Where do you begin with wedding dress alterations? So you’ve fallen in love with THE PERFECT WEDDING DRESS, now it’s time to make it fit like a glove. Here are a few questions I want you to ask when planning your alterations. You may be asking why I chose to write a post of alterations (of all things), but I have noticed for quite some time that most brides don’t realise what is involved in having your gown altered. Even to the point where they don’t realise that the purchase price of a gown is NOT where the costs end. Alterations are a stepping stone that EVERY bride has to go through, to get to the finished product of a dress that fits you and your unique curves. This excludes that one luck bride who happens to be a sample size and height (highly unlikely).


Number 1: ask the sales lady what the estimated costs will be for the changes you need. Sometimes a sales lady will push you to purchase a gown while promising you lots of ‘easy’ alteration changes. Although the alterations are probably possible, she needs to tell you what it will cost. Some alterations can go as high as R2500. That is an expense I wouldn’t want to pay unless my bridal studio informed me of this first. So ask as many questions as you can. Ask about the cost of any service or add-on that is offered to you. Nothing is free. Go in with your eyes open so you don’t end up with a nasty bill one week before your wedding day.

Number 2: Casually ask your sales lady what experience she has with bridal wear and sewing. Has she studied fashion design? Does she sew in her personal time? Etc… Do this in a respectful and more chatty manner, you don’t want to make her feel nervous or under scrutiny. But, it is good to know who is advising you on the alteration possibilities of the gown you are interested in. My pet peeve is when companies over promise and under deliver. So make sure you know who you are working with and whether you feel you can trust their recommendations or not.

Number 3: who is going to do your alterations? Don’t just assume that the place you purchased your dress from has employed a capable seamstress. Be ballsy here and ask who they use and what experience they have. The last thing you want to do is end up with a botched up dress, thanks to poor alterations. I have employed a seamstress who works with an entire team of machinists to do all my alterations and custom gowns, her and her team have been in business for decades and Reena herself has been in the industry for over 35 years. Now that makes me feel confident to recommend her services to you.

Number 4: When is the correct time to go on a diet? Let’s be honest, every bride wants to look as slender as possible, in great shape and looking super healthy on her wedding day. It is important to remember when to diet. If you lose weight at the wrong time, it will cost you more money because it willrequire needing extra alterations. The best time to lose weight, hypothetically is before you start shopping for your gown. This way, if you are ordering a gown in a specific size, you can order the correct size. However, this is mostly not the case. I often get asked to order a dress in a smaller size as the bride is planning on losing a little. Although this is acceptable practice, if you are considering this route, I need to warn you. If you do not lose that weight, you cannot blame your seamstress or sales lady when the gown doesn’t fit you. You will be surprised at the wonders that I have been able to do in the alteration stage. I have made many gowns fit when they were two sizes too small, but that is risky business. Rather be on the safe side and order the size you are and have it taken in if need be. The worst time to try and lose weight is during your alteration or after. At this stage in the game, the dress is being made to fit you. No seamstress will continue to take in your dress at every fitting without charging you extra for her time. So once you have started this phase, stop dieting and simply maintain your weight if possible.

Number 5: When is the right time to start your alterations? Realistically you should start these fittings about a month to two months before your wedding date. Please, please, please make sure you have your shoes and desired pair of undergarments ready for your first fitting. Not bringing these items along may cause you to need extra fittings and therefore, extra charges for those appointment slots. If you were keen on making some design changes to your dress, for example, you want to add a strap or sleeve, discuss this with the relative person prior to your fitting dates. You can then feel confident to go ahead with your changes at the first fitting, not wasting time still deciding or feeling rushed to make a decision. 

Number 6: What should you expect at your second fitting? The second fitting is when the seamstress is testing out her changes. You must expect your dress to be slightly undone. For example, if you have lace covering your side seams, they will be detached at this stage. Your hem will most probably be tacked and any lace applique either pinned on or not even attached. Don’t be alarmed or think that your dress is going to stay this way. The seamstress is not going to close up her work neatly until she is sure the changes are perfect.

Number 7: What changes should I test out and how? Make sure that you can walk in your dress, Take a good stroll around the fitting room/bridal store to ensure you are comfortable. If you are planning on doing a waltz or some sort of ballroom dance, you need to make your dress slightly shorter than normal, especially the back pick up for your train. Make sure you can sit in your dress and breathe. There should be room for you to be able to eat. Remember, your wedding dress is a corset, and doesn’t have much give or stretch. This may seem basic, but it would suck if you got to your wedding day and couldn’t eat the food you chose and paid for.

Number 8: When do you pay and who do you pay? In most cases an alteration seamstress is contracted in to alter each dress sold by the store. She will invoice you for each change you had done. For example, if you had a hem, side seam and pick up, according to the amount of layers your dress has, how much lace and whether it is beaded or not, you will be quoted accordingly. Generally you are invoiced privately by the seamstress. I recommend you only pay her once you have had your final fitting and before you collect the dress. In my opinion, you should never pay for alterations until they are almost complete. You want to make sure that you are satisfied with the alterations before paying for them.

Number 9: When should you collect your dress? Every store is different with how they work, but I prefer my brides to collect their dress one to two days before the wedding. You alterations should be completed a week to two weeks prior to the wedding, to avoid extra stress. Your dress should be given to you, perfectly steamed and ready to wear. You don’t want to keep it stored in a dress bag for too long, causing creases. So rather store the gown at the store you purchased it from until you need it. This takes the hassle of storing it off your hands.

So that is what to look out for, be wary of and how to avoid unnecessary costs when it comes to your alterations.  If you are looking for someone reliable to help you with your alterations, you can contact me here. If you have any questions or comments, please send them to me below in the comments section.  I’d love to hear from you.

Meliza x


  1. […] I want to teach you how to put on a wedding dress with many layers, fancy zips, lace-up backs and delicate straps. This can be a tricky task if you dont know how. Wearing a wedding dress is not quite the same as any other outfit.  This job requires help, so enrol 2 bridesmaids or mom and your MOH with the duty of helping you to get dressed. Here are some guidelines and tips to remember when getting into your bridal gown. If you have bought a Meliza Mary wedding dress, I go over this in detail during your alteration fitting to ensure you are not left in the dark. I have written a post of alterations and what to expect, so if you are interested in read that, follow this link. […]

  2. Pam on September 16, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Hi Meliza

    Please can you help me I have a wedding but the back has a zip but it does not close it’s too small what can I do to alter the dress so that I can make it fit and we’re can I go to do this

    • Meliza Cilliers on October 6, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      Hello Pam,

      Yes I would love to help you out. I have emailed you privately to chat over making a plan to see you. There are 2 options you can try, we can see if there is enough seam allowance to let it out, or we can convert the zip into a lace up. Problem solved! I look forward to hearing from you.

  3. Madison White on November 10, 2017 at 4:54 am

    Thanks for sharing your article about wedding dress alterations. I totally agree with what you said about how you never want to end up with a botched up dress on your big day so looking for a someone who will do the alterations for you is crucial. My sister is planning her wedding by next year. Her biggest concern is her future wedding dress. It’s important for her to wear a dress that will fit her curves on her big day. I will make sure to tell her to consider the option of dress alterations so she’ll have a peace of mind.

    • Meliza Cilliers on November 10, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Thank you Madison for your comment. All the very best for your sister’s wedding palns.

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