Maids and Other Formal Gowns


added October 2010

Dear Leanna,

I have quick question.  My Chiffon gown needs to  be hemmed (well cut & hemmed) . I noticed in the picture of which the dress was displayed ... the inner slip was  about a 1/2 or 1 inch shorter then the chiffon.  Is the right proper  way that my tailor should do it? Or should the inner slip and outer chiffon be the same length?  Thank you



Hi Angela,
It is normal for a chiffon lining to be shorter then the chiffon. It is extremely difficult to get them both exactly the same so most hems are done so the chiffon is a little longer, sometimes up to 2" longer. This picture looks about 1 1/2" difference to me. I try for a 1/2" difference when I do chiffon hems. I like that look.

added August 2008

Love your website!
I need to take in the bodice of a silk, polyester lined, flower girl's dress with short set in sleeves. The lining is attached at the sleeves, but not at the waist as it is attached to a separate crinoline. Must I take the bodice apart or is it possible to simply stitch in about 3/4 inch on each side of the bodice? The sleeve is slightly large as well.  Is there a way to take tucks in that without it bunching up?

You can do it either way. It depends on how much you want to put into it. Simply sewing up the side without taking apart anything is a viable method, but it's not proper. I would never do that unless I was in a pinch and doing a favor for a friend. The proper way is to take apart the armhole seam and waistline, take in the side outer and lining fabric separately, take in the sleeve as necessary, and then sew the underarm and waist seams back.
Many a flower girl dress is used for only the wedding day and if that is your situation, than it might not make sense for you to put in the extra effort to do the alteration properly. A quicky sewing can look just fine if this dress is not going to be used again

added March 2008

Hi. I am in a bridal party and this is the dress that has been chosen. All of the other bridesmaids already have this dress, but they did not have my size and the dress is on back order for 19 weeks when the wedding is in 6 weeks. All they could order me was a size 14 when I am a size 8 in this dress. I tried on the 14 and the seamstress said she could take it in at both sides and at the zipper in the back to make it fit. Will this work and look good? or do you think that it is just too big to alter?

Thank you soooo much!

That sounds like what I would do and it should be just fine.

added March 2008

Hi Leanna, I am currently making a grad dress for a girl and she is requesting some alterations to the design of the pattern. I have read about the lace up back on your site (very helpful!) but have a few more questions.

She is requesting a lace up back from the waist up with eyelets (or grommets) instead of loops. I am concerned about the strength of the fabric so the eyelets aren't creating pulls in the fabric itself (or puckers). Oh yes - the dress is taffeta. I have tried out some grommets on scrap and it seems I will require the fabric, interlining, interfacing and lining to have enough strength for this. That seems excessive. Should I run some boning along the grommets to keep them from pulling instead, or perhaps using all layers in the back panels only?

She really has her heart set on these grommets. Should I try to dissuade her? I'm worried if I do it wrong the stress of wearing it all day will cause them to tear out. Thanks for the time you take to help all of us!


You need to tell her your concerns clearly and so that she understands the risk she is taking. She will not want to listen and will ask you to do this anyway, but you need to make sure she understands the situation she is creating. When she says to do it anyway, charge her any extra you need to and make it clear that she has asked for this extra charge.

I would add boning to both the inside and outside areas of the grommets and interline the taffeta. This is what you are charging extra for - AND make sure she knows this will NOT guarantee that the taffeta will not tear. It most likely will no matter what you do. She will tie this dress way too tight and the act of dancing will make a mess of it. This is not your fault. She is asking for something really silly, but she is a teen that doesn't know any better.

added March 2008

I bought a quinceanera dress for my daughter from ebay thinking that it was 2 sizes to big, because when she tried a dress on here in town it was a size 8 and the dress that I bought from ebay is a size 10 think that since her quinceanera was not until next year in September she had a ways to grown into the dress. I was trying to save us money also. I know that I am not suppose to starting look for a dress till about closer to time but I thought if I could find it now and it be big or if I had to save the money I could find the dress she wants and start saving and when I found the dress she wanted on ebat I thought it was a steal and I went for it. Now we have it and she tried it on and it is to small. It is about one size to small and I would imagine what it would be like in one year. Is there way that we can alter it and make it bigger

Here is a picture of the dress HELP!!!!!

Sad mother in midland texas















You can remove the zipper and make a lace-up back. There are some pictures of gowns I've done this to at:

added December 2007

The flower girl's dress gaps in the back that makes her back completely visible to anyone so inclined to look. What's the best approach for modifying it?

For any dress I look first at the side seams. If I can take it in there I can keep the garment symmetrical. But for flowergirls I have often take the excess in down the center back. If there is no center back seam one can be created.

added January 2007

Hi Leanna,

Wow! What a great site. I think you are giving GREAT advice. I've read almost all the links, but wanted to verify a couple of things being being responsible for ordering the bridesmaid dresses (GULP!)

The following link has the information for the dresses we are going to wear.

Unfortunately, you can't see the details of the dress. At the top of the bust line, there are 4 pleats of organza (ironed in) The pleats that you see on the front and back are symmetrical (left and right side) although you don't see that in the pictures. There is a waist seam which is potentially covered by the ribbon (because of the organza pleats in the skirt are actually sewn in).

1) The outer layer is organza - there are 2 layers under that at the level of the skirt. - I am 5' tall and when I tried on the size 10 sample - it came to my ankles. - I also have a short torso, so when I tried the dress, the "natural waist" was a low waist on me. When the waist was in normal position, the top of the strapless dress dug into my armpits and the top of the dress was to my collar bone.

How would you alter this dress? Would hemming the organza be too difficult? I read how you hate the material. How do you alter the torso of the dress? - I also read how separating the seams, cutting the torso, and reattaching the skirt can change the look of the dress because the skirt attaching to the base of the torso would be bigger than before (as well as alter the position of the skirt pleats). - 3 girls are tall (so no problems for them), my other co-bridesmaid is 1-2" taller, and I feel that perhaps this type of alteration may be a bit much.

2) For this type of dress, what is the easiest measurement to alter (bust, waist, hip)? Because it is an A-line, I don't think the hip really needs to be considered (unless it is more than 1 size larger), correct? Since this is a strapless, with boneing, it seams as if the waist is the most important measurement (If the bust is smaller, I think you said it can be easily adjusted by taking in the side seams). Or if the bust is bigger than the waist, then the bust is most important and take in the waist w/ the side seams, correct? - But in this case, would the A-line shape be altered because of how it attaches to the skirt?

Thank you for all the information.

Laura (stressed out MOH - maid of honor)

Are you ever going to wear this dress after the wedding? Depending on this I advise bride's maids on alterations because the expense of drastic alterations is often out of the budget for a one-time-use garment.

If the answer is yes, than it may be worth it to you to do the waist alteration to shorten the bodice and raise the skirt. In my pricing system it would not be less than $80 and could be much more because the Organza is not a fabric that cooperates when you are doing major alterations. If the sides need adjusting also it will add another $40 or more.

If the answer is no, than I would advise to do as little as possible to the dress for you are wearing it for only one day and tossing it. It is not worth the money and stress to do the major alterations. I would hem it at the bottom and not do anything to the bodice. This could cost around $60. You may be a little uncomfortable for the day not having it fit perfectly, but it is usually ok looking.

What is the most important place to alter is often up to the individual maid. Most think the bodice is the most important. A bride is often more interested with the hems being all the same. The store is going to order sizing according to the largest measurement, so you really don't have any choice in the matter. If your bust is larger than your waist it is going to be ordered by that measurement and you will be looking at altering the waist in. A small bust is not always an easy thing to fix. I often end up padding it because the cost is less than messing with the seams.

Sometimes maids want everything possible done to their dress and then are shocked that it ends up costing over $200. They think that just because they are a maid it ought to be cheeper. Your question about the hips is an area that I advise not to bother with but some maids want it taken in because they think the A-line look gives them fat looking hips. Well, on your dress that's 3 layers that need to be taken in separately. Besides, taking it in changes the style and that one maid will look different than the others.

All the things you are considering can be altered. It seems that you are the only body that is going to have problem areas that you are wanting changed. I'd need to see you in the dress to really advice you as to what to do. I do my best to give several options to get the look and fit she wants and let the maid decide what she wants to pay for. I have no idea what the Alterationist at your store will advise. But whatever she tells you is what you need to go with because she does not have my knowledge and experience. If I tell you to do one thing and she doesn't know how to do that than she just won't be able to do it.

I don't know if this is of any help to you. I think I hit all the questions. Have you ordered the dresses yet or are you still in the decision stage?


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