Four Powerful Ways to Save on Dress Alterations

Imagine this: you’re standing on a pedestal in front of an enormous mirror, surrounded in crepe or stretch satin, lace or Mikado fabric. And you look amazing and mother and your two best friends are there and they love the dress, and to be fair, you do look amazing. You love the dress, but for the sleeves, or the neckline that isn’t quite right, or maybe there’s something about the boning in the bodice. But it’s gorgeous and you’re gorgeous and everyone else is saying YES! But you have this little niggling worry about that thing…whatever it is. And the sales person steps in and says, “That’s an easy alteration. Don’t worry about that.” But should you worry about it?

The correct answer to that question is fairly unsatisfying, it depends. Nowadays most bridal shops don’t have their own alterations departments. It’s pretty tempting for a sales person at a shop like that to use “that’s an easy alteration,” language all day long. After all, sales are final. And most shops just want to sell the dress and be done with it. They don’t have to be malicious to claim the alteration is easy when it isn’t. They simply may not know. Probably they don’t, or else they’d be working in alterations instead of sales.

On the other hand, if the shop has its own alterations department and they take the work, then you should be able to count on their doing a satisfactory job of it. If they don’t do a good job, they shouldn’t be in business. Brides aren’t notoriously forgiving of shoddy workmanship, and nor should they be. But what then? How much time will it take and how much will alterations cost?

Alterations in Utah are usually billed out in and around 50 dollars per hour. At Bell Tower Bridal, we bill at a truly economical 40 dollars per hour, and our seamstresses do a great job, but 50 is very typical. Sometimes you pay less for non-bridal attire. For that, we bill as little as $30 per hour.

    1. Buy a dress in your size! A dress that is closest to your size will always cost less to alter than having to alter it down or up a size. Typical alterations usually include hemming and maybe taking up at the shoulders, etc. If you have to take in the bodice much, you should really think about going down a size, unless you are just that short wasted. If your body proportions are very unique, then you may want to think custom. If the dress you absolutely LOVE isn’t your size, you are going to pay more to get it to fit just right. And you’ll want it to fit just right on your wedding day, trust us. In this case, you should think about possibly doubling the price tag of your dress. After all, you are talking about possibly remaking the entire dress. Sewing bridal wear is very skilled labor, and that will cost you.
    2. Puddle the hem. You don’t have to hem the dress, necessarily. It’s a fairly usual choice for brides to decide to puddle their chiffon skirts, so that they drop into a kind of romantic puddle at their feet. This won’t work so well if you are dancing, but you may decide to change to a different party dress. It simply depends.
    3. Ask the seamstress to give you an estimate on the work. It is sometimes difficult to say how long a particular job will take, but for most work, an experienced seamstress should know about how long it will take her to complete the work. Simply ask for a projection on the time involved.
    4. Choose a dress without a lot of beading elaborate lace applique or a horsehair hem. Bead work is pretty, but let’s be honest, it is labor intensive. It costs a lot to hand sew beads, and there is only so much of that work that can be automated. With a dress shop, your seamstress can’t just cut the bead strand and let the beads fall off. No. She has to untie the string, and then take the correct length of beading out one bead at a time, cut the fabric, and then retie the string before she can sew it up again. You’re talking about a lot of labor. Lace applique is easier than beads, but yes, it has to come off and then be sewed on again. You don’t want your applique’s decapitated from your dress. Horsehair is another trend that looks great on the hem, but it takes a bit of time to remove it from the front, so be aware of that as well. Crepe skirts are pretty simple. Same for chiffon, all of these jobs take special skill and care, so don’t make a plan to skimp on alterations if you do need them. This is an expense that is regular and one that you should plan for with your wedding dress purchase.