Why Do Alterations Costs So Much? And Top 10 Alterations Done On Gowns

Every bride wants to feel like perfection on their wedding day, which is why months are spent searching for the perfect gown. Followed by several fittings closer to her wedding day to make sure the dress fits her like a glove. Some brides are lucky and will find a dress that needs minimal alterations, but for other brides, they will need to have 20-40 hours of work completed on their gown.

Something every bride should consider before they say “yes to the dress” is the alteration difficulty and cost. Bridal gowns are different than regular dresses. Their fabrics are delicate and the dresses are complex. They are one of the most carefully crafted garments and requires a team of experienced professionals to make one. Thus altering a bridal gown will require a different price point and time frame to work on. Bridal alterations have an industry average cost of $400-$800 and every seamstress or salon will structure their fees differently. Some charge per service and others charge a flat fee that covers everything that you want done to the dress. When you pay a seamstress, you are paying for their time, craftsmanship, and cost of materials. There are several factors that play into the cost such as, how difficult the alteration is, the type of gown, the material of the gown, the additions made to the gown, etc. All these factors play together.

Every bridal gown  is different and unique, so each bride’s dress is going to need different things. You might not know what changes you want to make to your dress. If you don’t know, don’t hesitate to ask! Your seamstress or tailor will work with you to figure out a plan.

The Hem

The bottom of your wedding dress will almost always need to be shortened. Most manufacturers offer the option of the dress hems shorter and sometimes longer for a reasonable fee. It’s easier to shorten the hem than to elongate it. When it comes to hems, you could be dealing with up to 8 layers. It would be like hemming multiple gowns! If your gown has lace and/or beading, those elements need to be taken off before adding it back to the final hem length. Many gowns have horsehair, which is a plastic webbing, in the hem to give it body and that is one of the difficult hems to deal with. If the gown has a scalloped border hem, that too is a difficult challenge. The hem is often takes the longest to adjust and can range from $150-$450.

The Sides

A gown may need to be taken in at different points to show more of the body shape and curves. You could be taking in the bust, waist, hips, or a combination of the three. The cost for taking in the sides will depend on how much they need to take in because it would be just the waist or it could be along the entire seam. Again, the seamstress will have to take apart the multiple layers. There is the outer fabric, the underlining, the lining, and then many times there is an overlay of lace, organza, mesh or chiffon. When the outer layer has the addition of embellishments, they have to be carefully removed by hand. The threads where they are removed from need to be tied off so they don’t continue to unravel. Then once the alteration is complete, all the beads & sequins have to be hand sewn back on. Most of the time, the boning also has to be cut down during an alteration.

The Bustle

If you have a train, you may need a bustle, which is when there are added buttons, hooks or ribbons into the dress to lift up the train or tucking it into itself.  There are different types of bustles that you can discuss with your seamstress. The average bride will only spend a short time during her ceremony wearing the gown with her train elegantly trailing behind her. She will spend the majority of her time with it bustled up during the reception to make it easier for her to move around. The bustle needs to be durable enough to withstand sitting on it and dancing for a few hours in it and even possibly people accidentally stepping on her hemline. You do not want the bustle to break! This alteration is often overlooked, but is truly a logistical necessity.

The Bust Cups

Bust cups can be added to your dress to take place of a bra or to enhance the bustline. You can also take the cups out if they don’t fit your bust well or you have a certain type of bra you want to wear instead.

The Straps

Many wedding dresses are made with longer straps to fit a wide variety of brides and it is an easy alteration to do. Some dresses are strapless and some brides like to add some to prevent the dress from falling down. This is also not a problem as long as long as you find the right fabric and size for you! Removing straps can be harder, as it depends on the structure of the dress. If the dress is backless and doesn’t have enough structure to stay up without them, then the straps might have to stay. We often recommend adding straps to the dress, even if they are worn tucked in, and only pulled out as needed in the reception. This will add a sense of security and provide a backup of mishaps.

The Sleeves

If you want something to over you up a little more, sleeves are a good option! You could get short cap sleeves, ¾ length sleeves, or just go full long sleeves. This is a simple alteration that you can discuss with your seamstress. You can also go the opposite way and take alter the current sleeves. But the pricing will depend on how much embellishments are on the sleeves.

The Neckline

Neckline alterations can make a big impact! You can either close or open your neckline. Some wedding dresses have an illusion neckline that can be taken off if the bride wishes. Some brides prefer v-necks to show off a little more skin. But the necklines available to you may depend on your dress and how much you’re willing to spend. A simpler wedding dress made with a few layers of fabric may be easy to alter, but the same alteration done on a wedding gown with an intricately constructed bodice may be cost more than it’s worth.

The Back

The front of the dress is important, but people also look at the back, especially when you’re walking down the aisle. You may want to take away some material and have the back open. But you can also build a back onto a strapless dress if you wanted to. If you want this alteration, it requires a lot of planning with your seamstress to get it perfect! This might cost you a pretty penny depending on what you want to do.

The Embellishments

Depending on your style you may want your dress to be glamourous or toned-down. Some brides want their dress to be blinged out or they want even more sparkle than there already is. This allows the bride’s dress to be more personalized. A bride could feel like the dress is too much and may overpower her and in some cases, it’s possible to remove elements. An easier alteration would be adding a belt or sash to add some bling or a pop of color!

The Closure

Wedding dresses have different closures on them. There are zippers, buttons, and corset backs! Buttons are a nice detail to have and looks very elegant. Corset backs gives you some wiggle room if you lose or gain a little weight. Wanting to alter the closure is common and is something to discuss with your seamstress!

Make sure you go into your fittings often to make sure the dress is to your liking. During your fittings, make sure you wear the same undergarments, shoes and accessories you plan to wear on the actual wedding day.  Make sure the tailor you choose to work with hears your vision and that you are equally willing to listen when they advise something is not a good idea. This ensures that everything will look exactly how you want on your wedding day and the best possible tailoring.

Contributor: Ann Dinh

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