gown and how many changes need to be made. But if your expectations are in order and you go to the right seamstress or tailor, you should be ready for your wedding day with a gown that fits flawlessly.

Timing Is Everything

It's important to time your alterations right. Bring your gown in too early, and you might not end up with a proper fit. (You may lose or gain weight after your gown is altered, which could affect the dress' overall look and fit.) Bring your gown in too late, and you run the risk of not allowing enough time to have all the changes made. John Mahdessian, President of Madame Paulette Custom Couture Cleaners in New York City, recommends allowing two to three months from the time of your first fitting to your last, as an ideal timeline to make all the alterations. Also keep in mind that the amount of times you need to go for fittings depends on how much you're getting done to the gown -- on average, most brides go for three to four fittings.

Who to Go to?

"Most reputable wedding gown shops usually offer alterations on new gowns," says Mahdessian. If they don't, or if your gown is a sample, Mahdessian advises going to someone who specializes in bridal gowns -- in other words, your local dry cleaner might not know the intricacies of formal eveningwear. Wedding gowns have so many complex details -- from boning to hems and bustles -- it's best to find a professional who will have seen and worked on such gown components in the past.

What to Bring?

When you're ready for alterations, don't just bring your gown, also take your undergarments, shoes, and accessories to your fittings as well. With all of the pieces in place, it'll be easier to envision your overall wedding day look -- you should have your undergarments and shoes on hand in order to obtain the proper fit and length of your gown, and your hair accessories or veil will help ensure you've got the right balance. If you don't have the exact shoe you'll be wearing, bring something similar in height so you don't wind up tripping over your dress on your wedding day.

Who to Bring?

While you might have legions of bridesmaids, it's not a good idea to bring them all to your fittings. You might want to have your mom, another trusted relative, or friend accompany you to your fittings, just for another set of eyes and another reliable opinion. And because your maid of honor will need to know how to create the bustle, it's a good idea to bring her to your last fitting so she can learn how your gown works.

Endless Possibilities

Whether you found your gown at a couture salon or a bridal sample sale, the options for alterations are nearly endless. Many seamstresses who have worked on bridal gowns are used to reworking fabrics, opening up hems, and can practically redesign a dress. This is particularly common when a bride wants to modernize her mother's gown -- a seamstress can use the same fabric but create an updated style for the gown.

"In many cases, it depends on the fabric and constitution of the gown to determine how difficult an alteration will be," says Galina Leykina, a Couture Bridal Tailor for 15 years at Madame Paulette. For example, a silk satin finish on a gown can be difficult to let out, as holes might show. When she's altering a lace gown, she can work with appliques to cover up alterations, making it sometimes easier to alter this fabric than others. "It's always better to buy a gown bigger than smaller, when it comes to all fabrics," says Leykina, because this gives the tailor the most alteration options.

Keep in mind that the more labor-intensive the request, the more time and money you should allow for the process of creating your dream dress.

See More: Wedding Dress Shopping