Cleavage & Neckline Issues


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Like Bodices, necklines are a big focal point for brides and rightly so. There are many issues involved here, modesty being a biggie. With many Churches setting rules about bridal modesty, brides have to care even if they normally don't. Some brides want more exposure, some less. Either way the alterations that need to be done can be tricky.

added May 2011

I bought a wedding dress and have decided I hate the neckline.  I think it would look much better for my shape with a sweetheart neck. My concern is the beading at the top.  I understand it will be very difficult to resew the beading in the exact location as previously, but I am wondering if you think it will be too difficult for a seamstress to even attempt?  I have attached a picture and I appreciate your help!  You are a life saver for brides with questions!
Sincerely, Clarissa

Hi Clarissa, 
The picture didn't make it to me but I don't really need one. Yes, changing a neckline is not easy even with no beading. I have done this several times with brides liking the results. The trick is that you have to be very certain where you want the neckline moved to because once it's done, it can't be undone.  

added June 2010

Hello Leanna,
My fingers are crossed that you still have time to provide advice to brides!
My daughter is getting married next month, and has purchased a Maggie SotteroJD 8102. The gown is lovely, but the bodice is a little too small and shows too much cleavage for my daughter's comfort. The seamstress at the bridal shop would only hem the gown, and said that the bodice could not be adjusted...though she didn't check the seams to see what was possible. Do you have any suggestions that would reduce the amount of cleavage that is showing?
I hope this picture works...googling Maggie Sottero JD 8102 does provide a picture of the dress.
Thank you for any help you can provide,
M. Heuser










Hi Margery,
That is a very deep plunge in her neckline. This type of sweetheart neckline Can not be raised with the fabric of the seams that is in the gown because it is trimmed very close under there to make the curves lay nicely against the breasts. There may be fabric in the side seams but I seriously doubt doing anything to make the bodice larger will effect the cleavage. It will release the pushing of her breasts a bit making the crease less prominent but it will do nothing to make it more modest. It also looks like this fabric is the type that will leave marks if the seams are let out.
There are 2 basic options for covering up this area. You can insert a modesty panel in the neckline to cover just the cleavage. Something that looks like it belongs to the dress is best (like a strip of fabric from the hemming) but that doesn't leave you many options for this gown is just one fabric type with no lace or other decoration to model from. You can use a piece of simple lace inserted into the neckline only in an artful manor can look normal, but it would be better to add lace to other parts of the gown to make it look like the lace belongs. You probably won't like this idea for the gown is lovely with no decoration.
Option 2 is add a shoulder cover of some kind that will extend to the neckline area. You may dislike this idea for the same reason because it adds More to the simplicity of the gown which I think is lovely by itself.
I can't think of more options right now, but if I do I'll write again.

Hi  Leanna,
Just to let you know that the seamstress wound up using the trip from the hem to make a modesty panel(doubled it to make it heavy enough)  to reduce the cleavage and it looked great. Since it is the same material, it looked like it simply belonged there. I am glad I thought of asking the seamstress to keep the hem strip, this would be a good  standard practice (if not done automatically already) by seamstresses, I think.
Thanks again.

added April 2010

Hi Leanna!
I have a quick alteration question for you. I saw a few posts on your site that ask if and how to change a neckline from straight to a sweetheart neckline, but I didn't see any going from sweetheart neckline to a more straighter line. Is that possible? If so, would it be a matter of raising the middle part or lowering the side parts?
Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!



Hi Rachel,
A sweet heart neckline can not be raised. The fabric of the dip is clipped underneath so of you attempt to raise it there, the cut will show in the outside. The only way to straighten a sweetheart is to add fabric in the dip. If there is lace on the bodice this addition might be camouflaged by artfully adding lace to the seam and added fabric so that no one will know it was there.  

added February 2010

Hi Leanna,

I have purchased my wedding gown that is a halter style wedding gown.  While we were deciding on the gown, we discussed with the sales person that I would like to make it into a strapless gown.  I will have my first fitting in March/April and would like to be prepared for what options the seamstress will have for me.  I understand if completely strapless may not be possible. However I do think that maybe straps, just not halter straps would be possible.  I have attached photos of me in the dress with the halter straps tucked into the dress.  I will also attach the original picture of the gown on the Maggie Sottero website.

Do you think strapless would be possible?
Do you think I could get a little more lift on my bust.  In this photo I have no bra on. 
Do you think just straps would be possible. 

Where is your studio located?

Thanks a bunch, Carly

Hi Carly,
I have converted gowns to strapless. The gown needs to have good boning in the bodice or you have to add it to support the strapless design. It looks like your gown has some in there, but maybe not enough.
To get lift in your bust you need a bra. Support for you and support of the dress are 2 different things. Adding boning to the dress does not usually help your bustline, it just supports the dress. It may be difficult to find a bra that will work with the plunging neckline but not impossible. Victoria's Secret has options that might work for you.
If you are going to add straps you might as well just keep the halter. Straps won't support like the halter does. IMO they destroy the mature strapless feel. It's what they do for junior brides maids who aren't old enough to go strapless. Just my opinion.
I am south east of Cincinnati, Ohio.

added April 2009

I am altering a bridal gown that has a bust line that gaps.  (wearing a push bra and/ or push up bra cups does not help fill out the top enough to eliminate the gap) Taking in the sides under arm area is not eliminating it either. And taking in the bust seams aren't an option with all the beading.
Some one at a bridal shop suggested a "pull string".  Are you familiar with this terminology? I'm thinking that they are taking some type of cording ( 1/8 " or 1/4" elastic, ribbon, twill tape etc...) going in between the lining and the top layer, starting at one side seam (sewing cording down in lining in the area that you understitch with all the seams) then taking it across top of bust line area and "pulling" it a little snugly  and sewing it down at other side seam area.
Any feed back would be appreciated.
Thank you,

That could work depending on the circumstances. I have often used thin elastic or elastic thread to tighten a neckline. I have also used bridal wire, that you often see in deep plunging necklines.

added February 2009

I’ve purchased a wedding gown that is a regular straight across strapless. I’m considering having it altered to a sweetheart neckline. I think it’s more flattering to my body type. I’m a 42 D with a defined waist. There is a lot of beading and design on the top. Would you recommend for or against changing the neckline?

Thanks in advance,


I have done this type of alteration for many bust sizes. It's up to you if it will look good or not on your body. You need to really want it before you do it for it is not reversible. 

added January 2009


First, I want to say thank you so much for your wonderful and informative website!

I have a slight dilemma with my wedding dress! I feel in love with a dress online, but it became discontinued before I could get to a salon to try it on (the nearest Jasmine retailer was across the state). Well, recently my dress turned up on ebay for a mere $40 and in my size range too! I bought the dress, but there was a part that I knew might be an issue: the dress is low cut in the back and I'm a C cup. I know from experience that my girls need support! I have a low back bra, but it's not low enough and you can see it when I try the dress on. Some of the pleating in the back has also come a bit undone, but I think I can get a cleaner to press them back in.

Are there any bra solutions to a low cut wedding dress for the C cup or larger bride?

Though it's the dress of my dreams, I've already come to terms with the fact that I might not be able to wear it. Besides, I only paid $40 for it (it was a store sample, but it's in amazing condition.) so it wouldn't be a huge financial loss.

Here's a link to the dress:

I've also attached a larger image of the back of the dress if it helps.

Thank you so much for your time!


You are not alone. It is very hard for larger busted ladies to deal with the low back gowns though they are so very beautiful. The only thing I have found with some of my brides is to use very large safety pins to secure the lowline bra to the back of the neckline. This does have a tendency to ride the neckline up your back, but if you can manage the odd feeling it can be a solution.

added August 2008

Hi Leanna,
I love your site, it has helped me a lot and I have learned so much by reading all of it, not just what pertains to what I am sewing or altering at the present, but for future use.
I am altering strapless bridesmaid's dresses that have a little too much space at the  top of the bodice between the bust seam lines (doesn't hug the chest at the top of the bodice) it is a no cleavage style.......should I just take up the bust line seams a tad from the top and taper down into the seam about an inch without creating pointy problems .......  any suggestions......the back of the bodice is very low, therefore the side seams don't seam to affect the top of the bodice in this style.
I really appreciate your help!   Thank you, Darlene

I have done this a lot and it is very hard to do it without creating the pointy breast look. You have to taper it a bit longer than you think and use a very gentle curve. 

added May 2008

Hello, Leanna.

I read through your web site and all the remedies that you provided and pray you may have one for me. My daughter who lives in another state, is getting married in June. In the fall we started looking online trying to find the 'perfect' dress. We were looking for a modest dress that wasn't low and that covered the arms. We couldn't find one online, so when I was visiting her at Christmas, we were able to check out quite a few bridal shops. Well, she found the one she liked and at the time the gown did not appear to be too low. Well, she just went in for her fitting and just called and is upset because she feels that it is going to be too low. The lady who does the alterations, said that nothing can be done to lift it. Do you have any suggestions? Now I feel badly, at the time it did not appear low and I thought that by altering it, it would raise up even more. Is there any possible way that anything could be added to the top just to lift it a few inches, without looking totally rigged?
I would appreciate any suggestions you may have. Thanks so much, Lori
P.S. Here is the style of dress. My daughter is large busted 34DDD.  The dress is Oleg C. CT229

I have experienced that any bridal gown with a bust size above D will have problems. I don't get why the bridal industry can't figure out that women's breasts just don't look like they think they do.
Your alteration lady may be correct that you can not lift the bodice. She might be seeing that it would throw off the bust point higher than your daughter's breasts are and look very funny. I'm sure there is not enough fabric in the princess seams on the front of the bodice to reshape the bust area and the lace would cause a difficulty too. Sometimes it can be lifted a small amount (less than an inch) by taking in the side seam below the waist. This would move the waist point lower and forces the bodice up, but you have to take care to not disturb the bust point.  
There is a decorative braid at the top of the neckline. It looks like it might have beads sewn on it. You can take that off and replace it with something wider. This can be another braid or a simple satin band. You can do many things to this addition to make it look natural like pleating the satin or sewing beads on the braid. You could also add a lace trim that is similar to the flower pattern of the lace on the gown bodice and let her skin show through the lace pattern or you can also back it but this would be very tricky for you would need to match the base fabric of the gown which is not easy. 
You have not seen this gown on your daughter. I am willing to bet that she is looking down at her cleavage and seeing more than she thought she would. But this viewpoint is not what guests at the wedding see. Does she have a friend who is about her size who can put the gown on and let her see it standing in front on her? It is amazing the difference in viewpoint that is seen when you look down on yourself verses what others see looking at you. The neckline might be just fine but she is panicking because of what she sees looking down on herself.

added February 2008

Hi Leanna--thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us brides! I was hoping you could expand on answer you gave earlier about modesty panels for low cut bodices. I tried on a halter style gown I loved, but the front is too low-cut for me. I was thinking of having some type of lace or silk panel sewn in, but I saw that you said these often look cheap. Is there anyway to make a low-cut halter dress more modest without looking cheap? Thanks for any ideas!

If you do not wish your cleavage to show it is best to select a gown design that already covers this area. In my opinion, anything that I have seen done ends up looking tacky.

added November 2007


I have been on your site and very much like your feedback. I am really hoping you can help me.

Style of My Dress: Satin split-back A-line with beaded cuff, hem, and inset. It is White with Apple Red as the Trim Color. (Pictures of the 1st gown fitting- Prior to Alterations are attached)

My issues are as follows:

(a) Bodice not laying flat across bust line.
(b) Bust look saggy, but there is a horizontal crease running along under my bust.
(c) If I pull tightly on it this (either upwards or downwards) it disappears. The seamstress says it is because the boning ends under the bust and there is nothing she can do.
(d) It is a strapless A-line. My problem is that I feel it doesn’t fit me properly in the bodice. It makes my breasts appear pointy. The dress is flush with my skin at the top, then it “peaks” right over the breasts and there is actual space there where it does not touch my skin. Then, it becomes flush with my skin again lower down.

It's hard to see anything in the pictures but I can give you some advice.
(a) The red band at the neckline may make it difficult to fix this. It probably does not have seams in it so taking this area in may make the band look odd. I would try to do this under the arm so any oddness won't show.
(B&c) Lack of boning will do this, but there is something that can be done. It might be that your lady just doesn't know how. Boning can be added to the front to support the gown. You have not said what kind of undergarments you are using. If you are a C or larger cup, you may need some support for yourself. Both the gown and you need separate support. Ladies smaller than a C can often get away with not wearing a bra, but in most cases a larger cup size needs to be supported separately from the gown's needs.
(d) This could have several reasons and fixes. Adding a bra may fix this and the above. Adding a little padding to the gown to fill in the space may fix it, but some brides don't want to do that. The princess seam that runs right through the bustline can be taken in but it is a very tricky operation that may leave puckering even when done with much care.

I can't see this in the pictures, but another reason for all this may be your posture. I say in several places on my site that wedding gowns are designed for ladies to stand with straight posture. The reason is so you will look your best in the gown. Most ladies do not do this in normal life and feel it is odd that designers would purposefully make the gowns so that they have to stand in a manor that is difficult to impossible for them to maintain all through their wedding day. When I try to tell brides that the easy fix is for her to stand with better posture she will often sulk at me and complain that she just can't do that. It is a very difficult thing to alter a gown to fit a slouching body, not to mention expensive. And besides, no one looks good slouching. I can't tell from your pictures if this is part of your situation or not, but it is a common factor for many brides.

I hope some of this helps you.

added October 2007


I am ordering a Pronovias gown. In the picture attached, I am in a size 10. It was on the tight side and it give me more cleavage than what I'd like. My measurements are bust 37 and waist 28.5. The size 12 that was recommended is a 37/28 and the size 14 is a 38/29. Although this was suggested, I want the dress to fully cover my bust line and felt like the 14 would allow for me to do that and to just take it in. I am normally a 32DDD and with the 12, I was afraid that it would just cover me and wouldn't leave any room to remove the cleavage that I do not want to show. Would this drastically change the look of my gown? What size do you suggest?

Trial 13 is me without a bra and Trial 12s are those with a bustier. Would you recommend wearing one?

I'm not sure what the ladies at the store are telling you, but a larger size usually won't make the neckline higher. I think you look wonderful in the 10! It's sometimes hard for brides to understand how folks are seeing them because when you look down on your own cleavage you see more than a person standing in front of you does. This style really does give you less coverage than most strapless gowns. Like I said, I think you look simply perfect, but you also have to feel good about how you look.

Ordering the 12 probably won't raise the neckline but it might let your breasts settle into the bodice lower than they are in the 10. If the cleavage is still to much, you can raise the whole bodice by taking in the waistline at the side seam a little lower than it is now. BUT - this may also push the breast flesh up a little more and create more cleavage. Am I making sense?

Another common problem with the larger sizes is that the neckline gapes above the bustline. This can be fixed at the side or princess seams, but it's not always easy. It's best to solve this problem by taking in the princess seam that runs directly over the bustline, but I doubt your design will allow that. SO - - - I would encourage you to get the 10. Did I say I love the pictures of you in the 10?

You do not need the bustier, but if it feels good do it. Many C and larger ladies have trouble fitting into a bustier well. The designers of them just don't seem to know how to accommodate the situation.

Thanks so much for your reply. I'll have to order the 12 because with the 10, I had to take short breaths and the boning was digging...very uncomfortable. I actually ordered it in a 14 yesterday, but I'll see if they can change that for me. Is there a way to minimize the cleavage? Can the alter the very top to lay down instead of my breasts rising up and gaping?

For a gapping neckline I take in the princess seams. If I remember correctly, this would be very difficult and complicated for your gown because of the way the bodice is designed, but not impossible. You will need a seamstress either very experienced or very brave to tackle such an operation. But, it might not have the result you are looking for. It will draw the fabric of the neckline closer to your body, but it will not move it higher to cover more cleavage.

About the only thing I can think of is to buy lace that matches the lace at the top of your bodice and add it to the neckline to raise it.

added August 2007

Hi Leanna,
I bought this dress for really cheap at J-crew to wear at my wedding
it is going to be a very simple wedding with a very short ceremony.
I like the dress. it actually is little long on me(which is alright) and need to do something about my tummy(tips appreciated). My biggest problem is the cleavage. I am a B cup and it kind of feels not appropriate to show that much at a wedding.
is there any way i can conceal it. I was thinking i can buy some very high quality lace, cut a little triangle and with tailors two sided tape attach it to the V..Will it look alright? Do you have any other ideas? Professional opinion, please
Thank you very much.

What you are thinking of doing is typically called a modesty panel. You can certainly do this but do not tape it in, sew it in. You would be very embarrassed if the tape lost it's sticky in the middle of your ceremony.

This is a valid solution to your question, but personally, I think modesty panels look cheap. A short jacket would look much better. The best solution would be to buy a dress that already has a neckline that is more appropriate to your situation.

added June 2007

Hello Leanna!

I have a question about changing the top part of my wedding dress. Currently it is a halter top, but even though it is a size 0, the bust under my arms is still too big and the halter around my neck is very uncomfortable. Unfortunately when I tried on the "store sample" dress it fit fine, but when I ordered mine, it doesn't fit at all like the one I tried on in the store. So my question is whether or not I would be able to essentially cut the halter top off and add thin spaghetti straps to it, having them cross into an X in the back. And also, how much would something like this cost to get fixed?

Thanks for your help! JoHanna









The simple answer is yes, but it's a matter of finding an Alterationist who will know how to do it nicely. This is a major design change that might end up looking really bad if the person doing it doesn't have the experience necessary.

I always advise against design changes, but if I were doing this for you I would design the cut to curve along the bustline to the beading instead of simply cutting a straight line across the top of the bustline. Anyway you make the cut will result in creating a problem with the dress falling away from your body in the cleavage area because you will be loosing the pull in that area that the halter top was designed to do. You might be able to position the spaghetti straps to provide back some of this function, but not all of it. You can also use body tape to get the neckline to not show your breasts but this too has drawbacks. You might not like the feel of the tape and your skin might be allergic to the adhesive and create non-flattering red patches.

You have other options.
1. Have the alteration done for fitting the top. This should be doable and less drastic than the design change. You did not say if you had it looked at by a seamstress.

2. You didn't say if the dress in the store was the same size as the one you ordered. If it is, you can try to ask the store to exchange the dress you have with the one you tried on in the store. They will not want to do this but they should.

As far as how much this will cost, you will have to ask that of the person you get to do it. My prices are not the same as other sewing specialists and I don't presume they should follow the way I set my prices. I would need to see you in the gown to give you a price anyway.

added December 2005

My daughter just purchased her wedding gown (December for wedding in May )and needs alterations in the bodice and the hem. I do not live in the same city as she, so will not be able to accompany her to fittings with an alterations seamstress. The bridal store does not do alterations but gave her a brochure with referrals for seamstresses in her area. I have advised her to contact them immediately for an initial consultation.
I am concerned about how the bodice will be altered to make it lay correctly at the neckline. The neckline is wide, curving down a bit at the center front. It is sleeveless and about an inch wide at the shoulders. Satin bodice with crystal beading. Laces down the back bodice with flat satin "laces" Skirt is organza over a lining with a short train. there is a band of organza that covers the waist seam, lies in folds and crisscrosses in the front. She tried it on originally with a boned corset. The cups of the corset showed above the neckline a bit and the boning showed through the dress. She she tried it on again without a bra. The bodice adjusts some because of the lacing, but the neckline gaps and I am concerned about it being altered correctly so as to lie close to the body. Also what do we do about a bra/undergarment? Sewn in? Another style of corset? I don't want it to be too revealing! Also she needs something to smooth her like the corset did.
I sew, but would not attempt this for anything - no experience with this type of garment.
Thank you for this website! Such helpful information.
Jan in Missouri

I can't give you much good advice without seeing her in the gown, but I can try to give you a few general ideas.

Most sleeveless or off the shoulder gowns have boning and many layers of fabric in them. You do not have to wear a bra with these unless your bust needs the support. If you are concerned about modesty you can sew in cups.

Sometimes a neckline will gap because the bride is not standing with proper posture. Many young women who have never worn such a formal gown don't realize that you have to stand tall for them to fit right. I tell brides to think about squeezing your shoulder blades in the back and setting your shoulders down. It's not like you are sticking out your chest out like a soldier, but squeezing the blades sets the chest at a better angle to fill out the neckline.

It sounds like she really wants the corset. You can sew the top of the corset to the underside of the neckline so it won't peek out.

Lastly, I really think choosing an independent sewing professional is much better than going with the bridal store lady. Now, I used to be "the bridal store lady" so it's tough to judge, but generally, the bridal store lady is going to be more concerned with what the store wants her to be, not what you want. Call several ladies on that list and ask lots of questions. Most will not want to see your daughter until the gown is in. They do not have time for consultations, but they should be willing to talk to you on the phone and answer your questions with patience.

It's hard for moms who are not in the same town. I encourage brides to bring a friend with a camera so pictures of the fitting can be e-mailed to mom. It's not the same as being there, but you can at least see that it's going well or not.

Thank you so much. I feel like I have a better grasp of how to go about this part of the preparation.
My daughter has her gown. What I called a consultation would actually be the first visit to the alterations person for her to advise what needs to be done to the dress.
Thanks again for your help. I am so glad I happened onto your website!

Oh, I totally misunderstood. When someone says they bought a gown it usually means they ordered a gown that will come on a later date. If you already have the gown it might be a good idea to get in for a meeting with a seamstress - or two. I normally don't want to start work on a gown earlier than 8 weeks before the wedding date. Bride's bodies can't change to drastically much in 8 weeks. Whether they are dieting or not, often the stress of wedding plans can result in weight loss or gain. I don't mind meeting with brides sooner than 8 weeks if they have special concerns, but I will then make a date for a first fitting at 8 weeks.