FINDING A DRESS THAT CAN BE ALTERED
You’ve finally found the dress of your dreams! It’s exactly what you want! Except, it doesn’t fit quite right... or at all. Now what?
Well, unless you have the exact proportions of the fit model used in the design and creation of the gown, you will need to have some alterations done. Even when your measurements are taken and the dress is ordered in “your size”, the dress will still need to be adjusted for your proportions.
Now, you don’t have to worry about the actual “size” of the dress. Let the salespeople determine that for you, according to the dress manufacturer’s size chart. When your gown is ordered, it must be ordered to fit your biggest measurement, according to that manufacturer's specific size chart. That means if your bust is a size 16 and your waist is a size 8 and your hips are a size 10, you will be ordered a size 16, even if you wear a size 6 when shopping at the mall. The only exception is if your hips are your biggest size and your dress has a full skirt. Then the bigger size between your bust and your waist will be used. It’s important to know that dresses can always be taken in, and while they can occasionally be let out at the sides, often any piping, beading or other trim that crosses the side seam cannot.
Some figure types are prone to needing more alterations than others:
If your bust is any size other than a B cup, you will need the bust reshaped. Most ready to wear clothing, including bridal, is made to fit a B cup. If you are smaller than a B, then you can either pad the dress, wear a padded bra, or have the curve of the bust line reduced. If you are bigger than a B, then the dress must be ordered big enough to fit your bust, then the areas of the dress above and below your bust will be taken in.
If you are petite (5’4” or shorter), you will need to have more alterations done than a taller person. Often the shoulders need to be taken up, hem and long sleeves (if present) shortened, and possibly, in the case of a short torso, the bodice will need to be shortened as well. If there is any lace or beading through these areas, it can be very expensive to alter properly. Always ask if the dress you want is available in a Petite size. Even if the cost of the petite dress is more, the proportions of the dress will fit you better than the regular size dress, thus saving you some alteration costs.
If you are over 5’8”, you may need to come up with some creative solutions to lengthen the skirt, the sleeves, and possibly the bodice, depending on your personal proportions. Decorative trims, borders or bindings can be added to the hem and sleeves, or lace or ribbon can be inset to add length where needed.
If you have proportions that are vastly different than the fit model, such as a large waistline with a small chest, or a large bust with small shoulders, then you will need extensive alterations to make the dress fit you properly.
In any of these cases, especially if you are under 5’ or over 6’, it is recommended that you get an estimate for the cost of the alterations and add that to the price of your dress to get the total cost. And don’t forget that just because you bought your dress somewhere that offers alterations, doesn’t mean that you have to use their alteration services. Call or visit reputable alteration specialists (such as sewBoise :-) and get some estimates. Compare pricing and timelines, and if it's possible, obtain customer satisfaction information and samples/photos of bridal alterations work. Also, find out if the alterations will be guaranteed. Just because you buy the dress at a store and have it altered there, does not necessarily mean that they will guarantee the fit of your dress. Most of the local bridal shops do, but some of them do not.
If the price of the dress plus the cost of alterations seem to put the dress out of your budget, you may find that it would be a better solution to have your dress custom made for your figure. Talk to several different qualified dressmakers (like those at sewBoise :-) and get an estimate for your dress. Don’t forget to ask to see samples of their work, to make sure you are happy with the quality. Keep in mind that all the proportions of the dress will be cut and fit specifically to your figure, so no extra alteration costs will be added. The dressmaker can also usually make your accessories to coordinate with your gown; like your veil, the ring pillow, a purse, or your garter. This would also be an opportunity to personalize your dress any way you want - any color or color combination, any fabric; like standard polyester duchess satin, silk satin, silk chiffon, rayon crepe, cotton batiste, velvet. You could even do something unconventional like polar fleece for a winter wedding, Lycra for a beach wedding, or denim or suede for a ranch wedding. You can also use personalized embellishments, such as having the beading of the dress done in the motif of your favorite flower, using a splash of lace or beads from your mother’s wedding dress, having your initials or wedding date embroidered in the dress, or incorporating any shape or symbol that has special meaning for you. The possibilities are endless.
Here are some things to keep in mind when picking out your dress:
- Order a size that will be easy to alter to your body
- Add the cost of the dress plus the cost of the alterations needed to make it fit you properly
- Consider the possibility of having a dress made to your specifications
When you find your dress, or when you find out your dress doesn’t fit, there are solutions to make the dress fit you like a dream.