Finding a dress that CAN fit!

Choosing a ready-to-wear gown that CAN be altered to fit your body


You’ve finally found the dress of your dreams! It’s exactly what you want! Except it doesn’t fit quite right- or at all. Now what?


Well, unless you have the exact proportions of the fit model used in the design and creation of the gown, you WILL need to have some alterations done. Even when your measurements are taken and the dress is ordered in “your size”, the dress will still need to be adjusted for your proportions.


Don’t worry about the actual “size” of the dress. Let the salespeople determine that for you, according to the dress manufacturers size chart. When your gown is ordered, it must be ordered to fit your biggest measurement, according to that specific size chart. This means if your bust is a size 16 and your waist is a size 8 and your hips are a size 10, you will be ordered a size 16, even if you wear a size 6 in most ready to wear. The only exception is if your hips are your biggest size and your dress has a full skirt. Then the bigger size between your bust and your waist will be used. It’s important to know that dresses can almost always be taken in, but while they occasionally can be let out at the sides, often any piping or beading or other trim that crosses the side seam cannot be let out, and small holes left by the original stitching may remain visible.


Some figure types will be prone to more alterations than others:


  • If your bust size is any other than a B cup, you will need the bust reshaped. Most ready to wear clothes, including bridal, is made to fit a B cup. If you are smaller than a B, then you can either pad the dress or wear a padded bra, or you can have the curve of the bustline reduced. If you are bigger than a B, then the dress must be ordered big enough to fit your bust, then the areas of the dress above and below your bust will be taken in.


  • If you are petite (5’4” or shorter), you will need to have more alterations done than a taller person. Often the shoulders need to be taken up, the sleeves and hem shortened, and possibly the bodice will need to be shortened as well. If there is any lace or beading through these areas, it can be very expensive to alter properly. Always ask if the dress you want is available in a Petite size. Even if the cost of the petite dress is more, the proportions of the dress will fit you much better than the regular size dress, thus saving you some alteration costs.


  • If you are over 5’9”, you may need to come up with some creative solutions to lengthen the skirt, the sleeves, and possibly the bodice, depending on your personal proportions. Decorative trims, borders or bindings can be added to the hem and sleeves, or lace or ribbon can be inset to add length where needed.


  • If you have proportions that are vastly different than the fit model, such as a large waistline with a small chest, or a large bust with small shoulders, then you will need extensive alterations to make the dress fit you properly.


In any of these cases, especially if you are under 5’ or over 6’, it is recommended that you get an estimate for the cost of the alterations and add that to the price of your dress to get the total cost. And don’t forget that just because you bought your dress somewhere that offers alterations, doesn’t mean that you have to use their alteration services. Call around to reputable alteration specialists and get some estimates. Ask friends and family if they know a reliable alterationist. There is often a big difference in prices and time schedules. Also, find out if the alterations will be guaranteed. Just because you buy the dress at a store and have it altered there, does not necessarily mean that they will guarantee the fit of your dress. Most of the local bridal shops do, but some of them do not.


If the price of the dress and the alterations together seem to put the dress out of your budget, you may find that it would be a better solution to have your dress custom made for your figure. Talk to several different qualified dressmakers and get an estimate for your dress. Don’t forget to look at samples of their work, to make sure you are happy with the quality.  Keep in mind that all the proportions of the dress will be cut and fit specifically to your figure, so no extra alteration costs will be added. Also, the dressmaker can usually make your accessories to coordinate with your gown- like your veil, the ring pillow, a purse, or your garter. This would also be an opportunity to personalize your dress any way you want- any color or color combinations, and any fabric- like silk, velvet, linen, batiste, or brocade. You can also use personalized embellishments, like have the beading of the dress done in the motif of your favorite flower, or your initials or wedding date, or any shape or symbol that has special meaning for you. The possibilities are endless!


Remember that when you find your dress, or find your dress doesn’t fit, there are solutions to make the dress fit you like a dream!


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