You’ve just dropped a pretty penny on your dream dress and now you’re wondering if you’ll need alterations. The short answer is…YES! Unless she is custom-made, your wedding dress is based on a generic model so for it to fit your unique body properly, you will need to have it altered.

 As you break out the measuring tape, here are some wedding dress alteration tips you should know, courtesy of Dorothy McCoy of Top Stitch Alterations in Livonia, Michigan.

1. What should I bring to my dress fitting?
Always have your wedding shoes. The height of your shoes is extremely important in determining the hem length. That being said, it’s super important that you don’t wear 5-inch Jimmy Choo’s to your fitting and then later decide to walk down the aisle in a pair of Vans! You will be tripping over your gown down to the altar. If you still haven’t decided which shoes to wear on the big day, you can bring a pair with a similar heel height to your fitting so that your seamstress can measure the length you’ll need to have your gown hemmed.


2. How long does a dress-fitting appointment last?
To take the stress out, it’s a good idea to schedule your first fitting to take place roughly three to four months before the wedding day. The first fitting usually takes about an hour, with subsequent appointments lasting around 30 minutes. The second fitting should be about a month before your wedding and your final fitting at the two-week mark. You may need additional fittings if you’re adding extensive customizations, such as long sleeves or a train. At the first fitting, your seamstress will go over every aspect of the dress from head to toe to see what needs to be altered.


3. How many bridal fittings will I need?
Your seamstress will be able to advise you on how many fittings you will need, or at least provide you with an estimate. The number of fittings you’ll need depends on the number of alterations required and how much your body changes during that time. Your dress was ordered according to the largest measurement between your waist, bust, and hips so it will probably not fit properly at your first appointment. On average, brides will usually need around three fittings before the dress is ready to be worn on the big day.


4. Why are bridal alterations so expensive?
One of the reasons alterations are so expensive is because of the level and skill of the seamstress. In addition, most seamstresses work by the hour. They may take a look at your dress and estimate a price based on 10 hours of work, but once they begin working on your dress it may take closer to 20 hours of work which doubles the original estimate. Fabric type is a common factor that impacts your wedding dress alteration cost. As a general rule, the more delicate fabrics tend to require more attention and time which means they will cost extra compared to other fabrics. Depending on what needs to be done, alterations can range anywhere from $50 to $1000. Be sure not to skimp on the cost of your alterations.


5. Can I lose weight after my first bridal fitting?
Planning on losing a significant amount of weight? No problem! You can still have your dream dress in time for your wedding even if you change dress sizes between purchasing your dress and taking that walk down the aisle. You may be thinking: why not order the dress in a smaller size? Weight loss is an unpredictable process. While you can always take a dress in, you can’t always let it out. Nothing would be worse than being two months out from your wedding and realizing you can’t fit into your dress. It’s always best to find a dress that you feel comfortable in right now. If you lose the weight, then that’s a bonus. If you feel beautiful and confident standing in the dress right now, then you know it’s the one!


6. How soon before my wedding do I start alterations?
You’ve found the dress, put it on order, and after months of waiting you learn that it has finally arrived. Yay! Most brides are eager to set up the alterations process. While it does take a few appointments to get your dress to fit just right, you don’t want to schedule your first fitting too soon as your dress may not fit the way you want it to on your big day. If you wait too long, however, you may have to compromise on some of your alterations. We usually recommend allowing 3-4 months before your wedding to start alterations.


7. Should I wear a bra to my fitting?
Bringing the right pair of undergarments is an absolute must! Most dresses have cups already sewn into them, so many brides do not wear a bra with their dresses. If you’ve already purchased shapewear that you plan on wearing on the big day, make sure to bring it with you. Wearing them at your fitting will give you the most accurate feel as to how the dress will feel on your wedding day.


8. How can I save money on wedding dress alterations?
A dress that fits most closely to your actual size and requires the least number of alterations will save you money. Most brides, however, will at least need a hem. Some brides will measure into one size in the waist and another in the hips. This is completely normal. If you are measuring in between sizes, it’s always better to order larger. Dresses can be taken in but remember that not all dresses can be let out. If…there’s one piece of advice to remember…don’t skimp on the alterations!