However you purchased your wedding dress if it wasn’t made to measure then it will almost certainly require some degree of alteration. Unlike your usual wardrobe, a wedding dress should fit exactly and there should be no risk of it slipping during what will be a long day. Wedding dresses are made to standard sizes and so there will probably be at least one area where things are not quite right and this will often be around the bust or the hem.
To ensure that the dresses will accommodate the maximum number of women and because it is easier to alter a dress down in size than up, manufacturers usually ensure that the busts are very generous and that the skirts are long. Most brides will not have the boobs to fill their dress and unless they are very tall the gown will inevitably be too long.
If you encounter these issues then you will need alterations and it is crucial that you find the right person to do the work. Your dress may have cost you a significant amount of money and so it is not worth taking a risk just to avoid another bill.
Find a Professional
Your alterations won’t come cheap if you use a professional but it can be risky asking anyone else to work on the dress. Bridal gowns are a specialist field as they have complicated constructions, intricate beading and corsetry all of which are difficult to deal with for those with no experience.
Your friend or relative who does a bit of dressmaking now and then may seem like a cheap and appealing option, particularly if they offer to help out for free, but before you accept their offer make sure they are up to the task. Imagine how bad they would feel if things went wrong, let alone what your mood would be! Someone who runs up the odd garment on their own machine at home may not have the skills to deal with a bridal gown.
Tracking them Down
If you do need a professional seamstress then they can be hard to find. Most will not have websites or do much advertising and so can be difficult to track down. If you bought your dress in a bridal boutique they will probably have a seamstress they can recommend or will arrange a fitting for you. If the shop is too far from your home to be practical for fittings or you found your dress elsewhere then contact your local bridal store to see if they can help you.
If they are not forthcoming then examine the classifieds in your local paper, search local listing sites and approach recent brides to see who they used.
Once you have a seamstress it is still important to conduct a little due diligence. Just because someone says they are a competent seamstress doesn’t mean that they are. The professionals used by the bridal stores are usually a safe bet as the shops would have dropped them if they were receiving complaints. If you found your lady independently then seek testimonials and ask to see examples of their work before you go ahead.
Ask if they have insurance to cover any disasters (they do happen even with the best seamstresses). If you have any qualms during the process then ask for clarification and if you are not happy with the answers then collect your dress and move on.
It would be unusual to find a wedding dress in a store with the alterations included in the price. This is because the amount of work required can vary dramatically and so inclusive charges would penalise those who only need a little minor tweaking. You must accept from the outside that you will be paying for alterations but that doesn’t mean you should pay too much.
Ask for a quote and seek comparisons if it sounds too costly. You should expect to pay the equivalent of about £10 per hour which would mean a total cost of around £100 to take up a hem, alter the bust and make a few other minor alterations.
Sally Stacey is a keen writer and bridal professional who has worked in the industry for nine years.