I Just Want to Change . . .


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If you have read much on my site you may have come to understand that there are 2 types of alterations: for fit and for design change. Altering for fit is not usually complicated as long as the size change is not more than one or 2 sizes. But to alter for design change is a horse of a different color. There are many things that can be done to a garment but some things are either very complicated or hurt the structural integrity of the gown. It's really best to pick a gown (as it is to pick a groom) that has all the basic elements you want instead of trying to change it. Here I will try to explain the complications some brides have run into in making the dress they bought into the gown of their dreams.

added September 2010

i bought a dress from a bridal shop (im not getting married, it was for a pageant) and i got it altered by the store and i was charged a nice chunk of change. now thats its been a few months i want to alter the dress by changing it from a halter style top to a strapless top and i was thing about adding a slit in the skirt that goes to the knee. the dress is lace, beaded and mermaid/fit & flare style. when i had it altered originally i had it taken in from a size 2 and had the halter straps adjusted and the train bustled. i was wondering what the best way of doing my proposed alterations would be. also i am a small framed lady so support is not the most important aspect of this alteration. i have attached a picture.


Hi Grace,

You may not need support but the gown does and it is very important for a strapless design. If there is boning you may be able to do what you are wanting. If not, boning will have to be added and it may be very difficult. If you skip this the gown will pucker and sag, making wrinkles in the torso area no matter how slim the wearer is. 
The slit can probably be done but I would need to see where the seams are and if the lining will need adjusting. If there is no lining a slit will show the unfinished inside of the dress and could look very bad.
Your pictures didn't make it to me so I can't tell you anything more specific. I hope this little bit helps.

added August 2010

Mon Cheri

Alfred Angelo

Hello Leanna,
I have a couple of questions about alterations, and you seem to have great advice and lots of knowledge about alterations!
I want a mermaid style gown with a sweatheart neckline and lots of beading/lace.  But it seems to be impossible to find a dress that matches that description.
It's down to 2 wedding gowns, but I like different aspect of each. The like the first gown (a Mon Cheri dress) more. 
But it doesn't look like a "true" mermaid, and I would want a lace up back instead (It has buttons)

Do you think it is possible to apply the bottom second gown, an Alfred Angelo, to the Mon Cheri dress? So would the alterationist have to take the dress in at the sides, closer to maybe my knees and so it could flare out there?
Also, I like the lace-up back on the alfred angelo, could this be applied to the Mon Cheri dress instead of the button back?

Also, do know roughly how much it would cost to do these alterations?
Thank you so much!  Victoria


Hi Victoria,
I don't often say something is impossible to do and it is hard for me to tell from a picture when I can't look on the inside of the dress to see what the seams have to offer, but what you are asking for the Mon Cheri dress would be very difficult if it's not impossible. The alteration specialist you go to see may tell you it is impossible just because it is very difficult and may be well out of her level of experience. If it is possible it will be very expensive to get done.
Taking skirts in start at $60.00 in my system. Making a mermaid out of a regular skirt is much more work than simply taking in the sides. You usually have to take in some in the front and back to get it to look right and drape nicely. The fuller the skirt, the more taking in has to be done and it looks like that Mon Cheri skirt has many layers to it. Each needs to be taken in to create the mermaid.
Lace-up backs start at $160 in my system. I'd need to see you in the dress to say if it would be more.  
What don't you like about the Alfred Angelo if the mermaid is good and the lace-up back is already there?

added July 2010

hello Leanna

first I read a few of the horror stories YIKES! , I'm not a bride  I'm the brides brother. my baby sister is getting married . she has decided to have a ''green'' wedding so everything cannot be bought in stores  it has to either come from weddings past , thrift stores , yard sales  etc, as we were walking home from the corner store one day she spotted a wedding gown hanging on the fence near a trash bin . it was filthy and looked like the bride had swam in red wine so I cleaned it and steamed and pressed it back out . my question is this  all the embroidery on it is white  is there a way I can change it to a periwinkle or medium blue without having to re-embroider the dress . I am taking the zipper out and doing a corset back in blue . Id appreciate any advice you can give me on this .

 thank you kindly, joey the sewing brother


Hi Joey, 

This is the coolest idea I have heard in a long time! What a wonderful find, and how did you get it clean??? There is a "thing" going around called "Trashing the Gown". Usually on the first anniversary of the wedding, the bride puts the gown on and her friends help her trash it by getting it as filthy as possible. Pouring wine on it is an often done thing. I've also heard of brides rolling down a muddy hill in the gown.
So, to color the embroidery - well, I would try using marking pens to paint the embroidery stitching. You'll have to be careful to color only the stitching. It will take a steady hand and lots of patience but I think it can be done and look lovely.

hi there

If it is a poly dress then you just put it in a front loading washing machine and bleach and  soap then hang to dry and press with steam if it is a  silk or other then  peroxide and sunlight . I also will oxy a gown over night in my bathtub (I have  had a few messy finds LOL ) thank you for your  advice on the colored embroidery I will try it

a most relived  brother, joey

added July 2010

Dear Leanna,
I hope you can help me.  I can see how wise your advice is to other people on your site, and I am hoping that your answer will help me to be assertive with my dressmaker!
My wedding day is in 5 weeks time and my friend has made alot of my dress but i've had to go to a dressmaker to have it finished. The bodice is silk, fitted and lined, without boning, and its a good fit. It has a scoop neck. I would like a lace overlay on the bodice. I have bought the lace, which is more like embroidered tulle, with flowers embroidered onto the tulle. 
I have cut out the bodice panels from the lace, as per the bodice pattern, giving a generous allowance at the seams and cutting around the flowers at the edges. I did this so that the panels could be laid onto the bodice, and appliqued on, matching the designs at the seams
The problem is, that the dressmaker wants to unpick the silk bodice at the seams, and sew the lace overlay into the seams.  She says it will be neater this way.  I think that this would make the seams bulky, particularly where the embroidery is more substantial. She also says that the bodice will not look fitted if she does it the applique way. I think that applique-ing the panels on, and carefully placing stitches, will ensure that it will be fitted enough, whilst giving the impression of the overlay.
What is your opinion?  If you agree, where would you advise that the majority of the stitching should be along the seam edge?
Thank you so much in anticipation,

Yours, Ruth

Hi Ruth,
You have several issues going on here. One is that the type of lace you purchased is not usually used as an applique. It is usually sewn as your seamstress is describing. Re-embroidered type laces would work much better for many reasons. One being that it's cut edges don't fray and can be stitched easier. It also molds to curves better.
Along with that issue is that you have decided that you want this after the bodice has been sewn which creates a big problem for your seamstress. If you had decided this in the earlier planning stages she would have had more options to offer you. At this stage in the process it is adding many hours to her work time to do this for you. I think, if I were she, I would be advising you to have the lace hand appliqued to insure it's laying nice and smooth on the base fabric, but that would be a very time consuming and tedious project. Appliqueing over the curves of a bodice is not an easy job to begin with and, again, you are asking her to do this with a type of lace not usually used for this type of sewing .
She may also be thinking that her time is too limited to do the tricky stitching you are asking for in the 5 weeks. It can be done in the 5 weeks if she does not have many other people she is doing work for during this time. Odds are she has other clients that she has already scheduled her time to serve along with what she had planned for you and may be thinking she can't possibly do a good job for you with the time constraints she has. So, she offers you a way to have the lace used that she feels she can do and make look good in the timeframe she has available.
So, though I do agree with your point that appliqueing would be my first choice, I also see her difficulties in giving you what you are asking at this late stage of the construction process. Another point I often say to brides is that it is not a good idea to ask a seamstress to do something that she is not experienced doing. You most certainly will not get a good job from her. Even though  it's not your first desire, going with the way she is suggesting you let her do it is often a good idea because you will get better results. If you insist she do it by appliqueing, it may come out puckering in places you don't want puckers because she just doesn't know how to do it that way.
When you talk to her, asking many questions can get her thinking of ways she may be able to do what you are wanting. I am sure she does want to please you, but if she is scared to try something with your expensive lace that she has never done before, I'm also sure she may also be scared the results won't be to your liking. The more you talk to her and she can understand you helps her do a better job for you.
Good luck, 

added April 2010

Hello Leanna,

I have come across your website through Google and find it very useful. I have a question about my wedding dress, I am getting married in September and the wedding shop says that my dress will be ready in June.

When I first when to try on my dress I loved it, it was what I was looking for, simple and lovely. However 4 months down the line, I am not sure I like it anymore. Because it have been I long time from the time I first saw my dress I am not to sure anymore, I think it looks to plan and is missing the wow factor. I know it is too late for me to change my mind due to the fact that I have paid my deposit of £250. I have seen so many dresses over time and have come up with some ideas of how I can make my dress look more chic but simple.

(I have attached some ideas)

This is my wedding dress

This is how I would like it to look like:

( I would like my wedding dress to be more trumpet shape like picture 2 and be a little full at the bottom with an extra layer? Also I would like to have a belt like picture 2 but would like it to be detachable so at the reception it looks like a different dress.)

My question is this; would a seamstress be able to make these changes to my dress? Or will it spoil the dress or would it be like making a brand new dress and cost to much?, also what kind of quote would I be looking at the make these changes?

Please can you advice. Kind regards, Sandra

Hi Sandra,
A sash can be made for most any gown. Since yours will be worn above the natural waistline, there will need to be something to hold it in place. If you do not anchor it somehow, it will keep slipping to the waist. Simply tacking will work and can be easily snipped if you want to remove the sash for the reception.
Converting this skirt to a trumpet style is another matter. A knowledgeable seamstress can add triangle shaped gussets to the front princess seams and sides seams to create the trumpet. The only problem I see is your skirt is designed slim for the train's flair design to look good. Adding the trumpet to the front will certainly detract from your train's dramatic effect. 
Another ways to add "wow" would be to sew tiny aurora jewels in the pleats of your bodice and train. It won't look like much at first, but in they will sparkle as you walk down the isle. If you are doing candlelight, they will really catch the light and gleam. It's a very nice effect.

added March 2010

Good morning,
My daughter purchased a beautiful ballroom style dress.  Problem is that is a strapless (which turns out to be a problem for her father - he cannot abide strapless dresses).
We would like to see about changing the dress to be much more modest without ruining the beauty of the gown.
Thank you so much for your response.



Hi Jayne,
David's Bridal has some lovely sleeve attachments you can purchase on line or in the store.|2000056&contentName=styleguide_sleeve_options
I don't usually make these because they can be bought for much less.

added November 2009

First, Thanks very much for all the helpful information on your website.  I refer to it quite often.  It’s been a great sounding board and I am always pleased to find someone else thinks like me.  Your policies read very close to mine.

Looks like you are located in Cincinnati?  I am 50 miles south in Carrollton, Kentucky.

I have a bride that’s asking me to alter a straight across neckline into a sweetheart neckline.  I’ve not been asked to do that before so I’m just not sure I want to commit.  The dress looks like this:

into sweet heart neckline. The beading is a concern.  What do you think?  She’s a small gal – if I remember right from her prom dresses about a size 4.


Hi Barbara,
I have done many sweetheart conversions and this dress is not a good candidate for one. The collar can not be converted into the dip so she will either loose it in the conversion or the dip will have to be done through it. I doubt that will look very pretty. I can not see under the collar so I can't tell you what kind of work will be necessary if the collar is removed to create the dip. If she insists that she wants to retain the collar along the new line of the sweetheart neck, a new collar will have to be cut and beaded and sewn into the new neckline.
I will be a lot of work to get this dress looking good with a sweetheart neckline. I would advise her to choose a dress that already has a sweetheart neckline.

She wants the collar removed too so that should make it more doable, shouldn’t it?

Getting the collar totally off and reconstructing the sides and back of the neckline will be a job in itself, and then you have to deal with what's under the collar. If it's nothing, than you'll have to add beading to finish the edge nicely. If there is some beading under there, you'll have to adjust it to the new neckline. Either way, I think you're in for a good amount of hand beading work. It's not hard, just really tedious. I charge $30 an hour for this. I give the client a guess at how long I think it may take to do this AND I explain that my guess is NOT an estimate. The actual work may take much longer once I get to actually doing the work. And, she might change her mind on the beading pattern once I am half way through it and I will have to spend time changing it. She will have to agree to accept the final charge whatever it may end up being before I agree to take on the project.
In my state, Ohio, estimates have a rule. A laborer can not charge a final billing that is more than 10% above a written estimate. So, for hand work such as this, I don't give estimates. My guesses are good ones for I know how I work and can pretty closely calculate how long it will take me to do a certain job. Another alterationist may take more or less time than I do. Your client will want some kind of cost from you before she agrees to have the work done. What you give her can depend on your skill level, your desire to take on this job if you just happen to think you will like doing it, your schedule of other dresses you have already contracted to have done (i.e. The time you have available for this project), and what your store owner or manager wants you to do. If you are your own boss than it's you decision.
"Doable" is a measure of what kind of work you like to do or have the experience to do. I used to HATE hand work of any kind. Over the years I have developed a liking for the creative element in hand beading. So, after looking under the collar and discussing what "look" the bride is wanting, I may do this project even if it's tricky because I am in the mood for a challenge. If you have never done a sweetheart conversion than you might be concerned that you won't do a good job. This is great. It means you are a conscientious professional. Experience doesn't mean you have to have done the exact job before, just that you have enough alteration hours under your belt that you can think your way through a new experience.
The first sweetheart neckline I ever did was for a friend so it wasn't as nerve racking as for a client. But - just one week later - I had a bride ask for the same thing. Both jobs had differing elements but the process is mainly the same as in all alteration jobs = take apart the existing area, make the change and put things back securely.
I can't tell you step-by-step how to do this but you have a great picture to guide the design and good communication from the bride and if you have a few years experience, I think I can safely say you can do this.

added November 2009

The material of my dress is silk.
I plan to change the chest part to a sweetheart shape. Do you think this will be difficult looking at the dress?

The neckline may not be a good idea. There are 2 parts to the top of the bodice. To change the under part from straight as it is to sweetheart is not a big deal, but to change the over drape may end up looking really odd. I'd need to know much more about what look you are trying to get to say if I'd be abel to do it or not.

So what I want to do is simply change the under part from straight to sweetheart and also flap in the overdrape part on top and make that sweetheart too.  So it will stay the way it is (overlapping) but the only thing I would do is tuck both the under part and overdrape in as a sweet heart. I'm not sure if I'm describing this accurately.  Can you picture this?

I am having a hard time picturing this but that does not mean it can't be done. I have modified many gowns for a sweetheart neckline but not with the drape that yours has. It's not what I'd call "hard", but it is tricky because you get one shot. The seam underneath  has to be trimmed very close before turning so it lays right. If you don't get the sewing accurately on the first shot the trimming might make it impossible to adjust it. I hope I am making sense.
For all bridal alteration I try to not cut anything until the bride can tell me I have it right. But the sweetheart needs to be cut so the fabric can turn to show you where the seam is sitting. Otherwise it looks like a wrinkled mess and you can't tell what is what if you try to turn it without cutting.
It will help your alteration person if you can draw a really good sketch of what you are wanting. I have had brides print out a large picture (8" X 10") of the dress and draw on top of that. It gives me a better idea of what she is thinking. I have also placed pins on what I thought the new seamline will be and had her try on the dress and tell me if I'm getting it where she wants it. Any way you can think of to give her more visual clues the better.
Communication is so very important to getting what you are wanting. Don't be afraid that talking too much might make you a bridezilla. It is a fine line between calmly expressing your ideas and bickering someone that most brides understand. Most of us alteration ladies understand that a bride doesn't always know how to describe what she wants and will ask lots of question.
I hope this is helping and not making you more nervous.

added September 2009

My daughter’s wedding dress has beading on the bodice and under the arms all the way to the back. The problem is that the beading under the arms are very scratchy and will rub her arms raw. If I take the beading off it will take away from the look of the gown. Is there any type of material (sheer or clear) that I could cover these beads with, without it being too obvious. Thanks for your response.


Hi Marian,
Sure, you can cover the beading with any kind of sheer fabric, but I doubt it will change the situation and it will look very odd.
I have heard of folks painting the beading with clear nail polish but I can't recommend that because it might yellow. You can try this on a spot inside the gown and see how it acts, but I'd be really scared to do this at all. Nail polish has chemicals in it that are unpredictable when they come in contact with certain plastics that most beads are made of. You could possible try this with a clear glue, but I have not had any experience with that either. 
It is really a good idea to remove just the few beads that are hurting her arm. No one will notice a few missing beads. Guests aren't looking under a bride's arm that closely. It won't show in any pictures either.
Before doing that I would have her wear the gown for a period of time just around the living room, maybe watching some TV. I think you will be surprised at the lack of irritation she really does feel. It's amazing that how things like this that might seem fearful are actually not issues at all, or much less than you feared.

added January 2009

Dear Leanna,

I've been reading your site off and on for a couple of days, looking for an answer to my question, and I have to say that it is refreshing to see a different side of the bridal dress industry.

I have drawn a rough sketch of my dream dress, and am wondering if I could alter a less expensive dress to have the split skirt easily, or if I will need to have the whole dress custom made. Is there any advice you could give me that would help me chose a dress that would be altered more easily?

Thanks very much,

It depends on what dress you start with and it's construction elements as to wether altering a ready made gown will be "easy" or not. There are already many gowns out there that are this style. 

added August 2008

Thanks for all the helpful advice on your website!  I have found a dress that I really like but it is an A-Line skirt and I was hoping for a more fitted trumpet style or modified mermaid skirt - But I like the dress and the price is rights.  Is it possible to alter an A-Line skirt to a more hip-hugging trumpet style?  If so is it very difficult and would your recommend doing it or is it a better idea to keep looking for the perfect fit style?  The dress is described as "Strapless, Taffeta gown with ruffle accent at neck and hem line. Empire waist features a belt in a contrasting color. The bodice is accented with Embroidery and Beading. The Floor length skirt has a Chapel length train."  This is the site if you are interested Thanks for your advice! 


I always recommend that you buy a gown that already has the design elements you want the most and alter it for fit only. Altering for design is often possible but it's also often time consuming and expensive. Changing an A line to a trumpet is usually doable but it depends on how many layers the skirt has and the type of fabric as to if it is difficult and will look good once done. You'll need to get the opinion of the person you choose to do the work. She may think it harder or easier than I do.

added July 2008

Dear Leanna,

I know everyone says this – but your website is fantastic. Thank you for all the helpful advice.

I just purchased a bridal gown because I loved the design and hadn't been able to find anything similar after looking at quite a few stores. However, the dress is strapless, and I was looking for a halter. The woman at the bridal store said that it wouldn't be a problem for an alterationist to add a halter – great – so that's what we're going to do. My question is: if I do add the halter, can I safely remove the boning without worrying that the dress is going to look strange or saggy? I don't like the way the boning (a) feels; or (b) makes the dress look stiff at the top. If at all possible, I would much prefer a smoother, more svelte look.

Your expert opinion is much appreciated. Many thanks!


Once the halter top is added the boning should no longer be necessary. You should be able to remove it with no ill effects but I can't vouch for the skills of the seamstress you are using so I really can't tell you with much certainty that the result will look the way you want it to.

Added July 2008

Hello Leanna,
I am currently living in Italy and need a dress to be altered. This is a hard task as I don't know how to speak Italian and can only go with my fiance's mother to get the dress altered which means that everything must be explained from me, to my fiance, to his mother and then to the dress maker and back again.
I am so happy to find your website and hope you can give me some sorely needed advice.
The dress that I will have with me soon (after it arrives via post from my mother in Australia) is a very plain vintage 1950s/1960s gown that my mother purchased from a second hand store in Australia when she heard the news from Italy that I was getting married.
I actually tried the dress on in Australia before I left, and noticed some things which needed fixing:
1. It was too tight around the armpit
2. It was rather snug/tight around the bust (although I wouldn't worry about this part greatly)
3. It needs to be taken up to the right length
4. Some minor repairs where skirt meets top at waist
PLUS - and this is a design alteration and the most important point to me:
5. The dress currently has a neckline that runs right around the base of the neck and the shoulders of the dress go from the base of the neck to the edge of the shoulder - I desparately want to change the neckline to a Sabrina/bateau neckline as the dress loses it appeal without it.
I was wondering if it is possible for the neckline to be altered to a bateau/Sabrina neckline and whether this could compromise the structure of the dress and the way it falls drastically. Although keeping in mind that the dress is very snug around my waist and therefore the structure of the skirt should stay in place.
What would the difficulty level in this be and what do you think that you would personally quote me for these alterations?

Thank you so much for your time, I hope to hear from you soon!


I would need to see you in the dress before I would attempt to quote a price but this type of design change can not always be done. Part of what most people don't see is that in the Sabrina/bateau neckline, the center is actually higher than a normal neckline. Since you can't put back fabric that has already been cut from the neckline you normally can not make a true Sabrina/bateau neckline. It can be done in a mock fashion that might look ok to you though by extending the neck line out to the shoulder area. I have no idea what they will charge you in Italy for such an operation.


added May 2008 really glad that i found your website. I really need your helpful advice for my wedding dress. I order it off ebay and when it arrived the dress was too long. How can i shorten the length in  front of my dress up to about 4 inches. I want my waist and hip to look slim but the dress looks really loose around that area. How can i tighen up the hip area?? Also, do you recommend me to wear a 3 Bone Hoop Skirt Bridal Taffeta Bridal Petticoat Wedding Gown Slip underneath my dress.

Give me all the helpful advice that you can. Thank you so much!! here is a picture of my dress.


I would need to see the dress to tell for sure but I think this is the type of design that I would hem from the waist. The seam under the bodice is opened and the skirt is pulled up to the correct length and resewn.
This is not the style of dress that makes for slim hips but if there are side seams in the skirt they can be taken in to make the hip area smaller, but you can not make it very slim with this design. The more you take in the more of the train will creep around the side and pull funny. You can alter for size but you often can not change the design of a gown.
If you want the look of a bigger skirt, you can wear a hoop. It's up to you. You can not do this if you are going to take in the hip area. It will look very funny to have a slim hip and the skirt suddenly jutting out to the fullness needed for the hoop somewhere around the knees. To have the hoop look good you have to have the skirt start getting full from the waist. You really need to choose one or the other.  

added October 2007

Hi Leanna,

Thank you for your informative website! I have a quick question about changing corset lacing. I have a Maggie Sottero dress with a corset back. The lacing that came with the dress is about 3/8" or so, but I have seen some Sottero dresses with thicker lacing (3/4" maybe?) and I like that look better. My dress also does not have a modesty panel, and I would prefer the thicker lacing to show less skin.

Here's a photo of the type of lacing I would like:

I contemplated buying ribbon from the craft store, but worry it won't be stiff enough and that it might bunch up and not lay flat. Any suggestions?

Thanks, Jen

Any lacing will bunch if you don't take the time to thread it carefully. I have used ribbon often. It's not as stiff as fabric, but it can look just like the picture you sent if you thread it carefully. You can also make a modesty panel. They aren't part of the dress back anyway. They are just tacked on one side.

added September 2007

Hi, there!

I came upon your website by accident, and it's given me hope that something can be done for my ideal wedding dress. I've found a dress, but it's just a regular, strapless dress. I LOVE the dress and I love how I feel in it, but initially I was really hoping to find a dress with a sweetheart neckline. Can I have someone successfully alter the neckline to convert it to a sweetheart neckline? The bridal salon seems to think that this seems to be a strange request, so I was hoping for a second opinion!

Thanks for your help! Kelly

My best friend is getting married and she wanted a sweetheart neckline too. I can understand your desire for it really does show off cleavage well. My friend found several nice gowns but her fiancee liked one that had the regular straight neckline - - - So I am going to sweetheart it for her. Since this is a design change you need to think of how it effects the other elements of the bodice. I plan to add wire to the neckline seam to stabilize it once I have cut the dip. I don't want her flopping out.

I would need to see a picture of your gown (on you if possible) to see if there are any other aspects of your gown's design that may be effected.

added September 2007


Thanks for all the great tips on your site. I have found several lovely dresses that I am deciding between, but these are all zip-back dresses and I had hoped to find a lace-up/corset back dress as I am worried about having a perfect fit on the day. I do not diet (and I love the advice you give about that), but I have always had fluctuating weight/body fat and I am worried that with a zip-up back, then unless I have the final fitting the day before I would not be sure of having a perfect fit for my dress. I ma having a destination wedding so it is not really an option for me to have a fitting right before the wedding, to say nothing of the additional stress that would cause everyone.

I've seen your photos of too-small gowns that have been converted to make them fit, but do you find it is possible to convert a gown that already fits perfectly into a lace-up back in order to secure a great fit on the day? Or do you find that altering a gown in this way doesn't necessarily improve the fit? I'm wondering whether if the gown already fits perfectly, it might compromise the structure of the gown to make such a change.

Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks, Nicole

To have the lacings you need to make room for them. So, if a gown already fits well, some space needs to be removed from the back to accommodate the lacings. If there is decoration right up next to the zipper some of it will be lost. You may not like the loose of lace flowers and beading and the pattern might be interrupted in a funny way.

I have worked with brides who have trouble with weight fluctuations, but I have never had one with a one day flux problem. The lacings do give you more flexibility in the fit and they are pretty too. It makes perfect sense to me that you are thinking this way. It would be so much easier if you keep looking for a gown that is already designed for lacings. Keep in mind the elements of the gowns you have found and keep looking. I am sure you will find one.

added September 2007

Can a strapless dress be made to have sleeves without looking completely ridiculous? Obviously, there would be seams around where the strapless dress ends, but is there a way to make that look OK? I have one strapless in mind, but would like it to have the top of another dress that has sleeves. I have searched high and low and cannot find the best of both worlds already made in a dress.

Thank you, Heidi

Adding sleeves is hard to make look good. It takes a lot of work. The hardest part is matching the fabric of the sleeve to the fabric of the gown you have. If you can order fabric from the store where you got the gown you have a chance of getting a good match. If you can't match the fabric type and color exactly it will look very odd. It's better to pick something that is totally different so it looks like it was meant to be that way.

added September 2007


I found your website and question and answer question section while researching questions about wedding dress alterations. I had a few questions and would appreciate your help in answering them, if you have the time. The first question is: Can you add layers to a dress to make it more full? I ordered my dress, and when it came in, it just doesn't feel full enough. I'm wondering if I should wear a multi-layered slip, or is there something else to be done? Also, is there any way to add length to the dress once it has been ordered? If you could help me out with any of these questions, I'd greatly appreciate it!

Thank you, Jeanette

You can add layers, but it's much easier to simply buy a multi-layered slip.

Adding length is sometimes hard to do. The trick is to make it look like the added part was meant to be there. I'd have to see the gown to give you specific ideas.

added September 2007

Hi leanna,
I stumbled acroos your website and had a question about changing the skirt of my wedding dress. I have a natural waist dress with a tulle skirt and satin trim along the bottom. It is an aline and I know I already need to have it hemmed about 4in. Both the satin underlay and tulle over the satin. What I was wondering if it is possible and would it be quite a lot more money to have them change my dress to more of a trumpet fitted style? I will attach some pictures of my dress. Thanks for the help!

Sincerely, Kayla

Yes, this can be done. Because there are many layers and each has to be taken in separately, yes, it could be very expensive.

added August 2007

Hi –

I bought my gown from a bridal warehouse and absolutely love it! It is a scoop neck (tank top style) neckline and back. It has a lace overlay with beading. While I love the dress I was thinking I would like it even more if I changed the neckline to a sweetheart and made the back a V by shortening the zipper. . The lady at the bridal salon seemed to think this could be done. How much risk do you think I am taking to change the neckline?

Thanks Beth

This can be done and I have done it a few times. You need to be careful how deep you make the "V". The deeper you take it the more the sides are going to buckle outward. You can put some kind of stabilizing thing along the sides if this happens. The risk you are taking is in the knowledge and skills of your alteration lady. I can't vouch for that because I do not know her.

added July 2007


I really love your site and the corset information has been a big help to me.

I made my own gown. Now my sewing skills are not fabulous, but they are apparently good enough (GO ME!). I was very nervous to attempt this without my mom here to help (she was a fabulous seamstress) but I know she was here guiding my hands.

I am nearing 80% completion and finishing fast. My question is this, I am attaching a picture of my gown. I suck at zippers! I was considering a corset style back because it would help eliminate some of the smaller alterations I might have to make. Will it work on this gown? I made some changes to the gown. I did not add the lace panel at the waist, instead I am adding a ribbon in my wedding colour (navy blue) which will form a V from the front to the back, attaching just under the bust in the front down to the bottom of where the butt bouquet is in the back (this is where I would have the corset stop).

Thank you, April

Most corset backs have been in strapless gowns but I see no reason why you can't do one here. I think it will look very pretty.

added June 2007

Hi, I got the dress of my dreams, it is strapless with a sheer overlay and some beading. It fits almost perfectly, except in the bodice it looks puckered because the lining w/boning is separate from the dress and it seems to be tighter so when the dress is on it is wrinkling the dress under the sheer. I have an appointment with an alterations lady. Do you think this can be fixed??

I'd need to see it on you to give you a good answer, but the real question isn't, "can this be fixed", rather, "does the person I'm going to know how to fix it". If it can be fixed, it's liable to be a tricky operation.

added May 2007

I run a bridal shop and had a girl recently place an order for a gown that she fell in love with. I placed the order with our supplier and found out that the dress had been discontinued, they had not sent us a list of discontinued items. I explained the problem to the bride and she is being very understanding, the problem is now she can’t get her dream dress. I even called the supplier who checked their computer records for another shop anywhere in the world that may carry this dress in white in the size needed – No luck, no one in the world carries this sample dress in the right size in white.

The dress I have here in the store is the right size however we have it in Ivory and she is adamant that it has to be White. Do you have any suggestions as to a way to have the dress “bleached” white? Or do you know if there are any businesses that offer a service like that? I have called the local cleaners but they are not willing to do it and I really want to see this girl get the dress of her dreams!

Thanks! Dawn

The basic problem here is the fabric in most gowns is polyester. Polyester does not bleach or die. Trying to do so will only ruin the fabric.

It may not be easy, but I'm sure you can find her a similar gown in white that she can love just as well. After all, it's only the gown - it's not the fiancee. It's ok to fall in love with another one.

added April 2007


I purchased a ball gown and would like to take the back out if it. It is made out of 100% polyester and someone here told me it bridal satin. It is too small around the bust area, it is double lined, and I need about another 2 inches for it to fit comfortably. I was thinking about taking the back out completely and having a low back line, to avoid having to even worry about the zipper.

What are your thoughts about this?

Thank you for any advice.

I'd need to see the dress on you to really give you a good answer but I can tell you that if the dress was not designed to have an open back you will run into problems with gaping where you are scooping the back neckline. That said, this could be a good solution to your problem. You will need an experienced Alteration Specialist who understands the complications of such an operation, but it should turn out beautifully.

added February 2007

Dear Leanna,
I recently bought a dress for my October wedding in a discount store which sells sample dresses from a big bridal salon in my area. The gown looked to be in a very good condition when I bought it, but since bringing it home I noticed some imperfections that weren't obvious: on one sleeve (which is short and entirely made of netting with embroidery/beading on it), there are two small holes in the netting, and the embroidery looks like it had fallen off and was reattached rather carelessly. On the back, there used to be embroidery on both sides of the zipper. One side had fallen off, so I took off the other side in order to make it symmetrical, but now there are stitch marks where it used to be. The hem is dusty and the material is slightly frayed at the bottom. I haven't had it altered yet, so my questions for you are:

1) Do you think they'll be able to fix the netting on the sleeve? It's some kind of delicate hexagonal netting.

2) Is there any way to improve the look of the stitch marks on the back? The material is 60% silk, 40% acetate.

3) It needs to be hemmed a little, and I'd like them to remove some of the train too, so that the slightly damaged material doesn't show. Is that more difficult/expensive to do than just hemming in the front? The train is somewhere between sweep and chapel length.

4) How costly do you think the alterations would be? I'm starting to regret having bought a sample dress, although it's just the style that I wanted and I'd never be able to afford it new.

5) It would be nice to dry clean it after the alterations, but I'm hesitant since the embroidery and beading is very delicate, and it's silk. What's the best way to pick a dry cleaner's?

Thanks for your site, it's full of useful information, and sorry for the long letter.


1) No, the only way to fix holes in netting is to replace the netting. Trying to repair the holes looks simply awful. You can add some embroidered lace pieces over the holes if you can find some that look like what is already there. Sometimes I have scavenged some lace from elsewhere on the dress where it's less needed, like under the arm or in a tuck or seam.

2) You can try steaming the fabric and the holes might mend them selves.

3) Hemming around the whole dress is more expensive than the normal wedding hem that is only in the front. It's not more difficult, it's just a lot more work taking more time which will mean more expense.

4) This depends on the pricing on your area which I have no way to determine. For me the all-around hem would not be less then $200. Replacing the sleeves could run over $200 too.

5) Ask friends. I have yet to find a dry cleaners in my area who I can recommend with confidence. It's quite annoying.

My suggestion would be - Since you did not see these flaws until much later, odds are your guests at your wedding will not see them either. By the time they get noticed it will be near the end of the day and gowns get very dirty and often damaged by the end of the wedding day, so no one will give it a second thought as long as you don't tell them. The imperfections you are seeing will not show in your pictures either.

Hi Leanna,

Thank you so much for your answer! After reading it, I was wondering if there was a clever way to prevent the holes in the netting from "running" (except stitching)? I'm not really concerned about the holes themselves (they're small), but it looks like one of them could spread. I believe the material is English netting.

Many thanks,

Netting does not generally run. But just in case it is the type that does, get some fray check from your local fabric or craft store. It's a type of glue that dries soft and should not interfere with the stretchiness of the netting. It should not discolor the netting, but text it on a seam on the inside of the sleeve first. You can use clear nail polish like we used to do in school when our panty hose ran,but it dried hard and may get scratchy.

Thanks -- this is just the kind of solution I was looking for. And thanks for making me feel good about my dress again! I'm sure everybody tells you this -- but I wish I could have my alterations done with you, you so obviously enjoy your work.

All the best,

added February 2007


I was wondering if it is difficult to get a seamstress to alter the back of my wedding dress to a tie-up corset style because I love the dress but I have always dreamed of one that has a corset back which is currently not the situation.

Thanks, Katherine

It's not ultra difficult, but there are some things you need to think about.

Does the gown bodice fit you well now? - I usually do this type of alteration for ladies whose gowns are much too small. It's better than trying to sew inserts into the seams to make the dress larger. So, if your gown fit fine you will be needing to make room for the lacing area. If there is much decoration in the back, making space in the zipper area might mean loosing some of it. You might be able to take in the side seams to make the space without destroying any design elements.

You will need to have fabric for the modesty panel. Some brides have a full panel under the whole area and some have it just for the waist down, so skin shows between the lacings on the back. It depends on if you have to wear a bra or if you can go without one.

I have a picture of a gown I did this on at:

added January 2007

I came across your website and had a question for you.
I'm looking at several stores for a wedding gown. i finally found one store that has a dress i like that can be altered the way i want it. the only thing is that the store does not do alterations. instead, the owner will recommend a tailor whom she has worked with before. so once i buy the dress, the store is out of the picture and now if i need alterations i have to go to the tailor - do you think this is safe? or should i stick with a place that has a seamstress onsite?
Thank you

There are advantages and problems with both situations.

I choose to work totally separate from a salon because it gives me the freedom to do for my brides as I see fit without having to be concerned about the needs of the salon. I can take as long as I want to talk with a bride about her needs without worrying about the time limits the salon puts on appointments. I can do what she's wishes to her dress without being told I have to conform to rules the salon dictates to me about what they think are "proper" alterations.

The question of safety runs both ways. Just because a lady works in a salon does not mean she is any more talented or capable of working on these precious gowns. Odds are she won't last long there is she is not, but you still don't get any guarantees.

The one thing you need to know is that once you pay for the gown the salon is not responsible for anything that happens. You don't get any special consideration for an in-house lady making a mistake on your gown. Using an outside lady doesn't necessarily get you someone more capable or any extra guarantees.

What you can do is educate yourself about these things so you can ask lots of questions to the ladies you interview for working on your gown. Read all the stuff on my site and look for other sites too. Since your salon does not have alterations you have to go outside. Interview the "tailor" she recommends and find out how long they have had this relationship. Most tailors don't do wedding gowns so I'd be a little suspicious of this right off.

I am always here if you have more questions.

Thanks so much for your response! I really appreciate it!
I've been search everywhere for dresses with sleeves and most bridal stores do not have any so most of the places have a seamstress on site and they'll add sleeves on to a dress I like. This makes me wary b/c I don't know how it's going to come out.

The dress that I'm looking is manufactured by Casablanca and the store will give me requirements and measurements to the manufacturer to design the dress that I want. The store owner showed me a picture of something similar done for another bride. They say the dress should come in to fit my measurements and will have sleeves created by the manufacturer.

I would really need alterations only if I drop a size or needed certain fitting adjustments.

I'm really just sad with all this wedding shopping especially since a lot of the dresses are strapless...I think I've been to at least 10 shops now and it's very hard for me to imagine the dress with sleeves, so when they say the manufacturer will do it - do you think I have to be wary of anything?

Thanks so much!

Always be wary of anything they say. They said, "the dress should come in to fit my measurements" - that does not mean it is guaranteed to be that way and most likely will not fit perfectly. If the sleeves end up not being to your liking, you will have to pay extra to change them. The pictures do make me think they are trying to do what you want, but you just don't know for sure. Since they have done this before they might be a better bet, but it's still a bet.

You are not alone in your displeasure of the styles this year. I don't know what's gotten into the bridal industry that it thinks every one wants strapless. There used to be more variety in styles.

That said, as long as you are making an informed decision I don't see where you can much loose letting them try to make the sleeves. You may need to have them adjusted a little but they may also come in just right. There is a large possibility they will come out just right too, so I think it's a good bet.

added October 2006

Hi! I have found a wedding gown I absolutely LOVE except for the fact that I want it to be strapless. It has small straps. I am curious if it is possible to turn a dress that has small straps into a strapless dress. Is this possible? Here is the link to the dress photos:

If this is possible, would this be a major cost to have altered? Thanks so much for your help and time!!!!


Yes, it can be done, but it will be very costly.


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