Wedding Dress Alterations : The Basics


So, you have bought your wedding dress and are waiting for it to come into the bridal boutique. You have anxiously circled the ship date on your calendar or put into your iPhone and are waiting for Siri to tell you that your wedding dress has arrived. In the meantime you have received a list of 1-3 wedding dress seamstresses or alterations experts in your area from the bridal boutique. The nerves start in as you realize you have no idea of what to expect. You are asking yourself:

  • “Where should I go for bridal alterations?”
  • “How much will wedding dress alterations cost?”
  • “What happens if my dress gets messed up?”

These and four million other questions race through your head as you try to figure this whole wedding dress alterations thing out. In most cases you probably have never had a wedding gown altered before. You may not have ever had anything altered before aside from a pair of jeans.

As an expert, let me tell you something… breathe. It will be okay. Everything will work out great; you will get married in a beautiful gown to the love of your life and live happily ever after… First things first though. You want to make sure that the list the bridal store gave you actually contains the best seamstresses and tailors in your area.

“Of course the bridal store list has the best tailors” you may say. As much as I would love to agree with you I can’t always do so. A little secret is that most bridal store lists contain seamstresses that give back the most revenue to the bridal boutique to be on the list, which does not equate to being the most talented, affordable, nice or any other metric you would normally choose a wedding seamstress on. This amount can be as much as 50% of what you pay… so who pays for that “referral fee”? You do of course!

“So, what do I do?” you may ask. Well, I wouldn’t toss the list in the trash, but I would do the same amount of work you did to find that cute little bridal boutique that you bought your dream dress from. If you are going to spend top dollar on a bridal gown, and spend the time finding it, you should also spend a little time figuring out who is going to take that dream dress apart and put it back together for you, don’t you think? Here is a short list of questions I would ask the bridal store or the seamstress when interviewing them:

  • “Does the seamstress have to pay the bridal store for the referral?” – This is a good way to know if the bridal store just sends you to who is best, or who pays the most.
  • “Where does my dress get stored once I leave it for alterations?” – Most bridal stores allow your precious wedding dress to go home, or anywhere else, with the seamstress. Have you seen your seamstresses home or storage space? Do they even have one?
  • “Does the seamstress work for the bridal store, or are they contracted out independently?” – While bridal stores may say they are will be there if “anything happens to your wedding dress” the reality is that if the seamstress is independently contracted there is no real legal obligation on the part of the bridal store to help you out. You could be dealing directly with the seamstress; leading to big problems down the road if something happens to your Vera Wang or Claire Pettibone.
  • “Who carries the insurance to cover my dress if anything happens?” – Again, if contracted out your wedding dress may not be covered by the store’s insurance. Many “at home” seamstresses do not carry insurance to cover your wedding dress if something happens (fire, stolen, just plain messed up).

There are probably a million other questions you can ask a bridal store or wedding seamstress when trying to figure out who the best bridal tailor is to take your wedding dress to. My suggestion however is to look at who is most transparent in their reviews and work. Some items to look for are:

  • Online Reviews – if you cannot find a number of reviews on a wedding seamstress, unless she just moved to the area, you may want to consider finding someone else. Reviews, good or bad, at least let you know that people have used that person before.
  • Website – websites are a great way to see how they represent themselves and their business. If their website is a mess then that may be a reflection of how they operate.
  • Storefront – our opinion is that the days of the “at home” seamstress is fading for wedding dress alterations. Most reliable bridal tailors have a store front, even if they are just a one or two person location. How their storefront appears is again a reflection of how they operate.

Hopefully this helps when deciding who to leave your amazing wedding dress with for alterations. Not all seamstresses are created equal so choose wisely.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I would be happy to answer them!

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One comment

  1. Nataliya V Manger says:

    The most detailed explanation I’ve ever red. Especially about referral cost. I was working with one of very fancy places in NJ as a contractor. Was, because I didn’t agree to split my earnings on half.

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