Questioning Before You Order


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There are many things you need to consider before you order your bride or maid's gown. What size to order is a biggie. Many bridal salons pick this for you and don't give you a lot of choice in the matter. If you are dieting or have other issues, this may create a lot of stress for you. Some salons let you order against their recommendations, but will also ask you to sign a waver adding more stress. There's not much I can say in these situations. You have to weigh your options and decide what is the best way to go.

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, Deanne


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.

added October 2010

Hi Leanna,
First of all, your website has taught me much about wedding gowns and alterations. Thank you so much!
I am about to order a Casablanca gown (Style #1827) from a local bridal salon. It's got a lot of lace and some beadings on the top. I stand at 5'2" and my measurement is 32-25-35 (taken by the sale representative). The wedding gown size chart from Casablanca is below:
Size 2 = 33-24-35
Size 4 = 34-25-36
It seems if I order Size 2, I would need to let out the waist. If I order a Size 4, I would need a lot of padding for the bust area and/or alterations to take it in. From the many Q&As on your website, it seems I should order based on the largest measurement, which is my hip size. But since this is an A-line dress, does the hip size matter? If it doesn't, do I follow my bust size or my waist size for a better fit? As this is a low back dress, I'm not sure if I can wear a bra without the strap showing itself in the back. And I don't think diet will shrink my waist down much, although I intend to increase my exercise regimen until my wedding day. I would also like to eat the food at my own wedding.
The sale representative told me it's up to me which size to order, but I'm not sure which size I should order. Do you have any suggestions? Which one should I order to maximize fit and minimize alterations?
Thank you very much for your help! Lindia

Hi Lindia,
There are a lot of factors here. It is generally better to order by the largest measurement, but you are correct in taking in the gown's a line style into consideration. Most brides also like a snug waist, and since this is a strapless neckline, the snug waist might be just fine and not need letting out. If you feel it is too tight, this style of gown does usually have some seam allowance that can be let out. I can't promise this but it is usually true. You could look inside the sample dress at the store to see if the seams are designed for some spare space.   
Though it is generally better to take in than let out - the bustline does get complicated depending on each bride's breast situation. Some do just fine with a little nip at the side seam and others do need padding which brides either love or hate. Some like a little more cleavage for their special day while others think they need to be totally who they really are. Looking at the link you sent this dress should do fine with a little side adjustment depending on your cup situation and the look you are going for.
It sounds like you will have the option of not using a bra. Most size 2 and 4 ladies can skip it. Gowns have plenty of layers in the bust area and many have pads inside too. If you don't need support, you can easily go braless, thus avoiding the back strap problem.  
I think I hit all the questions. Hope this helps.

added September 2010

Dear Leanna

Hi! I am getting married in a year. In order to save costs, I've been shopping online for my bridal party's clothing. I found some lovely options for my Mom. She is a small woman, but she is nevertheless concerned about gaining weight. So instead of buying a dress that is exactly her size, I am looking for something with a little bit of room.

I don't know much about sewing, but I've heard that while it is easier to take in a dress than it is to let it out, I've also heard that if a dress is too big for the woman, it will be more headache (and cost) than it may be worth to take it in. I was looking online for information on "how big is too big", and I happened upon your website.

Given your extensive sewing experience, could you give me some advice about what is too big for my mother?

My mom's self-made measurements are: bust measurement= 34-35, waist= 30. hips= 38-40.{ Inches.}. I've found 3 dress options that my Mom would like. They are size 12, 14 and 16. The manufacturer makes the dresses for women with large busts and narrow waists, so I can't find a dress that would fit my mother perfectly. These are the manufacturers' dimensions for the dresses:







37 1/2

29 1/2

39 1/2

58 1/2





58 3/4


40 1/2

32 1/2

42 1/2


The dresses are also different styles. I'm guessing this might affect how easy they are to alter.

Size 12 dress: is a strapless taffeta dress. I think it is an A line.
Size 14 dress: Has empire waist and bust-fitting tank style top, with square neckline & back, and shoulder straps. It zips at back down to waist.
Size 16 dress: is a satin a-line gown. It has a scoop neckline and a small v-back. The straps have two pleats on front and back. There is a button cover over the zipper to mid-waist.

Assuming she liked all the dresses equally, which size dress do you think I should get for her? Also, I think she likes the size 16 one the most, but I am concerned it will require too many adjustments and that it will be both expensive and difficult to maintain the look of the dress.

What do you think?

Many thanks for your kind advice!

Sincerely, Annie.

Hi Annie, 
With your mom's small bustline I would not order a dress from a site that caters to large busted ladies. You need to be shopping on sites that have normal proportioned dresses. Taking in a waist and hip area is usually a no brainer, but the bust area has special needs. Cup size can really make it hard to alter because you can't always just take in the side seam and have it fit well. You really want to get the best fit there that you can here. And if your mom is slim to begin with I would not be thinking about purposefully buying a larger dress. Your odds of getting a dress that needs nothing done to it is very high because her measurements are very close to being in good proportion. Why plan to pay for alterations when you can get a dress that fits? The alterations could easily take up any money you saved from shopping online.

added August 2010

Hi Leanna;
I am hoping you can help me.  I am a lover of vintage and always dreamed of wearing a vintage dress on my wedding day.  I have bought a good deal of vintage dresses in the past so I know what generally works for me when it comes to sizing.  I was very excited when I found the following dress for sale online with a 44" bust, knowing that would work, but then dismayed to realize it has a 31" waist!
The price is perfect.  I love everything about it; the train, the lace, the ruffles!  Before finding this dress I was considering (strongly!) purchasing a new dress with a vintage feel that will cost me at least $650 before alterations. I have it budgeted at $850 total if I go with the new dress.  I still have that as my "back up plan".   Our wedding budget is small though and I would of course like to save money if possible plus I adore the idea of having a dress that is unique, like the vintage one would be, but I don't know what could be done about the waist issue. Would it end up costing me more than I'd originally planned to spend (or would I end up not saving much at all)?
The waist is 31" and so I need somewhere between 4 to 6" more in the waist.  The bust will be no issue.  In other (new) bridal gowns I have tried on, I fit best in dresses made for someone measuring  42" bust and 35" or 36" in the waist.  A 34" waist fits me snugly.
I was wondering about the feasibility of adding gussets, using some lace from the train to accomplish this?   I wouldn't mind the train missing a tier if need be.  The seller of the dress has told me that there is almost no seam allowance at the waist.   I also thought about a corset lacing back but I don't know if that would ruin the look of this dress (especially with the sheer overlay in back) or if it is even possible.   Will the addition of gussets cause any problems with the skirt ruffles or is that not affected?
Also I was wondering about the zipper; the dress back zipper looks unusually thick/wide to me and I feel a smaller one would be more attractive.  Is that a big deal to swap out?  I could live with the one it has.
If I can do this and still end up under $500 or so (dress is $160 approximately after shipping) then I will go for it but I wanted other opinions first.  Sorry this is so long winded.   I am sending you the link to the dress but I hope no one else sees it as a result and buys it before I make up my mind! :)  Our wedding is March 19th, 2011, so if I plan to order a dress new I have to decide in the next month or two.
Thanks in advance, Sherri
Hi Sherri,
The tiers offer a lot of places to scavenge lace for gussets without hurting the gown at all. A zipper replacement won't change the look of the back at all so it's not worth doing. The only thing you could do is end the zipper at the center back and add buttons and loops through the sheer section up to the neck.
It should not cost more than $400 for alterations in my pricing system but I can't vouch for anyone else's prices. Have you spoken to any one in your area that can do the work? 


I actually love the idea of ending the zipper and then changing it to buttons, since I am in love with buttons up the back of dresses on sheer backs! :)   I was already thinking about that but didn't want to add to the cost if I have to spend a lot just getting it to fit me, since that's my priority.

 I have not spoken to anyone in person because I don't have the actual dress in hand so it is hard.  I have emailed several people though, listed online in my area as seamstresses and/or tailors.  Maybe if that doesn't get me anywhere I will drag my computer with me to someone's shop or home!

One person has responded so far and she was able to give me her thoughts and  ideas (about gussets) and said it could be  done"fairly economically" but didn't give me an actual estimated figure.   

Thanks so much for your reply! Sherri

added July 2010

Hi Leanna,

I was reading on your sight about bust alterations...I'm looking at a dress online that I LOVE, but my proportions don't seem to work. The largest their bust size goes to is a 42", and I'm a 44". Is it reasonable to expect that I could find someone who could make the alterations (from a new dress) to fit by bust and perhaps make some other areas more fitted? I'm sure you're busy, and I have some time, but I would love to get your expert advice?

Here are my dimensions, along with the dimensions of the dress...

Me: 44, 36, 44 The dress: 42, 33, 45

(I know my waist is a little larger than the dress, but I'm planning on using some spanx...does that seem reasonable?)

Thanks so much! Elena

Hi Elena,

It's risky. Any garment needs to measure more than your measurement for wearing easy. If it measures the same it will fit like a second skin and be too tight. So, the 42" gown bust is really 3" too tight for your 44" bust. There are things that can be done to make the gown larger, but that depends on your ability to find a person who knows how to do them. I have made dresses up to 6" larger by letting out seams but I can't say how much space is in the seams of this gown until I look inside it. With proper fabric that matches the gown, gusset pannels can be added to the side seams to enlarge the gown sseveral inches.

Also, Spandex will not shrink your waist the 4 inches you need there.

Is there a return policy for this on-line place? it's worth looking at this gown, but I'd hate to have you stuck with a gown that is close to fitting but just not good enough.

added June 2010

Your website is amazing! It answered many of the questions I had about basic bridal gown fits and alterations.

I have a question that might be unique to my situation. I am ordering my dress from a salon that is out of state from where I live/where the wedding will be. The last time I went there, I settled on "the one" dress that I want, and they took measurements. The dress is Allure 8524:

Before I order the dress, I wanted a second opinion about the size I should get. The salon where I am ordering it seems respectable enough, but I'm worried about the alterations that I'll have to deal with when the dress comes in. They seemed like they wanted the sale desperately, and I want to make sure that if I order from them, I won't have to pay an arm and a leg for alterations that could have been avoided.

As you can see, there is detailed lace on the bottom of the dress. The store took my hollow-to-hem measurements already (55 inches, according to them).

I am 5'3'' tall. My other measurements were 34 (bust), 26 (waist) and 40.5 (hips). Based on the sizing chart for Allure, my bust was a size 6, waist was a size 8-10 and hips were a size 10. The store recommended a size 10, to accommodate the hips measurement. However, when I tried on the sample in the store, it was a size 8. It was a bit snug in the hips, but I was able to zip it up completely, and the bust was bit too large. The bust area "perked up" a bit, and there was definitely some hollow space between my actual bust and the cups on the sample. They claimed that the sample might have "stretched", so I should order a size 10. From your website, I know that this stretching is probably not the case.

My question, though, is that if I order a size 10, won't the bust be HUGE on my frame?. I'm worried that the hips will be just right, the waist will be a bit large (but could be taken in) and the bust area will just drown me! I know that they can take it in, but at a certain point, won't it just look unnatural? There is boning in the bodice and those cups just didn't fit me naturally. If I order a size 8, the hips might need to be taken out a little bit, but I think the alterations for the bust will be more natural-looking.

Please help if you can! I won't place the order until I get a second opinion from someone who knows what they're talking about-- like you!

Best, Mal

Hi Mallory,
What a lovely gown! It is a form fitter, for sure. I can see why you are questioning the size to order. The model picture looks very generous in the bust and tiny in the waist. Many women are not like that in today's world. Your measurements seem more normal than that picture looks (to me).
Ok, how do you feel about the snugness of the hips?  Many brides want snug hips. Most of my brides don't want the "hourglass" figure that was popular 10 to 20 years ago. They want more of a straight silhouette. I've taken in a lot of hip areas for this desire this year. If you are of this mind I think the 8 is a good bet for you.
Dresses do not "stretch" from being tried on. They are not in the store for years, only one season - 1/4 to 1/2 of a year. Then they are sold at a discount to make way for the new season. They don't have time to stretch, nor do the fabrics and construction of these gowns tend to let them stretch. There is just too much foundation and "stuff" supporting them on the inside to let them stretch even half a size, let alone the whole sizes some stores claim. I understand why they say this but it's just not a big factor for a bride to consider.
The size 10 is not a horrible choice. It's safe. I can not guarantee, nor can the store, that the gown you get will fit exactly like the sample. It was not cut at the same time by the same person, nor will it be sewn by the same people. Yes, that is plural, "people". Your gown will be made assembly style as cars are made. Each section is assembled and passed on to the next station where the next part is added. There are many ways a gown can differ from the original pattern it was cut from. Even the cutting process is not totally accurate. Many layers of cloth are cut at the same time with laser cutters. One tiny slip in the pile of fabric to be cut and part of any gown can be larger or smaller.
It is best to order to the largest size that is reasonable for the bride's measurements. Taking a gown in is usually possible, but letting out seams is often not an option. It is possible, but I can not tell for sure from the picture if the hip area of this gown can be let out. You do want to order as close to your size as you can to minimize alterations, but it is very rare that they can be totally avoided.
The side seams in the picture look very good for alteration needs. The slope from the front neckline to the back is not severe and the seam itself is clear from complications.  I am sure the bust can be made to fit you beautifully. I would have no trouble taking in the bustline up to 3 inches and it would still look good. I can't see the back but I'm willing to bet that the center back seam is also a good option for taking the bust area in. This is a very good option for it distributes the alteration between the sides and back seams should you need more than 2 inches taken in.  

I hope this helps, 

added March 2010

Hi Leanna,

Yesterday, I found my dress, the consultant informed me that I could purchase the sample dress for a discount, seeing that it was over my budget.  She showed us two discounts one for 20% but it included holding the dress there, alterations at the boutique (not the price for alterations), any spot cleaning, all steaming, and they would go over the dress and fix any pieces of the lace that needed touching up so it would be like new. The other discount was 40% but it only included the dress as is, not even a garment bag, my mother and I decided the 20% was a better deal.  My question is I am a size 8 and the sample is a size 12, is that going to cost an outrageous amount to alter?  The dress is all lace with a very long train.  Would it be more beneficial or less money to just buy the dress new?

Thank You, Sarah

Hi Sarah,
Since I have no idea what your store charges for alterations this is a really hard question to answer. It's even hard for me to say exactly what I would charge without seeing the dress on you. I can say that most dresses, even those ordered by the bride's measurements, need alteration and prices at a store are usually higher than an independent alteration specialist like me. The average price for most of my brides in the past year has been $200. This includes a hem, bustle and some body fitting work. In my pricing system, for an alteration to fit a size 12 dress to a size 8 body it would be more than $200 if you also need a hem and bustle. For many places, spot cleaning, steaming, and any mending is all extra. That can raise the cost considerably. I don't do cleaning at all. If you hired someone like me you would have to take the gown to a cleaners after I am finished with it. That could add $100 to the cost. My steaming starts at $80 for a very simply gown and can go up to $120 for a full gown with a very long train. Mending cost depends on what the dress needs. It's charged at $20 per half hour.
I don't know if the store will let you change your mind. They usually have a strict no return policy. I would think they should since it's a sample and not an ordered gown. It's worth asking if you are thinking you really have made a poor decision. It's also worth asking what the alteration fees will be so you can make a more informed choice.

All things considered, I don't think you will get a better deal changing your mind.


Thank You Leanna,
Since the dress includes so much at 20% off (steaming , mending and spot cleaning) I think I got a pretty good deal, even if after alterations the dress costs as much as it did before the discount it will still be less than buying it new, since it will still need alterations. 
Anyways, its the dress and I want it so bad, I guess you cannot put a price on that.
Tank You

added November 2009

Hi Leanna:

I am concerned and stressed out about the dress size I ordered. I was doing some research and came across your website.

I am getting married in September 2010. I just ordered my dress two days ago. I purchased a pronovias 2010 collection dress. I attached a copy of my dress to this email. The bridal store measured me at:

Bust: 32.5"

Waist: 25.75"

Hip: 34.75"

I was honestly surprised about my waist measurement because in I always knew my waist measurement fluctuated between 26.5 ~ 27".

Here's the Pronovias size chart I found online but from what I remember seeing at the shop, the waist size for Pronovias size 4 was 25.9".














They recommended I order a size 4 based on their measurements which made sense based on their measurements they took for me. After I purchased and went home, I couldn't stop thinking about my waist measurement. It didn't sound right.  I measured myself numerous of times and got 27".  Even sucking in my belly I got 26.5~26.75".  I tried re-measuring myself in the morning to see and I got 26.75-27".  I even tried measuring the smallest part of my waist and I did not get what they measured me at. I'm stressed out because if they did not measure my waist correctly, this means my waist size will fall into a pronovias size 6 instead of size 4. I left the store a message to talk to them and see how they measured me at the size they did and if it's too late to order one size up.
What are your thoughts?   Do you think I should be fine with a size 4 even if my waist is usually a high 26 to 27"? Or do you think the size 4 will be too tight in my waist? And if so, looking at the picture of my dress, does it look difficult to take out slightly? If I change my order to size 6 (if it's even possible), will it be difficult taking in to fit me? If I could get your thoughts and advice, I would truly appreciate it.

Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon.

Hi Annette,
The picture of your dress didn't make it.
Generally it's better to plan to take in then let out. Most of these gowns can be let out at least an inch. Some can't be at all while I have done some up to 4 inches. It depends a lot on the style of the dress and many brides want them to be tight in the waist area.
Do the other measurements they took match your body? Again, it depends on the style but many a gown is difficult to alter if the bust area is off more than an inch. They might have been thinking that your waist is the easier place to be altered. I can't say without seeing the seams of the dress.
Does this store have alteration ladies there so they can look at the seam structure and tell you if the waist can be let out if it's too tight? 

Hi Leanna:

Sorry I think I forgot to attach the picture of the dress.  I attached it to this email.
The store did not have the dress so I could not try it on when taking measurements. I tried on a sample dress before at another store but it was a size 13, super big on me.
The bust and hips for a size 4 is still big so I will need to get that altered but what I'm concerned about is the waist.  Would you recommend sticking with the size 4 since if I up my size to a 6 the bus and hips will be even larger on me?  Your help and advice is very much appreciated.

Very pretty!
Well, does your weight fluctuate like some women? September is a long way off.
It looks like the fabric is a good candidate for letting out without showing marks.
It's really hard to say without seeing the seams. I like your idea of getting them to remeasure you. Do they have other dresses from this designer? You can look at the seams and be fairly certain your gown will be about the same. What concerns me more than the fabric is that the dresses that are hugging to the body curves like this one are usually trimmed or snipped in the seams. This makes the curves lay nicer but they can't be let out.
Thank you :)
The material of my dress is silk.
I just got off the phone with the bridal shop and the manager agreed to re-measure me to be sure.  I'm so relieved.  So if they do decide to go one size up – to a size 6, there should be no problem letting it in to fit me perfectly, right?
My weight stays pretty consistent. If i fluctuate we are talking about 2-3 lb at most. 
Thanks again for your time and help! :)

Cool. This sounds like a reputable store. Bring the measuring tape you were using to check your own measurements. Tapes can stretch from use. If theirs is very old it might be giving inaccurate measures.
For this style, taking in the sides should not change the design any. The fit I can't vouch for. That depends on the skill of your alteration lady. I'm sure I could have this fitting you to your satisfaction.  

added October 2009

Hi there,

I spotted your website and could really use your expertise.  I have found my wedding dress and have placed an order this weekend.  I feel a little uncomfortable with the size the store have recommended.  I tried on a sample dress which fit me near perfectly, actually with a little room to spare – eg if I bought the sample it would need to be taken in to fit.  However based on my measurements, they are ordering the next size up.  I’m worried that the dress will arrive and be way too big and need radical alterations.  I am in the middle of a weight loss plan.  I have lost 7 pounds and have 7 more to lose.  I actually tried the sample dress when I was 7 pounds heavier before the dieting and it fit then too, but I could see, and so could the consultant, the difference those 7 pounds had made when I tried it again this weekend.

What would you recommend?  At the store they explained that the need to order the size up in the dress was due to the fact a sample can stretch.  I can appreciate that, but would it stretch by a whole size and given the sample was too big, would it not have made sense to order in that size?

I’m attaching an image of the dress so you can see the style and type of fabric.

I am an hourglass shape.  I wear a 34 D and a US street size 8.  The sample I tried was a US10 and suggested order size a US12.  I’m confused and some impartial advice would be a great help!!

Thank you and regards, Kim

Hi Kim,
First off, samples don't stretch. I don't understand why store clerks keep telling brides this. Yes, they are tried on by many ladies but I just can't see them stretching, and certainly not a whole size.
Next, 7 pounds usually does not equal a whole size for many brides. It might for you depending on what your figure type is to begin with, but it usually doesn't make much difference in size.
I would rather you had ordered the size you tried on but I can't say the next size up will create radical alterations. You have said that you know you will need some anyway and the degree of them doesn't effect the cost. Taking in one inch or 2 is the same amount of work. It's when you get to 4 and 5 inches that the alteration starts effecting other factors in the gown's design that have to be adjusted that make the alteration more involved.
It's usually not possible to change an order size after it has gone out but you might like to try talking to the store about it.
Good Luck

added October 2009

Hello, I appreciate any advice you can give! I recently purchased my wedding gown. Here is the link to a picture . I am rather short, 5'3, and when they ordered the dress they didn't take my height into the equation. When the dress came in the bridal consultant mentioned that they should have taken my height because of the detailing at the bottom, but then quickly brushed it off and said that it would be fine. I'm concerned that they made a mistake by not taking my height and now I'm going to have to pay a lot more in alterations. Another concern is because I'm so short and the fit of the dress (Trumpet) I'm worried that the flare won't start in the right place. Can this kind of a dress be taken in at the waist so that it flares at the right spot and we don't lose the detailing at the bottom? I'm just really concerned now and it's making me worry if I picked the wrong dress. Anything would be appreciated! Thank you

Hi Kathryn,
Many brides who are near your height think of these things. Hemming is a normal alteration need for most brides. You will not be paying more than the average bride. What the associate at the store mentioned is something called Hollow to Hem measuring. That is where some companies offer to make the gown with an extra measurement from your neckline to the hem. This usually costs about $200 extra and is very much an option that the company that makes this gown might not offer. This charge is also often more than the cost of hemming the gown. So, the need for you to have the gown hemmed is not unusual nor will it cost more than the next bride.
Your gown should not be hemmed at the waist. For one thing it does not have a waistline seam, so one will have to be created at great cost and end up looking very odd in my opinion. If there was a waist line seam, hemming a gown so fitted as this would still be very costly. The normal way to hem this gown is to remove the lace at the bottom and move it up to the proper hem length needed. Then the lining is adjusted to that length.
The flare position will be just fine. It may not be at the same exact spot on you as the model in the picture but that does not make it wrong. These dresses flare at all kinds of places from mid thigh to very low calf. You tried this gown on in the store, yes? What did you think of the flare position then?
Maybe the lady at the store dropped the ball and didn't offer you the Hollow to Hem option, but I can't say that will cause your gown to be less beautiful.

added July 2009

While I know that rule of thumb with alterations is to fit the largest portion of one's body but I'm worried that this would make any dress I buy far too big. I'm a 32D bra size with a perfect figure (36-25-36) and I've found that, at least measurements-wise, this makes any dress about 2-3 inches too big in the waist and hips and I'm worried that this will be a problem for getting the dress fitted. I'll be buying out of town but getting the dress taken in at home and I just want to make sure that it will be able to be fitted properly. Should I be looking for sizes that might be slightly tight in the bust but fit better in the waist and hips? Is there a good rule I should be applying here?


I never advise that you order too small. In case the seams can not be let out it is wise to order for the largest portion. Unless you have looked under the dress you tried on in the store and seen that there is a good seam that can be let out, I would not advise that you order tight in the bust. Unless, of course you want it tight in the bust. Most brides don't want to be bulging out of their bodice on their wedding day.

added February 2009

Leanna - Your site is a godsend for brides!  
I've tried on numerous dresses from several different designers and the samples are usually too large on me.   I have a petite frame - 5'2, 33 x 25.5 x 34, street size 0. 
When I decided to purchase the dress, it was recommended that I order a size 10.  
The designer's size chart states that a
Size 10 is 35 x 26 x 37
Size 8 is 34 x 25 x 36
Size 6 is 33 x 24 x 35
It's extremely difficult for me to believe that I'm a size 10!   I researched other forums and women with similar stats stated that they ordered a size 6 from this designer!!!  
Did the store make a mistake?  And did I make an even bigger mistake by agreeing to order such an incredibly large size?    Please see attached for pictures. 

Thanks so much!


I usually advise that it's best to go with what the bridal consultant says for they know how their company sizing runs, but this situation sounds odd to me. They should have advised a size 8. Bridal sizing has nothing to do with real world sizing and comparing your normal size to bridal sizes is not worth your time. They routinely try to convince brides that is it better to order a little larger than have the problem of a gown that is way too tight and can not be fixed.
You can insist that they order a size 6 if you think that best. They will do that if you are forceful enough, but they will also not fix any problems if the dress ends up being too small. Most gowns can be let out a small amount and you might find the tightness in the waist area comfortable since this is a strapless.

added December 2008

Dear Leanna,

First I think it is just fantastic that you offer real help to brides on such a crucial decision for their wedding day!  I am purchasing a wedding dress via internet.  I have a little experience in dress making and took my own measurements: B33.5, W25.5-26, H36.  According to the Pronovias size chart, my measurements are between their size 4 (B33.75, W25, H36.75) and size 6 (B34, W25.75, H37.5).  I normally wear a size 2. I tried on a size 6 Pronovias dress of a different style but similar bodice cut and same material and it was a little roomy, not too much that it would fall off of me, but I would need to tailor it to fit exactly.  I spoke to another bride who ordered a Pronovias dress of a completely different material. She has a 27" waist and her bridal salon ordered her a size 4, which she says fit her exactly.  

Please could you offer some assistance in whether the size chart is exactly what I should follow? I understand that the designer states a 1-2" seam variance in their policies, but your experience would really be helpful.


The seam variance is very correct and goes for all companies which makes ordering any wedding gown a big guess. The rule of thumb is to go bigger than you think you need and have it altered in. Altering out is sometimes impossible. 

added October 2008

Hi there,

I would greatly appreciate your feedback on whether or not the following alterations would be possible.

I have found a gown that is on sale at a great price, but it's a sample and will require alterations. The dress is pictured above  - the first picture is the exact dress, the second picture is a similar style - I included it so that you could get a full length view of the dress.

The sample dress size is 10 (bust 36.5 and waist 28), however my size is about a 2 (bust 32.5, waist 22.5). So as you can see significant alterations will be required.
I spoke to a recommended wedding dress maker/designer who is based near where I live, and she said that  it would be possible to make necessary adjustments and make the dress fit, but she won't know exactly what is involved until she can see the dress.

Her opinion was that the skirt would be straight forward, however the bustier would be quite a lot of work as the bust seams would need to be opened up. She also said that the alterations would likely result in design changes to some extent.

From your experience do you think an adjustment of this size would be possible or would you advise against it? If you think it would result in design changes, would these be significant? Finally, do you have any suggestions as to how you would approach altering this dress?

Many thanks in advance.

I'd need to see the dress on you and be able to look inside it to see how the seams are constructed, But this should not be an overly difficult alteration.  I would do it at the side seams normally. It should not need to be taken apart in the bust seams but that is a possibility and something I would determine when I saw you in the gown. Most of my brides who are small busted like to add padding to the bust instead of making the dress fit them.
Normally I recommend that any bride not buy a gown over 2 sizes too big or too small to make the alterations possible. When you go past these amount it does become more difficult. There may be complications for your gown that I can not see with just a picture. You'll need to have a consultation with the lady you pick and ask lots of questions. If she can answer them all and makes you feel confident that she knows what she is doing than you should get a good alteration job.

thank you so much for your quick reply Leanna, I really appreciate it.

I would have to purchase the gown from American as its not available here in Ireland, and then have it altered here. Which wouldn't be a problem except that i can't show my seamstress the gown before purchasing it.

All in all i think its a little too risky, although theoretically it may be possible the fact that i can't talk through the necessary alterations in advance of buying the gown makes me feel that its too much of a risk and there would be too much money at stake if we decided the alterations might be too difficult.

Many thanks again for your advice.

Best regards,

Yes, Kate. I misunderstood your first letter. I thought you already had this gown. In most cases I do recommend that you do not buy a gown over 2 sizes too large or small. Alterations are possible but the cost does raise at that situation and the money you save gets eaten up in the alterations.  

no- I made sure to check first. i had read your website before when researching alterations online, so i thought it better to ask advice before making such a large purchase. I don't mind about the cost as the dress is a sample and I'm saving a lot that way, however i would be very worried about the risks attached to such large alterations considering the construction of the gown cannot be assessed before purchase.

The seamstress in the shop said it would be very possible but of course they are biased.
I would feel more comfortable purchasing a gown on spec, if the measurements were closer to my own.

Thanks again Leanna, your website and advice service is invaluable.

Best regards

added October 2008

I came about your website and i have a question about my wedding gown. Here's a link to it.
When I tried on the dress it was a sample size 6 or something so they said i should order a 12 cause of my measurements.   I'm a size 8 usually but have big hips.  The dress is way too big on me around the bust area and the dress is corset.  Is there a way I can alter this?  Is it going to be a problem being a corset dress?  How do i go about finding a seamstress?
Please email me back! Thanks!!



Bridal sizes have nothing to do with reality. When the sales person tells you to order a larger size than you are used to it is usually a good idea to go with her advice. Any gown can be taken in. Many gowns can not be let out so you do not want to have the problem of a too small dress. This gown looks like it is very fitted in the hip area so you do need to order the larger size and then have it taken in the bust area.

The seamstresses that work at the bridal salon are usually skilled and can do most any bridal type alteration. Have a fitting with her and ask lots of questions. If she does not give you answers that make you feel like you can trust her, go elsewhere. Many fabric stores have lists of ladies who will sew for the public. You can call around to other bridal stores. You can also look in your local Yellow pages under Alterations. Most ladies who have a business phone are a good bet that they are serious about their business. Again, call and ask lots of questions and go with the lady who makes you feel like you can trust her.

added October 2008

Hi Leanna,
I just found your site today and think it's wonderful! I have a very quick question about a wedding dress purchase. I normally wear a size 6 and every dress I tried on has fit perfectly in a 6.
My first choice dress, however, seems to be a "small" 6. It fits VERY well, just a little tighter than the other 6s. I can walk and breath pretty well but of course I'm only in the store! I am worried about being in it for 8+ hours. I did try on the 8 but it feels a little large. It doesn't "hug" me like all the other dresses did. I don't mind having it taken in but that is, of course, not the whole story.
The problem is this: the alterations person at the store told me to go with the smaller size since over the course of the wedding day and evening, the dress will expand. She said the fabric will stretch a bit over the night and I will feel more comfortable as the night goes on. Then she mentioned that buying an 8 and having it altered to fit better would result in the same problem-the altered 8 would also expand. I have NEVER heard of this!!! An internet search brought me to your site. A bride mentioned that she thought her dress was expanding due to her wearing the dress in her fittings. You mentioned that she might have lost weight. . . a great answer. But have you ever heard of this "dress expands as the night goes on" phenomenon? Any advice you have and any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!

When you wear a garment for many hours, your body heat does act on the fabric to make it ease a little. The dress doesn't stretch so much as it conforms to you. It's sort-of like how shoes get more comfortable over time of wearing them. This depends on what the fabric is as to how much this happens. Natural fibers, like shoe leather, are more pliable to this. Polyester and other man made fibers won't conform as much.

added August 2008

Hi Leanne
I am getting married in June 2009 and have just been sized up so that the shop can order my dress. My bust is perfect for a size 10 dress but my waist and hips are 1 inch too big for a 10 but 1 inch too small for the 12. Therefore the 12 is altogether too big for me now on all measurements. I also need 6 inches adding onto the dress.
I have always been under 9 stone but I am currently 9 stone and 6 pounds but from past experience I can loose weight really easily. I have told the shop that I will loose 6 pounds before the wedding ( I have 1 year to do so) and on that basis, and considering I am only 1 inch out, they have ordered me the size 10.
My concerns are:
If I order the 12 and have to have it taken in:
1. That detail may be lost in taking the dress in
2. It wont look as good as it would if it had been made to fit properly from the actual designer (Benjamin Roberts Constantina)
If I order a size 10:
1. What if I loose the weight but it is still tight on my rib cage - I don't want to be uncomfortable on the day
2. What if the 10 bust squashes me. I tried the 14 on in the shop and when it was pulled tight on me it looked nice on the chest. I'm worried the cup size might be a lot smaller instead of the excess material just being take out of the back.
3. The ladies in the shop said it could be taken in easily but the material did not lend itself to being taken out very easily (French taffeta). I'm worried about this in case for example my rib cage is too big for the 10 as I cant loose weight off bones?
4. What if, like with some of your other correspondence, the dress comes a little smaller than the size chart?
Would you advise that I order the 10 or 12?
Many thanks



I never advice any bride to buy a dress smaller than her measurements dictate. Gowns can always be taken in but many will leave marks on the fabric if they are let out and some don't have enough in the seams to let out. Since I have not seen you in the dress I would go by the advice of the sales people who have. They should know how the sizing runs for their manufacturers.
For your situation I seriously doubt that taking the dress in the small amount that might be necessary will loose any detail. That happens when gowns are going in more than 2 sizes and you are far from that situation.

added February 2008

Hi Leanna,

I came across your site while searching for some answers online. You have quite a bit of expertise in dresses!

The 2 questions that I wanted to run by you is with regard to bodice sizing and alterations.

1. I'm a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding and we recently ordered our gowns. I fit into a size 8, but with a bit of armpit flab (strapless gown). The 10 is a big big on me, but no flab. I went with the size 10 based on the bridal consultant's recommendation to go bigger, since the dress cannot be taken out without significant work. (Its a strapless satin A-line with ruching to one side). Do you think that was the correct sizing choice?

2. The dress can be taken in up to 2 sizes without compromising the line and structure. Silly question, but does that mean 2 dress sizes? For example, does that mean that my 10 can be taken in to a 6 in places? Or does it mean that it can be taken in to an 8? I think that I will definitely need the dress taken in to be an 8 pretty much all over (except where the arm flab comes in!!) and if I lose any weight, I may need it a bit smaller in the waist.

Please let me know what you think and thanks so much for your help!

Sincerely, Heather

It is always wiser to go larger when you are in between sizes. Many ladies plan to diet for a wedding and only you can say if your determination is enough to insure that you will lose the weight you need to for the smaller size. Also, it's impossible to predict where your body will decide to loose it's weight even if you know you are able to be dedicated enough to the diet.

The armpit flab thing happens even to very skinny ladies. So it's really hard to prevent if you know it is a factor. Part of the problem is that many ladies think that a strapless gown needs to be tight all over. It needs to be tight only at the waist. The neckline should be only resting on your skin, not tight at all to prevent the flab in the armpit and back areas.

Whoever told you the dress can be taken in 2 sizes needs to define this to you. They may mean what I would think it means, but if they do not than I can not say for certain what they meant. I do not know them. When I say this I mean what you have stated, but again - I can not speak for any one else's meaning of what they said to you.


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