“What the heck? I paid how much for my wedding, and now you say I have to pay more to get it altered?” Alterations are definitely one of the scariest aspects of wedding dress shopping. It is definitely something that most brides struggle with. Indeed, they are not always guaranteed to happen. However, when they do, they can get pricey. Today, we want to put all your curiosities (and frustrations) about altering a wedding dress to rest. We will be sharing an estimated average cost of wedding dress alterations. We will also share you some insider “shop secrets” on how to avoid bridal gown alterations costs altogether. Read through to the end!
How does one even purchase a wedding dress from a store?
It is no secret that every bride wants to look flawless on their wedding day. Many spend months on the hunt for the perfect wedding dress. But, a bride is also -by definition- new to wedding dress shopping, unless she is familiar with the industry. There are therefore aspects of the process that brides don’t always know of.
For example, you might (reasonably so) think you can just walk into a store, pick a dress from the rack and take it home. Well- truth is, you can. Some stores do indeed allow brides to purchase gowns and take them home immediately. However, most require you to order a brand new dress. Indeed, the store needs to keep their sample (the one you tried on) on hand, for other brides to try on. The order process can take months, depending on the shop and the designer.
Fast forward a few months: here you are, waiting for your wedding gown to arrive. You are dying for to see her and try her on. And when you finally get the phone call that your dress has arrived, you are sad to realize it doesn’t fit perfectly.
So what happened?
Why Do I Need Alterations on My Wedding Dress?
Let’s preface by reminding you that most mainstream wedding dress designers produce their wedding dresses based on a size chart. This size chart is set to a series of measurements that allow the wedding dresses to be mass-produced. As a result, most bridal stores sell brands of dresses (even higher end ones) that are mass produced in a factory. Each designer or brand operates using their own size chart. For most, it consists of the following measurements: bust, waist, and hips. Please see below actual size charts from two famous bridal designers.
Back to the bride.
The ordering process generally goes a little like this:
- You say “Yes to the Dress”
- Your sales associate takes your measurements
- Together, you review the size chart to see where each of one of your measurements match up
- If you are lucky, your three measurements (bust, waist, and hips) will match up perfectly to one size
- You will proceed to order your dress in that size.
BUT- truth is, for around 90% us, this simply won’t be true. Most brides will have one or more of their measurements falling into one size, while another measurement falls into a completely different size. For example, your bust measurement may put you into a bridal size 10, and your waist measurement may better fit a size 6, while your hips match a size 12, like our founder Dafra.
So, what do you do? Depending on the silhouette of the gown, you may be able to disregard the hip measurement. In fact, if the gown you chose has a full skirt, the hips will not matter so much. The skirt will be full, and will accommodate them either way. However, you definitely need to be able to zip it all the way up, so the waist and bust measurement are going to determine your size. The largest one will be the size you choose (depending on your body shape, that could be the bust or the waist). Then, unfortunately, you will have to alter the other measurement area to ensure a perfect fit. This is where bridal alterations prices begin.
Moreover, what bride stays the “exact” same size as the day she ordered her wedding gown? Many go on some sort of diet or workout routine, which will ultimately change their measurements. What does that mean? Even if you fit into a sample size, your body may change, and you may still have to alter your gown.
You may be wondering why these talented designers just can’t make your wedding dress to match your own unique measurements. This is a great question! The main reason is that they would no longer be able to mass-produce gowns in the current timeline, which is generally 4-6 months. The production timeline would be greatly increased if each dress had to be made from scratch. For each single gown, they would have to create a new pattern to be able to begin crafting the dress. They would also lose the economies of scale afforded by the mass production process, and costs would inevitably rise as a result.
Most brides will have one of their measurements fall into one size, while another measurement falls into a different size.
What is The Average Price For Wedding Dress Alterations?
Bridal alterations prices will vary based on the location of the boutique (city, state) as well as the shop itself. But no matter where the area is, most bridal boutiques will charge on an a la carte basis for wedding dress alterations. This is great for you because it means you only pay for the work that “you” need.
If you are shopping at a boutique that charges one set fee for alterations, beware. They are just setting a flat fee for wedding dress alterations (typically $500 – $700) and charging it to everyone. Let’s say for example you are tall and don’t need a hem. Why should you have to pay an average cost of wedding dress alterations? You should only have to pay for what you need. Stores that charge a flat fee are basically using money spent by brides that don’t need a lot of alterations to cover time spent on gowns that do need a lot.
Here is a breakdown of the average price for wedding dress alterations. (Note: this is not an exact quote as the rates will be different at each boutique, but it will give you an idea).
Average 2020 Wedding Dress Alteration Fees
Most brides will need a hem, a bustle, and possibly some work on the side seams to take it in for an absolutely perfect fit.
- Hem – $150 – $250 (depending on the number of layers and complexity of work, lace hems being the highest)
- Side Seams – $30 – $75 per side (beaded bodices or intricate lace patterns may even go higher, because the beading may need to be taken apart carefully and then re-made)
- Bra Cups – $20 – $40
- Bustle – $40 – $150 (gowns with long or wide trains will require numerous bustle points to fully be able to lift the train off the floor. This is due to the weight of the fabric.)
For these standard alterations, you can see that the average cost of wedding dress alterations will range from $270 – $590. With additional custom work, as described below, wedding dress alterations can quickly increase to close to $1,000, which doesn’t include steaming.
Custom Work Can Be Done For Additional Fees
- Adding Straps – $50 – $250 (Again, depending on the complexity of work, adding straps can become very costly. If you want some intricate design or straps that are hand beaded, the prices may go up, and the cost of materials may be extra.)
- Shortening Sleeves – $40 – $80 (per sleeve, and can cost more depending on the amount of work)
- Adding Sleeves $200 – $400
- Changing the Neckline – at least $250
- Turning a Zipper into a Corset – at least $150
- Altering the Back Design – this is a tough one to estimate, as it really depends on what you are having done, the type of fabric it is, and if it is beaded or not. But you can expect to pay at least $200.
- Shortening Train – at least $250 (can cost more if the train is really long, wide, has lace or ruffles).
How To Eliminate The Cost of Wedding Dress Alterations
Here are some quick tips to avoid the most common alterations:
- Go for a corset back, which will allow some small weight fluctuations without any alterations needed. Tightening or loosening a corset will give you the same slimmed and cinched look at no extra cost.
- Be open to wearing higher or lower heels to avoid hemming fees. If your dress is a little too long or short, buying a new cute pair of shoes may be an easier avenue than hemming your gown.
- Add a lace boléro to your look instead of actual sleeves. A gorgeous lace boléro could add sleeves to a strapless wedding dress for church, for example.
That said, the easiest way to eliminate or significantly reduce the cost of wedding dress alterations is to have your wedding dress custom made by a professional designer. JoSaBi Mariées (yours truly) differs from mainstream designers we mentioned above in the fact that we understand that each bride has a unique body. We therefore have no sizing, and create each dress exactly based on measurements. We have perfected our process, which allows us to offer fully custom wedding dresses starting at $1.350.
Rather than creating a collection of wedding gowns for brides to choose from and a size chart to base sizing on, we design EVERY wedding dress as a one-of-a-kind gown based on your dreams and inspiration. You work one-on-one with your own personal consultant to create the perfect wedding dress for you, to your measurements. Your wedding dress is hence created to fit your body, and not the other way around.
You have complete creative freedom when designing your wedding dress! Our professionally trained consultants will be by your side through the entire process to give you direction, help you select fabrics and embellishments and to answer any questions or concerns that you have while designing your custom wedding dress. In an effort to help you eliminate wedding dress alterations, your personal consultant will also walk you through taking your measurements. It is an easy process, we are there to help each step of the way.
The JoSaBi Process
The JoSaBi Process is completely different from the wedding dress shopping experience at your local boutiques. There, you will have a 1.5-hour-long appointment, try on a few wedding dresses. At the end of it, the consultant will hope you say yes to one of them (and may even pressure you to do so). With JoSaBi Mariées, you are in the driver seat. You can have as many appointments as you want, and together we will take all the necessary time to craft and perfect the most amazing wedding dress for your special day.
Once you and the design team have perfected your dream wedding dress, our seamstresses will begin crafting your gown. Their talented hands work with the most tender care cutting the fabric, attaching appliques or, and bringing your vision to life. Your custom wedding gown will be made to your exact measurements, and as we get closer to completing the dress, we will often ask you to re-take measurements so that we can make some final adjustments. We want to provide you with a gown that fits as close to perfect as possible and we boast a “no-alteration” rate of 60, which is unheard of in the wedding dress industry.
There is no doubt that the average price for wedding dress alterations is shocking. Before your wedding day, it is essential that your wedding dress fits like a second skin. Some brides are fortunate to fall in love with a wedding dress that needs minimal alterations, but for many brides, you can expect to have to shell out about half of what the dress cost, so pan for it in the budget.
In the end though, the result will be beautiful, and you will look flawless. The ultimate goal is to help you design the most magical wedding gown, the one you have always dreamt of without any stress, with JoSaBi Mariées this is what you will receive.
That’s it for today! Do you have any additional questions on wedding dress alterations? Our team is happy to help, either by answering you in the comments, or via email. As always, we are ready to help you create your dream dress; book a consultation slot!
Thanks for reading us today, and until next time, stay safe and healthy! Wear a mask and wash your hands, and take care.