How Much Do Wedding Dress Alterations Cost?

On the 22nd of April – 27 days before the biggest national event in the United Kingdom – it has been reported that the American royal bride Meghan Markle was still struggling to fit inside her £300,000 wedding dress. In what OK! News can aptly describe as a ‘health kick,’ the gorgeous biracial Suits actress has been chiseling her physique in ways that might effectively address the obesity crisis among British women.

However, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Around 90% of American brides lose several pounds 4 to 6 weeks prior to their wedding day. But since royal weddings are meant to blow people’s minds in a positive way, the amount of money spent on dealing with this problem that warrants the iconic ‘keep calm’ warning. She has spent around £40,000 to have her dress fixed by Ralph & Russo.

How much would an average American fiancée spend on her bridal alterations cost?

All About the Perfect Fit:

As with any traditional contemporary wedding, the bride is always considered the embodiment of beauty. Compared to the groom, a greater proportion of monetary resources are spent for the fine-tuning of the bride’s looks – from her hair down to her pair of shoes. The kind of clothing she wears ought to make her a positive center of attention.

lady on a wedding dress

Alterations are meant to transform the bride’s dress into a perfect wedding outfit – one which she can wear with both great confidence and great comfort. This concept of perfection is what pushes up to 75% of all bridal salons in the United States charging alterations per piece instead of a flat fee. The demand for exceptional tailoring continues even in the face of the unique millennial trend that is allegedly responsible for the so-called collapse of high-end bridal retail chains in 2017.

Obviously, it takes a progressive effort to achieve perfection and the same is true with wedding dresses. In order to truly understand how much exactly you will be spending on (or saving from) alterations, it is important to think about the extent of modification required by the seamstress throughout these entire four stages of wedding dress selection as presented by the blog Loverly:

Stage One: The Shopping

Before going any further, ask yourself: is it possible for me to avoid the wedding dress alteration cost entirely? Theoretically, yes. However, both fate and effort equally contribute to the slim 50/50 odds of comfortably wearing the same dress up to your wedding day without going through scissors and stitches. The initial steps you take during the selection will significantly affect any of these possibilities.

You can unreservedly make the most out of your investment value by smartly choosing your bridal store as well as the styles of your wedding dress. The only course of action prohibited is renting, since borrowing clothes for a fee is exclusively predicated on the idea of returning them completely intact. The ideal timeframe for buying your wedding dress is anytime from one year to nine months prior to your wedding day. During this juncture, your seamstress will also be taking the measurements (uh oh!).

Tip: Long before buying your wedding dress, it would be advantageous for you to have a deeper awareness of your own body shape (and no, not body shame). A woman has five basic body shapes and there are also five basic dress silhouettes to choose from. Here is an identical ‘dress chart’ presented by Look Smart Alterations and Bride Access:

  • Hourglass = A-Line, Ball Gown, Empire, Mermaid, and Sheath
  • Triangle/Pear = A-Line, Ball Gown, Empire, and Mermaid
  • Inverted Triangle/Strawberry = A-Line, Ball Gown, and Empire
  • Rectangle = A-Line, Ball Gown, and Empire
  • Round/Apple = A-Line and Empire

Tip: Apart from the relationship of the body shape and dress silhouette, your specific physical attributes will also be a definitive reference for choosing the most stylish neckline for your dress. There are over 14 types of necklines to choose from:

  • Bateau = Good: small chest / Bad: large chest
  • Halter = Good: short waist or broad shoulders / Bad: narrow shoulders or slim
  • High = Good: petite women / Bad: tall women
  • Jewel = Good: small chest / Bad: large chest
  • Off-shoulder = Good: hourglass and pear / Bad: thick arms, broad shoulders or slim
  • Portrait = Good: short waist and thick arms / Bad: broad shoulders or undefined collarbone
  • Queen Anne = Good: any female figure / Bad: none
  • Sabrina = Good: small chest / Bad: large chest
  • Scoop = Good: any female figure / Bad: none
  • Spaghetti Straps = Good: small to average chest / Bad: narrow shoulders or apple
  • Square = Good: any female figure / Bad: none
  • Strapless = Good: petite, apple, and hourglass / Bad: small chest
  • Sweetheart = Good: hourglass and large chest / Bad: small chest
  • V-neck = Good: medium chest / Bad: small or large chest

Tip: Analyzing the price range alone can unlock a consistent pattern that conveniently guides you in choosing the right dress (or bridal retail store), especially considering that time is of the essence. According to the infographic presented by Refinery 29, a dress that costs at least $2,500 is your safest high-value price range not only because it already covers possible alterations and customization but also because it also includes the following generic qualities:

  • It has a genuine wedding designer trademark.
  • It is manufactured by well-paid US-based labor.
  • It already includes a structured bodice.
  • It already includes a visible dress train.
  • It is made from 100% pure cotton or silk.
  • Its fabric is meticulously examined for blemishes.

Stage Two: First Fitting

Two to three months before your wedding day, the wedding dress you have selected is already ‘partially’ completed. It is already finished in a sense that you can already wear it and check yourself in front of the mirror (who loves ya, baby?). However, it is also incomplete in a sense that the seamstress is anticipating any possible changes.

Your Body

There is a very wide timeline gap between Stage One and Stage Two. In other words, you have at least 6 months worth of added or lost weight. Within this crucial period, your responsibility for your body may probably mean so much more than a ‘gym class lip service.’

Tip: You need to maintain the same form you have during the initial size measurement, especially if you have the tendency to gain a lot of body mass after prolonged physical inactivity. You can either follow a simple straightforward routine for weight loss and/or muscle toning or adhere to a more comprehensive and progressive long-term workout program.

Your Dress

It is important to take note that this stage may require you to familiarize yourself with the basics of alterations. If around 90% of the American brides lose weight a month before the wedding day, another 5% on top of them requires modifications in their wedding dress. There are two major alteration classifications, each with their own average timeframe depending on the difficulty curve the seamstress will have to overcome:

  • The Hem
    • Simple = a few days to a week
    • Complex = a couple of weeks
    • Dress with heavy detailing = 4 weeks
  • The Bodice
    • Little to no detail = a couple of weeks
    • Bust reshaping or overhaul = at least 3 weeks
    • Alteration plus putting details = 6 to 8 weeks

Tip: As mentioned earlier, getting the perfect fit may take more than one re-tailoring, which (sadly) translates to paying several itemized services in a wedding gown hem pricing. Hence, you need to complete the purchase of your wedding day accessories during the first fitting. Wearing your shoes, jewelry, headpiece/veil, lingerie, corset, and other accessories will help the seamstress get a more detailed assessment of the needed improvements for your dress.

Tip: Granted, a great deal of effort is streamed towards avoiding alterations. But it is still wise to prepare for the possibility of failing the first fitting (or even the following consecutive fittings). The California-based bridal retail called The Dress Bride that has an option called ‘zero stress package’ that is worth $1,000. But for that additional cost, you can avail the following unique advantages:

  • Last minute alterations
  • Steaming of bridesmaid dresses
  • Weekend alteration appointments
  • Wedding day delivery service

Stage Three: Second Fitting

Around six weeks before the wedding day, you should be able to schedule your second fitting. For those who were able to maintain the same body mass ratio from the first fitting, this stage of wedding dress acquisition is literally just the second time you’re wearing the dress in front of the mirror. But for those who ordered a number of modifications, this phase can also be understood as ‘the first alterations trial.’

Unless the previous difficulties were already addressed, the second fitting is the perfect time to consider some detailed add-ons into the wedding dress. You are more than entitled to nitpick and push your standards to the next level (of course, as long as your wallet says so). This stage is also the perfect time to assess another non-negotiable aspect that defines the perfect fit – mobility.

Tip: Apart from your accessories and undergarments, this phase is a perfect time to also bring other people with you. If you have a wedding designer, you can benefit from her presence providing additional helpful insights regarding the dress style and how it can rev up your looks in line with the wedding theme.

Tip: If you didn’t hire a wedding designer, you can make a list of the lacking details you want to add to your dress. Bridal stores like the Florida-based Becky’s Alterations have a detailed itemized selection for the wedding gown hem pricing – among other things. It is very important that you consider the timeline, even if there are no longer pending adjustments noted by the seamstress.

Tip: Another crucial character you need to include in the second fitting is your soon-to-be husband. With him around, you can rehearse your first dance in your wedding dress. Not doing so risks the possibility of lasting shame when you trip over the folds of your skirt or (worse) rip your bust because you did a high kick in your mermaid silhouette dress.

Stage Four: Last Fitting

Three days to 24 hours before your wedding day, you can arrange to wear your dress for the last time before your big day. This could either be the third time or the last of more than a dozen trials. Some brides would grab this opportunity to fully appreciate the deeper sentimental vibes surrounding their life-changing decision to marry the man of their dreams. In fact, the final fitting is a perfect avenue for them to face their wedding jitters.

lady seated after her wedding

But for those who have already covered all bases during the second fitting, it is still important to consider this last phase as the only opportunity to run the wardrobe items checklist one last time. Prepping isn’t over until you walk on the aisle.

Tip: If you have not availed for a package that includes the delivery service (and one can only wonder why), you need to appoint someone who will handle the transportation arrangement the day before your wedding. Let your maid of honor and/or your mom (or any female parental figure) handle this duty considering that they’ll be assisting you in the dressing room.

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