Bridal alterations can be a bit of a mystery to some of us. You feel like you should be able to get an exact quote totaled up before hand, but it’s more like going to the full-service car wash where the sign reads, “All washes $6!” But the next thing you know someone told you that you needed the pre-soak, glass polish, Armor-all, rims cleaned, hot-wax and the rinse-free treatment, so the $6 deal is suddenly $34.95.
It’s always interesting when a bride is standing on a pedestal in front of her entourage gazing at her beautiful reflection with a wide-eyed smile. Everyone is “oooooh-ing and ahhhhhh-ing,” over how gorgeous she is, and then out of nowhere (or from the sofa behind her), her mother chimes in, “How much for alterations?” So that brings us back to reality very quickly.
There’s a reason “Moms” ask how much alterations cost, it’s because the word on the street is that they can run anywhere from $100 (for sewing on a button) to more than the cost of the gown! (We cannot make this up.) When you ask the average bride how much she paid for alterations that were done “in-house” at a bridal salon, the answer seems to be, “Between $300-$800.” They don’t have to be this expensive. There are always other options like having alterations done with a third party that might operate out of a studio or bridal service, which could save about 30%, and then the least expensive option which is the “home seamstress” who has no overhead, no boss, no rent, and no mark-up. These ladies typically save brides 50-70% of what in-house alterations costs could average.
Alterations themselves are not the problem, it’s the fear of the unknown before you begin. There isn’t a bride out there who doesn’t have these thoughts run through her head: What if it’s too tight? What if it’s too short? What if I hate the sleeves? What if the bustle makes my butt look fat? What if I lose weight after it’s altered? What if the bridal shop catches on fire while my dress is there? What if I hate it after they take off the straps? Can they add them back on? Will they hate me if I ask them? What if I can’t afford the alterations? Or – What if this lady’s cat shreds my dress like Jinxy cat in “Meet the Fockers?” . . . And so on, and so on.
Beyond, “How much?” the second most popular question we get is, “Can I change ‘this’?” as they point out sleeves that need added, a neckline raised, a back that needs lowered, appliques that love or eyelash lace they “can’t stand…” So many brides love their dress but might want to make a small tweak here or there, or drastic changes like turning a lace boho gown into a contemporary 2-piece crop top and skirt set. Often inspired by the gowns they see in AZ Weddings Magazine, can you blame them? Well the answer is, “Yes.” The seamstresses that we work with at Grace Style & Bridal will do custom changes during alterations to make sure your dream dress truly fits your vision (within reason and the realm of possibility.)
The home stretch is where anxiety kicks in. We get it, ladies, it’s rough out there. It’s hard to turn your dream dress over to someone you’ve never met with a tape measure around her neck and a tiny box of straight pins in her hand. The best way to get through the alterations dilemma is to do your research. Find out who your bridal salon recommends, what their price ranges are and how long the process takes. The KNOT recommends 6-8 weeks for start to finish. Read reviews if they are available (Facebook, YELP, and other social media sources.) If you’re looking at a home seamstress, ask her for a few references. Most seamstresses are happy to provide you with a few customers to back up her work.
The best advice as you head into alterations is to have clear communication with your seamstress. If you have an idea, say it. If you don’t like something that she is suggesting, tell her. If you feel like your dress is too tight when she is pinning it, tell her. If she tells you that something isn’t possible because of the structure of the dress (there’s no boning, the back is too low, the top will fall down and you will flash everyone – believe her.) Remember, communication is key when it comes to creating your vision, and the two of you must work together to make that happen.
Shelli Netko for Grace Style & Bridal 2017 (c)