Busts and Bodices


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Often the bodice is the focal point for a bride's concerns about fit. Boobs come in all shapes and sizes. Woman are used to this, but unfortunately, many wedding gown designers have no clue that it matters. These gowns are made as if all woman had the same shape in the same place. This often makes it a challenge to fit this area. As a general rule - taking in is better than letting out. This is why bridal stores order the gowns for the largest body measurement then take in the other areas. What makes the bust area tricky is that taking in a dart often has the opposite effect. It makes the bust mound greater. With patience, a skilled alteration specialist can overcome the difficulties to get a good fit.


added May 2011


I have my heart set on a Mori Lee 2505 even though I am a pear shape - this one seems not to make my hips look big due to the flaring skirt.
I have 41 inch hips and have been advised to order the 10. I tried on the 8 and it looked great but was very tight around the hips when I was sitting. My breast measurements are best suited to a 6!
I am wondering if it is ever impossible to make small breasts fit a wedding dress such as this? Can padding look fake or can the cup be made smaller before it is padded? Everyone knows that I don't have much up top - I don't want to look ridiculous!
Apparently it is difficult to let out the seams in this material as it is very light and silky. It has a firm underlayer as well, to hold everything in.
Thanks in advance,


Hi Deanna,
I've looked at a picture of Mori Lee 2505 and think it can look good on a small busted woman. You may like to add some padding to the cups, just don't add so much that you look silly. I don't think you can get away with not taking in the bust area a little, but that plus a little padding can give you just the right, balanced look.
I would think about ordering the 8. Brides don't sit much.

added May 2011

Hi Leanna,
I just picked up my wedding dress from the store it was ordered from, and I am quite worried as the bust is too small.  We ordered the dress based on my largest measurement, my hips, and while there is enough fabric to mostly cover my bust, the cups in the dress are too small.  I am a 38 H cup.  The dress is strapless, has boning, and extensive beadwork on the bodice.  I was wondering if there is any way you can think of that this can be altered to fit better? 
I have not taken it to be altered yet, and I am very worried about this.

Hi Mandi,
Most gowns have at least an inch that can be released from each side seam. And if there are princess seams, or often darts, there may be much more that can he done. I can't tell without looking inside the gown but the alterationist you take the gown to should be able to look inside and tell you how much can be let out of the seams.
If you can zip the dress now and it's just too snug after zipping, this should be enough to make it fit better. If you can't zip the dress at all then you may need to have fabric pieces sewn into the seams to make more space. There are many other options that the lady you take the dress to may be able to offer depending on her experience and skill. One of my favorites is adding lacings where the zipper is. That gives you lots of options for tightening or loosening the bodice.

added February 2011

Hi Leanna,
I was so happy to stumble upon your website!  I hope you will be able to answer my question as I am feeling very anxious about my wedding dress.  I am 5'2" and short waisted.  I feel that the bodice of my wedding dress is just too long and comes up too high on my body.  It's very close to my underarms and has me concerned.  In your opinion would a seemstress be able to move the bodice of the dress down so it doesn't sit so close under my arms?  I have enclosed a picture.  Your website is so helpful!!!  Thank you!  Keep up the good work!

Hi Alicia, 

It should be possible to lower the neckline of the bodice to make it more comfortable for your underarm area. I can't tell from the picture if the seam structure on the inside of the bodice will make this a difficult operation but I'm pretty sure it can be done.
I hope this helps, 

added August 2010



I found your website and it was so much help!  I had a question for you and I hope you don't mind me asking.  Attached is the dress I purchased and I will be getting it altered soon.  They mentioned the bunches at the waist are caused by my short torso and they could shorten it so it will lay flat.  What I wanted to ask is when they shorten the torso will that also be shortening the length, meaning they will shorten the torso and hem at the same time?  Also the dress is supposed to be somewhat fit and flarish or trumpet shaped and I believe if they take the length from the waist - and leave the bottom alone that will help this affect (the bottom has tooling underneath to flare it our some). Is that correct or will it still appear A-line (which won't kill me, but I'm curious)


Thank you so much for your website!!!  Lisa

Hi Lisa,
Yes, if they took up the hem in the waist area the whole skirt comes up evenly making the hem shorter. But the flair would also raise and add more fullness at the waist seam and would not create a trumpet look. It would make the A line more pronounced. Looking at your pictures I see that the front wrinkles are not in the back also. I believe that if they do open the front waist seam and raise the skirt it will only smooth out the stomach area and not effect the hem. 
To get the trumpet skirt look you mentioned the seams of the skirt would need to be taken in at the hip and thigh area. I think for your gown this will have to be done on the side and front princess seams to get a nice symmetrical trumpet. It's a lot of work and may cost more than you wish to spend since you said the A line is ok.

added August 2010

Dear Leanna,
I've just had a fitting appointment with a seamstress and wondered if I could ask your opinion on an issue. I'm wearing a strapless dress with a good boning structure. My bust is a 32DD and I have a small waist. So they ordrered a dress to fit my bust and have taken it in at the waist. However, there is a gap between the dress around the bust and my skin, which doesn't look good from the side, and people who are taller than me will be able to see down the dress!
I asked the seamstress if she could do something about the gap, and she said she could put in a couple of darts at the side of the bust to take it in a bit. However, when she did that, I got bad spill over which didn't look very attractive at all.
The only two options it seems I have are to have a gap between the dress and my skin around the bust area, or to have the bust so tight that it sits closer to my chest but makes me spill over the dress.
Can you think of anything that I could do to solve this problem?
I should add that i'm already using a modesty bone to try and bring the dress closer to my skin.
I've looked into minimising strapless bras but either there aren't any, or they don't come in my size (the manufacturers obviously don't think i'm busty enough to merit a minimiser!).
I'd be very grateful to hear what you think.
Thank you! Sabina

Hi Sabina,
For ladies over a D bust, bridal fitting is not easy in the bust area. A gap at the neckline is common. I will try to fix this situation first at the princess seam if there is one. I have created darts when there is no princess seam to use. It's hard to say without seeing you in the dress, but this should have fixed the problem. I would guess she did too much and created the tightness that you are not liking. There should be a way to adjust this without creating spillage.
Strapless necklines are supposed to lay smoothly on the skin, not tight or gapping. Often brides, who have never worn a strapless gown, think they have a gap because they are looking down at their cleavage and don't see the perspective of the guest's at the wedding. I have often had a bride say exactly what you have when her neckline is perfectly correct. I can't say this is your situation without seeing you in the dress, but it is common for a bride to feel this way when her neckline is actually fine.
Depending on the placement of the neckline top seam, it may be the shape of your bust that is causing the gap. Instead of the neckline laying straight, the breast curve can cause the fabric to continue curving across the cleavage. For this situation I have sewn bridal wire inside the neckline seam so the curve of the neckline can be held into place against the skin by the wire, forcing the front to lay straight across the neck instead of curving with the swell of the breast. Maybe that's what you need.
I hope this helps!

added June 2010

Hi Leanna,
I just recently purchases and recieved my wedding dress.  It is a Mikaella 1409 and I absolutely love it!!  In the store I tried on a size 10 and it was a little roomy.  This was in Jan. and I have lost weight since then so I ordered a size 8.  The dress is almost perfect but is really snug at the top, the very top won't zip and it makes my waist poke out a little at the hip area...if I don't lose weight by my wedding (9 months from now) it will need to be let out some in order for it to zip all the way, be comfortable, and fit properly.  Will it be a difficult task to let out some since the tip part is all ruching?  I have attached a picture of the dress.

Thank you so much,

Hi Brittney, 
Most gowns have a little in the seams that can be let out, but not all fabric will look good when it is let out. The finer the fabric, the more likely it is to show a mark of the originally seam's stitching when it is let out. I have worked on ruched gowns that let out without problems, but I can't guarantee yours can be because I can't see what is in the seams. You need to take the gown to someone who can look inside to give you better answers. 

added April 2010

Hi Leanna! It is 4 weeks until my wedding and my dress fits me perfectly everywhere but the bust. It is too tight and is squishing my breasts in.  The seamstress believes she can take it out another 2 inches and that should be able to fix it. But Im not quite sure. I feel as if the cups inside the dress are just too small for my size.  Is there anything I can do to fix this?! please help! Here is a picture of my dress

Hi Jasmin,
If the bra cups are just tacked to the inside of the dress and can be removed and larger ones put in. The front of this dress can not be changed though with all the beading. Two inches is a lot of space and it may be too much. I can't tell without seeing you in the dress.  
When is your next fitting?

Thanks for your quick response Leanna! my next fitting is june 16th and my date is june 26th, which is what is making me nervous!  I hope the two inches is enough if it is too much shell take it back in the during the same dress fitting and have me come back a few hours later.  I did check to see if the cups could be replaced and she was unable to do so without ruining the front of the dress.  The dress is a size 4 which the chart says measures 33 inches in the bust and I believe my measurements are 35.5 inches around my back and my bra size is 34 D. So it should be ok around the back (I hope!) the only thing that worries me is that the smaller cups will be a problem.

Your bust measures 35.5 and they ordered a dress that measures 33?  They should have ordered an 8 or 10. With your D size cups a size 4 is definitely not advisable for the reason you now find yourself in. Bridal stores usually have a policy that gowns are ordered to fit the largest measurement on your body and the smaller areas are taken in to fit. The larger size would have had bra cups sizing that was more appropriate for your figure needs. The waist and hip areas are always much easier to alter than the bustline. With your gown having the heavily beaded bodice it gives great complications for bust adjustments.
You did not mention about the zipping. If you can zip the gown it should feel much better with the 2 inch addition. Since you are 2 inches off the measurements it should fit good. The cup size will not change, so I can't say you will be totally happy, but it will be much better. No one at your wedding will be able to notice that the cup size is off a tiny bit.

Well thanks again for the quick response Leanna! I was pretty sure that there was not much I could do at this point.  But hopefully it wont be too noticeable. I just have one last question, do you think if I buy a strapless bra that will help? Or will that just make things worse?

It could help and it could make things worse, depends on the bra. Adding the bulk of the bra fabric and boning in the already tight bodice can make matters worse (i.e. Squeeze you in more). But if the bra is very thin and still gives you good support, it might help by making you feel better. Feeling better helps you look better. 

added April 2010

Hi Leanna, 

Thanks so much for putting up the Q&A section on your site!  It's been a fun read + I feel much better knowing a little more about the alteration process as I'm looking for wedding dresses.

My question has to do with a dress I found recently that I really love.  The problem is that the dress is a little tight around the bust area.  The girl who's selling the dress said that she had the bust taken in a little for her wedding.  Do you think it's possible that there is still some excess fabric available on the dress that would allow it to be taken out again...  or do you think they would have trimmed it in the first alteration?  If it was trimmed, do you think that it would be difficult to let out the bust about an inch on this dress? 

Go forward to the pictures of Dress #3 (La Sposa "Fiordo"):
** there should be 7 total pictures of this dress

If the alteration on the bust is possible, do you know what a reasonable price would be for this type of work?  Also, how soon before the wedding should a dress usually be sent in for alterations?




Hi Susie,
It's my policy to not cut an fabric in a bridal alteration unless it is absolutely necessary. Many follow this policy but some may not. If your gown was altered without cutting the seam allowance it should be simple to let it back out. If it is trimmed, I have no way of knowing how much they trimmed it. It should be a simple thing to look inside the dress and see if it was trimmed or not. You can usually go to the hem and look in between the layers to see the side seams. Some hems are sewn together at the bottom and you have to open a seam in the lining to get inside to see the side seams.
I normally like to see brides for the first time 8 to 10 weeks before the wedding with the goal that the dress will be finished 2 weeks before the wedding. This works well for the bride usually has many things she has to attend to right before the wedding and worrying about. Her gown is one I like to eliminate. This timing can very depending on what the gown needs but works well for most situations. If the side seams are the only thing you need done than you don't need so much time, but this also depends on the schedule of the person you get to agree to do the work. You have plenty of time between now and November so you should not have any trouble getting this fixed.
I think that answers all your questions. Good luck with your gown.

added January 2010

Hi Leanna,

I have been worried about my dress recently and the shop I've bought it from just said 'thats how it is' the bit I'm worried about is under the bust line. It doesn't go under my bust it just goes down which because I'm only 5"2 tall I think it makes me look dumpy. Are they right, is there nothing that can be done?

I've attached a photo (this was before any alterations of length)

Many thanks if you can help me out you seem to know so much!










Let me see if I understand what your concerned about. You would like the bodice to show more of your shape by hugging you in the bust area better? I think that can be better, but because of the drape it might not hug as much as you are wanting. In your picture it looks like the side seam bulges a tiny bit in the area you are questioning. I would try to take the bodice in at that seam and see if you like the fit better. It will feel better but the over drape might not let it look as snug as you are wishing.
The other reason why it is fitting you this way is that it is designed for a 5' 6" body. Skirt length is not the only difference in the way the dresses are proportioned. The bodice is probably too long for your torso. Changing this on gowns that don't have a waistline seam is very difficult. Again, taking in the side seam to change the waist level is about the only thing that can be done.
If you can convince them that you want the side taken in that should make you feel better. It's not easy to talk some alteration people into doing a job she doesn't think needs doing. They don't respond well to customers thinking they know more than they do. But in this case, you just might know a lot more than this alteration professional.
Your other option is wait till the hem is done and then take the gown to someone who is more willing to listen to the bride's wishes.
I hope this helps,  

Hi Leanna,

Thank you so much for taking the time to offer your opinion, it great having someone who can offer impartial advise and knows what they are talking about! 

Yes, I am hoping for the bodice to 'hug' me slightly more so I'll suggest taking it in at the sides a little but I also think its the boning that made it stick out a bit? Can that be curved at all? I found that nearly all the dresses were made for taller women so had the same problem with all the dresses I tried, hopefully one day they make petite range dresses :) 

I'll book another fitting sooner rather than later to see if they'll take it in and whether the drape still causes an issue as I have contemplating buying another dress as I was so worried it looks awful.

Thanks again


Hi Lisa,
It's not usually the boning. And yes, you are right about the dresses not proportioned for petite figures. The bridal industry is making great strides in designing for pregnancy, but they are yet to address the petite lady's needs.
Part of the problem is a petite lady has a shorter torso. The boning is doing the job it is supposed to do by pushing up from the waist, but the waist is just set too high. Messing with the boning only makes matters worse. In some cases the side seams can be let out in the hip area so the whole bodice drops and fits into place. I'd need to see the inside of the seams but I seriously doubt this is an option for your gown. You can test this while you are in the fitting room. Put on the gown but don't zip it. Have a friend hold the gown closed in the back but loose just above your butt. If it fits better than your torso is shorter than the dress.
If the sides seams can't be let out in the hip area then there's not much you can do. That's why I suggested to take in the waist area. That works in many cases.
I don't think you look dumpy at all. I think what you are feeling is big-white-dress-overwhelming-me more than dumpiness. It is a lot of dress for any woman and you being shorter are feeling it more.
I hope I haven't confused you totally, 

added October 2009

Hi Leanna, I was reading all the posts on your website and you gave some very good advice; I'm in desperate need of that now. 
I was looking for a specific gown and found it online for a reasonable price.  I'm usually a size 10/12 and the gown is a size 14.  I (measured under the arm around the back and across the fullest part of the breast).
I checked to see how much of a seam there is on the back zipper and I was surprised there's less than 1/4" on each side.
My quesiton is there anyway to make it a tad bigger so I can zipper it all the way up????  I really love the dress (I've attached photos).  I was thinking maybe I could have the entire zipper removed and have a tie back instead; would you recommend that?
Any advice you can give to help would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you so much for your time.
Bobbi Colucci

Hi Bobbi,

When I am asked to make a gown larger I look at the side seams first. There is normally nothing at the zipper in most gowns, but many will have up to 1" that can be let out in a side seam. 

This dress would be a good candidate for a lace-up back conversion.

added September 2009

Hi leanna
I have written to you before concerning alterations to my bridal gown. At the time I was a dialysis patient with an ugly catheter on the right side of my chest. Well, thank God I no longer have that problem, I received a Kidney Transplant on April 19, 2009 and it's working great.
I already had my alterations done but, I didn't quite like the finish on the bust line. I purchased a Goddess Strapless A-line Bra size 36FF. Because, I have large breast, I asked the seamstress to take any extra material and,  any appliques from the dress to create a more modest look on the top. She did create something that looked like it was part of the dress. However, it bunched up at the top making it look like a huge gap and, not fitting right. She suggested darts and, although the dress is beautiful the bust line looks like two pointed darts.
What can I do to make my dress look more polished? Is there anyway they can insert sew in bra cups that size to prevent the bunching of the fabric?
My wedding is only weeks away on Sunday September 20th, 2009
Thanks, Iliana 

Hi Iliana   
I wish I could help you but I need to see you in the dress to give you any kind of useful advice. Bra cups are sometimes a help but I doubt you can find them in FF size. If you are willing to sacrifice a bra that fits you well, it can be sewn to the inside of the gown but I can't say this will fix the situation.

added September 2009

Hi my name is Melissa I am going to be in my cousin's wedding in 3 days. I just bought a bridal corset when I tried on my corset it fits great, the problem is it has a crease under the breast part of the corset is there anyway to get the crease out? I have looked everywhere for a answer to this question I really need some help fast I don't want to have a big bump there on the day of the wedding. I really don't know what to do.
Thank You,

Hi Melissa,
Corset bras don't normally support a bust size larger than a C. If this is your problem, you need to get an under garment that will support your bust better.  

added August 2009

I'm altering a gown that fits almost perfectly and it needs to be done in 2 days! The bride is a very hourglass figure. The bagginess is in the back. The neck to the shoulder blades is fine and from the waist to the hip is fine, but the curvy area in the middle is too big! It's all princess lines. Will taking in the middle of the princess lines on either side of the zipper fix this? I don't want to change the zipper line at all because it fits fine at the top and at the bottom.

Thanks, Rebecca

Hi Rebecca,
That depends. Does she have a flat butt? If you can pin the princess seams and that looks good, you can do it there. Usually, it needs to be done on the side seams to keep the gown symmetrical. Taking in the princess seams usually pulls the sides back and may misalign them. I try to avoid changing the zipper seam because it often creates more problems than it solves.
Depending on how the wrinkles on her butt are facing it might mean the dress is actually too tight in this area, or she has a longer butt than the average bride. This situation needs to have the side seams let out in the hip area to drop that section of the dress down so it lays smooth over the butt.
If you do decided to try the princess seam, don't trim anything until you try the dress back on your bride to be sure it looks good.

added July 2009

I am attempting to take in a strapless bridesmaid dress that dips down quite low in the back. It needs to be taken in approximately 1” on each side.  I am trying to use the side seams solely, however, I’m afraid to cut down the top of the front part of the bodice piece to much for fear of the bridesmaid’s bust peeking out the side!   What is the best solution for this

Hi Kate
There are a few things I do for this situation depending on what the dress design will let me do. The easiest is to do the alteration at the back princess seam instead of the side. This pulls the side over the breast area making it more covering. 

added May 2009

image image


Hi Leanna,

  You do hvae a wonderful website that has seemed to help many brides for at ease.  I wanted some alteration advice from you.  I have  Maggie Sotero gown seen here-

When I initially tried it on it was too big, but they ordered it in my size (a 4) and in petite to help with the length.  I was fairly upset after my first fitting because I was under the impression that the smaller size would fix some of the issues I had with it.  Attached are two pics from my first fitting.

I want to know if I would be able to shorten the torso some.  I am only 5 feet tall and I am wearing shoes in this pic, but I am wearing low heels (maybe like 1.5-2 inches).  I just feel like the dress is losing the effect of the flowing/flared part because she has to hem like 4 in off she said.  I thought if the torso was shortened, the flare part would start higher up like on the model picture (I know you can't always go by a model).  But do you get what I mean?  I though when the dress was in my size and petite that this would be fixed but I guess I forget how short i am!

The other issue is that the bustline sort of "floats" off of my chest.  The line under the bust does not touch my skin because the dress is backless, so my breasts so sort of jsut hanging in there.  She was going to sew in bra cups, but I didn't think this was going to help so I am going to find a backless strapless and I hope it fills it out more.  But do you have any suggetions with how I could get the bust to lay flatter against me?  The seamstress just didn't seem ti understand what I was talking about.  She said the only thing that could be done was to take the back in, which I though was sort of unreasonable.  Is the dress too intricate to take the cups in?

I hope that everything I said makes sense and I hope that you can offer me some guidance!  I am really worried now and told the seamtress not to touch the dress until I go back in to get the alterations just right.  I need to go back in better prepared this time.  Thank you!


I do get what you are saying. You have two issues that I'll try to answer one by one.

First - it is a very involved job to shorten the torso for this style of design. If you try to raise the middle at the seam under the bustline you throw off everything. The hips, waist and zipper area will all need to be reshaped creating a lot of work that your seamstress my not know how to do. BUT - there seems to be a seam around your knee area where the bottom flounce might be able to be raised. I'd need to see this from inside the dress, but I have done this type of alteration before to hem a dress and though it's more difficult than hemming at the bottom, it's not any where near as hard as raising it at the empire seam.  

Second - the floating bust. Due to the plunging back there is just no support to the front in the design. A long line bra should help to get your bustline looking better but it can't do much for the dress. You can take in the back to help this, but that will change the plunging line of the back to the point that you might no longer like it. There is a type of tape you can get to stick the front of the dress to your skin but I don't think that will get the look and feel you are going for. The model in the picture you sent is doing a couple of things to look so good. She is pushing her boobs into the front of the dress and arching her back a little. Not so much that it looks funny though. I tell my brides that these dresses are designed to make you look your best, but to accomplish that you need to learn how to stand with the posture the dress needs. Think of it as squeezing your shoulder blades together. This automatically sets your bustline in a flattering way. I know this feels really odd, but once you try it, I'm sure you will start seeing this dress in a different light.

added December 2008

Thank you for your helpful website. 

I was wondering what kind of dresses require a corset bra? My dress is strapless and I'm an A-cup, so I was just going to alter my dress to make it fit tight with cups underneath. 
Also, my dress has three bands of crystal beads around the bodice, and because it needs to be sized down along the sides, some of these will have to be hand-picked out and resewn in the process. My seamstress is saying that it will take 5-8 hours, at $30/hour. So it could come out to be $250 - is that worth it? The dress itself was very cheap because I got it as a sample (Paloma blanca), so it hurts to think that I would have to spend so much. 

Regards, Myun

Wearing a bra is up to you. For an A cup, you should not need a bra, but if you want one you can wear one with any type of dress.
The question of wether the $250 is worth it or not is up to you. The price of the dress has nothing to do with the work needing to be done. An expensive dress or a cheap one that does not fit may need the same work and it will take the same amount of time to do and cost the same. The question is if it is worth it to you to have a well fitted dress.

added January 2008

I came accross your website while looking for an answer to my problem. I am getting married in April. My mother and I have made my wedding gown. It is an A "frame" dress, with or with out straps, I will wear it with. I am Very large (40 DD) I feel like the dress is too tight on my chest, my mom says it looks fine. I am wondering just how tight it should be. It isn't unbearable. but it is a little restrictive. I dont want it too loose, but I do have a little tiny bit of side boob showing. How hard will it be to add small side vents, just a little breathing room. Maybe a half inch to and inch each side. This is probably totally confusing to you, but any helf you can offer would be great. Thank you for your time.


If you only need a half inch then just let out the side seam 1/4 on each side. That will give you 1/2 inch per seam.

The top should not be too tight. It should rest softly on your neckline without gapping. It should not be bitting into your sides and creating "side boobs". "Too tight" is a matter of how you feel as much as how you look. If you are feeling it is too tight it probably is.

added January 2008

Hello! Just found your site and I have a question about a dress I’m getting ready to order. It seems to have a problem with creasing horizontally at the waist. I tried on an 8 and it was very tight, and the store measured me and thinks I need to order a size 10, and they are confident that this will fix the problem. The boning ends right where it creases. Do you think that, if the larger size doesn’t fix the problem, additional (and longer) boning could be added to fix it? Or is this just not the dress for me?

Thanks so much! Kris

You are very observant to notice the boning. Yes, this is the problem and ordering a larger size will not fix it. I see this often. Designers stop the boning before they should. The only way to fix this is to extend the boning past the creasing point. You might even need to add boning to seams where there is not any. That is a common problem too.

added July 2007

Wow!! This is such a wonderful website. Thank you so much for all your helpful advice. I came to your site after doing a Google search for "alterations shortening bodice," and I've ended up learning so much more. I only wish I had found it sooner! (Even more, I wish I lived in the Cincinnati area!)

I'd love to get your opinion on the fit of my bridal gown and what alterations you'd suggest, but I won''t take offense at all if you're too busy to answer. I'm not having a full-blown "dress nightmare." It's more that it's just not "quite right", and it would be nice to get advice from such a trustworthy source on how to best fix it.

Here's my story: I'm petite (5'4, size ranges from 0-2, with a 24" waist, 32B bust), and at the first fitting, it was decided that all that needed to be adjusted was the length. (That, and a little hunk of lace needed to be reattached, since it was hanging off the dress in the center of the bodice.) But once I got home and saw the pictures my dad took, I didn't think it looked quite right. There seems to be a little fold right below my breasts. Also, the neckline is higher than I expected. Here are a couple pictures: action=view&current=IMG_5318.jpg action=view&current=IMG_5319.jpg

When I described the fitting to a friend of mine, I mentioned how the lace on the sides brushed against my armpits. (And was a little annoying). She immediately concluded that my problem is that the bodice is too long and needs to be shortened. Since she's only 5'0", she has that problem a lot herself. And when I went back and looked at the pictures on the designer's website, it really does look like it's a much lower cut on the model: action=view&current=dress2.jpg action=view&current=dress1.jpg

Now, other people have said that the biggest difference between the way the dress looks on her and the way it looks on me is that she's a lot fuller on top. So it's also been suggested to me that I get cups sewn into the dress. And that they'll make the fold go away. You mention posture as a solution to a lot of problems, but I generally have perfect posture (after breaking my back and wearing a brace for months afterwards in high school), so I don't think that's the problem here. I don't know if it'll help, but here's a third picture of me, in which I'm leaning and you can clearly see how the fabric is holding in the front: action=view&current=IMG_5322.jpg

And here's a pic with a lower-cut neckline, that was taken at my hair- and-makeup trial run: action=view&current=P1010040.jpg

Sorry for sending such a long-winded email. I guess the short version is, what do you think the best approach would be for making the top of the dress fit as well as it should? Shorten the bodice? Sew in cups? Something else? Thank you so much for taking the time to read my question.

Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!

Best regards, Lisa

I would try to cup idea first. Shortening the bodice will be expensive. You do look like your posture is just fine. I do see the point about the model pictures but you can't really judge by that, they get retouched so much that you can't know what is real in a picture.

added June 2007

Came upon you as I searched for an answer to my daughter's problem. Her dress was ordered to "have room to eat and dance" and with the expectation, stated, that she planned to GAIN 5 pounds. (She is very small, too small?) Well, she actually was unable to gain the weight, but alas, when the dress arrived it seemed to fit exactly so it's a good thing she didn't gain the weight. The problem is, it is puckered in the corset bodice. It isn't too tight there, she can put her hand down. First they said it was from the beading, that all dresses would do that, but she put on the one she had originally tried on, and it didn't do it. When she leans over (like when she went to try on shoes) and then stood up, it remained very wrinkled in the bodice, the material was actually overlapping. Can this be fixed? It is a very reputable shop, and I am sure they will do everything they can, but I just need to know if it an be fixed. They wedding is only 6 weeks away, so I don't think ordering a new one is possible. They also made it a little to short, she tried on with 3 1/8 healed, stated on her card and they agree, and asked for it to the floor. As she said, so what if it gets dirty, she's never wearing it again and that is what she likes. It came in to fit 2 1/2 heals, not to the floor. She's not happy, but that she can live with. The bodice problem, no. Many thanks for your help, you are a god send to people needing this advice.

I need to see the gown on the bride to give you a good answer but my guess is that it might need more boning.

As for the hem, gowns should never touch the floor. It's a tripping hazard. A gown should be 1" up from the floor for comfortable walking. Brides should be able to feel confident when they walk and not have to be bothered by the feeling that they either have to grab the gown front with their hands to hold it up, or that it is brushing their toes and giving them an unstable feeling. It sounds to me like her hem is correct. If she wants it to touch the floor for her pictures all she has to do is bend her knees a tiny bit when the picture is taken. The rest of the day she will have walking ease with it being a little bit off the floor.

That said, the bride is the decider here. If she wants her gown to touch the floor I do it that way.

added May 2007

Dear Leanna,

I have read your entire website and I want to thank you for sharing such a wealth of information! If only I lived closer to you so I could hire you to work on my dress.

I have an Allure style 8308, which features an elaborate cut lace overlay (I think it's stitched onto organza?) with a long train. Here are some pictures, but they don't really do justice to the lace:

A close up of the lace on the train:

And the bodice: (Note: the real dress doesn't wrinkle like that in the middle. I'm clipped into a bigger size.)

When the dress arrived, the bodice fit me PERFECTLY. The bottom, however, was very big, which confuses me because I'm usually a two on top and a six or eight on the bottom in street sizes, and this is a size eight in "bridal dress" size. On the model, the dress seems to be more form-fitting around her hips and bottom, and only flare out mid thigh. My dress lies in folds around my hips. Could they have made a mistake?

It's also several inches too long -- even in really high heels (which I really wouldn't want to wear to my wedding -- I'm not a super-high heel kind of gal) I'm going to need hemming. This concerns me because the scalloped hem makes me think this is going to be a major undertaking -- that I will have to take apart the dress at the horizontal hip seam/band and lift it from there. And since the skirt already seems too full, will that make it even fuller? How can you "take in" such ornate lace? I'm also concerned that this will double the cost of the dress. (I was quoted $500 for shortening alone).

Finally, if all this works out, how would you recommend bustling a dress like this? I bought it because I was so in love with the lace, so I would want to show it as much as possible, but I'm worried that an "outside" bustle might tear the delicate fabric?

I would be so grateful for any advice you have to offer. Thank you so much for your website. It's been a real education.


It's not a good idea to go by the model pictures. You don't know how they pinned her into the dress or touched them up after the photo session. It shouldn't be difficult to take in the hip area if that's what you need.

In the picture you can see a band that separates the scalloping bottom lace from the skirt lace pattern. I would do the ham by moving the scalloping lace up by this band. I suspect that when the gown is the correct length, the folding at the hips will smooth out because the whole skirt can drop down.

The Bustling I do has stays under each point to support the fabric. I've never had a bride report that her delicate lace tore in one of my bustles. I can't say how your people will bustle the gown, but I'm sure they have some understanding of the situation with the lace. Polyester Organza is a rather strong fabric though it is shear. You will probably need what I call a Pick-up bustle with the shape of the train. Though this is usually done with one point, it can be done with 2 close together points to support the lace better.

added May 2007

Hi Leanna, your website is very informative and I am hoping you can advise me. My dress is 2 piece, strapless and the bodice is beaded and fastens with a zip at the back. It fits perfectly but makes my bust look very saggy. It is boned under each bust from the waist upwards, but the boning stops underneath the bust. There is then one piece of boning in the middle that goes from the waist all the way up to the top.

Not only does it make my bust look saggy, but there is a horizontal crease running along under my bust. If I pull tightly on it this (either upwards or downwards) it disappears.

The seamstress says it is because the boning ends under the bust and there is nothing she can do. Have you ever come across anything like this before and can you suggest anything? I am really disappointed as the dress in every other way is perfect.

Hoping you may have a suggestion…

Many Thanks

Your seamstress is correct that part of the problem is the boning stops below the bust. It is supposed to continue to the waist. Boning has to have something to push against to do it's job. It can't support if it stops below the bust because there is nothing there it can push against. Your seamstress is incorrect that there is nothing that can be done, she just doesn't know what to do or how to do it.

I have worked on gowns like this many times and find that adding boning to the area from the neckline to the waist will help to fix the problem. Often, it needs to go past the waist to avoid a buckling at the waist. Sometimes I put it on the lining layer and sometimes on the interfacing or even the fashion fabric layer. It depends on what I determine to be best for the gown I'm working on. Not all gowns are constructed the same way so I can't tell you exactly how to do this, but I can tell you it can be done and will help fix the problem.

The other thing the bride needs to do is stand with correct posture. The bride's power to help her gown look perfect by using correct posture is immense. You have probably read what I have to say on this subject on the site. I have many references to it in many places. It's often not talked about because it's not politically correct to tell a bride she is slouching, but it is so very important to get a correct fit.

I hope this helps your situation,

added May 2007

Hi, Leanna,
My daughter bought a lovely wedding dress for her upcoming 5/27 wedding from a store selling used bridal gowns. We liked the idea of reusing gowns (environmentally friendly) and of course, it was a lot cheaper. The owner had been in business a long time and also did the alterations. All well and good.

However, we bought the dress in December. It needed the bodice taken in and a bustle added. When my daughter went for the second fitting in March, the owner had decided to retire in April. My daughter told her she thought the bodice was still a bit loose but the owner said it was fine. She said she would finish the bustle and iron the dress before her retirement. However, when my daughter went to pick it up, the owner said she should not try it on because it had been pressed and would wrinkle. Not knowing any better, my daughter took it home.

I went for a visit last weekend and we decided to try it on because she wanted to see how the jewelry looked and how the bustle worked.
Problem 1: It's a dress with skinny straps that can be worn with the dress or tucked in. My daughter wants to wear it strapless. We got a corset bra as it still seemed a little loose and that helped a lot. However, when my daughter shrugs her shoulders, she feels as if she will come out of the top of the dress. There's also a wrinkle line across the front under the bust when she wears it without the straps - it disappears when the straps are worn up. What sort of fabric glue or tape can we get to make her feel more secure and perhaps take care of the wrinkle? Where do we get it?

Problem 2: We didn't know about different types of bustles. The one that the owner put in is a single button on the center back seam about six inches below the waist and there are three loops to hook it up (one center and one on each side). When we did it up, we didn't like the effect at all - you just see three big folds. However, when I hold it up at waist height, the effect is much better - there is more room for the fabric to drape gracefully. I'm thinking of getting your DVD so I can see how to redo it right. Can I get it in time? Is there anyway to call you to expedite that?

Thank you so much for your website - very, very helpful. I only wish I had found it earlier! I really think we will be okay if I can get some glue or tape for the top of the dress and figure out how to change the bustle. I would be happy to go to another seamstress, but I don't think there is time at this point. If I saw the DVD, I think I could redo the bustle myself - I will be glad to pay extra for faster shipping. Thanks so much, Jean Myers

Tape or glue won't help much for the neckline. Strapless gowns need to be supported from the waist and held up with boning. Trying to support it from the top is a loosing battle. You can add more boning to the front seams of the bodice. This is a common problem for D cup or larger ladies. The gown is not designed to support. It is also not designed to allow a bride to shrug her shoulders. The gown will look best when you use good posture. I really do think designers do this on purpose so a bride has to stand with good posture so she will look her best for the pictures. It's not something you can possibly do all day long, so think of it the most when you are taking the pictures. If the gown is properly supported with boning, she will not fall out of the gown even if she feels that way. If she has never worn a strapless gown before she needs to get used to this feeling.

You mentioned that she felt the top was too big. I often get this from brides who have never worn strapless gowns. It really needs to be a tiny bit on the loose side at the top neckline so you can breathe. I really hate the look you get when you try to make the top tight. It creates bags of flesh at the sides of the arms that is not lovely. It can even create these bags (sometimes known as "back fat") at the neckline in the back. The top of the gown should lay softly on the neckline, not cutting in or gaping when the bride stands with good posture.

I'm having trouble visualizing your bustle situation. I can't say if the DVD will answer your question. Can you send me a picture of her in the gown?

Hi, Leanna,
Thank you so much for your response. From what you say, I think the problem may be that this gown was made with tiny straps that are supposed to be able to be tucked in to wear it strapless, but the top does not have boning, if I remember right. So my daughter may have to decide between feeling really secure with the straps up or tucking them in and having to be much more careful about how she moves in the dress.
I did attach a few pictures of her in the gown to my first e-mail, but I will resend them in case you didn't get them the first time.
Thanks again for being so helpful :) Jean

I see the problem now - The waist seam is an empire. Typically they do not put boning in these correctly. If it's there at all it comes to just below the breast and stops. This is absolutely no help to keep the bodice up. You either need to add boning to the front and back princess and side seamlines, from the neckline to her natural waist - or she needs to wear the straps.

In a pinch, you can sew the top of her corset bra to the neckline of the gown. This will act like what they should have designed into this gown in the first place and hold it up.

added May 2007

Hello Leanna,

I have purchased a beautiful gown. All it needs is a slight hem, bustling, the cap sleeves shortened - and the torso is a bit too long for my body. It bunches up under my arms. There is beading under the arms, and it's a few layers thick. Is it complicated/expensive to have the armhole lowered (I don't mind if the beading under the arms is taken off)? It would only need to be done so for 1/4-1/2 an inch.

Sincerely, Amanda

It's really hard to answer this question without seeing the dress. For some gowns this might be not a big deal, but for most I have worked on this year it would be a great pain. If it makes it easier, loosing the beading under the arm might not be a bad thing. I have had several brides not like beads there where they rub on your arm.


I just purchased a dress from a bridal shop that I'm a bit weary about. Please refer to link:
I'm actually a bride not a bridesmaid. I purchased this dress (white on white) because I'm getting married in Maui next year and I did not want anything too fancy for a beach ceremony. However, the sample size I tried on in the store was ridiculously big. It was an 8 and according to the saleswoman, that's the size my measurements fell under. I have a very large chest (34DD) and a petite frame. This dress will need to be taken in at least two inches up top to adequately support my chest. Do you recommend boning for the dress to help support my chest or do you think I will be fine with alterations and sticky tape?

Yours Truly, Tiffany

This gown should come with boning already in it because it's strapless. You may like to add more, but that should not be necessary. You will need a bra to give you enough support. The dress should only support itself, not you. Some ladies who are a C cup or smaller can get away with the boning that the dress offers for support for they need little, but anyone larger than that needs to plan on the extra support a bra will give.

The bridal store has to order for the largest measurement and that's probably your bust. The parts that are too big get taken in. Since the dress is simple you should not have any problems getting this altered.

added March 2007

Hi, and HELP! I found your site while searching the internet for some ideas on padding the bustline of my wedding dress. I started reading your posts and the very first one is EXACTLY what I need for my other problem with my dress. I bought my dress off the rack last November (it fit perfectly and didn't need any alterations), but have since gained 5 pounds that just won't go away. Our wedding is just over 2 months away and I'm panicking! I absolutely LOVE your idea of lacing up the back like a corset. I am a sewer myself and can do this, however, I do have a question about the bust padding. My dress is backless, so obviously, I won't be able to wear a bra. My problem is that I am rather flat chested and do not fill out the top of the dress. When I tried on the dress at the bridal salon, I did not realize this was a problem because I was wearing a rather heavily padded bra. I tried sewing some pads in the bust, but it looked ridiculous. What do you normally do in this situation?

Thanks for any help! Janet

I get my pads from Banasch's Wholesale by the dozen. They have the normal ones that are slightly padded and the push-up type. You should be able to get pads from your local fabric store one pair at a time. If you can't find any you can try raglan style shoulder pads. They can be cut down to fit your space if they are too long or wide.

added February 2007


I had my strapless gown fitted and when I am standing up, it feels fine. After two fittings the seamstress and the salesperson never told me to SIT in the dress however, and I never thought of it. It has boning up the sides and a natural waist. When I sit, I am in pain! It seems to ride up too high and squeezes the daylights out of me. I am not a big girl, am 5' 7" and 130 lbs. but its very uncomfortable. Is there anything that they can do that would help? I want to look beautiful but I don't want to suffer all night when I sit, or have to stand up all night to be comfortable...!! Would the corset back idea that you had used on other brides work for this dress?

Thanks so much in advance, Nancy

We don't routinely have brides sit in their dresses. I have a couch in my dressing room. Brides often sit on it after they have put on their dresses to more easily put on their shoes. I have not had a bride discover that her dress feels uncomfortable while doing this.

Can you give me more details? You said there is boning in the sides - does that mean it is pinching you under the arms when you sit?

No, it seems to push everything up and makes me feel like I can't know when they talk about the old victorian corsets and that the women would pass out? Well, it's pretty near that feeling...ugh....We did a very small wedding already where I wore the dress, just with 3 of our closest friends but we are planning to have a second ceremony where we invite our kids and all the family and all of our friends this summer and I am dreading wearing the dress....I have a photo I can send you if it will help, but it doesn't look bad or anything...When I sat in the limo, I felt like the whole bodice of the dress was riding UP and squeezing me way too tight.....I don't know any other way to describe it....not pinching under the arms, and I am not fat under there or really anywhere, its just tight....and UNCOMFORTABLE!!

Thanks in advance for any help or ideas you can give me! Nancy

If you are uncomfortable to the point of tears don't wear the boned dress. There's nothing wrong with wearing the original one. It was the one you wore for the real ceremony and that makes it special.

I have recently bought a boned corset and am getting used to wearing it. It does have the metal boning strips. By nature, they do ride up when you sit down. There is nothing you can do about it but get used to it. I can well imagine that is why they went out of style.

Most wedding gowns are not boned that severely though and they don't usually ride up. Also, the boning is usually plastic that has some give to it. If the gown does have the multiple strips like in historical corsets and they are of metal, you can replace them with the plastic kind and even remove some. The important seams that do need to have the boning are the princess seams, both front and back, and the side seams. Any extra strips in between these can be removed.

added February 2007


I purchased my gown last summer, broke my ankle in the fall, and now I’ve gained a LOT of weight from sitting around waiting for my ankle to heal! I used to be a runner and continued to eat that way even when I was stuck on the couch, so all those carbs went to my waist.

My wedding is in August and my foot will finally be healed, but no running again until May or June. I don’t want to be unhealthy about losing the weight and starve myself, and I am now 3” bigger in my waist and my dress no longer fits.

It’s an Angelina Faccenda, natural silk, and my bridal shop claims it is absolutely impossible to let out at all. I’m sure there are exceptions, but… I want to prepare for the worst. Have people ever added a corset tie-up back to a dress, and removed the buttons? Leaving space between each side seems like it would give me the extra room and fit me again I would imagine…

What do you think? How much does that generally cost, or what would you guess that would cost? Do you think it would work?


I just did exactly what you are describing a few weeks ago for a pregnant bride. It worked very well and she was very pleased.

A picture is at:

Awesome… maybe I can have that done too. I know it would vary with every dress, every seamstress, and every situation, but what did you charge to do that? I just want to get a rough idea... J

Thanks! Nicole

This dress was $60.00, plus materials. Since it was the first time I had done this and a bit of a learning experience for me, I did not charge her what I will in the future. It will be more like $80 or $90, plus materials.

Awesome… totally doable. Thanks

This alteration was actually the bride's idea. Before this experience I would gusset the side seams. That's an often difficult task that can end up being quite expensive. One dress I did was over $200. I wish I had thought of the lacing thing long ago. It's such a neat solution and very in style right now.

For the dress in the picture I used bias tape on the inside to cover the loop backs so it would not be scratchy for the bride's back. Something you might like to mention to whoever ends up sewing this for you.

added January 2007

I have just found your wonderful and informative website. I am merely a friend of the bride, but I do sew. I went with her for her 5th fitting. THe wedding is now 10 days away and the dress doesn't fit. I'm interested in your opinion on this.

This girl is very petite (probably a zero in regular clothing) but has implants. She is quite full busted for a tiny girl. She told the store owner and salespeople that while she might want cleavage at other times, she wanted to be modest and covered at her wedding. The store owner told her that the strapless gown she had picked could be ordered with a bigger cup size and was ordered in a size 6. When it came in, at the initial fitting, the dress was huge, but her breasts did fit into the cups of the corset bodice. All seams are boned. After the initial alteration (in which no measuring was done, no pinning...I don't know if this is usual but none was done) she could not even zip the dress. The seamstress said "oh, I forgot you had large breasts." In addition, she was told after this that the designer of this dress does NOT offer cup sizes as some of them do.

The problem now is that the dress has been let back out, the bust seams adjusted and her breasts are popping out. THe bodice is just too short to pull up and cover her bustline. The only suggestion I can see (due to the beading on the dress-no sash to cover a seam with) is to take the size 10 bodice from the sample and fit it to her bust, then attach it to the skirt of the gown. Is this a realistic possibility? This girl has so many other details she is stressing over. I hate for this to be another one--and it's a big one for sure! Any enlightenment you can give would be great. Is it just an impossibility to fit an implanted bustline with a strapless sweetheart neckline?

Thanks so much, Debbie

Your suggestion of altering the size 10 bodice is a workable one but I doubt you can get them to do it. It will be a lot of work and I'm even doubtful if she has the knowledge to do it.

It's not usual to have no pinning. It's hard to pin when seams are boned but I do it anyway.

I'm one of those people that just can't think anything is impossible, there are just options that you may not like to take. If the alterations were done without cutting the seams as it should have been, it must be fixable without starting over with another bodice. Do you have pictures of her in the dress you can send me?

Hi Leanna,
Thank you so much for your quick response!! I spoke to the bride and her mother this afternoon after they met with the owner of the bridal salon. The owner looked at the dress on the girl and agreed that it was "absolutely unacceptable". They did not want to take the size 10 bodice to use so the bride has picked out another dress from the floor samples. They are going to have it cleaned and then alter it. I didn't get to see it on her so I don't know how much alteration it might need but I do know that she said she is covered adequately. I wish I had pictures to send as I am now interested to see what you would have suggested. (Its the sewist in me I guess). I hope the bridal salon is willing to credit them for the original dress which they seemingly messed up. Don't know about that yet but they did finally and reluctantly give them a nice break on the price of the new sample dress. I do know this....I have two daughters to go thru this with at some point in the future and I am bookmarking your website to remember you by when my time comes to go through this! Where are you located? Anywhere near central Florida? Thanks again for your answer and willingness to advise!!

Giggles, no, I'm in Cincinnati Ohio - A bit far from Florida.

Glad to hear things will work out for her and that the store is doing the right thing. I get so many letters about sad situations. It's very encouraging to know that there are some good bridal salons out there!

added October 2006

Hi Leanna – I have a quick question for you… I’m going to need to have the top of the bust taken out a little bit. Is this easy to do, and how expensive should it be. Here is a picture of my dress.

Thank you, Michele







I'd need to see the gown on you to tell exactly. In the picture it fits the model well. I need to see where it is fitting wrong to determine where the alteration will be done in the top. It can be done at the sides, back or from the Princess seams. Each place has different things that need to be done to get the alteration right and the boning at each place is going to have to be adjusted. It can cost anywhere from $40 not $80 depending on all these things.

I’m a size 16, and the problem I’m having is the let say… “extra skin” (J) is bulging out from my under arms. I know… sounds attractive doesn’t it!! Not to mention, I am big busted. Sorry. Does that give you a better idea?

Thanks, Michele

I totally misunderstood you! Yes, it is doing that because it is too tight. Usually there is some room in the side seams to let out a little. You don't need much to make the situation better. But I think it will still be no less than $40 for the alteration.

added July 2006

Hi, your site is really great and helpful! I do have a question actually. I am very small chested and when I got measured for my dress the charts said the bust would put me in size 4, but the waist in size 10! Now I tried the 10 on in the store and it was very big on me. The store said they feel most comfortable ordering the 10 though and that they can take it in in the bust area. I'm just wondering if that's really true that they can take in the bust that far without ruining it. It's a strapless sweetheart dress.
Thanks! Julie

Most anything can be taken in. It may cost you more than you are wanting to pay, but it can be done. You're implied question of will it look good depends on the skills of your alteration specialist.

They are wanting to order the 10 because they do not want the opposite problem of it coming in too small. That's a problem you really DO NOT want.

added July 2006

Your site is wonderful. I had no idea what to expect but now it is much clearer.

I had a question for you. My gown has a corset and an attached full skirt. The corset however is a little loose (I'm worried I'm going to fall out) and I'm not sure what the best thing to do would be. The top half of the back of the corset has the lacing showing, so I really want it to not be tied as tight as it can be. Would it be better to have the loops for the lacing taken under the sides of the corset edges or to have the corset altered? The corset has some beading on it, but I would not be crushed if it overlapped a little.

Thank you, Amy

For any bodice fitting issue I look at the side seams first. If I can solve the problem by taking in or letting out the side seams, it's best for the dress' symmetry. I very much agree with your idea that you should not simply pull the lacing tighter. That would totally close the lacing gap and destroy the design element.

I'm sure that the side seams can be taken in, but if for some reason they are not (like ruining the beading design) or your seamstress thinks it easier to take in the lacing seams, that is an ok solution too.

added July 2006


I was reading all of your wonderful advice and I thought I’d write to you with my own question. I recently had a fitting for my wedding gown. It is a strapless A-line. My problem is that I feel it doesn’t fit me properly in the bodice. It makes my breasts appear pointy and I’d rather them be naturally rounded. The dress is flush with my skin at the top, then it “peaks” right over the breasts and there is actual space there where it does not touch my skin. Then, it becomes flush with my skin again lower down.

In addition to me not liking the look of it, I also do not like the way it feels because it doesn’t feel like it’s conforming to my body.

The dress is plenty tight, there’s no room to take it in on the sides, it’s just this strange gap right over the breasts. I thought it maybe had something to do with the boning being too stiff and poking out, but the seamstress said that if she took it out, the dress would sag.

Do you have any advice that I can suggest at my next fitting?

Thank you very very much! Sincerely, Kathleen

It sounds like the breast darts are too big. Darts are funny things. If you take them IN they actually make the space for the breast larger and pointier instead of smaller. It's tricky to let them out though and I am sure you need the seam sewn in an arch, not a straight line, so you will get a more rounded shape for the breast to fit into. You said the sides fit. This may change after the darts are resewn and need to be taken in.

It's really hard to guess what is wrong without seeing you in the dress. I may be totally wrong, but see what your seamstress thinks about this idea.

added March 2006

Hi, My name is Katie Long, and I live in Norfolk, VA. I’m getting married this year on November 18, and I still have not ordered my gown yet. But I do have one in mind, but am concerned about the alterations I want to be done to it….your website seems very knowledgeable so I wanted to email you to ask your opinion.

I found this dress that is pretty inexpensive (around $600), that is a two piece. It is a mimic of another dress that’s around $2500 that I fell in love with. Here’s the $600something:

I love how it fits, when I put it on, the waist fits and the only alteration will need to be the hem and most likely the curved seams coming from the bottom of the strap down to the waistline. (taken in about 1/2in.) The problem is that I want to replace the lace on the bodice. The lace looks really cheap, and I have gone to the fabric store and picked out an affordable alternative lace, with a medium amount of beading on it. The factory bodice lace is beadless – and sewn into every seam, and then afterward, they’ve hand-sewn small seed beads into the flowers in the lace that is stitched through the lace layer, and loops through the top satin layer Only of the bodice.

Being sort of crafty, but not nearly someone who can perform alterations, I think that taking off the top lace layer (including the beading they’ve added) and placing my chosen lace onto the bodice, then reassembling it how it was is totally possible. The woman whose shop I was in (small shop, only location) was saying that my lace would have to be hand sewn onto the bodice because the machine won’t do well with the beading etc and that it’s really tedious and etc etc. It seems to me you could just un-seam the all columns of the bodice, cut the new lace by the pattern the old lace was in, and replace it and sew it back up.

What would you do in this situation? You seem really experienced and honest and up front. The woman said that with the dress (at around 600), hemming, and the change I want, I’d be looking at $1000 when alls said and done. So, $400 alteration basically because it starts turning into custom work pretty much – she used to do strictly custom but has moved away from it. And I have not seen any of her custom work so I’m not able to gauge her skill level. But the lace I want to use is nice and wide@ 36”, and the pattern is not linear/does not require it to be laid a certain way. The scallop edge at the waistline would be very easy to do if all pieces were cut from the side of the lace fabric right?

I have searched high and low and online for about a month now and nothing else has this type of skirt with a halter that is low except $1200 dresses etc which I’m trying not to spend.

It’s either do these changes to this dress or bite it and spend $1740 before alteration on a couture gown I can get a deal on in NC.

Please give me your professional honest opinion, as someone who has been doing this a long time; something makes me think I’m not the first nor last bride ever to want to do this~! J

Thank you so much for even reading this far – any info you can give me is worth so much!


You have everything very well thought out and you have communicated with your sewing professional well. Her pricing for this type of work is very reasonable and she sounds competent. I did not see a price for the lace you will be purchasing. Pre-beaded lace is usually rather expensive. Once you factor that in it could raise your estimate considerably.

It comes down to how you envision the gown with the new lace. Some brides can't imagine these things well. Sounds like you can.

I would not bother opening all the seams. I would simply cut the original lace off neatly as close to the seam as possible, taking care to not cut the underfabric. Once all off, I would simply hand sew on the new lace, applique style, over the original seams. This will cover any tiny bits of old lace that might remain and make a very nice, seamless look. Done carefully, this can be very beautiful.

I wish you the Best!

added April 2006


I've got a real problem with my wedding dress and wonder if you've got any advice. My dress has arrived in the shop and I went to try it on last week, but bizarrely it's too short in the torso for me i.e. when the waist of the dress sits on my waist, the top of the dress is about 3/4 of an inch below my bust. It's really uncomfortable, looks like it's falling down and as it is a strapless dress I also feel like it's constantly falling down !

I was nervous about having a strapless dress anyway and the shop assistant assured both me and my parents numerous times that once the dress fits around the waist it would be totally secure and couldn't possibly slip down. She didn't mention anything about it being even remotely low cut. I'm a tall size 8/10 and their stock dress was a 16 or 18 I think and I didn't noticed any problem in the torso length on it at all. The back has also turned out to be really low cut, which I don't like and I think it adds to the lack of support at the front.

I don't know what to do!!

When I hold the dress up where I need it to be around the bust, the waist is too high and can't support the weight of the dress (its pretty heavy). In fact at that height the waist cuts into my ribs and I can hardly breathe.

I've got 8 weeks to go until my wedding and I don't really know how to move forward with this. I can't afford to buy another dress. Would I be able to get a refund for this kind of problem ?

Thanks !

PS if anything i've lost weight since buying it, not gained any - so I can't imagine what the problem is!

If you took the dress from the store and it is paid for they will not be willing to return it and give you a refund. I can see how the 4 size difference between you and the stock dress might have created this problem, but it should not have happened. This dress should be fitting you wonderfully.

Did you plan to have the store do your alterations? What the lady told you so far is true. Strapless dresses are supported from the waist and it is often an odd feeling to a bride if she has never worn one before. You do have a naked feeling in the neck area. Many brides ask me to tighten it at the top to hold it up and I have to explain that it doesn't work that way with a strapless. It really needs to fit on your neckline as if it is just resting on your skin. To tighten it creates ugly bulges near the arms and at the top edge in the back. Many brides feel that they are showing too much cleavage because when they look down they see more than when a person standing in front looking at them sees.

I can't tell if this is what you are feeling or if the dress is too short in the bust length. Maybe you are feeling uncomfortable because you are not used to the way a strapless bodice feels and when you look at it you see way more at your neck than you are comfortable with.

Let me ask you a few things -
When the dress is on and the waist of the dress is at your waist, does your breast fit into the curve of the bodice where it is supposed to? Or, in order to have the breast curve sit correctly for your curve, do you have to push up the bodice? I'm trying to figure out if the problem is between the waist and the breastline or if it is above the breast, or below the waistline. Am I making sense?

There are various things that can be done depending on exactly where the the problem is.

Thanks for your email.

I had to pay for the dress in full when I placed the order but I've not taken it from the shop yet as I'm not happy with it. Yes, I had been
planning on having the fitter from the shop do the alterations. I met her the day I tried on the dress and she tried to pin me in so that the dress was firmer around the waist, but I still didn't feel that it fitted me no matter how tightly she pinned it because it was so low at the top.

When the waist of the dress is sitting properly on my waist, the curve of my breast is above the curve of the dress, so for my breasts to sit properly and comfortably against the curve of the dress I have to push the dress up. However, when I do this the zip no longer closes at the back (and of course the waist is out of position and the waistline presses on my ribs uncomfortably).

It is true that I'm not used to wearing strapless dresses, but the reason I felt comfortable buying this one was because the sample dress I tried on did feel very snug and well supported when I was pinned into it and I understood what the saleswoman was saying. Somehow this dress just doesn't feel secure as that one did. I think part of the problem is that the back of this one has turned out to be very low cut. When I tried on the sample dress that was far too big for me it covered much more of my back and really held me into the dress. Without that support the dress really does hang exclusively on the waist. That leaves me with the real problem that I've outlined above. I had no idea that the back was so lowcut because the sample dress was so big that when it was pinned in I didn't realize it wouldn't be the same. Maybe that's naive, but I usually try on clothes in my size, so I'm not used to guessing what they might look like !

When I push the dress up so that my breasts are correctly positioned against the curves of the dress I feel quite happy with the amount of flesh exposed i.e. I feel that I've got a reasonable amount of coverage. It is also a lot more comfortable because the tight line of the top of the dress no longer bites into the softer flesh of my breast, rather it is against my chest. So, if this problem can be resolved then I think I will feel pretty happy with the dress. I've already had a bolero made, so I can wear that in the evening if I do feel overexposed anyway.

I do hope you can suggest something as I'm feeling really panicky about being stuck with a £1000 dress that I can't wear on my wedding day!

Thanks !

It sounds like you needed one size larger and you are long waisted too. Bridal sales people are not trained to notice these things. Neither are you so don't blame yourself.

I would let the seams out so the dress zips when it is set where you feel most comfortable. There should be plenty in the seams for this.

Next something has to be inset into the waist seam to raise the bodice to that comfortable point. I suggest not trying to match the fabric of the dress, but choose something different and design a cummerbund type inset either gathered, pleated or anything you like - open the waist seem and insert this piece to extend the bodice to where the waist seam should have been. You may need to cut off a little more length of the bodice to get this to look natural. You can even drop the waist seam a little and let the newly designed inset sit a small way down the hip curve. I'm a lousy sketch artist, but see attachment.

If you don't like this idea I'll try to come up with something else, but it's really hard not being able to see you in the dress.

Thanks for this. It's helpful and confirms what I was thinking about the size too.

The dress actually already has a sash around the waist, so it might be possible to make that a bit wider and insert material at the waist. I can't see any other way around it. I've got an appointment with a fitter at the shop today, so I'll see if she has any ideas about how to do this.

I've attached a photo of me wearing the stock dress (the big size), which I took when I placed the order for you to see out of interest. If you have any other ideas then it would be great to hear them in case we can't manage the insert.

Many thanks for giving this some thought !

I was assuming that there was a waistline seam. The pictures looks like there might not be. If there is no seam under the ribbon than all you need to do is take in the waist area (which is lower than the waist on the dress) and add boning to the seams inside to force the dress up.

There is a waist seam under the sash, but the fitter I saw doesn't think she can insert material and if she's not confident then I'd rather not try it. We've ended up having to add straps and just have the waist hang an inch above my real waist. It doesn't look great, but I'm not in a position to buy a whole new dress.

I'm in the UK, so I'm afraid that I can't come over and see if you can help me :(

Thanks for the advice anyway!


If she's not confident than it's better she not try it. Adding straps is a great solution. You will feel a bit odd but it will look just fine.

I wish you all the best!

added April 2006

Hi Leanna,

I have been searching for that perfect bridal gown that makes me glow; I vision a soft satin strapless gown, plenty of beading and embroidery along bodice and hem, with a dropped waist to accentuate my waist line. Well I found the gown I love but it is an A-line dress. Am I crazy, or can a larger size dress be ordered and then cut and re-sown with a dropped basque waistline? (I think basque means the 'v' in the waist, am I correct?) Please guide me with your expertise!! Thank you so much!!


This would be very expensive and I'd need to see the gown to tell you if it can even be done. I'd recommend you get a gown that already has the waistline you want. What you are asking for is a design change. I can usually make just about any change needed for fit, but changing design is very different. If there is not enough fabric in the right places under the gown to make the changes you want, I have to think up creative ways to make it happen, and that can be very time consuming and therefore get very costly.

added March 2006

I just tried on my wedding dress for the first time which I ordered a stock size. It’s a halter neck satin dress with a heavily beaded lacing on top. My bust does not fill it out and the boning that covers the bust area is denting and puckering as it’s not being filled out. I do not like the look of the boning on top and the dressmaker has said that we can take out one set of boning on top and then take it in a bit around the bust line which will give it a much smoother look. She also said that because the dress is halter the bones aren’t holding the dress in so this shouldn’t be a problem. I am just worried about losing the nice shape that the dress gives? Can you please let me know if taking out bones will cause a huge problem from your experience?

Thanks so much!

Boning is usually used to support a strapless gown, holding it up. Since you have halter straps, I don't see that you need the boning. Taking it out will not hurt the dress and if you decide that you are loosing shape it can be put back in, or you can try a different type of boning that might not create the denting you don't like.

I hope this helps,

added January 2006

Hi Leanna,

I live in Ireland and bought my dress from an American store. I was responsible for getting measured and ordering the correct size myself using a sizing chart. I ordered the size that fitted my waist but was big for my bust and hips. Now that I have the dress it is *very* big on the bust and I am kicking myself for not ordering a size smaller, I think it would have fitted. I have booked a lady to do my alterations but am worried that taking in the dress so much on the bust will ruin the dress, it is at least 2 or 3 cup sizes to big for me.

Have you had to do this a lot and is taking in the bust so much usually successful ?

Any small bit of advice to put my mind at rest would be appreciated....

Thanks, Siobhan

I try to take strapless gowns in at the side seams if I can. You can take in a good 4 inches that way before the lines start to distort and even at 6 inches, most people wouldn't notice anything has been changed. You can also add a little padding to the bust to smooth out any distortions.

Strapless gowns are not that hard to get fitted well in the bust area. You don't have to worry about arm holes and how the sleeve has to be fitted back into the bodice.

I'm sure your seamstress will make you look lovely!

added June 2005

Hi Leanna. I love your website and have learned a lot from it. Thank you!

I have a question about alterations to the bodice area of a dress. I love a dress I tried on, but am afraid to buy it because I think it might not be able to be altered to fit me properly.

The dress is a strapless mermaid. The part that covers the breast area is covered in lace. The rest of the dress is satin. A seam separates the lace portion from the rest of the dress.

The dress fits except for just under the breast area where it crinkles and sags, and looks as if my upper body is too short for the dress. Everything (bust, waist, hips) fits width-wise. It's the length that is off. It looks like about 1/8" could be removed from just below the bustline area and above the waistline. It's as if the the part of the dress between the waistline and under the bustline is too long.

Can this sort of problem be fixed? The saleswoman told me that my bustline is too long for the bodice, and that going up a size will not fix the problem because the bodice will not be longer in the larger size.

Thanks for your help and thanks again for your website

I think this can be fixed, but it's hard to judge without seeing the dress on you. Have you had trouble with things being long waisted in the past?

The sales lady is wrong - they usually are. A larger size will give you a tiny bit longer bodice. But it probably won't be any better. It sounds like you need a shorter bodice, not a longer one. This can be altered, but it may not be an easy process depending on how the bodice is constructed on the inside. It can be very expensive to make the change.

Are you wearing a bra? Maybe your breasts need support and then the dress will look better.

Most bridal gowns now-a-days are designed so that you have to stand up very straight in them for them to not sag anywhere. This is not always an easy thing to do, but to get the best look that's what the designers are doing. If it's only 1/8" that creating the sag, that is really not worth the trouble of altering. Try standing in the dress and squeeze your shoulder blades together and slightly down and your breast will raise a little. This should make the front look much better.

Hope one of these ideas helps,

added June 2003

I am hoping you have some really great advice for my huge problem.
I am recently engaged and looking to find a wedding dress. My problem is that I am a 36 DD-E. I am 5'10 and about 160...relativly slim... and so my height helps but I am so large and being really discouraged about going out to look. Are there dresses out there that will fit me...can alterations be made to make me look beautiful? Is there a corset or particular strapless bra with underwire that will keep me lifted underneath the dress so that it fits beautifully?
I am particularly looking for a strapless or off the shoulder as I have heard that showing more skin takes away attention from the bust.
Thank you for your time, I hope you have a great solution!


Good News, yes you can look great in a strapless gown! The key is not the bra it's the construction of the gown and it's really not any different for you than for a small busted lady just more important. The support has to come from the waistline which needs to be snug with boning on every seam distributing the support. The neckline should not be tight at all. If it is you get those ugly bunchies at the underarm.

Think of it like a suspension bridge, as opposed to a trapeze. The pillars of the bridge push up while the cables distribute the force evenly. On a trapeze everything is hanging from the top. One great way to ruin your shoulders which need to be relaxed to look pretty. Not to mention the ugly gullies you get from bras that try to support by hanging.

Yes, you are going to need a good bra with underwire support, but when you go shopping for your gown make sure it either has boning on every seam or that your alterationist can add it. Get a size for your bust measurement and have the waist taken in to form the base for the support. You may also need a tuck in the neckline in the front. A good Bridal Salon will be able to help you in this. It might also be a good idea to have your bra to go shopping with because back necklines very a lot. You do not want to alter the bra. That would reduce your support. Go to a store that has good fitting specialists like Victoria's Secret.

Hope this helps!


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