Bridesmaid dress alterations are important. Nothing off-the-rack is going to fit perfectly; a few nips and tucks can make all the difference.
(4.5 minutes to read)
Bridesmaids are front and centre on the day, and they need to look amazing. Off the rack ready-made bridesmaid dresses are designed to fit an industry standard, which is literally no-one, ever. Alterations are important for a few reasons:
- So the dress doesn’t gape anywhere. It’s common for armholes or the bust to need adjustment.
- To be super flattering. An example is an hourglass figure; the dress will fit at the bust and hips, but be loose around the waist, making the dress shapeless and look like you draped your friend in a sack. A few darts in the waistline can bring it in, giving shape.
- To make the bridesmaid comfortable. If something is too tight, too loose, or ill-fitting, she’ll be forever adjusting it on the day. This is distracting, annoying, and super awkward. And guarantee, there will be photos where it doesn’t look great.
So, how do you know what adjustments are needed? And, how much will tailoring cost?
Most common dress alterations
There are a few standard alterations that your bridesmaid dress might need.
Hem the length
There are two factors here. One, is the height of the person. A tall person might need extra length, a short person might need it taken up. What’s a flattering length on them? Just below the knee? Maybe they’ve got great knees (joke, no-one has great knees) they want to show off?
The other factor in this is; how do you want the bridal party to look as a unit? If the dresses all need to be ankle length, that’s easy, but if you have a six foot and a five foot bridesmaid, and you want knee length dresses, that’s going to look uneven when they stand together. Does that matter?
Shortening a dress can mean it loses some shape, especially if it’s flared. Lengthening a dress can be very challenging; you can either hope the hem is large and there’s enough fabric to let it down, or you can add lace/ contrasting band to the bottom. It’s very unlikely (read: impossible) you can source the exact fabric and lengthen the hem without it being noticeable. It’s OK, tall women know this and are used to it.
You must, you must, take in the bust
Pear shaped ladies might need a few centimetres taken in as when a dress fits the waist and hips, the top is loose. This can be taken in from the side seams, or they can add/ increase the size of the darts, depending on the dress style and body shape.
The waist and hips
Your milkshake might bring all the boys to the yard, but it also means that what fits in the bust might gape in the waist and hips. To avoid looking like you’re wearing a sack, taking in the seams or adding darts can make the dress far more flattering.
Shorten the straps
If your dress has wide straps, spaghetti straps, or a halterneck, it will likely need adjustments. Otherwise straps can end up slipping off their shoulders all day. This gets annoying quickly.
Less common adjustments might include:
- Taking a high slit a little lower
- Fixing a low-cut or plunging neckline to be more stable/ higher
- A tulip skirt might need a few stitches to hold it closed
- If the fabric is floaty, consider sewing some weights in the hem to avoid any windy incidents
- Adding features such as a bow or a waistband
What to take to a dress fitting
You want to take/ wear what you will on the day. This includes:
- The dress (obviously)
- The underwear/ shapewear you’ll be wearing
- The shoes (or, ones with the same height heel, as the heel height influences the level of the hem)
If you have particular jewellery you’ll be wearing that will affect the dress, such as a statement necklace on a low-cut neckline, that could be helpful too. Also think about your hair; will it be up, or down? Take a hair tie so you can play around.
When should you have bridesmaid dress alterations done?
Not too soon, and not too late.
Don’t leave it to the last minute, because that’s just added stress that no-one needs. Also, the dressmaker/ tailor could be busy and not be able to fit you in.
But, you don’t want to get it done too early either. A lot can happen in a few months, especially if you’re pregnant or intending to lose weight. If you do get the dress altered a few months early, try it on a couple of weeks before the wedding to make sure it still zips up and fits comfortably.
How much do bridesmaid dress alterations cost?
It depends on who tailors your dress, and how much work is required. A private seamstress may charge less for a number of alterations, whereas a mall will add up a list of adjustments.
A local mall outlet will likely cost more as they have higher overheads. Lined dresses will cost more to alter.
- Dress hem shortening: Between $30 and $60
- Dress hem lengthening: From $40 to $60
- Shortening straps $20 to $30
- Taking in: From $30 upwards, depending on complexity, and if darts are required or just taking in the seams.
Other advice from a seamstress
You cannot make fabric grow. Buy a size up if you’re unsure what’s going to fit. You can always take something in, but you’ll need a magic wand to create something from nothing.
If you are ordering made-to-fit gowns online, you want the measurements provided to be perfect. It’s worth getting a tailor or seamstress to do this for you if you know one locally.