Not just anyone with a sewing machine and tape measure can make you and your wedding gown look great together. Do your homework and shine on your wedding day. Here’s how.
By Robert Bullock, designer.
I remember reading an interview where a very famous designer spoke about childhood trips to Paris with her mother to view the season’s fashion shows and for her mom to have fittings on a new wardrobe. She spoke about it as if it were the most normal childhood experience ever.
Like we all did that as children, right? Come on, how many of us experience anything remotely close to Paris runways and perfect fitting fashion? Sure, you may have had a fitting on your prom gown…or maybe that dress fit nicely because you were young, beautiful, and could wear a perfect size 4, 6 or 10. That, of course, was before you became a full-blown woman and your body decided to change directions, before your bottom became a different size from your top or your boobs went on a separate journey from the rest of your body. Hormones change as you get older, those visits to McDonalds may have reached critical mass, or your body simply got better acquainted with gravity. That’s life.
In the real world, for real women, the first time you usually drop some real bucks on a garment is when you are getting married. It’s worth it, but read on to make sure you are making the most of your dream purchase. There’s nothing quite like knowing you and your dress –like you and your marriage partner – look fantastic together.
The excitement of shopping for your gown, the anticipation of wearing it on that special day, the dreams and fantasies of your life ahead grab you. All these things should grab you…but often the last thing on your mind is the alterations your gown will likely need.
You buy that fabulous dress and wait (and wait…) for it to arrive. Then, one day the phone rings and your sales consultant on the other end says, “Your gown just arrived!” You do a little dance. Then what? You run to the store (when they can schedule you in) and try it on. Some shops have in-house alterations. Some do not. Some that don’t offer the service themselves will conduct fittings for you with an out-of-house alteration person. Some simply hand you your gown with a list of local alterations people.
Hear me, brides. All “alterations people” are not created equally. And this is not a time to make a mistake. You want your stunning gown to fit amazingly on your perfect day.
I get photos of brides who wore my gowns almost daily and over the years I have seen some outstanding tailoring. I also have seen botched jobs that made me want to cry. A beautiful dress is only a work of art when it fits correctly.
Most people getting their gown altered don’t have sewing or tailoring experience so the process can be somewhat intimidating. You put your trust in someone you don’t even know and hope for the best.
Your dress and your day deserves better than simply hoping for the best.
I’ve reached out to two seamstresses that I know and trust to get their input. They know their business and can be trusted with a bride’s gown and exceptional profile.
Sherry, from Great Lakes Wedding Gown Specialists in Holland, MI has 30 years of experience altering wedding gowns.
RB: What should a bride ask when setting up her first alteration appointment?
SH: Always ask what you should bring so you will be prepared. It’s important for both you and the alterations person to be thorough. I expect a Bride to arrive with her gown, her shoes (if not the actual wedding shoe, then the exact heel height), and any undergarment she intends to wear. All of these items are important because if I have to do something twice (like a hem or bustle) it’s not only extra time for me but extra money for the client. Also, you may want to ask for an estimated cost up front so you are not surprised at the end.
RB: Being that it is usually a foreign territory for someone entering the process, what is key for a good relationship between their alteration person and the bride?
SH: Communication! Our expertise is alterations, not mind reading. I try to walk a bride through and explain when she is asking for something to be done. For instance, I recently had a bride who wanted the thigh of her gown pulled in tight. I explained she had to be careful not to go too tight, but she was determined. I pinned the gown in to her desired amount and she loved it! Then I asked her to sit. She unfortunately had to make a choice, don’t sit at my wedding or enjoy my wedding. For bustles, different gowns bustle better different ways depending on the cut. I try to pin whatever way is possible to give the client the option. It’s important for her to choose based on her vision. Collaborate when possible for the best result and experience.
RB: What would you like to see change in the industry to make the entire process better for the Bride’s overall experience?
SH: I’d love for Bridal Boutique owners who do not have in-house alterations to spend time with the experts they recommend. After all, they are literally handing their customer off to the next step in their wedding process and should know who they are dealing with. Bring that alteration person or those specialists in one at a time during your staff meetings to educate the sales consultants. It’s super important that your staff does not make promises that are impossible during alterations just to close the sale. Education is key both to the staff and to the client.
Barbara, from Barbara’s Bridal Boutique and Alterations in Edmonds, WA, has 22 years experience under her belt and had a lot of great advice as well.
RB: Knowing what you know, what questions do you think brides should be asking?
BH: Be prepared before you even purchase the gown if possible. Ask your sales consultant questions about desired fit and customization’s if needed. If your sales consultant is not certain or cannot answer, ask politely for the manager or owner so you can get the correct information regarding what is possible. For instance, if the gown is very long on you and has a Lace hem, ask if the front lace can be shipped unattached? This makes it much easier and less time consuming during the alterations process and while a gown company may charge for this, you save more on the alterations end. If you are petite, ask if your designer can make the gown in a petite cut. Again, you pay more when purchasing but save in alterations process. There have been jobs I’ve actually said no to because of what the bride was told in the store could be done during alterations was impossible without taking the gown completely apart and re-cutting it. That would cost the Bride a fortune in alterations and quite frankly would not be worth my time or frustration.
RB: What would you do if a Bridal Boutique handed you your gown and a sheet with multiple local alterations places available to you and said, “good luck?”
BH: Read reviews (keep in mind some people are unhappy from the beginning so question bad reviews as well), ask for references or photos of previous work, but number one, trust your gut when you first reach out to your potential alteration person. If you don’t click from the initial phone call, move on. You are a person, not a number.
RB: What is the average price a bride should expect to pay?
BH: On average, my Brides should expect to pay between $350 and $500. I belong to an on-line group of alterations people that share information, so one thing to keep mind is geography has a lot to do with pricing and in certain regions (based on wages and the amount of work being done) one can expect to pay up to $850.
RB: What’s a no-no when working with your alteration person?
BH: Please don’t tell me your Mother, Aunt or friend knows how to sew or I’ll ask you to take your gown to them. LOL.
Fit by Sherry Hettinga Fit by Barbara Hall
One of my favorite fit jobs ever on my Tansy Gown . This my friends is how a gown should fit and a beautiful bride should look and feel. You’re a stunner Kate.