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If finding the right size dress is one of the most stressful aspects of shopping for a wedding gown or party outfit, then having someone help with those measurements can be incredibly helpful. The wrong size will not only make you miserable, but could also impact the quality of your overall look.
After all, no matter how much we love our dresses, they are likely going to need some adjustments, especially if you want a custom look to wow everyone around you. So what exactly happens at an alteration appointment? And when should I book my first one? Let’s find out.
Most dress alteration appointments will take 1-2 hours. If you have a single appointment expect it to take longer whereas if you have multiple appointments (such as with a weddign dress) each appointment will be 30-60 minutes long.
Next, let’s cover exactly what alterations involve. “An alteration is any change in length, style, color, accessories, etc., made to a garment by cutting away parts that don’t work well with the rest of the item,” says professional seamstress and owner of Sew Sassy Seams, Anya Zilberman via email. She notes that while there are many types of alterations, here are three common ones most brides and their attendants might encounter during their time between ordering their wedding dress and its fitting day:
Wedding Dress Alteration
This is probably the most popular type of alteration needed because it usually involves either lengthening or shortening the bodice. If this isn’t enough, other options include adding sleeves, creating a corset top, changing neckline styles, raising hemlines, removing train details, adding ruffles, converting skirts from full to A-Line, making waistbands higher or lower, changing sleeve lengths, adjusting sashes, replacing buttons, doing button holes (which can range anywhere from very simple hand stitching to intricate machine embroidery), tucking seams, adding pockets, and even taking in a skirt so it fits better over high heels.
Basically, anything goes and anything and everything can be changed.
The average amount of time spent on these alterations depends largely on the bride’s height and weight and how close to size and height the dress actually is. It also depends on several factors including how complicated the changes are, such as multiple layers being involved, if additional fabric needs to be ordered, and also if there are special considerations like undergarments underneath the altered areas.
According to Bridal Association spokesperson Jessica Mancini, who works closely with vendors, “Most designers allow up to two fittings prior to shipping.” However, if you have a specific designer in mind, ask about her policy regarding pre-fitting dates.
To give you an idea of how long these kinds of alterations typically take, here are estimates provided by four experienced seamsters. They were asked to estimate the typical turnaround times for a variety of standard services without regard to location, travel expenses, extra costs incurred due to complications, or rush charges. These estimators included a custom couture dressmaker, a regular tailor, a boutique seamstress, and a large chain store seamstress. We reached out to these professionals to hear more about their experiences with altering wedding dresses and we received responses from both the boutique seamstress and the larger retailer.
Estimated Wedding Dress Alterations Times Based on Location
New York City
One Hour Standard Time Policy
$125 One Day Rush Fee Plus $75 Additional Charge Per Client Over 5 Clients Per Week
Average Turnaround Times: 3 Weeks From First Consultation to Shipping
Various Locations Across Canada
15 Min Standard Rule
10-30 min Extra Charges During Busier Hours Or When Long Waits Exist
5 Days Delivery Guarantee
Average Turnaround Times: 4-6 Weeks From First Consultation to Shipping
Party Dress Alterations Provided By Large Chain Store
45 Minute Rule + 10% Addition Due At Checkout
No Waiting Room Necessary
Two Week Arrival Promise
Average Turnaround Times: 2-3 Months from Fitting to Shipment
Now that we know the general timelines for these types of alterations, let’s talk about why you should schedule yours sooner rather than later. Just remember that the faster you start planning, the less stress you’ll feel, and the easier it will be to keep track of everything else.
Why You Might Want To Book Your Alterations Before Ordering Your Dress
Your dress won’t arrive until months after you’ve placed your order. That means you’re left waiting around for weeks before getting fitted properly—and sometimes even longer depending on where you live — followed by another few weeks to wait for delivery. This often leaves little room for error, especially since the final product is something you will wear on your most important days.
So when should you actually alter your dress instead of delaying things further?
It’s recommended to book your alteration appointment as soon as possible after receiving your dress. In fact, according to the experts, the best way to go about it is to set aside a weekend afternoon to begin measuring and preparing for alterations. Once your initial measurement session is complete, you can then move onto the next phase.
But if scheduling your appointment is too overwhelming, consider booking online through sites like Rent the Runway or Ask Amy.
When it comes to choosing fabrics, you want to avoid silk blends, rayons, chiffon, organza, and polyester, according to Sew Sassy Seamstress Anya Zilberman. Additionally, choose 100 percent cotton fabrics for ease and comfort.
“Avoid synthetic materials,” advises Zilberman, noting that they tend to stretch quite easily, causing problems down the road. “These synthetics can become uncomfortable or simply ‘fall apart’ over time, leaving behind unsightly stains or tears.”
Things to Keep In Mind When Scheduling Your Dress Alterations
You shouldn’t try to squeeze alterations into your already packed itineraries. After all, you want to enjoy yourself on your big day, right? Plan far ahead so your dress is ready for your wedding, prom, or party plenty of time in advance.
Also note that if you plan to shop locally for alterations, be sure to pack accordingly. Even though you may think you are saving money by traveling far distances, it can cost you significantly more than driving across town. Consider packing comfortable shoes and comfy clothing for your trip, plus bring along snacks, water bottles, and of course a way to pay.
Simply having drinks and snacks at your alteration can helpm remove a bit of the stress involved.
Finally, always check the return policies of local retailers and confirm that they offer same-day service, if necessary. Also, if you end up needing a lot of alterations, it helps to enlist the assistance of friends and family members, particularly anyone within your age group. Having people helping can shorten the process tremendously.
So now you know how long the average dress takes to undergo alterations. Next time you buy a dress, you can decide whether you’d prefer to tackle the job yourself or seek out professional advice beforehand. Either choice is great, but knowing exactly how long it’ll take ensures you aren’t caught off guard come event date.