I have been asked a lot lately for advice on wedding gown purchase and alterations so, I thought it might be helpful to post a bit on this topic. As a custom bridal gown designer for 30+ years, these are a few pointers that might be helpful:
2- Remember, quality is what you are looking for regardless of price. Quality in fabric, construction, details, fit. Ask someone who has experience with these issues to look at your options with you. Even paying someone knowledgeable to advise you can save you loads of frustration and money in the end.
3- When beginning the process of shopping for a wedding gown, try on as many as possible. I know many of the shops behave as if there is some obligation to buy after a session but remember, it is your decision which gown to buy and they are offering a service. Even with a scheduled appointment, there is no obligation to purchase from them. Be polite and let them know up front that you are in the beginning of your search and will be looking at many shops and gowns before making your choice.
4- Purchase a gown that fits the largest part of you best. It is always easier to take in than let out. Many dresses do not have enough seam allowance to let the seam out much. Also, many fabrics like satins and velvets will be left with permanent holes or marks from releasing the seam.
5- Be cautious about buying a gown that is more than one size too big. Altering past that can require an almost complete re-cut to hang properly and the cost may be more than your purchase price.
6- If possible, have the alterationist look at the gown and assess any necessary alterations before you purchase it. Many brides purchase a used gown or sample thinking it is a fantastic bargain only to find the cost of alterations are more than the price of the dress. Don't go with the cheapest alteration, go with the person with the most experience. Get references.
7- A 'build-up', the taking of a sleeveless or strapless bustier gown and creating one with shoulders and sleeves, can be a complicated issue when it comes to fit. You cannot just add sleeves, for example, to most sleeveless dresses as the armhole is usually not out to the edge of the shoulder, causing the finished sleeve to lack enough ease to raise your arms. It must be done by someone with experience and skill.
8- Bring all undergarments you will be wearing for your big day to the first fitting and every fitting afterward including your petticoat and shoes. A different bra can alter the bust fit by up to 1" or more and the shoe height is imperative to a good hem.
Vintage Dior Kitten Heels
9- Remember to calculate the cost of cleaning a sample or previously worn gown into the total cost of the wedding dress.
10- Don't expect a quote over the phone. Not even the most experienced seamstress can see through the telephone. Make an appointment and get it seen before you even purchase it, if possible. You will then be able to make an informed decision.
Here are a few general costs you can expect to pay for gown alterations. They will vary depending on the type of fabric, complication of seaming, trim, etc. These are just for a ballpark estimate so you can be prepared:
Hem - $50-$100 depending on layers and circumference
Sleeve length - $40
Bodice - from side seams, $30-50 - from over bust seams, $60-$80
Bustling up train - $25-$100 depending on how many points
Build-up - $100-200
Center back/zipper - $60-$100
Cleaning - $100-$200
For tips on storing a wedding gown look at my post from last fall here .