It's Just Too Big


A too big gown is a much easier problem to solve than a too small gown, but it can also pose interesting complications depending on the construction of the gown, the decorations used, and what options the bride will accept.

added January 2010

Hi Leanna,
I found my dream dress - but of course it was over my budget.  So after some research I discovered I could order it on-line at a price that was well within my budget and this is what I did.  The size that the sizing chart indicated i should order was 2-3 sizes bigger than my normal size (normally a street 2-4 - dress i ordered was an 8).  But I knew wedding dresses were sized small and thought it would be fine.  The dress came yesterday - and it is too big everywhere (even the area that required I order the size 8 is noticeably big!). I think I could have safely went with a size 6.  I have been a little concerned about this ever since the dress arrived - but finding your sight has made me feel much better.  I have read a number of previous questions and responses you have provided and it seems that altering down one or two sizes should not be a huge problem. 
However, I just wanted to check in and see if there was any caveat to this when the dress is Alencon lace?  My dress is a Watters 1048B 
I am specifically concerned about the chest area - as you can see from the photo (I hope) there is an underlining that covers the breasts - and because my dress is a big - I am afraid that once altered to fit properly - they will sit way too high and look bad.  Is this something that can be fixed?
My other question is about hemming - I actually would like to hem the dress so that there is no train at all... just a normal floor lenth dress... is this alot more work/money than the usual hemming/adding a bustle?  I am 5'3 and don't plan on wearing shoes any higher than 2inches - so I think I will lose most of the train anyway.
Thank you in advance for help!

Hi Heather, 
Most gowns are taken in at the side seams. This should work for this gown but I can't be certain without being able to see the seams. You said you are concerned that the breast will be moved too high. Sewing any gown in at the sides does not effect the placement of the bustline. That can be changed by adjusting the halter at the back of the neck but you have not said that needs to be done.
Now, the side of the bodice where the lace edge travels under your arm may be effected by taking in the sides. Depending on how much is taken in, this edge will move under your arm more and may move so close to the side of your arm that you may feel irritated at it's rubbing the side/underside of your arm. This can be adjusted if you need the bodice taken in so much that this happens. Am I making sense?
The hemming can be done as you are wanting and I have done this for many brides. It does cost more than a regular bridal hem that is done only on the front of the dress. It usually doubles the cost. You do have an option to permanently bustle the gown. This looks perfectly natural and is a great way to lower the cost.

Hi Leanna,
Thanks so much for your response! 
I should just clarify (from re-reading my e-mail I see that I was not very clear on this) - the whole chest area will have to be moved up... not sure if you can see on the photos - but there is a band type of think sewn right into the dress that is supposed to sit right under the chest... and mine right now sits way below my chest - when it is moved to where it is supposed to sit - that is when the chest area seems to get way to high for me (the actual halter will have to be altered also - also way too big!)  
So I guess my biggest concern is that the underlining in the chest area can be altered - otherwise I have that sitting almost up to my shoulders!  From what my very uninformed eyes can see from just looking at it - the halter straps consist of two pieces of material on on top of the other and the underlining is sewn to the bottom layer of the material - not the top piece. The material is what appears to be very delicate and almost sheer (does this make sense)?
I appreciate this is difficult to answer without seeing the actual dress - but have you ever come across anything that sounds like what I am describing?
Again, many thanks for your help!

Hi Heather, 
Yes, you are making sense. This is not a fun situation for you but it can be fixed. The bigger question is finding someone convenient to you who can do it.
Once I saw the gown on you I might take a different route to getting this fitting properly. If the halter top is fitting good in your upper bust area (from what you have said I think this is the case), I might decide to move the band (skirt portion of the dress) up instead of the halter. This would keep the lacy sides the same and the breast cup would fit better. It's a lot of work either way and some alteration ladies may say it can't be done because they don't know how to do it.
Does your store do alterations? Have you started looking for someone to do this for you?

added November 2009

Hi Leanna,

Your website is just what I've been looking for.

I bought a sample gown (Adele Wechsler, Arianna) which was 1-2 sizes too big.  I took it to a seamstress who took a quick look/feel at how it fit and then took it in 1/2"  on each side through the bodice (It has a side zip). I checked the skirt part (ie below the zipper) and his had not been altered.  Anyway, while I feel the 1/2" was enough from mid ribcage up (b/c I have wide shoulders and D cups breasts) it is quite roomy at the waist and hips. I could fit a small pillow in the tummy region or gain 10 lbs.  It basically gets roomier at the waist, not hips.  Perhaps it's b/c I'm long torsoed and tall and my waist is lower than the waist of the gown or maybe my expectations are screwy.  i don;t know.  I would like the dress to be fitted through the entire ruched area or at least at the waist.  is this possible? the seamstress said she couldn't take it in at the back b/c of the ruching which would poof out if she took in the lining but is there a reason she couldn't take it in more at the sides just in the waist area down?  I've attached pictures with how I'd like it (pinned in back, warmer lighting, how it is (cooler lighting), and a back view w/ it pinned in the front.  If it can' be done I don't want to take it to another seamstress who tries and fails on my dime (which I have few of).  Also, would cups help?

Thank you so much for your time, ALison

Hi Alison,
I happed to be sitting at my computer when your email came in. I'm intrigued by your experience. Can I ask you a few questions?
1. Did the seamstress fit you in the dress or just look at it and decide to sew the 1/2 inch? I mean did she put pins in the side seams when you are in the dress to determine who much needed to be sewn?
2. Did she give the reason for not doing the sewing again once you questioned her or did she volunteer that opinion?   
3. Do you have another sewing professional to go to?

Hi Leanna,
Wow, that was quick :) My answer to your questions are below.
1. She did look at and feel me in the dress and pin it then but only at the
top and bottom of the ruched bit I.e., not at the waist. I asked her about
this at the time and she told me she was going to take in 1/2" between he
two pin points. From what I gather from your site his isn't unusual.
2. When I mentioned that I'd like it tighter at the waist she said that
since the lining had a seam at the back it could be taken in there but not
the top part b/c of the ruching/pleating. She did not volunteer information
about the sides.
3. I found this person on Google and yelp reviewing site and there were
The impression I got was that she's very busy and didn't want to redo it but
that was more from non-verbal cues. I could've pushed the issue but a) I'm
not overly assertive and b) I didn't sb who resented the work while doing it
Thank you so much for your prompt response.

Hi Alison,
Every sewing professional works differently and I can't knock her methods
but I find them unusual and they did not result in your satisfaction. I
would have pinned the seam I am doing the work on in every place the work is
done. For you that would be all the way down the side seam, even through the
ruching. I have often taken in more than 1/2 inch through ruching. Whatever
is needed is what gets done. I pin like this so the bride can have a good
idea of what it will feel like once I do the work. It helps me communicate
with her so I can understand what kind of fit she is going for.
Gown designs like yours need to be snug in the waist. You didn't say but I
bet there is boning in the bodice. Boning needs to have support to do it's
job properly. That support comes from pushing up from the waist. If the
waist area is not snug, it has nothing to push against and sags. I don't
know if that is what you are not liking about the feeling of the dress. A
ruched dress is hard to make the waist look small because of the bulk all
the fabric gathered there makes. It's not an easy thing to take in these
types of seams. It's just a lot of fabric to deal with.
All that said, I think she did not do a good job and I doubt she will know
how to fit it right. I generally say that if a sewing professional does not
get a good fit and gives you a questionable reason why she can't redo it,
than she probably doesn't know how. I don't always get things right the
first time but I am always willing to redo any job that is not what the
bride wanted. In most cases it's not a question of doing it "right" or not.
Right" is what the bride wants. It's also not always easy for a sewing
professional to understand what a bride wants so jobs need to be redone
often. A good sewing professional will do this willingly because she
understands that altering a wedding gown is a process that often includes
doing things over until they are right.
Your observations of her nonverbal ques might be right on, but this time of
year is not normally a very heavy work load time, at least for me it's not.
There are limits to what can be fixed on any garment but I do think your
situation is not one where the job is impossible. Actually, it seems rather
elementary to me. She should have been able to get it right the first time,
or at least closer to right for what you are wanting. You did tell her
clearly enough and I don't think she listened to you as she should have.
You have a couple choices here. You can try to communicate with her better
by being more insistent in your desire that the seams be taken in more. You
are not being a bridzilla in this. She is working for you and needs to do
the job to your satisfaction. You do not have to pay her until the work is
done to your liking, BUT she also does not have to release the gown until
you pay. SO, you have a difficult choice. I can not say for sure that she
has the knowledge to do this job right, so I think you might be better off
paying her for the work done and going to another who can do it right. It
will be costly but the odds of you getting the gown done right are higher.
I hope this helps!

Hi Leanna,

Thank you for taking the time to give me your opinion.  Your answer gives me more confidence in requesting that it get taken in more so I will take it somewhere - but somewhere else.  Thank you.


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 August 2008

I saw some great q&a on your website and was wondering if you could help me.  Thank you in advance!  I purchased an informal wedding dress online.  Knowing that my bust was going to determine the size (since I am a 36D+ on top, usually a large, and wear a 6 in jeans), I ended up buying an 8 and it fits...kinda.  I can't zip the back up the last inch.  Also, my boobs look too big in it as the bust is tight!  There is fabric that could be used around the hips if I decide to have it taken in there, to use for the bust and back zipper area.

I am wearing a bustier underneath to have a smooth line because with just a strapless bra it was a little too see-through.
Is it possible to make more room in the bust?  How much might it be cost-wise to have it altered:  moving the bust cups and enlarging them so the dress sits higher on my chest, making sure the back can zip up, and adjusting the trim around the bodice so it lays flat? 


There might be enough seam allowance in the sides seams to let out and make you more comfortable. If not, you can do a lace-up back that is very popular right now and solved this problem for many brides. Here are some pictures of gowns I have done this way:

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 July 2008

Hi Leanna

Quick question. I have a bridesmaid dress to alter several sizes down. It has a zipper in the back, side seams and dart in the front (dart from top to bottom of bodice) bodice is empire. Do I take in the total amount divided among all three locations or just the seams??  I am concerned that the darts or sides will be off kilter if I just do the back. HELP!!!
Thank you!

When altering a dress more than 2 sizes you often have to take it in at every seam to get an ok looking result. Darts do usually need to be reconstructed too. There are no set rules here - what the dress needs to make it look right is what you need to do.

added January 2008

Hi Leanna,

I am so happy I stumbled upon your site! You are awesome – thank you for your honest and expert opinions! Gulp…now for my question.

I am 5’5 and used to be a size 4ish, and apparently I have lost weight to a size 2ish, where I imagine I will stay for my wedding in June since I have not been trying to loose weight and have stayed consistently this size for a few months now.

I originally fell in love with a Pronovias dress (Ipanema), but quickly fell out of love with the price. I then found the same exact dress on ebay from a girl in my area who decided to purchase a different dress for her wedding. I picked it up and it is beautiful and still has the tags, but it says it’s a size 10. I know that Pronovias runs small, and this girl swears she is a size four and that is what the bridal store ordered for her.

Will this be ok to take in, or will it ruin the dress? I’m terrified, please be honest and tell me if I need to start shopping for a new dress or if it can be altered. I have attached pics for you, but I am holding the dress tight in the photos.

Thanks so much, I appreciate your advice! Also, where is your alterations shop located? If you are in the Los Angeles area, I would love to visit your store. If not, thanks for sharing your wisdom!

Sincerely, Eleah

I could fit this dress to you and have it look great - the REAL question is - Can you find a seamstress in your town who can do the work? You need to make phone calls and ask lots of questions. There is a page on my site that will give you some advice: http://WWW.Leanna.Com/Bridal/BridalQA/Finding.htm

added November 2007

I've spent numerous hours on your website, and I can't tell you how helpful they've been. I do have a question on how to bustle my chosen wedding gown, though. I'd like to know what I want before I talk to a local seamstress, as none come very highly recommended in my area. I'm wearing Alfred Angelo's 1678, and pictures are attached. The dress also came significantly larger than I needed (about four sizes!). Do you think that it can be altered down that much? Is this the kind of thing that only a local seamstress could tell me, after investigating the dress her/himself?

Thanks for your time! Alexis

Most dresses can be altered down 2 sizes with little difficulty, but once you go past that things get more complicated. It can usually be done, but you'll need someone with more experience. Yes, it is something that the lady you end up hiring has to answer for if she doesn't feel experienced enough, it's better that you go to someone else.

I have bustled this gown and it's not difficult. A simply Ballroom style looks great. The problem is usually what to do with the sash. The easiest thing is to tie a bow, but bows are out of style this year and most brides want other options. There is one gown on my site that is close to your sash situation.
This gown already had a bow so the bride couldn't tie the sash. We both felt it would look silly. So we simply tucked the sash under itself using hooks and eyes and formed a loop that looks ok with the bow.

added October 2007

I bought a dress from a bridal store. When I went for my fitting, I was told that they could only take it is so far due to the boning. They pinned the dress and it seems to fit, but I wanted it taken it a little more. This is when they said they could not take it in any further. The dress has boning which is why I was told the dress could only be taken in so much.

Is this normal or should I be looking for another seamstress?

Go to someone else. The only reason why they can not do this work is they don't know how to do it. Boning can be moved. It's not easy, but it can be done.

added October 2007

Hi Leanna

I was reading the tips on your website and was emailing for some advice.

I went to David's Bridal, back in August, and tried my dress in a size 4. It fit pretty well with the bra and slip minus the neckline which was a little loose and they said they could alter it. I was actually surprised because I usually wear a 2 or 3 in dress size but they told me bridal gowns usually run "small."

I ordered the dress in white [the one I tried was ivory] in the same size. I just got it two weeks ago and tried it on for the first time today and it feels so big on me! Granted, I don't have the bra or the slip but the hips feel kinda big on me. I did get quite sick and lost some weight but didn't think it was that much of a difference.

My wedding is in March and I am going for my first fitting in January. Do you think I should return the dress and have it ordered in a size 2 or should I leave the 4 and just have it altered. I have a feeling the 2 might be a little too tight [esp around the waist] but I am also concerned about the extensiveness of the alteration. I am attaching the link of my dress:

I know the neck loop needs to be altered and the dress needs to be hemmed because it's kind of long and I'm not wearing super long heels. The seamstress there quoted me 25 for the neck, 35 for the bustle and possible 85-90 for the hemming.

Any advice, recommendations would be so greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much! Ayla

Wedding gowns are not returnable.

You have a lot of time between now and January. Even a little weight change can effect things for a gown that is so exacting like yours. You could easily gain back the weight you lost by then. Since it was from a sickness your body is more inclined to gain it back, so I would not fret about it now. See how things fit in January and do your best to not change your weight from then till March.

Thanks for responding so quickly Leanna :)

I was under the impression that sizes could be exchanged but I could have been wrong.

I read on your website that the sample in the store doesn't always fit the way the new dress does; do you think that's what happened in my case?

A few more questions; if the waist needed to be altered; would it be a big problem for this dress and would it cost a lot?

Also, what kind of bustle would you suggest? The dress has an attached catherderal veil [it attaches to the back of the neck loop]. I liked the one you did with the pick up bustle [similar back as my dress]; would that work with my dress?

I'll try not to lose weight :) I actually didn't/don't plan it at all but my body changes according to season or if I get sick and sometimes it's difficult to really know what's going to happen still by faith, I don't anticipate too many outrageous changes between now and March :)

Have a blessed evening and thanks so much for your response! Ayla

As with all manufactured garments, you can try on 2 of the same dresses in the same size and they will both fit differently. That's why we have people who do alterations.

I can't say about the cost of the waist alteration for I don't know what way the seams are constructed, but my estimate for me doing the work would be between $40 and $80. They could charge you differently.

I can't see the back of the gown in the picture but it looks like a pick-up bustle would be the one I would try first.

added September 2007

Hi Leanna,

I just came accross your website a week ago and have been slowly reading through everything very diligently. You have great information. Like so many brides I found the dress of my dreams a couple months ago but have lost weight since placing my order (not purposefully) and am concerned that my dress won't fit when it comes in. From your advice to others I am a bit reassured, it sounds much easier to take in a dress than out, but I fear the fabric on the bodice is the type that seamstresses find difficult to work with. It's hard to tell from the pictures but the bodice almost looks like it has a layer of "netting" type material on it. I have attached the website link below and am wondering if, in your opinion this can be altered and still look good. Thanks for any advice you can provide! Heather

I have had the pleasure of working on many Maggie gowns. They are beautiful and have great construction design. It's not always easy to alter them because of the extra stuff underneath, but that makes them more valuable and fit smoother. It is always better to take in then let out. Depending on where you lost the weight the gown may not be as much of a problem as you are fearing. Wait till the gown comes in and see how it is fitting. You might even gain a little of that weight back by then.

I need advice from someone experienced in bridal gown alterations. My daughter got a good deal on a new $2600 gown which is a strapless A-line with a ruched bodice with a side zipper closure. It is made of a lovely 100% silk doupioni. Sounds good so far, but now she has asked me to make it fit her which means making a size 8 gown fit a size 2 Petite body. I am fairly good at sewing but have never had any experience with a wedding gown. My goal is for the finished gown have the same lines and look as the original but be much smaller. This is my plan of action. Please tell me if I am taking the wrong approach.

I have pretty much taken the bodice apart, piece by piece. I plan to scale each piece down to size and then reassemble them. There are 3 layers of fabric in the actual bodice (the outer fabric, the underlining and the lining) plus 2 more layers in the built-in corset (the corset and the corset lining). That makes a total of 5 layers I have to resize. I am fitting the corset to her first, and then transferring the adjustments I make in the corset to the bodice pieces. My idea is to make the corset fit slightly more snugly than the gown to alleviate any stress on the gown seams. The skirt of the gown will not be quite so complicated.

Here is my main concern. In my opinion, the ruching, combined with the substantial weight of the underlining, makes the fabric in the zipper closure entirely too bulky. I am considering removing some of the bulk by basting the underlining to the gown fabric just inside where the new side seam will be folded back to make the zipper opening and then trimming the underlining close my basting line. The basting tread will hold the single layer of underlining in place while I install the zipper after which the zipper stitching will hold it securely. That way when I sew in the zipper there will be only one layer of underlining rather than two as there is now. Does that sound like a good or bad idea?

Please feel free to point out any places where my reasoning is faulty. I am very open to suggestions. I certainly do not want to ruin this beautiful gown.

Thanks. Betty

P.S. You probably are wondering why I have accepted this job. I have been altering clothing to fit this particular daughter for 24 years and she is convinced I will do a better job than a local alteration person. Time will tell if her faith in me is justified.

I see no flaws in any of your thinking. Actually, it sounds like you do know what you are doing. You idea about the corset is right on. This is the reason for a corset - to relieve the stress on the dress. Relieving the bulk at the zipper sound like a good way to go too.

You can't ruin the dress by trying things. If it doesn't work you just have to take it apart and try something else. Taking in a dress that much is a huge job. You sometimes have to do odd things to get it right. I think you will be pleased with the result.

added June 2007

I do alterations in my home and it seems that I almost every dress I work on has been ordered at least 2 or more sizes too big by the bridal salon. Even if the customer specifically states that the dress IS NOT her normal size, she is ignored and than not allowed to return it for a smaller size when she picks it up, tries it on(in the store) and it is obvious it is way too big!

This week I had to take in 8 inches off of the top of a strapless, beaded gown! The girl wears a size 14 and was going to be 7 months pregnant when she wore the gown. The store insisted on ordering her a maternity size 26W!!!!!! When she tried it on in the store and cried because it was so hugely oversized for her bust-the saleslady said 'Oh we can alter it for you.'

Is this normal procedure?

Thank you, Linda

You're situation is a little more drastic than I've heard of, but yes, this is normal. It's not the way I think it should be but the bridal industry has not figured out a better way yet. There is a good reason for this ordering of things too big. It's because the store often can't fix a too small problem. Too big can always be altered. For a pregnant situation they just can't predict how large the customer will grow between the time the dress is ordered and the wedding. So, for them, it's safer to order too big.

What stinks the most is that the store won't take responsibility for either problem and will charge you for the alterations. It really sucks, but I have yet to find a way to change it.

added June 2007

This is a link to the gown I’ve purchased. I bought it in a size 2, as small as this gown comes. When I bought it, my measurements fit (supposedly) exactly what the manufacturer’s were for the size. I’m very petite, and at the very least, the gown needs to be hemmed, and the straps shortened. The problem is, it feels big around the bust and waist as well. The store did not have an in-house seamstress, and I’m looking for one. My question is, is it even possible for this gown to be altered the way I need it?


Yes, it probably needs just a little bit and I would do it at the side seams. It will be a little tricky because the gown is silk and cut on the bias, but it can be done.

added April 2007

Hi Leanna. I stumbled on your website last night. It was very informative. I was hoping that you could help me with my question. I purchased a beautiful Monique Lhuillier wedding gown from Ebay last week. Although I'm a street size 4, the measurements of Monique Lhuillier's size 10 matched (with the exception of the length) so I purchased the size 10 gown. I just received the gown yesterday to find that it needs to be taken in all over. Because of the workmanship on the gown, I'm not sure if it can be altered without losing the details, shape, etc. I've attached several pictures of the gown so you can give me your professional opinion. I am guessing that the bodice will have to be completely removed from the skirt as a first step?? I am trying to find a tailor who specializes in wedding gown alterations, but it hasn't been easy.
Thank you so much!! Michelle

It very rare that the bodice has to be completely removed from the skirt to work on it. Most alterations can be done at the side seams. It looks like the zipper is in the back seam which is very good. If it were in the side seam it would be a complication.

You will need to find a seamstress who is knowledgeable about wedding gowns. It can be done. You just need an experienced lady. You should not loose any detail in the sizing. The left hip will be a little tricky, but I don't see any reason why this dress can't be made to fit you and still look beautiful!

added March 2007

I have a wedding gown buying/altering question for you. Is it impossible to take a size 10 dress and make it into a size 4? It is a ball gown with a fitted corset-type top. Is this going to be impossible and end up looking awful or will it be ok?

Thanks, jenn

Since I can't see the gown and don't know the skill level of the person doing this work I have no way to say if it will be ok. I can do this type of thing but it is a lot of work and will cost more than I'm sure you want to pay. Usually doing something like this does not save you money in comparison to buying a gown at a higher price that is your size.

added December 2006

Hi there,

Just a quick question for you. I recently ordered my wedding gown but she suggested a size that is four times my normal size in everything else i wear and this is putting me in a real panic. I'm scared that when this dress comes in there'll be no way to alter it because it'll just be too big. I just want someone's advice. It's too late to change my mind because the dress is already ordered but i do plan on losing a bit of weight before the wedding also. Is there any point where a dress is just too big to alter? I usually take a 12 to 14 in normal everyday clothes and in fact did try a 14 on in the dress but it was just a bit too small in my opinion. After measuring me she said that i should probably order a size 18 because of my hips but i'm just so scared that it's going to be too big and i'll end up with a gown which cost me almos $1200 that i can't even wear.

Can you please give me some advice??

Thanks, Pam

I have not had a gown that was too big to alter, but the more work that is necessary to make the gown smaller the more it's going to cost. Depending on the design there may be things on the gown that have to be cut out to make it smaller, like lace flowers. This can be difficult for you to loose some of the design, but these things would be less if you had ordered it smaller in the first place.

You really don't want the dress being too small problem. That one is really rough.

added December 2006

Hi, I am getting married in July of 07. A picture of my dress is attached. Will this style be difficult to make one size smaller? Your advice is greatly appreciated.

Wow, that's gorgeous!
It will probably have to be done at the zipper in the back. I try to look at the side seams first to keep the bodice symmetrical, but many gowns like this one have to be done at the back. One size should not change the look any by doing it at the zipper. I doubt it will be an easy alteration, but someone who knows what they are doing will be able to do it unnoticeably.

added November 2006

Hi Leanna,
thanks for your wonderful website, I'm hoping you can give me some advice. This might be a bit long, I hope you can bear with me. Due to being in a remote area of the Australia Outback I ordered a Maggie Sottero "Addison" Gown Online from the US in a size 14 petite which would have been a near perfect fit, unfortunately the (very well known) company went out of business about 6 weeks ago and I was left without a dress (you can only imagine the state I was in!). With not enough time left before my January 13th Wedding to order a new gown I called every stockist of MS gowns in Australia (all 6 of them) desperately trying to find an in-stock gown, my requirements: white, size 14. One store had a sample "Michelle" which is a similar design but it was a size 16 and in Diamond White, but like I said I was running out of time and I have no chance of getting to a quality Bridal Store so I purchased it sight unseen and had it sent to me.

Being a size bigger and of longer length though presents some problems I hadn't anticipated. I have tried it on once and being here by myself I had to do my best to do it up and then "shimmy" it around to the front, so it wasn't as tight as it could go but almost. It is a lace up back and the laces almost meet (I prefer that "V" look), the bust is far too big, I am a small c-cup and even laced almost right up and with "breast enhancers" it still gaped at the front, the bodice is heavily crystallized and I am concerned about if it will be possible to take it in enough. It is also far too long and will need hemming and I will need a bustle. The major problem is that I live 900 miles from a large city and 150 miles from the nearest town with a Formal Wear Store and a Seamstress, the store sells some cheaper, simpler style wedding gowns but not knowing what else to do I called them and asked if they could recommend a seamstress, they said there was only 1 in town but that she was very good, still though I am anxious about putting my expensive MS gown in her hands. I am flying interstate to one of Australia's biggest cities for the wedding and I'm wondering if I am better off waiting and getting the alterations done there by someone who has been recommended. The problem is I am only flying in 6 days before the wedding, is that enough time for an experienced seamstress to do the required alterations?
Thank you in advance,

Looking at your pictures it seems you have a good basic fit. Many brides think a strapless gown needs to fit tight at the top, but you really do not want this. A strapless gown need to fit snugly at the waist, giving the boning support to hold the bodice up. You don't want a tight fit at the neckline because that will create fat pockets at the side of your breast that look very ugly. The top should simply lay on your skin comfortably.

If you are not used to wearing a strapless gown it is easy to look at yourself and think you are showing too much cleavage but you need to think that you are looking from a totally different vantage point than your guests will be seeing. You, looking down at yourself, are seeing way more than anyone will.

For your desire for the lacings to be more "V" shaped, I would take the dress in at the side seams. This will also effect the bust area and may give you a better feel there without padding. I would not attempt to do anything in the front. It can be done, but it will be very difficult and cost way more than I think you want to pay since you have to have a hem and bustle.

Can the dress be altered in 6 days? Yes, but you need to get on someone's schedule for this to work. You can't simply walk into a Alteration shop and ask for a gown to be altered 6 days from then. They will have many dresses they are working on that walked in before you and can't ethically push those dresses aside to take care of you. And if they offer to "fit you in" I would worry about the quality of workmanship they can do working overtime on your dress after they have put in a full day doing the other dresses already on their schedule. They may be very good but anyone under stress can make mistakes.

Be prepared to be charged extra for the rush service. Bridal alterations are expensive under normal circumstances. I think you are in for a much more than the usual fee.

So, if there is someone available to you in the city give them a call now and ask lots of questions. Maybe you can even send them the pictures you sent me so they will have a good idea of what you need before you get there.

You have a lot of concerns, but you can have a lovely wedding with a dress that looks great on you. It is beautiful to start with. Your challenges are not really the technical questions of dress alterations but your distance from someone who can do these procedures.

I think I have covered all the questions. If you have more you know where I am. I hope I have been of some help

added October 2006

I just read your article and thought it was great. I just purchased a sample sale gown that I absolutely fell in love with. It is currently a size 8 with no current alternations. I am a street size 2 and 5 foot 3. The dress is strapless with no beading, silk with an organdy overlay, small a-line shape with an embossed design in the center of the waist that turns to a small silk band. The back has a small pleated ruffle down the back with a pave strip in the middle. Is it possible to get this dress altered to look as beautiful as it does now or should I sell it and order a dress starting at my size? I am now concerned about taking is down 4 sizes or so. The salon felt that it would be fine.

Your thoughts would be very much appreciated.
Thank you, Allyson

Going up or down more than 2 sizes is usually not a good idea. I would need to see the dress to make any judgment call other than this. But I can say that sales people will tell you anything to sell you a dress. I would not trust anything they say.

It is always possible to change most things, but it may be a lot of work and cost more than you were thinking it would. Also, you may have to sacrifice some design elements for size needs. It can still look beautiful, but it may be very different than it is right now.

added September 2006

Hi Leanna,
I came across your site on the web and saw your Q&A section with Very practical advice. I was hoping you could help me with a dilemma. I found a bridal gown that I love, but it is out of my price range at The local salons. I am probably going to purchase it online. I would Be deciding between a 6 and an 8, and I would probably play it safe and Choose the 8 because of my hips. My largest dimension is my hips, and I Am only 5'4" so I will definitely need to have the bodice taken in, a Hem, and a bustle. I have the opportunity to purchase a brand new Sample size 10, that has supposedly never been tried on (it is a new Fall 06 style so this is believable). My question is, since I will have To have non-trivial alterations done to the 8, should it really be much More costly to begin with the 10? The dress is pretty simple; it has no Beading, lace, or embroidery. It is made of shantung (not silk). It has a V-neck crossover bodice, an empire waist, a modified A-line skirt (I've seen it described as a trumpet), and princess seams. The back is a plain V, with a zipper in the center. I am attaching a picture.

According to the size chart for the designer (Mikaella),
size 6: bust 33, waist 25, hips 36
size 8: bust 34, waist 26, hips 37
size 10: bust 35, waist 27, hips 38
My measurements are (approximately because I measured myself - I still need to get measured by a prof.) bust 33, waist 25, hips 37.5.

If you could give me any advice, I would greatly appreciate it.
Thanks, Stacy

I'd have to see the dress on you to tell you how much more money it will cost for the size 10 alterations. It's not a matter of the same alteration, just more. There are many things that an alteration can effect that will add what has to be done to achieve a good fit as the size number increases. I recommend that a bride not go more than 2 sizes larger than she needs just to save money. It usually backfires with the added cost to alter the dress.

You said your hips are of concern and you are short. You will need a hem and if it can be done at the waist - the skirt will get wider as it is lifted to do the hem alteration. This would fix you sizing in the hip area. I would rather tell you to go for a 6, than the 10.

added May 2006

Thanks for your useful tips for rescuing ruined wedding dresses and miserable brides-to-be. I wonder if you could help me as well. My wedding is in 12 days though so I'm feeling a bit helpless. I bought my dress 5 months ago in a size 12 (european size), when I'm a size 8. I had it altered by a friend of a friend, which made things difficult because we can't fall out over the dress. He did a good job generally, after a few scary moments, including cutting the beautifully embroidered hem 2 inches too short, but he fixed it eventually by (I think), moving the skirt down from the waist. Anyway, I went for my last fitting last week, and it seemed fine. He'd dry-cleaned it because he'd drawn marks on it where he needed to cut, and it was slightly damp, but it seemed great. However, I tried it on yesterday and it's ever so slightly too big! I'm sure I haven't lost weight, so I wonder if it's just that now I'm moving around in it, rather than just staying mostly still while he pins things, or maybe when it dried out after being cleaned, the material kind of relaxed! It's just big enough now that literally within a minute the whole dress slips down enough for me to trip on the hem, my bra strap shows and, if I lift my arms up… it's not just my bra that shows! It's going to be so uncomfortable. Help! He took the boning out, and reading one of your other comments, I wonder if there might be an easy way to get someone to put some back in? Is my only solution to get some kind of corset to make me bigger?!


From what I can tell all you need is the boning replaced. A strapless dress is not supposed to be snug, but it does need the boning to support it. You can go to whatever local fabric store you have and buy boning and sew it in yourself. It's not really hard. You just have to sew it along each seam in the inside of the dress. It is easier to do it by hand for getting a machine inside there is often difficult.

If you are still worried about your bra showing, you do not have to wear it. When you go to buy the boning, buy a pair of bra cups and sew them into the bust area. Don't get the kind that are for bathing suits. If the wall of different packages of bra things is confusing, ask a clerk to show you what is best.

added November 2005

You were so right when you suggested to never buy a gown that is over one size too big. I was married on 10/08/05 and I had a not so good experience with my dress. I bought it off the rack, because I got it at a very good price. The dress was a woman's size and about three sizes to big. The seamstress said she could make it fit. There was so much cutting that had to be done on this dress, I started regretting my purchase after my first fitting. Even on my wedding day, although they made it fit ok, I was still not happy with the way it looked. I regret not buying a more flattering dress, closer to my size, that I saw at another salon, because it was more expensive. My niece is getting married next year and I am forwarding your site to her so she doesn't make the same mistake.

Thank you for the kind words. I'm sad you didn't like your dress, but I hope your day was wonderful anyway. Though I started the bridal section of my site to try to give out information that might help prevent stuff like this from happening, I get many letters from ladies after they have made poor choices. Saving money isn't a bad thing. I often wonder about brides who pay $10,000 on a gown instead of putting that money on a home down payment.

Maybe as time goes by more brides will find me before they go shopping.

I wish your niece all the best.

added December 2005

Help when i was measured for my gown i measured an 18 they told me its standard to order one size bigger (OK) my dress came in a 22. three sizes to big now they are telling me its going to cost like $600. the seamstress that i wanted to do my alterations told me that it would ruin my dress to do that much work i believe the seamstress that i know and trust. this is not my fault anything you could suggest would be great my wedding is 8 weeks away I'm on the verge of going crazy I'm devastated


Do you have anything in writing that the store told you to order a 20? If not, there's not much you can do to force the store to fix this. BUT - a 22 is only 2 sizes too big, not 3. I don't think it will look bad to alter it this much. Strapless gowns can be altered more than the ones with sleeves to worry about. I would take it in at the side seams and it should be just fine.

added November 2005

You were so right when you suggested to never buy a gown that is over one size too big. I was married on 10/08/05 and I had a not so good experience with my dress. I bought it off the rack, because I got it at a very good price. The dress was a woman's size and about three sizes to big. The seamstress said she could make it fit. There was so much cutting that had to be done on this dress, I started regretting my purchase after my first fitting. Even on my wedding day, although they made it fit ok, I was still not happy with the way it looked. I regret not buying a more flattering dress, closer to my size, that I saw at another salon, because it was more expensive. My niece is getting married next year and I am forwarding your site to her so she doesn't make the same mistake.

Every bride wants her dress to be perfect. I don't see that as a bad thing, but it often doesn't end up being as perfect as she would want. As I see things a lot of that perfection has to do with the bride's attitude. I am sure you looked a lot more perfect than you think you did because your attitude sounds great to me.

Thank you for the compliment and I wish your niece all the best.

added August 2003

I was just wondering if it is possible to reduce a dress from a size 24 to a 14.

I bought my maid of honor's dress off ebay and that is fine but there are two more dress that match it and the biggest difference in size is the one I have mentioned above. I was just wondering if it would be possible to make this alteration or if I should just forget it and buy something else. I have attached pictures of the dress so that you can see it.

Thanks for you help

It's sometimes possible, but always a lot of work. I never recommend going more than 2 sizes for alterations. Anything after that has so many added complications that starting over from scratch is easier. For instance, in the picture you sent , if I take in the side seams like I normally would to make something smaller, it will throw off the princess seam so much that it is no longer laying across the bust point like it is supposed to but sitting on the outside of each breast. It will bag a sag and look generally awful. At this point you have to take all the seams in the front and back apart and recut the princess seamlines so they do fall correctly and reconstruct the dress.

Buying something else is definitely easier on your nerves.


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