Doing Your Own Alterations
I can't always give great advice on how to alter a gown I can't see on the bride and I can't give you step-by-step sewing lessons by email, but I may be able to give you enough to think about that may lead to you figuring out what you need to do.
I have another area of this site for sewing professionals that discusses all types of job related issues. Go to: http://www.leanna.com/HomePro/index.htm
aded July 2010
I have a ballroom gown that was made in Hong kong and unfortunately was too long…a friend made it shorter for me but the effect that was originally there with the fishing wire in the bottom to make the fabric curl out is not the same.
I was going to try again. Is there a specific technique I should use to try do this?
Any advice is great appreciated. Yvonne
I find 30 lb test line works well for most light fabrics like taffeta and organza. I use a rolled hem foot and a zig zag stitch. Pull the fabric slightly as you sew to get it to curl. The more you pull the more curl. You have to be careful with some fabrics to not pull too much as they will distort or even tear. It would be very helpful if you have some of the fabric that was cut off to practice on.
Thankyou Leanne for your quick response. I will give that a try. I am not sure if I have a rolled hem foot I have a couple of different feet and will look to see if I can purchase one for my brother machine!
Kind Regards, Yvonne
It folds the fabric edge as you sew. Very handy for many applications, so I'm sure your investment can be used for later tasks. Here, it's gonna fold over the fish line as you sew the hem. It's a little tricky at first guiding the fabric and fish line into the foot, but I'm sure you will get the hang of it with practice.
I thought I would let you know that I bought the foot and managed to do a reasonable job on repairing the dress, it looks much better, started on the under layers first and did the top layer last when I got more comfortable with it.
Thanks for your assistance, Yvonne
added July 2010
Fantastic site! I have a question about shortening a bubble hem bridesmaid dress, what's the best way to do this as the seams are all on the inside of the garment?
Many thanks! Anna
I create an access by opening one of the lining seams about 12 to 18 inches. I pull the dress inside out through this opening, do what is necessary for the hemming, turn the dress back inside and close the access I created after the bride has tested the hem.
added July 2010
first I read a few of the horror stories YIKES! , I'm not a bride I'm the brides brother. my baby sister is getting married . she has decided to have a ''green'' wedding so everything cannot be bought in stores it has to either come from weddings past , thrift stores , yard sales etc, as we were walking home from the corner store one day she spotted a wedding gown hanging on the fence near a trash bin . it was filthy and looked like the bride had swam in red wine so I cleaned it and steamed and pressed it back out . my question is this all the embroidery on it is white is there a way I can change it to a periwinkle or medium blue without having to re-embroider the dress . I am taking the zipper out and doing a corset back in blue . Id appreciate any advice you can give me on this .
thank you kindly, joey the sewing brother
If it is a poly dress then you just put it in a front loading washing machine and bleach and soap then hang to dry and press with steam if it is a silk or other then peroxide and sunlight . I also will oxy a gown over night in my bathtub (I have had a few messy finds LOL ) thank you for your advice on the colored embroidery I will try it
a most relived brother, joey
added March 2010
You don't really need any boning in the modesty panel. Heavy interfacing is enough, but you can put in what you think best. I have seen then all sorts of ways when boning is there but mostly one piece down each side, one each top and bottom, and one down the middle.
I hope you can understand this. It's 4:00 in the afternoon here. What time is it there??
You're only 4 hours ahead of me. I thought it would be more.
PS. i have already given out details of your website to other friends and relatives in need of guidance
added March 2010
I just happened to stumble onto your site while searching for ideas, how-to's, etc on taking in a dress. I have bought a very simple satin, lined, strapless dress for my informal wedding (see link below). Everything fits well except for the bust. It is far too large in the sense that you can see everything. It doesn't touch my skin at all at the top (I measured myself carefully--twice--& per the size chart, it should fit perfectly). I am a 38D & normally do not have busts that are too large. The dress itself was inexpensive and being that I do have some basic sewing skills, I would like to know how difficult it would be to take the dress in an inch or so via the back zipper. The dress is princess-seamed and has boning on all sides, so I'd rather not take it in at the side seam because I am not experienced enough (nor do I have the time) to deal with boning. Is this possible? Is it advisable? Should I just have it professionally altered? If so, roughly how much would an alteration like that cost? My wedding is in 4 weeks, & I just received the dress today.
Altering on a wedding gown is not something I'd advise a beginner to try. If you have some sewing experience you might be able to do it but I can't say if you can or not without knowing your experience level. I also can't say if it would be easy or not. That depends on the construction of the zipper placement and your skill level. I would need to see the dress on you to say if it is even advisable. It is better, and often easier, to take a bodice in at the side seams. There are also often complications at the zipper that are not at the side seams.
My charge to do this would start at $40.00 and most likely be more, again depending on the way the zipper area is constructed. Finding someone who can take you at this late date will be a difficulty and you may be charged extra for the rush. Brides need to be calling alteration specialist as soon as they order their gown, not as soon as you get the gown. I am often booked up 3 to 5 weeks during wedding season. I do not take on more gowns once I have my quota for a given week. Some professionals may squeeze you in but I would be very weary of the quality of workmanship I would be getting if I had to be added to someone's already full schedule.
You can start by calling the store where you bought the gown. The yellow pages and many fabric stores will be a good next place to look. You can also ask the folks you are already doing business with, your caterer, your limo person, your florist, and even the banquet hall rental people. Any of these may know a good alteration specialist they can recommend to you.
added March 2010
hey leanna, your site has been so helpful as i made my own bustle with your direction.
lol, i am actually in australia....... perth, western australia. My dress is a Jasmine Bridal style T243.....plain style of dress but with lots of intricate beading and embroidery.....
we are going to go searching for some shapewear tomorrow in the hopes that this will help, and if that fails will be calling around every dress shop we can to find out if they can do a last minute alteration!
Hum . . . If you were in the states I might be able to help you find someone. If you can't and decide to try altering it yourself it shouldn't be as difficult as you are thinking. I took a look at the dress on the Jasmine site and it looks like there is not any lace in the side seam were you need to sew. There might be a tiny bit under the arm area. You simply take it off, fix the outer seam and all inner seams the same, move any boning necessary, resew the top together (this might be easier to do by hand), steam it real good, and sew the lace back on (again, by hand). It can be tedious, but it's not really difficult. You just take your time and go slow.
The bustle i made held up wonderfully too, until a little girl stepped on the back of my dress and tore the hook and eye...... but by that point i was on the dance floor and the bustle had done its job, so all in all.....a success!
added March 2010
Thank you for your website! I think it will be a lifesaver for me, hopefully and any advice you give me in this area will be of help. Here is my concern:
My daughter is getting married on June 5, 2010. She wanted my Victorian style wedding gown altered to a strapless gown. The gown had the high neckline with netting and then netting around the bust and no boning. I took off the sleeves and cut off the neckline, lowered the zipper in the back, and let the gown out since she is bigger busted. I plan to hand stitch hem around the lace in front on the chest area and lower back towards zipper. We purchased a bustier bra which I tacked into the dress in front. The bra cinches her in so is actually a little smaller than the dress width all around so I cannot sew the busier to the dress in the back. When I basted in the boning down the center front on the bustier to the dress, it caused it to buckle in the front so I am taking that out now. My question is how do I get the dress to lay flat up against her in the front? Shall I also add extra boning to the dress in the back and sides to prevent fabric gapping? And Lastly , since there is about 1.5 inches of netting right in front where the cleavage is--can I cut down into it and hem it by hand still keeping the structural integrity of the front of the dress? She mentioned keeping that netting there so could I do a nice rolled hem by hand-although it does pull a bit right now as I've it cut in a V shape.?
I am sending you 5 photos attached so you can see.
Thanks so very much and God Bless You!!
There aren't many rules for this. You just need to do what the gown needs in whatever creative way you can think of to do it. Hand sewing is your best friend. You can control more of what you are trying to achieve that way. I hope you have a good amount of time before the wedding.
added May 2009
I will be going to Vegas in a few months to tie the knot so therefore I did not want a super detailed dress. I chose a beautiful dress from David's Bridal style VW9146. I like the fact that I could possibly wear it to other formal functions since it does not appear to look too much like a wedding dress. However, I wanted to add a train to the back, nothing permanent. I think I could just clip it on the backside. I really like the style of The Alfred Angelo 1816 dress. My question is: how do I go about making a train? I am very crafty and I don't mind putting in the time but since I have never made a train, I am not sure where to begin. Thanks for your help!! Amanda
added October 2008
Somewhere on my site is a written instructions of how I do rolled hems but I can't find it. I don't use a serger. I stitch a crease 1/8" below where the hem needs to be placing the stitches right on the creased edge, trim next to the stitching, fold the 1/8" up and restitch next to the first edge.
added March 2008
The dress I bought did not have a big train so I purchased a train to be added to the dress. Is this hard to do and will it cost alot?
Thank you, Lori
I have seen some trains that come with hooks already sewn on the train and a little baggie of eyes that you simply sew on the back of the gown where you want the train to attach to. If you do not have this situation all you need to do is go to your local fabric store and buy a package of hooks and eyes. Then sew them on where you want the train to go.
added March 2008
What a wonderful site!
I just received by beautiful dress last week. When I tried it on I was dismayed to see that it is a bit loose in the waist--my waist is one of my best features! It isn't altogether unexpected; I am training for a marathon and, while I'm not losing much weight, I am much tighter and toned than I was two months ago when I took the measurements. The dress is bias cut silk charmause without any beading, lace, zips, buttons, or detailing--very simple and elegant. I've heard that bias cut dresses are very difficult to alter. Is this true? I don't want the alterations to destroy what's gorgeous about the dress but at the same time I don't want to neglect the fit of the dress either.
Thanks! Sarah in Chicago
Silk Charmause is a difficult fabric to deal with no matter what. The problem with bias is that it adds a stretch factor and it's easy to get the dress too tight.
added March 2008
I stumbled across your website while I was looking for information on how to make a minor repair to my wedding dress. I am hoping you can help. I bought a gorgeous sample dress that is beaded all over, and some of the beading is loose. (I guess "loose" is the right word...basically, some of the stitches that hold the beads to the dress have been pulled away from the material, creating loops.) I am trying to keep my costs down so I was hoping to find out if there is a simple way I can fix this myself. It seems like it shouldn't be that difficult except for the fact that the dress is lined, so I don't have access to the underside of the beaded top layer. Can you give me any advice on how to tighten the loose beading? Is there any way to do this without first removing the lining? If I do end up having to take it to a seamstress, what price range would I be looking at for this kind of repair?
Thank you so much! ~Robyn
You can sew the beading from the top of the dress. I have to do it all the time. Go to your local fabric store and ask for beading needles. They are extra long and thin to go through the tiniest beads. You can use normal thread. Simply sew trough the fabric and beads from the top of the fabric.
added February 2008
I am in a quandary and would welcome your professional advice. My niece is getting married in April and bought a Melissa Sweet "Hallie" gown on eBay (much to the dismay of her mother, my sister-in-law). When the gown arrived, it was in less-than-optimum condition. Somehow the previous owner had managed to fray the galoon at the top of the bodice. In addition, 75% of the bottom trim was either soiled, torn, or frayed. Because it was an "as is" sale, my niece could not return it!
I am an expert seamstress and have done many alternations. My problem is locating a suitable replacement for the bad lace. I have been hunting high and low and have scoured most of the suppliers in Los Angeles' garment district. No one carries the same type of Chantilly trim. It is a plain floral rose, in either ivory or cream (i don't know what the designer calls it), with arches on one side and scallops on the other. I believe the lace has been trimmed a bit to match the pattern of the bodice. I have removed most of the bad lace. I may be able to salvage some of the bottom and use it for the top. Now, I'm left with how to finish the bottom hemline. Thus, my question to you.
Do you know where this lace can be purchased? I need around 5 yards for the hem.
Thanks so much for your help. With regard, Mimi
The only place I know is: http://www.washingtonmillinerysupply.com/800.html
added November 2007
I've really enjoyed your website. I do have a question that I haven't seen an answer to, though. How can I alter a princess seamed top when the girl's bust point is 2 inches lower than the full part of the seam? Is that clear? It's an Alfred Angelo top and the alterations woman says that she will take it in at the sides and back. How will that work? I've never done alterations for bridal, but I have done numerous custom sewing projects and any time I've run into this low bust point problem, I've had to recut the front pieces and move the curves of the princess seams down. The dresses are for a niece's wedding on Dec 28th and they are not thinking the tops will fit well and want me to advise them. I'm hoping you can help me understand how taking in and letting out the sides will move the fullness of the bust lower.
Thank you, Karen
Brides maid's dresses are cut for a teen figure. Any woman trying
to fit into one will run into this problem. The biggest problem here is that
most alteration people at bridal salons do not have the knowledge, desire
or time to do this type of alteration. They are going to do the least amount
of work to get he dress looking ok, but little more. Recutting stuff it totally
out of the question.
It sounds to me that you can do this yourself and it will look much better than they can make it. Bridal work isn't any different than what you are used to. The fabrics are just a little fussier. I don't normally take the bodice apart and recut the pieces, but if that's the way you know how to do it, than do what you know. I don't do it because most people don't want to put that much money into a dress they will only wear once.
Thank you so much for the fast reply. If you don't mind
my asking, how would you do it?
I would pin the princess seam as needed and sew it as pinned. It's tricky because that seam is going to want to pucker. It is smarter to do it the way you described, but it's a lot more work, especially if you have to move the boning too.
added November 2007
Your website looks as if it solves sewing nightmares. Could you advise how to avoid pucker on taffeta seams of a paneled bridesmaid dress? I would be so grateful for comment. It has been sewn by a dressmaker and looks like stage curtains with the wrinkles!!
I would guess she doesn't have much experience sewing on Taffeta. It's not an extremely difficult fabric, but if cut on the bias any fabric can pucker while being sewn. Each piece needs to be staystitched before it is sewn in a seam. Unstaystitched fabric can stretch without you noticing and cause puckering.
I am so grateful for the tip about staystitching. I am trying to redo the mess and shall undo and do that. She overlocked, possibly before sewing because it frays so much and that may well have caused the problem. I think I should undo the overlock (should I) to avoid the same effect and replace it with staystitiching?
I really really appreciate your reply! Kind regards, Gill
It's hard to pick out overlock without causing more fraying but that might be a good idea.
I am on the way with the bridesmaids’ dresses and they are looking much better already – part of the problem may have been having a very paneled dress in quite lightweight taffeta – I have backed it and taken all your advice and things are looking 100% better. It was wonderful to have someone reply and know there are helping people out there in such a crisis!
Kind regards, Gill
added October 2007
My future daughter in law just got her dress Oct 9 for
an Oct 31st wedding. She is a size 28 and fortunately the dress fits her around
her middle. I saw it last night and it is large at the top edge, doesn't lay
against the body front nor back. Now all the seams feel like they have boning,
princess and sides and zipper. Do I divide the amount among all the seams?
All the boning and lining has me in great fear. Or just try to snug it up
about an inch on each side? She is large and soft. Today she got a strapless
undershaper which helped smooth the body line and did nothing for the gappy
top. The dress is shown on BRIDALONLINESTORE.COM AND IS M5006.
Also I need to shorten it in front about 2-3 inches. It has what I call horse hair braid in the hem and at 1st looking seemed like the lining was whip stitched to the fabric roll below the braid or else stitched together and flipped right side out. Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated. We are 75 miles from any city which might have an alterationist (which I see from your site could be another disaster) and the family probably can not afford any way. So that's where the future mother in law who sews enters the scene.
My confidence is at a low ebb as I feel that the style selected was probably not the best choice for the body type and size, and they are looking to me to make her feel lovely in the dress. Can you offer some guidance or recommend a sewing book that covers these topics?
Fitting a strapless gown to a fuller bustline is a challenge.
The designers just don't understand how breasts on these ladies are and they
always end up gapping at the top. It's not your future daughter's fault.
To fix this, I look at the side seam first. If I can pin the gap in at the side it will usually fix both front and back problems and the work need be done on just that seam. I often have to also take some in on the front princess seam. You need to be careful to not take in too much. The top of the bodice should lay comfortably on the neckline, not cut into it. Many brides think it needs to be tight to be secure, but it should not be tight here. It should be snug in the waisline area, then the boning holds the dress up. If she is feeling like she needs to keep pulling the bodice up it is either too loose in the waist or needs more boning.
It is not as hard as it looks. If you have never dealt with boning just take things slow. Once you have the dress turned inside out, remove the boning, take in the seam and replace the boning back on the new seamline.
A strapless gown can be very flattering to any figure type as long as the fit is right.
Thank you so much.I hope that the hem will be as obvious. Stitch the braid about 1/4 inch below the new hem tapering center front to train, fold soft press and stitch lining to it. I hope, thanks jo
Yes, it's about the same process. Turn the skirt inside out, study how the plastic webbing was sewn, take it off, sew your hem and replace the webbing like it was just for the new hem stitching.
You have the best and most helpful website ever, thank you. I guess I was just freaking out, I can do this, thanks for the boost. JO
added September 2007
I had bought my wedding dress thoughtlessly :( Now I am wondering if I can actually shorten the dress from the length of 5ft 9" to my very short 5ft 2" even if I wore a 3 inch shoes. I don't really want to wear uncomfortable shoes for the wedding. Could you suggest a way for me to hem this dress? The problem is that it has an open panel with the decorations on one side. I don't think I can shorten it by hemming the bottom because the decorative panel has a decorative bottom. Would it be possible for me to shorten it by the waist? Will it just destroy the dress?
Thank you very much for your help.
The pictures of the dress.
I can't tell from the pictures but I think you can move the beaded band at the bottom up. It will cut off some flowers but the pattern is such that it will be just fine. You will have to take up the side drape to, but that is much easier. Do that first, than the beaded band.
added September 2007
Yes I am altering a dress for someone that is pregnant.
The gown is strap less and no seam around the bust line the seams are straight
down the dress from top to bottom. I thought of putting two inverted pleats
in the front starting under the bust line so it gives room for expansion.
Question is does the pleat start out darted to full at bottom so you can fit this pleat in? Is this a good solution to alter this type of gown? Also it has boning and a fitted upper piece that the boning is attached to, I was going to cut the boning under the bust line where the pleat starts and should I remove the rest of the fitted section or can you leave the back and side in?
It's hard to say without seeing the dress on the person but I like your pleat idea. If you can find fabric that matches it could be a great solution. Do not remove any boning. She needs that to hold up the dress.
added September 2007
I just stumbled on your website while looking for help.
Didn't find my situation in scanning through your advice. Am hoping you can
help guide me.
My daughter is a bridesmaid Sept 20 wearing this dress:
As you will see, the dress is strapless, though it comes with spaghetti straps, which I doubt the bride plans for the girls to wear.
My daughter asked me to take the dress in for her, and I foolishly agreed. She lives in Chicago and I live in MS, so no fittings possible, which I see now makes my job scary if not almost impossible! The dress is an 8, and needs to be taken in in the bodice. When she tried it on before any alteration the last time she was in town, I decided to take it in about 1 1/2 inches at each side seam of the bodice (just based on that much extra room in the bodice). The skirt fits fine over the hips. Now I am wondering if I should take some of the extra room out of the bust instead of totally from the side seams since she is small busted.
Not a good situation for me, but I'm stuck now, since there is not enough time for me to get the dress to her and have alterations done where she lives. Is there any rule of thumb about "cup" size on a size 8 in a dress like this?
If you have any guidance for me I would be most appreciative! Kathy
There are no rules for this situation. I do sometimes take dresses
like this in through the princess seams but it is because I have seen the
dress on the girl and was able to pin it that way.
I would have her find a seamstress where she is and send the dress to her over night. There is time to get this done if she can get an appointment with someone in the next day or 2. This is the only way to get it done right. You can go with your original plan of taking in the sides, but there is no way to know if it will be right. If it is a bit big in the bust area it shouldn't look too bad. The boning will hold the shape. She will just look like she was more than she has. If she feels uncomfortable, she can pad her bra a little.
added August 2007
I saw your site and you sound really knowledgeable so I thought that you may be able to help.
I am going to be a Bridesmaid for a friend at her wedding in Boston. She mailed the Bridesmaid dress to me in the UK but sadly it is at least three sizes too big for me on the bust. It is a full length, A-line dress with a boned, strapless bodice
It isn't a very expensive dress (polyester made to look like satin) as she's on a budget and I'm loath to spend the equivalent of $250 having it altered. A friend who is fairly good with sewing has offered to help me out but I was wondering if you could tell me the best way of altering the dress to take it in on the bust. The zipper runs down the back. Would it be best to cut the back and dart it or up pick a seam and go from there?
Any advice you have would be really appreciated. Orla
It is not wise to cut anything. I never cut a dress until after
the alteration sewing has been done and the customer has tried it on and says
it feels good and looks good. If you are not experienced at sewing I would
not advise you to do anything that is not where there is a seam.
I always look at the sides seams first. That is the best place to keep the gown symmetrical. If that isn't going to work I look at the zipper area. Sometimes gowns can be taken in at the zipper when it just can not be done at the side seams for some reason. If there are back princess seams you can sometimes take in there and avoid the difficulties of taking it in at the zipper. Often, I have to also take strapless gowns in at the front princess seams. This is very difficult to get smooth because the shape of the side piece makes it try to pucker as you sew it.
I need to see you in the gown to tell you where is the best place to be taken in this certain dress. Once the decision is made as to where, the alteration is done and the dress is tried back on. If it looks and feels good the seams can be trimmed and finished properly. If it doesn't look good some can be let back out or taken in more until it does look good.
added June 2007
I've been reading your website with interest and my daughter has bought her wedding dress which was from a wedding gown shop and had been one of their 'display' /'model' gowns that had been tried on by many and the top (satin strapless boned bustire) is a bit grubby and needs cleaning. Can this be done at home with any success or should it be done at a cleaner's. The bottom (shirt) is fine.
The skirt part has a low V at the dropped waist and is made of layers of net with tulle on the top and a light satin underneath. It needs shortening by a centimetre at the front only (train at back) and I'm wondering how to do it (I make clothes but have never sewn tulle before).
At the moment it has a line of stitching (narrow) and has probably been rolled over and flattened and I'm wondering if I should cut some off and do the same or is it hard to sew at home?
Also what 'thread' should I use? Should I use clear thread/cat gut etc or cotton)?
I have read that you don't need to edge tulle as it can be left unedged but what is best to do for a wedding gown?
Another thing is that there is slight 'damage' about 1cm wide right where the tulle/skirt joines the satin top but as there are about 5 layers (net fine satin/tulle) all stitched together I wonder how difficult it would be to take the front of the dress up at the V shaped dropped waist and thus get rid of the slight frayed 1cm width at the same time.
Thanks in advance, Sophie
I don't advise anyone go against the care label instructions.
Most wedding gowns are dry clean only. I understand that you are trying to
save money, but it's not worth damaging the gown.
Your idea to hem at the waist is a good one, but if you have never done it before it will not be easy. All those layers of tulle will be a pain to deal with, but it will certainly solve the problem of the damage and the need for a little shortening. The most important part of hemming at the waist is that the amount of shortening (your 1 centimeter) needs to be done from side seam to side seam and then tapered back to normal from the side seam around the back to wherever it needs to go for a smooth taper. If you shorten the front and taper it to stop at the side seams the skirt will have a tendency to tuck in between the legs while the bride walks. Not a comfortable situation.
When planning the hem, I would baste the 5 layers together at the new seamline before you open the old seamline. You may decide to do the whole operation by hand. That might be easier and it's an ok way to do it. Do not cut anything until you have your daughter try it on and test it, then trim the excess and do any finishing you need to do.
I hope this helps
Thanks for your reply but I have since found out the top layer of the dress isn't tulle... it's Organza according to my friend who knows her fabrics - she said tulle is fine net but this material is opaque and has a slight 'sheen' to it and this has a 'stiffness' that net doesn't have.
She also said that as the 'damage' near the waist is right on the edge and almost at the side, it will probably not show as my daughter's arms/bouquet would hide it so I have just caught it with a couple of stab stitches and it's barely noticeable now!
I have asked her advice and the reply was that it will be much simpler to cut the hem at the top edge of where it's stitched at the moment and then turn it over as I go and stitch a narrow hem like is there at the moment.
I had wondered whether to stitch a line a fraction above the cutting edge and then cut immediately beneath the row of stitching.
My reason is that the skirt is quite full and unlike a 'straight' gown where the sides are parallel, I wondered if my hem might 'stretch' slightly.
Would you advise me to sew a machine line of stitching at the cutting line so that it might slightly 'pull in' the hem a tiny bit and make it sit better.
I'm sorry to be a nuisance to you but I apprecaite your help.
Kindest regards, Sophie
Yes, that is a concern but if you are carful it should not stretch.
To sew a rolled edge I start by sewing a folded edge 1/8" longer than I want my hem to be. I stitch carefully right on the edge of the fold. This will stabilize the fabric edge. I then cut close to the stitching, fold it again 1/8" and stitch again between first stitching and the folded edge. It gives a nice clean hem for delicate fabric.
added June 2007
I have really enjoyed reading your website and was hoping
you might be able to help me.
My friend's strapless wedding gown gapes at the top line of the dress. Fits perfectly otherwise - zips up snugly up the entire bodice, correctly snug immediately below the bustline and along the center of the bustline, with no skin overhang along the back or under her arms.
I pinned in about 1 1/2" on each side to taper down only about 1 ". I ended up with a big pucker and took it out. I don't have more than the 1" down the sides to play with.
So then I added a strip of elastic on the underside to see if that would curve it in and get it to lay closer to her chest. It helped a bit, but if she leans over at all it gaps.
So it seems that the top of the bust isn't being filled in enough - like a bra that doesn't fit the top part of the cup. She's not lacking in that department and has a good bustier bra.
Looks like I'll need to go in on the princess seams and taper in beginning at the top line and end at the center bust. I've not done this before in my almost 30 yrs of sewing. Without seeing the dress - is this something that's doable? Anything I should be aware of or particulary concerned with?
Thanks so much for any suggestions. Valerie
This is an alteration that is not recommended but I have had
to do it several times this year. I don't know what the deal is with designers
not being able to shape this area properly for bust cup sizes over C.
Since this is a friend, you can take the time to remove the boning before you do the pinning and it will be more accurate. Take care to taper it out gradually. When sewing use lots of pins to ease in the center panel which is on the straight grain to the side panel that is cut on the curve. It will want to pucker, but if you are careful it can be sewn smoothly. Replace the boning (possible adding another strip of boning) and you should get it to fit her better.
added April 2007
Before I looked at your website feeling very much inadequate.
I have a friend whose daughter is getting married in 3 weeks. Everything is
being done on a very small budget. She has 5 attendants ranging from extra
small to 5X. We finally found a dress and bought it online for the attendants.
When they arrived the quality was excellent. The fabric and craftsmanship
was very superior. The dresses only cost $79.
I have somehow gotten volunteered to do the alterations. I have made a lot of bridesmaids gowns in the past....but I hate doing alterations.
After I read you website, you have given me renewed confidence. I have bustlines to take in with a side zipper, yuck, but I know that I can do it.
Also, the extra small girl is going to have to have the hem cut off about 18 inches.....can you believe it. I offered to let her try on the flower girl's dress....which only needs the spaghetti straps shortened. I am sure that I will have to hem all of the dresses, except the flower girl's.
I am waiting for them all to buy their bras and any additions they may purchase to add to them. And then their shoes so I can get the alterations done.
Thankfully the bride is having her dress done professionally.
Thanks for being there, Diane
I do my best to never label a dress hard to alter. That puts the wrong mind set on me. Some dresses are more involved than others and take more time and care, but that doesn't make it hard for me. I'm right with you on the side zipper thing. Designers think it makes it easier for the lady to get in and out of the dress, but it does make alteration complicated.
It's funny how ladies who sew either lover or hate alterations.
It is a different way of thinking than construction from scratch.
You seem to have a great attitude about your task. I think you'll do just fine.
added February 2007
please help how do i hem a very gathered waist dress from the waistline as the hem has a beautiful design around the bottom for my daughter any advise im truly thankful.
FROM----HYNIKO-----HAVE A NICE DAY
Can you send a picture of the front of the dress?
im sorry i dont have a webcam but the front of the dress is a simple oval neckline no zipper in back with ties to to make a bow the dress is floor length hope you can help thanks much
I can't give you specifics without seeing the dress. In general a waist hem needs to be done from side seam to side seam than tapered to the original waist length from the side seam to around the back. You simply open the waist seam, pull up the skirt and resew the seam. DO NOT cut anything until she tries it on again and tests how it looks. For example - if she needs it 3 inches shorter, you pull up the 3 inches across the front to each side seam, tapering it back to the original length across the back stopping it near where the darts are.
THANK YOU SO MUCH the dress turned out beautiful this was a sunday evening project . for my daughter you are wonderful and your directions are easy to learn thanks again hyniko
added December 2006
How do you shorten netting and keep it very straight?
You could lay it on a dining room table positioning the edge of the table where you want to cut the veil. Have someone hold it still for you as you cut with very sharp scissors using the edge of the table as a cutting guide.
added October 2006
I have a wedding dress that is in two pieces. The skirt
needs to be shortened about 3 to 4”. The bottom of the skirt is embroidered
so I guess, it needs to be shortened from the waist. The skirt has a waist
band with zipper in the back and is lined. The skirt is A- line.Can you tell
me if this can be shortened and about how much that would be?
Thank you in advance for your response, Melita
Yes, it would need to be done at the waist and that is not a
problem being 2 pieces. Unless you want the back shortened, the zipper is
not a concern. Usually wedding gowns are only shortened in the front. The
train is left the same length. If you don't have a train and want the skirt
shortened all the way around it will cost much more.
Wedding gown hems at the waist start at $90 on my price list. I would need to see the gown on you to tell you if it would be more and I can not tell you what a seamstress in Georgia would charge for this type of alteration. There are many factors that go into pricing. Two gowns that look the same may be constructed very differently and take very different amounts of time to do the same alteration. Also, prices very greatly depending on if you have the alteration done by the salon where you purchased the gown or use an independent professional.
Thank you for your quick response. Since I am a seamstress on the side I would like to do it myself. However, I never done alterations for a wedding dress (with train) before. I would like to get some advice on how to do this. If you rather don’t get into advising people how to do this, I do understand. Maybe you know some who would.
Thanks again! Melita
It's hard to advise when I can not see the garment. There are many things that could be different in the way your gown is constructed than any gown I have worked on. In general, you open the waist seam pull up the skirt the desired amount basting it back on from side seam to side seam, taper it back to original length from side seam to the back dart area. DO NOT CUT ANYTHING, until you try it on again. The drape of the fabric might make you change your mind on the amount you want shortened. If you don't cut anything you can adjust it up or down as desired. Once it is in the right place, trim and finish the seams.
added March 2006
We recently purchased a gown, and it looks great on
my daughter ...except the shirt appears a little too full. There are two layers
on netting. the top layer is not gathered as much as the underneath layer
and has a ruffle to it. The underneath layer of course is set slightly lower,than
the top layer and has more gathering. We would like to remove one layer to
remove the fullness, which layer would you advise removing. I sew all the
time, but for some reason I'm not sure which layer I want to remove.
Thank you for your time
I would try removing the layer that is lower. If you remove the other one you might get a dip in the outer fabric where the difference in where the netting layers were set. Am I making sense?
added October 2004
Your website is so helpful and thank you for giving brides this information! I have a problem myself. I bought a beautiful wedding dress by Emanuelle (a discontinued Eve of Milady designer) off of ebay and it is in immaculate condition except for the train. It is a ballgown made of an organza overlay with layers of tulle and then a satin lining underneath that.. The train's layers are not attached anymore, the thread holding them all together broke and I only noticed this after trying it on so the layers don't stay together, and this would be a problem when having a ballroom bustle put in. Will it cost a lot to have this repaired or is this something I can do myself?
Also how easy would it be to shorten this train as its currently at over 3 feet long and as I am having a park wedding I was hoping to have it shortened? How soon should I contact a seamstress when my wedding is next summer? Thanks!!! Rebecca
Yes, you can resew the attachments for the layers. It's only
a little thread sewn between the layers at the edge of the seams where the
I would not suggest trying to shorten the train. Besides being very difficult, it will be very expensive. You can simply bustle the back and wear it that way all day. If you want a little bit of train, the bustle can be set so that some of the back still trains.
If you don't want to do this yourself you need to be contacting a seamstress as early as you. She may not want to see you until a month or 2 before the wedding date, but good seamstresses get booked up fast so you'll want to get on her calendar as soon as you can.
added September 2003
I found your website, which is awesome. However, do
you have any tips on shortening a bride's dress? It needs to be shortened
at the waist due to lace and cut out work detail at the hem. The waist also
comes to a V in the center front.
Thank you, in advance, for any assistance you may be able to share.
If this is your wedding gown, my best tip is get a professional
to do it. If you are a seamstress doing this for the first time, my next best
tip is to have a person there to show you exactly how. I can't do that through
e-mail. If you have no choice but to do this alone than here is what I do
in short outline form.
1. Determine how much needs to be taken off by pining a tuck half way down the skirt. This lets you see what the bottom will look like without turning the lacy part under.
2. Open the waist seam from half way between the back zipper and the side seam to the side seam, around the front to the other side seam and half way across the back between the side seam and the zipper.
3. Lift the skirt in the front the determined amount from the side seam to the side seam. Sew the waist seam this amount from side to side and taper back to the original from the side to the 2 back places where you started and ended the seam opening.
4. DO NOT CUT ANYTHING until you have retired the gown and the hem hangs correctly.
5. Trim and finish seams.
I hope to soon be making a set of videos to teach alteration including bridal. There are many other details that I just can't start to write in an e-mail and not being able to see this dress makes it quite impossible to any more detailed than I have been. Sorry I can't be of more help.
added May 2004
Can you help me? I am altering my friend's daughter's wedding gown. Probably got into more than I bargained for. I now have the bodice fitting beautifully after letting out almost 4 inches at the waist and taking in the bust. Now I go to shorten it and, because of the beading at the bottom, I decided to shorten from the waist. I have done this before without a problem. However, I needed to shorten it by 4 inches. It is an A-line skirt. Number 1.....If I shorten it across the front and then taper to the sides,like suggested in Susan Ormand's bridal alteration book, the sides drag, the side seam turns to the front and doesn't fall perpendicular to the floor. Looks awful. Number 2......because it is an A-line, I have all this excess fabric on the skirt to attach to the bodice. I have tried gently easing in the fullness but it is too much for the seam. Looks bad. Do I need to cut the side seams down. I'm never doing another one of these. Please help!
When doing a hem from the waist it's important to do the amount
needed from side seam to side seam, that's your 4", than taper to nothing
along the back of the waist. I usually try to get the back taper to nothing
near the back dart or princess seam, but if the skirt is very fitted at the
waist this may be impossible. In these cases the 4" has to betaken all
the way around, even if it means resetting the zipper. (A task I avoid at
I've never seen Susan Ormand's book, but she is wrong on that point. Not only will the sides drag but the center front will have a tendency to tuck between the bride's legs as she walks.
Most any skirt is going to be wider at the new point (4" down from the waist) than at the original waistline, a-line or other style. You have basically 3 choices - take it in at the sides to the original width, add gathers to the seam, or add pleats to the seam to get the added fullness in the new seam. I try the pleats first. They lay better and brides usually don't mind the design change. Taking in the sides is often difficult and doesn't always end up looking right. Easing or Gathers usually looks awful as you have found.
Hope this helps!
Thank you for your reply and excellent information. Had you already known that Susan Ormand's book was incorrect, or just by my email? Oh God, I hope I don't have to redo this zipper. It is definitely a fitted skirt, A-line. Pleats won't work for this bride. I will try to taper it from the side seam to just beyond the back/side bodice seam. How bad do you think it will look if I taper the side skirt seam by about an inch each side?
I found a beautiful picture of an overbustle you had on the web. That's how I found your email. I have been trying to get ideas of bustles for this girl. The picture you had was the most perfectly done bustle. How did you get it to be so even from the ground and also so smooth at the waist. It is beautiful! I was looking at the bustles on the WeddingChannel.com. Many of them are really sloppy looking. I have to do a bustle on this dress too. The girl wants an underbustle. Any advice?
Bustling is part art and part science. It's very hard to explain
because the way I do it has a lot of trial and error in it.
I put the dress on a form once the hem is finished and determine the hooking points by pinning the back up at various intervals. I start at the center back and work towards the sides seams one at a time. I pin and look, pin and look, until I like the overall draping of the pinned up train. It sometimes takes over an hour to do this. I used to do it with the bride in the dress but have discovered that I can be just as accurate with the form.
Once you have the points set it's easy. Simply sew the hooks at the waist and the eyes at the places on the train that were pinned for the Ballroom bustle. For the French bustle you sew loops made of Ribbon to the under part of where the points are pinned on the train and a long double ribbon at the waistline. To make the bustle, you loop the long ribbon through the loops and tie a secure knot. That's how I do it anyway. Some folks sew ribbons in both places and tie them together.
To get the ballroom bustle to lay nicely after the eyes are set on the hooks you tuck the fold of the skirt toward the center seam.
I hope to be making a video soon on how to do all this. I've tried writing it out but there are just too many variables in wedding gowns.
Can I ask you for some advice on bustles? I am trying to do an underbustle on an A-line/waisted-skirt. My friend's daughter is really wishing for a cascading affect on the bustle. No matter how hard I try, by the time I get it all off the ground, it looks like a straight horizontal fold....no cascades. Do you have any advice? I am desperate.
I did a bustle a bit ago that ended up looking like Austrian Curtains. Ya, know, the kind that gather up at several points and look like cascading folds all the way down? I had to rig a tube out of bias tape on each seamline and ran the ribbon up each tube and the gathers formed along the seamlines. Is that what she is wanting?
No. She wants kind of a wavy edge all the way down. Like an upside down "V", but with a little of the underside bending in occasionally. If I pull up just one point, it kind of does it, but then there's all this extra dragging. When I get the extra up, it looks like a horizontal flap. Any ideas?
I'd need to have the gown in front of me to figure it out. There are a lot of variables and most of this it trial and error kind of work. I just keep trying things until I find what works.
It's me again!
Well, unfortunately, I needed to take the whole skirt off the bodice to shorten the dress and had to reset the zipper. I needed to put a small pleat at the back of this A-line skirt, because the skirt was so much wider 4 " down (Do you think that was okay?) But it looks good and I am ready now for the bustle. I am planning to do the underbustle. I am wondering if I understood your previous directions. I am planning to sew long (like 15-18" ) double lengths of ribbons at the waist. Then I put loops of ribbon through the skirt and lining at different points which keep the train off the floor.
What is the best way to stitch the loops inside so they are secure but not too obvious on the outside. I am assuming hand stitching, but is it a straight stitch or an "x" or something else? Regular thread? Or was it a long loop from the waist and small ribbon to tie onto the loops?
I am sorry to bother you again. I am nervous about doing this dress. I am also extremely interested in your bustle video, when you get it done (not that I plan on doing this job again, but you never know what your friends can talk you into). Please put me on your list for the video.
I machine sew the loops and they do show on the outside, but
no one ever notices. You can hand sew them, but they have to be very secure.
I would use quilting thread, or some other stronger than regular cotton wrapped
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