Train Alteration


added March 2010

Hi Leanna!  I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site.  Well, I found my wedding dress today (yay!); it is David’s Bridal Style: Style: 9V9364.  It has a cathedral train and we are definitely not “fancy” people and our wedding is not formal.  My question is if you think it would be possible to shorten the train or if you might have any other suggestions for me.  I am just afraid that a cathedral length train will look totally out of place for our outdoor wedding.  Thank You so much!

Hi Christie,
I took a look at the picture on the David's Bridal site and I don't see any way the train can be hemmed without loosing the wonderful embroidery along the edge. You can bustle it though, either as it would normally be bustled or leaving a little drag as a sweep train would be.  

added January 2010

Hi Mrs. Leanna,
I got engaged around March of 2009 and ever since that day I have been
looking for my "wow" dress. I found it online and stared at it on the
computer everyday for nearly 6 months as I called around trying to find
it. I finally did and went to try it on and loved it!
I have attached pictures. I am 6 feet tall so I can carry a dress with
alot of fabric. I love the back of the dress but the more I think about it
the more I panic about the train. The dress has a castillion train! Super
long! And while it is beautiful, I just don't think it is practical for me
at my outdoor wedding. I LOVE everything about the dress except the length
of the train. With all the detail work, would it be possible to have the
train shortened?
Please please let me know what you think!



Hi Kassie,
Yes, it can be shortened, but you'll have to decide where to put the new edge. I think it would be best to shorten it past the motif at the train's end, but quite a shame to loose that beautiful design element that you paid a good amount for. I think it would look odd to shorten it in the middle of that motif.
You do have more options than shortening the train. You can also bustle it, either all the way up or to just shorten the train a little. I have done this for brides with your concerns. A French bustle like this dress would look very natural.

added August 2008

Hi Leanna,

Thank you for your wonderful site - it is so informative. I'd never even thought about bustles before!
I have a couple of questions, which hopefully don't sound too odd.
First, is it possible to cut off a train and just hem the back of the dress so it's normal? I do not like trains, but many of the loveliest dresses I've looked at have them. I guess bustling would be another option but I don't particularly care for bustles either. Would it be prohibitively expensive to do this to a dress in the $300-500 range? Would it look odd on a dress that has a band or swath of color on the bottom?
My second question concerns sleeves or straps. Is it possible to add either straps (substantial straps, not just spaghetti straps) or light sleeves to a strapless gown? Straps or sleeves that would actually help support the gown? I have never found a strapless gown (or bra) that fits and feels comfortable, especially when there is likely to be energetic dancing. (I am fairly large-busted (34DD) and wear a street size 10.) I also prefer more coverage than is afforded by strapless gowns, but I love some of the designs - if only they had straps.
Thanks for any insights you can provide!

I have hemmed trains before. It is a lot of work and is more expensive than a regular wedding gown hem because it is doing twice the work. A gown that has a colored band will be very difficult because that band is formed for the curve or the train edge. Changing the curve by hemming it will make the band buckle when it is sewn back on to the edge and could look quite bad.

It is best for large busted ladies to buy  dress that is already designed to have sleeves or strap support. The inner design of a strapless gown is very different than a sleeved gown. A strapless gown is supported at the waist not the top. Adding straps or sleeves may help but the support has to come from the waist.

added July 2008

Hi Leanna!

I'm so glad I found your site because I've been stressing a little about the bustling of my gown.

I had originally wanted a gown with no train, so bustling wouldn't have been an issue. But I fell in love with "Sugar" by Amy Michelson, which has a short-ish train ( looks longer on the model than it does on me.) It is multi-layered silk organza, with no seam at the waist (in front) and a ribbon of Alencon lace that trims the back. The thing I love the most about the gown is the silhouette, which (in my head) would be ruined by any bustle I can imagine - creating a pouffy meringue-like skirt, which was exactly what I wanted to avoid: I am very petite, size 0 - I don't want a dress that wears me!

Is there any style of bustle that you would recommend for a dress like mine?

Thank you!!

All bustles break the line of the train. You can certainly have the train hemmed and you will have what you originally wanted. Or you can just not bustle it. It isn't a must to bustle. It's just a convenience for your guests who won't want to be stepping on your dress as you walk around.

added July 2008

I'm altering a wedding dress for a friend.  She's having a garden wedding and prefers no train on her dress.  I'm in the process of prepping the dress for the 'big hem' but I have a few questions before cutting.  My instincts tell me the hem is the same length from the waist line all around the dress.  However, now I'm wondering if there is some sort of 'sewing rule' that suggests the back should be slightly longer than the front in order for the dress to be the same distance from the floor all around.
Does this question make any sense? 
FYI: the bride is petite.  The dress is full with two layers of crinoline. 
Thanks so much,


When removing a train you have to cut off some of the train fabric. This has to be done because the weight of that fabric makes the skirt hang toward the back. When gone the skirt will shift towards the front. Then you need to measure the hem with the bride in the dress. I do a hem 1" off the floor. What ever that ends up being for your bride is where it needs to go. You may find that this does end up looking longer in the back when on a hanger, but it can also end up looking longer from one side to the other. Most people don't have perfect posture and their bodies are not symmetrical. So, you can't simply do the hem the same measurement as the front of the dress or guess at how much to do it longer. You have to have the bride stand in the dress and let you pin it.

added March 2008

My daughter recently bought a pageant gown and it has a train built into the dress she wants to shorten the dress and the train but it is covered with beads if i cut the beads will they all evenually fall off.  I sew but i am unsure of how to shorten the dress without losing the beads  It is an A- line dress and has no seams at the waist  please give me an idea how to do this soon  She needs it in 2 weeks


I can not tell you if the beads will fall off or not without seeing the dress. Usually only a few fall off in the area where you cut. Often the place were they fell off ends up being inside the hem and it's no problem, but if not you just sew them back on once the hem is where you want it to be.

added January 2008

Hi Leanna,

So I just purchased a Maggie Sottero "Emmaline" wedding gown. It is beautiful! But the one thing I didn't want was poof or a train. We are getting married on the beach and I didn't see the point of a train, and I wanted a little more "simple." I couldn't say no to this dress at the price I paid. :)

So, would it be a poor decision to cut off the train, to make it one length all the way around, or maybe a tiny train in the back? I was thinking of using the organza lace to make the veil. Cutting off the train would take off the beading at the bottom in the back of the dress, but that beading does not go all around the bottom of the dress.

As for the poof, there is one layer of horse hair (?) (the scratchy material to make the poof), and then another layer about a foot long at the bottom. I was wanting to remove the long layer of horse hair as it gives the dress a little bit of a poof, and if I don't like it I can always put the horse hair back in, correct?

As for the stitching at the bottom of the lace (this dress has organza lace over satin), I'm not sure how it is stitched, but it looks like a very thin flat trim stitched or ironed flat. Can they redo that same stitching all over when hemming the dress? I will need the dress hemmed about 3 inches at least in the front.

Thanks for your advice and wisdom! :) Shelby

I did a search for Emmaline to get a look at the gown. This can be a good solution for you. You will be loosing the back beading but that will not take anything away from the gown. You can hem it all the way around.

The stuff making the poof is netting. Horse hair is a plastic braiding, 1" to 2", that is found in hems of gown that are usually satin type fabric. You can remove the netting layers to get less poof, but you must do this before you hem the dress. You can put it back but that will cost you more than removing it.

If the special stitching you are describing is a napkin edge, I have the special machine that is needed to replace the special stitching you are describing. You need a serger to do it. You'll need to ask the person doing the alteration if they have a serger. Many alteration people don't. If the edge is a rolled hem than any regular machine can do it. Again, you'll need to ask the person doing your alteration if they can do this edge. It is a little tricky and some seamstresses can't do it well.

Another option for you is to have the gown permanently bustled. I think a French bustle would look great. It would let you keep the beading on the train and add a neat design element to the back of the gown.

added July 2006

I'm a seamstress with a wedding gown I am trying to bustle.
How do you do a gown with a train that has an overlay skirt of chiffon with a separation in the back connected to the main dress by thread chains on either side of the main design of the back of the train?

Trying to do a pick-up bustle is okay, but these two separate parts don't look quite as attractive, and the bride is in a hurry and the under bustle isn't appealing to her either.
I tried to find some other pick-up points a bit off to the side but it brought the hem up too this just a matter of only putting the ribbons closer together so the hem isn't raised up so much?
Any tips?

You might have to add more "connections" to the chiffon separation to get the bustle to hang right, but this should not change the look while the train is down.

One comment about your bride being "in a hurry". Unless the wedding is this weekend, you must not let her stress become a factor in your work. You must stay calm and unstressed to do a proper job for her. Some brides ask to have their gown finished months before the wedding. This pushes very unnecessary stress on the Alterationist. I aim to have gowns finished 2 weeks before the wedding date. Really, they do not "HAVE TO" be done until the day before. There are situations where, through no fault of the bride, the gown does not arrive until a few days before the wedding and they have to be handled differently, but in usual circumstances, where planning can be done ahead of time, every effort needs to be made to keep the alteration process stress free.

If a bride does not like my policy of timing than I do not work for her. I will not be forced into a stressful situation where I could make serious mistakes. It's not good for me or the bride's gown.

added June 2006

Hi Leanna,
This is a great site and helpful too. I have a Jade Daniel Style#2009. I love it it's almost as if it walked out of my dream. Except I wanted a ballgown with no train and a corset back and it has neither. I don't want to wear it with a train, but there's a swirl of Swarovski crystals above the hem so it can't be cut and hemmed to be changed into a ballgown. I would like an "Over Bustle/ Ballroom Bustle" but I want it to look like this is a ballgown. I'd like to make the bustle just look like it's just a gathered waste as opposed to seeing buttons holding up parts of the train. Do you have any suggestions that won't cost a fortune? Any help would be great.
Thank you. Joanne

You can actually open up the back waist seam and shorten the train there, but it will cost quite a bit to do it. I doubt I would be charging less than $200 for such an operation and I might go higher once I saw the gown and how the seams are constructed.

Is sounds like you know what you want. You have to understand that it often costs much to get exactly that. You may be able to find a seamstress who will ask for much less, but this is a good indicator that she is not very experienced. Do you really want to risk your precious gown to a cut-rate seamstress?

Wow that was fast! Thank you so much! I thought it would cost more to have it done that way or it would be too much work. I guess I'd really have to trust the seamstress' abilities to shorten it at the waist. Do you think there's a nice way to still over do a bustle to get it to look more "natural" by using hooks and eyes or something along those lines? I just really dislike visible buttons on a wedding gown, just my wedding gown quirk I guess! LOL! :O) The store I purchased it at wants $600 to do all the alterations I wanted (with a bustle), do you think that is reasonable for all of that or not? It's just that I paid $800 dollars and it seems wrong to spend $600 on alterations. I wish you were in Canada to do it it for me! Thanks again for taking the time to help. I really appreciate it.

What can I say - I'm a night owl.

Bridal salon prices are usually more than independent sewist like me. I work out of my home and don't have employees to pay insurance for. Also you are in Canada - that $600 would be less in US dollars. So, yes I think that's a reasonable price considering you are asking for a big job here.

My bustles are very subtle. They really do look quite natural. I know you have an aversion to the buttons showing, many brides do, but guests at your wedding will not notice them, honest. There has to be something to hold the fabric of the dress up and that something is going to show. The only way for you to get the "Natural" look you are wanting it to do it "Naturally", that is Sew It!

added October 2005

Hi, I am very glad I came across your website - it has a lot of great information and I'm hoping you can also help me with my question on bustling. My dress is strapless, modified A-line made of silk organza. It has lace bodice and many underlayers (like 6 or so not including petticoat) and a chapel length train. My question is the following:

My seamstress mentioned it is difficult to really do any type of bustling to my gown since there are many layers of crinoline and the layers extend down to the train. As a result, when the seamstress pinned different types of bustles, none of them sat on the dress quite right due to layers/bunching of crinoline under bustle ( i.e. if I moved to side, whole side of dress would also move since underlayers were pushing it out - also, if this happens, it would be difficult for me to know this is happening).

I attached some pictures of my gown - not sure if you can tell but in the last picture the American bustle she pinned definitely move out of place as I started moving/dancing.

Ideally I had wanted a french bustle but that definitely didn't look right w/ my dress; I know I could go w/ wrist loop but I thought that would eventually be cumbersome to dance with.

Any thoughts or advice on what type of bustling can be done would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you!

I don't post everything. It sometimes takes me up to a year to get things I think are interesting to the general public on the site.

In your case I would hem the layers of crinoline so they are the same length as the front. I don't try to include them in the bustle. It's just too much fru-fru. The bustle gets created using the dress layers only.

Once I tried bustling the crinoline separately and it was a real mess. I gave up and trimmed the bottom of the netting layers to hem them. The bride ended up liking her bustle very much and it was a whole lot easier to rig than it would have been.

Hi Leanna:
See attached for the pictures - unfortunately, they might not be the most clear (you can try to zoom in or increase % view) and I don't think I have a picture with just the back or train extended. In the last picture, you can see the back of gown does not have any detailing on it -- only detail is waist up w/ lace ... so i think dress could be open to different types of bustling?....

Also, you are correct that a man did in fact design the dress (Edgardo Bonilla)! In your opinion, then, do you think it's better to get a dress that looks good bustled vs preserving designer's intention of making the dress/bride look good while walking down the aisle? I guess I'm trying to anticipate if the change (once netting is cut) could make the dress look really bad walking down the aisle or from the back?

Thanks again,

Can you resend the pictures? My e-mail program ate them somehow. I want to take another look and try to give you more ideas.

The gown where I ended up cutting the netting in the back looked just the same to me. I even did not tell the customer at first to see if she could see any difference and she did not notice.

Your gown may be effected, but you probably won't mind the effect. The seamstress is very right about her desire to stay in keeping with the designer's original reasoning. But since we do not know that reasoning and the gown needs to be bustled, I go with my experience and my view of how an alteration will effect things on the gown. Besides, designers are flaky. It was probably a man who had no idea of a bride's need for a bustle. He was only thinking of how it would look walking down the isle.

Thanks so much for your response! I did ask the seamstress also what she thought of hemming the crinoline in back - she mentioned there must have been reason the designer created dress this way (not too many design it w/ layers that carry all way to the train) - perhaps could this be to hold the modified A-line shape & structure of the gown? As such, her opinion was that hemming the layers may drastically alter the structure/design of the gown.

If this true? I guess either way would be a risk but I'm trying to figure out which way would have the least impact? In your case of where you did hem the crinoline, did you find it truly changed the dress from when the bride originally tried it on?

And after you did the hem, did you find that you could do any type of bustle or do you think 1 type of bustle or the other suits the look/style of my dress better?

I'm going in for my second fitting tomorrow so I will need to give a final decision to the seamstress on what to do.

Let me know what you think, thanks!!

My point is, unless he's a cross dresser, a male designer has no idea how a female moving in a gown effects it's design. It's pretty typical that a man would think that netting in necessary to hold up the train while walking down the isle. It's totally unnecessary. The drag of the train on the carpet will give the same design effect as netting. If he did think of this, maybe he thought that the train needs the support for the pictures while the bride is standing still and posing. In either case, YOU do not have to hold true to HIS design.

Like I mentioned, it is wise to think about the designer's intent especially for things like hems where taking the horsehair out will create a very different effect depending on what type an weight of fabric was used. I try to explain to customers that altering for size should not change design. It is a good idea when altering to put back things the way you found them for the designer had good reason to make them that way, BUT as long as you see the reason and want or need a different effect, you can change a design element.

When talking weddings, the bride is the boss. The effect she wants on her body is more important than what some unknown designer intended.

From your pictures it looks like you have organza over taffeta. I don't see where that type of fabric needs the extra netting all the way down the train. It's got plenty support in itself and should lay nicely without all the extra fru-fru.

You can try a French Bustle but the gown is slimming at her hips. You won't get a good flounce effect, but your daughter might like a subtle bustle.

added February 2004

Thanks so much for your website. I've read through most of it, and it's been very helpful.

I have a question on altering wedding gown trains. I purchased a beautiful gown that I really love, which has a fairly long and heavy train. I thought I'd like it and would just put in a bustle for the reception, but the more I think about it, the less I want a train at all. I'd rather just go without. My wedding is not going to be a super formal affair, and in truth, I'd probably walk down the aisle with the train bustled, as crazy as that may sound.

Now I'm thinking of cutting off the train. Is that totally insane? There's some beautiful colored embroidery on the edge of the train, and I'd lose that, but I don't really mind. I need to have the hem taken up anyway, so I could try a bustle first, and then try removing the train if I didn't like the bustle, but that would hike up the cost of alterations considerably, and I'm on a tight budget. Plus if I were to pass the gown on to my daughter or niece, they wouldn't have the option of a train. Is there such a thing as cutting a train at the hemline, and saving the train fabric in order to reattach it at a later date for another bride?

Thanks so much for your help.

Bustling the gown for the ceremony is not crazy and a great solution to your dilemma of what to do with a trainless dress after the wedding. Yes, I have reattached trains but it is expensive to cut one off and even more expensive to reattach it. So I think your idea is a good one. Go for it.


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