Alterations - the do's and don'ts

Choosing your wedding dress can be really exciting, or it could be daunting and stressful!

There are so many options, where do you start? As a dressmaker I'd love it if every bride chose to have a bespoke gown, but I understand it's not within every bride's budget and timeframe, and often, just not a process they want to take part in.

Buying off the peg means you can see exactly what you're getting upfront, and there's no need for lots of fittings. The drawback of course is that it might not be exactly what you want, and getting it to fit right might be more troublesome than you first thought.

I get a lot of enquiries for altering wedding dresses, and I always feel so sorry for ladies who get in touch and the alterations they're after are just not possible.

So I thought, some do's and don'ts might be helpful;


Try on plenty of dresses, this is your opportunity to see what really suits you. If a sales person does a pressure sell, don't fall for it, not unless you really really want that dress and it's the last one! If it's the first dress you've tried on, go and try on a few more, you can alway go back to the first place. You'd be surprised how many women buy a second dress as they've gone off the first. This can be very costly.

Make sure you're 100% sure you love it if the dress you're buying is non-returnable, which is most often the case. If you do buy a dress and change your mind, some shops will re-sell it on your behalf, but for a fraction of what you will have paid for it.

Make sure you find out the costs of altering your dress before you commit to buying it, shortening a dress with a lot of layers of fabric, and detail on the hem can soon add up. Shortening a dress with a lace hem requires a lot of work to make sure you don't lose the beautiful design you've chosen.

If you can't afford what you want, look at getting it second hand. I've altered a lot of second hand dresses that don't even look like they've been worn, and I've known people to save over £3,000, even once they've paid for the alterations! If you think you might need it cleaned, just check the cost of this first, as delicate or heavily beaded dresses can be very expensive to get cleaned.


Don't buy a dress that's too small. Some dresses can be let out, but only a small amount, and some just can't be let out at all. Taking a dress in is much easier than letting it out.

Don't buy your dress online unless you know the website is trustworthy, I've lost count of how many terrible dresses I've seen that were supposedly made to measure and don't fit at all, or that simply don't resemble the image on the website. There are great sites out there, but just do your research. You can find a bargain, but unfortunately a lot of these websites are non-returnable, and cause a lot of stress and tears, often after you've parted with your money the after sales care is non existent.

Don't believe everything the sales person tells you, they are a sales person and are on commission. If the dress you are buying needs a lot of alterations and they don't do them in house, make sure everything they're telling you is possible actually is, and if budget is important, get an idea of the cost. Numerous times I've had ladies bring me dresses to alter, and what they've been told they can do is either not possible, or a lot more costly then they've been told.

Don't buy something plain and think you'll just cover it in sparkle. Most sparkly dresses are beaded in countries like India and China where labour costs are much cheaper than here in the UK. The cost of beading a whole dress in the UK could cost more than the dress itself, that is, if you can find anyone willing to do it.

If a dress isn't what you want, don't buy it. I've seen a few brides over the years who turn up with a dress they don't like, and ask for alterations to make it the dress of their dreams. Sometimes this is possible, but not always, and sometimes it's false economy, as by time it's been altered so much you could just get a dress made from scratch, which is exactly what you wanted in the first place.

Don't buy a dress which is a really complicated design if it's way too big, if you take a dress in a lot, it could change the design and end up looking a bit odd.

If you're thinking of buying a dress to alter, I'm alway happy to have a look at some pictures via email to let you know if it's possible, sometimes I need to actually see the dress, but a picture gives me a lot of information, and having altered hundreds of wedding dresses now, there's not much I can't do!

But whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it, this should be fun, not stressful. Do what you want to do, not what other people make you think you want to do. And don't leave it to the last minute!!! :o)

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