Whether you are buying an off the peg wedding gown, a preloved or vintage dress or are having the creation of your dreams handmade by a seamstress or tailor, your special dress will need to be fitted and probably altered if it has not been made to measure.
You should always plan for some alterations if you are buying a premade dress from a wedding boutique or online. No off the peg dress is going to fit like a glove unless it is altered and customised to your shape and size. A good seamstress can transform the look of a gown with simple and careful fitting and there is also the opportunity to add detail like brocade, sequins or lace, sleeves and modesty panels whilst some brides will take away elements of the dress that they just don’t want.
Fitting the dress correctly is just as important as choosing it in the first place – don’t underestimate just how much difference those final fittings and adjustments can make to the overall look. So, what are the key questions to ask in your wedding dress fitting? Here are 10 of the most essential things to ask which will ensure the finished gown is the wedding dress of your dreams.
Are you brave enough to hear the answer! Most seamstresses have fitted hundreds of brides and so have huge experience in how a dress can fit and look, how different fabrics move and behave and how to optimise the gown and the bride standing in front of them. They can sometimes offer a different perspective to the sales staff in the shop.
This can be important to establish if time is short, or the dress and seamstress are a long way from where you live or you are likely to be busy with work commitments. On average, most premade dresses take between two and four fittings. The seamstress will not make all the alterations at the first fitting, they will be carried out in a sequence so don’t expect the finished look until the last appointment.
You should take your wedding shoes, if you haven’t chosen them yet then pick a pair of a similar height but always try and have the actual shoes before the dress is hemmed. If you want to change your shoes for the reception to something more comfortable then discuss with your seamstress how this will impact on your dress length. Your seamstress will also ask you to bring the underwear or lingerie you are going to wear, tights or stockings and any veil. Your choice of hairstyle can also affect the neckline of the dress so you should wear your hair in the style that you have chosen for the day itself, it doesn’t have to be picture perfect but you will need to see how it affects the neckline and the back of the dress as you may need modifications or adjustments.
It’s really important to match any alterations to the top of the dress so the neckline or sleeves will dovetail and complement with how you intend to wear your hair but most seamstresses will not want you to practise hair and makeup during the fitting appointment – apart from anything else, there probably won’t be time and you could mark or stain the dress with hair and beauty products. All she needs to know is how your intended hairstyle will affect the dress so a loose version will be fine to evaluate any adjustments which need to be made.
An experienced wedding dress fitter will know how to make the dress fit you best and also tailor the hemline to suit your shoes. However, there are lots of possible embellishments and decorations which can be added to any wedding gown to enhance and personalise it and make it totally unique. Some things that a seamstress might suggest could include adding gossamer sleeves to a sleeveless gown, using sequins, lace or brocade to add in fine detail to the skirt or bodice or creating a bustle for a dress with a train to make it easier to walk and move around.
Sometimes, it is not necessarily what you can add to a dress, taking something away can also radically alter and improve the look. Removing sleeves or adjusting their length, taking shoulder straps away completely to create a bare shoulder and neckline or shortening or removing a train can still give the bride the dress they want but improve the overall look and wearability. Always listen to what the seamstress has to say. Most alterations take place over the course of three to four appointments so you can always have a think about something a bit more radical, you won’t have to decide there and then.
Always keep some slack in your wedding dress budget for adjustments and alterations. Never agree to an open-ended figure unless you are very undecided about the alterations you want. Adjusting the sides of the dress and the hemline to suit your shoes should only cost a couple of hundred pounds however, adding sequins, beads or brocade is very time-consuming and labour intensive so this means the bill just for alterations can easily push £1,000. If the alterations are fairly standard then you should be able to agree a figure up front and confirm the number of appointments needed.
This will depend upon how complicated they are and how busy the boutique or seamstress is. Standard alterations don’t take very long but always make your seamstress aware of your deadline which may be earlier than the wedding date if, for instance, you are getting married abroad. Final alterations should always be left until a short time before the wedding date, this ensures the best possible fit. It may be that you make some alterations early on and then wait and have a final fitting four or five weeks before the wedding.
This is a particularly important question if you are using a bridal boutique or wedding shop. Most appointments for dress fittings and viewings are exclusive but always double check as a boutique might have a different arrangement for just fittings.
Most seamstresses will be happy with a couple of extra people, you might want a special friend or family member for their valued opinion or you could want to bring your hairdresser to one of the appointments so you can discuss the neckline of the dress with any potential hairstyles that you are considering. If you are adding a bustle to the dress in order to make managing a train easier then it makes sense to bring along your chief bridesmaid as the seamstress can show them how best to manage the bustle on the day.
If you are buying from a bridal boutique then most will offer their own fitting and alteration service but what if you have bought a preloved dress online or found a vintage gown at a fair or in an antique shop?
If you don’t have a seamstress that you use regularly then ask around friends, family and work colleagues to see if they can recommend anyone. There are lots of really good seamstresses about and social media can be another good source of recommendations. Make sure you use someone who has plenty of experience with wedding gowns as it is quite specialist. If your wedding dress is a more unusual fabric or you want complex enhancements, then find a seamstress who has specific experience.
Some bridal boutiques will offer their alteration services to the public at large so you don’t necessarily need to have bought your wedding dress from them to use their seamstress for fittings and alterations. Another benefit of using a bridal boutique is that they usually have plenty of space, mirrors and good lighting for trying on and fittings so you can get a 360 view of the dress plus there is space to bring family and friends with you.
Ask to see pictures of dresses that have been worked on or at the very least the seamstress should have a portfolio of experience with wedding gowns which you can verify independently. A personal recommendation will always be your best bet.