BRIDAL & FORMAL BLOG
GET SMART! Before you go shopping or to your alteration appointment, read these Bridal and Formal FAQs.
You will be better prepared and ready to buy or alter the dress of your dreams.
Wedding gown questions answered. Prom questions answered. Bridesmaid’s and mothers questions all answered here.
Please let us know if your question is not answered here.
Wear Your Dress Properly. Is it on correctly?
First you need to determine whether the dress is on your body properly. This might seem like an overly simple thing but it is not that easy and this first step will reflect on everything else that happens to your dress.
The dress needs to fit onto the bust, not below the bust. There should be no more that about an inch between the arm pit and the top of a strapless dress. If there isn’t, have someone zip your dress up in back, pulling up before zipping while you physically hold your dress up in place in front. It may take two people to zip if the dress is tight.
Some dresses have a seam or band that lays below the bust. When pulling the dress up, be sure this seam stays below the bust. If you are unable to achieve both up on top and below the bust marks, the dress may be too small for you. You will want to purchase a bigger size to give you more real estate to correctly cover the bust.
On-Line Dress Shopping Tips
Look for a reputable company. Read reviews and look for actual photos from their customers wearing their product. Unfortunately, there are online vendors who steal photos from other companies and send you a subpar product than what is pictured. If it looks too good to be true, it just might be.
Know their return policy. You don’t want to receive your dress and then learn you are unable to return/exchange if there is something not right with your order. Some companies do require a restocking fee or a non-refundable deposit if the garment is returned, be sure that is a risk you are willing to take..
Look for their sizing chart. Every company will have their own sizing chart and they may not be sizes that you are used to. Always take your measurements and order the size recommended for your largest body part, according to their sizing chart. Dresses are typically easier and cheaper to make smaller than to enlarge to fit correctly and comfortable. Beware of companies offering a custom-fit dress, especially if it comes with an upcharge. No dress will fit perfectly without an in-person fitting. Our bodies are composed of many more measurements than bust, waist and hips. Many on-line companies will take your measurements and put you in the closest size within their size chart. Most dresses are made with standard height, so if you are any taller or shorter, be prepared to order extra length and the need to have your dress hemmed.
Try a sample dress. Since online shopping is becoming more prevalent, some companies are offering sample dresses to try on in the comfort of your home for a small fee plus shipping. You select the sizes and styles and are given a timeframe to try on and return. Allowing you the ability to see the style, fabric and details in person to help you decide what you like.
Lastly, check production and shipping timeframes. A company with a stronger domestic presence will typically get to you faster.
Do I really need 4 fittings? The 4 Steps of Alterations Completed
Most alterations have a domino affect. Which is why we do dresses in a certain order with a fitting for each step.
At the first fitting we look at everything from the waist up. Sides, straps, and bra cups are done at this fitting.
The second fitting is for the hem.
The third fitting is the for the bustle.
The fourth fitting is for the final fitting. Make sure everything is perfect. Teaching your attendant how to secure the bustle and/or corset the dress is also done at this time.
Does My Strapless Dress Fit?
A strapless dress needs to be skin tight at the waist. The waist is the narrowest part of the body and making the waist fit perfect will ensure the dress cannot slide up or slide down. It will stay in place at the smallest part.
If it seems tight, but you’re not sure, grab the waist of of the dress and see if you can pinch excess fabric. We usually do this test at center back.
Another test for the waist is to simply put your arms up in the air and jump. If it slides down, it is too big.
Straps alleviate the need for tight bodices. However, making the bodice tight will make you appear skinnier.
Creating a More Modest Gown
Purchasing a dress that is originally more modest in style makes the job easier on your checkbook. Having a solid structure to start with when adding material will reduce design and construction time, which will directly affect the cost of your alterations.
A dress with straps, sleeves, and a higher neckline will provide a good base to add more material if needed and a better fit overall. We are able to add material and full linings to bodices and sleeves, raise necklines and the backs of a dress to a more appropriate height.
Any customizations to a bridal gown usually need more appointments than the average 3 or 4, so plan accordingly and schedule your appointments 2 to 3 months in advance if possible.
Can I wear my loved one’s dress?
It is not always the style that makes a bride choose an heirloom gown. It could be the history, love and usually the person who wore the dress the first time that makes it such a special piece.
Every dress has the ability to become the perfect dream dress and may only need a few tweaks and alterations to get there. Not to mention maybe a good cleaning to give it a whole new look to carry the gown’s love story down the aisle one more time.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to revamping a heirloom gown. Entire necklines can be remade and modernized, sleeves can be replaced, shortened or completely removed. Sometimes the dress is a little smaller than the new hopeful bride. A corset can be installed for a customized fit that creates a whole new romantic look to the back. And if the butt bow was the reason you fell in love with the dress it can be reattached and secured. All of the changes or lack thereof are completely up to you.
If wearing the entire dress is simply not something you would consider or you have already purchased your dream dress, consider using the heirloom dress to create a special keepsake for your big day. Pieces of the dress can be used to create a custom garter, a necklace or bouquet charm with a swatch of material inset with resin, or a ring pillow. Again, the options are endless.
I Love the Lace - Can it be shortened?
A beautiful lace hem adorns the gown of your dreams. It is beautifully intricate and just what you dreamed of. Some lace hems are a breeze to shorten; and unfortunately, shortening some lace hems can also be timely, tricky and expensive.
There are 3 basic structures of lace hems:
1. Lace trim edging with or without beads/sequins sewn directly onto the lace edging
2. Lace trim edging with beads/sequins sewn to edging after it is sewn onto the dress
3. Lace that is all one piece with no separate trim edging
1. Lace trim:
The lace trim is removed from the fabric. The gown is hemmed and the lace is sewn back on.
With lace trim with beads/sequins sewn directly to it, the beads/sequins are sewn onto the lace and then the lace is sewn onto the gown. The lace and beads come off the fabric together when removed. The gown underneath is hemmed and the lace sewn back on.
2. Lace trim edging with beads/sequins sewn to it after it is sewn onto the dress:
In this case the lace cannot be removed since the lace is sewn onto the gown first and then beads and sequins are applied sewing through the lace and dress fabric together. If the lace is removed, the beads will come off. The lace is carefully cut from the fabric, moved up and sewn back on.
3. Lace that is all one piece with no separate trim edging:
One piece lace hems are sometimes cut along the pattern or they can receive a traditional rolled hem. The choice depends on the type of lace and the wishes of the customer.
Many things effect the final price of a lace hem. Lace hems are charged by the number of layers with extra time charged to deal with the lace. Extra charges for lace hems can range anywhere from $10 to $200. The complexity of the lace and how it was sewn onto the gown all contribute to the time consuming the hem.
The use of can-cans or crinolines can sometimes eliminate the need of working on a hem at all. Putting a can-can under the skirt will lift it and sometimes it lifts it to a proper hem height. Rapids Alterations carries a myriad of styles and sizes of can-cans and rents them for $50 or one may be purchased for an average price of $70.
At Rapids Alterations we are always concerned with your bottom line and will make suggestions in different price ranges to help you choose how your gown will be altered and what the final cost will be for your perfect fit.
Why do a consultation at Rapids Alterations if someone else will work on my gown?
Why should I do a free consultation at Rapids Alterations if I’m going to have someone else work on my gown?
Every year we have brides coming into Rapids Alterations to fix alterations done by someone else. Alterations are complete but the dress still doesn’t fit correctly or just doesn’t feel right when she has it on.
The bride, at her Rapids Alterations fitting, will tell us how she feels about the fit of her dress. We will listen to her, study the dress and offer an answer of what is needed to be done make the dress fit properly.
Most times we hear two replies: My girl said that couldn’t be done or My girl said she wouldn’t do that. While there are many fine seamstresses who work out of their homes, this is an example of the difference between a professional shop and home seamstress. Our strength is in the skill set of our 8 seamstresses and with over 125 years combined years sewing experience there isn’t much we haven’t seen or tackled.
Many times what couldn’t be done by the other person, is just a standard bridal alteration to us. Altering the sides of the bridal gown for example; to some it my seam a daunting task with all the layers, rouching, boning, lace and bead work. Taking in the sides of a bridal gown is a common alteration to us.
The bustle is another area that many home seamstress’s are lacking talent in completing. Most of the time the bustle is too long with inches dragging on the floor. Sometime the bustle is just uninspired for the glory of the dress. We have been told by brides that her girl said this was the only bustle she could do. Believe me there tons of different bustles you can choose from rather than settling on what your girl knows how to do.
Like I said, there are many fine seamstresses who work out of their homes. Before you take your gown there though, please consider coming into Rapids Alterations for a free, no obligation bridal consultation. We will look at your dress and suggest alterations to be done along with pricing. Then when you go to your girl to do the fittings, you will be armed with knowledge of what needs to be done to your dress and what can be done to your dress. Then, if your girl says no, you have an option other than a dress that doesn’t fit.
What is Under There?
An undergarment should enhance your dress, not distract. Consider cut, color, purpose and functionality when picking out your undergarments. They should also be comfortable, not painful to wear. Also keep in mind that the more you have under your dress, the more material there is between you and your gown, making you larger than you actually are and the dress may fit differently.
Here are a few popular choices to think about when choosing your undergarments.
Sewn-In Bra Cups- The best option for most brides and bridesmaids when it comes to bust undergarments are sewn in bra cups. They come in various sizes and styles and reduce all unnecessary bulk in the bust and around the ribcage. Not to mention no straps or bands digging into your body all day! They are sewn into the dress to prevent any worry of them becoming visible or moving around. It also becomes one less item to remember on your big day.
Standard Bra- A standard bra helps support and position your chest with straps and a band. However, not all dresses have straps or a back to keep a bra out of sight. For those gowns that do allow a standard bra to be worn, we have little tricks to prevent the bra from peeking out.
Strapless bra- Eliminates the need to hide straps, but usually has to be very tight in order to “hold” your chest in place. They also tend to slip and slide down throughout the day so even though your dress is perfectly fit to you, you may feel the need to pull your bra up and back in place, which has you actually pulling your dress up.
Bustier/Corset Bra- Traditional corsets have structured boning throughout the ribcage and waist with ties, loops and buttons in order to tighten to the desired size. More modernized styles are made of thick polyester and spandex blend. Needless to say they are rigid in structure as well as very thick which creates limited movement and additional material between you and your gown. They are also usually made with a silky material which exacerbates your gown sliding up and down more so than it would against your skin.
Spanks- Unlike traditional corset and girdles, the modern “spanks” are intended to create smoother lines while wearing them. They add thickness to your body by adding another layer between you and the dress. They do not eliminate bulk, they simply move it somewhere else. Many spanks are made of thick spandex material that doesn’t breathe very well and will be warmer to wear. Some go all the way up to the bust and some stop at the hips. Wherever they end, they may create underwear lines, especially on a more form fitting style gown.
Control-Top Pantyhose- A great alternative to spanks. They are significantly thinner material while still creating a smoother look to your waist, hips and thighs. Many brides worry about additional layers and the heat of their dress alone. Pantyhose have the ability to breath and protect thighs from chafing. If you are planning on wearing open toe shoes or don’t like the idea of your legs being covered by pantyhose, you can easily cut them right below the knee so that if they do roll up, they will stop at the knee.
Whatever undergarments you decide to wear, bring them to every single dress fitting. Your appointments are your chance to see how they feel and look with your gown. Make sure you are comfortable wearing them during your fittings. If you feel they are too tight, visible or creating other noticeable lines, going with an alternative option should be considered.
Is My Dress Too Long?
To determine whether your dress needs a hem try this simple test. Walking slowly and with your head up looking straight forward, walk forward towards a mirror or someone watching. If the dress curls under while you are walking you need to hem your dress shorter.
Does posture affect the fit of my dress?
Good posture can take off 10 pounds and dramatically improve how your dress looks on you.
Try this: stand with your back against the wall. Line up your head, shoulders, rear and heels against the wall. Now step away from the wall keeping everything aligned. That is your body with good posture.
I have stooped shoulders in my graduation picture. Every time I see it I wonder why the photographer didn’t tell me to sit up straight. Remember good posture all day long.
What if I'm not on time for my fitting appointment?
Rapids Alterations makes appointments for all formal and wedding gown fittings. An appointment ensures that someone will be there to do your fitting when you arrive, and also that you will receive the attention you need during that time. While we do accept walk-ins, we really appreciate appointments for planning out the day.
Please arrive early and be dressed by your appointment time. We schedule appointments back to back and one delay can back-up the schedule for the whole day. A courtesy call to us at 320.255.9083 is appreciated if you will be late or not coming at all. In certain circumstances no-show fees or late cancel fee may be applied to your ticket.
How do I come prepared to my fitting?
Allow enough time in your schedule for fittings, typically four. We make appointments for fittings and schedule brides for an hour. Please be on time. If you can’t be there, call and reschedule your appointment. This is especially important during the height of bridal season when fittings are booked solid 3 weeks in advance.
In order to have your dress fit you perfectly on your wedding day, fittings need to be done with you, the bride, wearing exactly what you will be wearing on your big day. You will need the exact undergarments at your fitting that will be worn on your day. If you are planning on wearing these items, the exact ones need to be brought to each of your fittings: bra, spanks, slip, can-can, shoes and anything else that goes under your dress. Not having these items with you may cause your fitting to be rescheduled.
Your last fitting is very special. You get to wear your dress in all its splendor. We teach whoever you bring how to hook your bustle or how to do up your corset or buttons. We suggest using this time to try on your veil or decide on jewelry.
When your alterations are complete, you will be able to walk and dance and party in your dress. Granted, if its strapless, breathing might be optional. ( A little strapless humor there.)
Perfect Dress. Perfect Fit. Perfect Day.
Can a gown be drastically altered?
So you know exactly what you want and can’t find it. We can take 2 or more dresses, tear them apart and put them back together how you like. Sleeves from this dress, bodice from another dress, skirt from a third dress. Look at fabric color, type and weight for best matches. The alterations will be a bit costly but it is possible.
Take your ideas, picture, magazine clipping, drawing, what have you to the bridal shop. Tell them you want to shop in their back room where the deals are.
What if the bridal shop says they have to do the alterations?
As an alteration shop we are in charge of one of the biggest parts of your dream, your gown. You have dreamt of wearing your wedding gown since you were 8 years old and now the time has come. After much time trying on dress after dress you finally found the one. But, it’s not perfect yet. It needs a few tweaks and tucks and a bustle.
Keep in mind-
You are not obligated to have alterations done at the bridal shop where you bought the gown.
Do your homework first. Call shops in your area and ask for windows of prices. What do your hems start at? How do you charge for bustles? What do you consider the average for gown alterations? While they haven’t seen your dress and can’t give exact prices over the phone – they should be able to give you a ballpark figure. If they won’t talk to you on the phone, hang up and move on.
Many shops have their own alteration department. Ask for an estimate on your alterations. It is their dress and they know precisely how much alterations will cost. And if they don’t know – really, It’s their job to know. If you had to drive a distance to the bridal shop and they are doing alterations that means you will be driving back there maybe 4 more times for fittings and pick up.
I have heard of wedding shops requiring you to sign a contract agreeing to have your alterations done at their shop if you buy their gown. If a shop demands to complete your alterations I would look very closely at what you are signing, what is happening and what you will be paying for and how much it will be. They may offer cut-throat prices on the gown only to rake you over the coals on alterations. Ask what their prices are. It is their dress and they know precisely how much alterations will cost.
Remember to ask about fitting fees. One fee period or one fee per fitting? Any other fees? Many shops have a supply or notions fee. This is normal and should be a small percentage.
Will they press the gown for free?
Kudos the bridal shop I once worked at that had free alterations. However – there were very few discounts given on dresses.
At Rapids Alterations we offer a free, no obligation consultation on your dress. Bring it in and we’ll tell what needs to be done and how much the alterations will be.
Last but not least – if you go somewhere and they are not treating you with respect or if you just have a gut feeling that it doesn’t seem right – Say thank you, take your gown and leave. There is no need to be put up with rude people, dirty rooms, or people who are not forthcoming with costs.
What if some of the beading is missing?
Does your gown have missing beads? Or maybe just not enough?
Most dresses come with a little bag of beads to replace a missing bead or two. But what if you want more or your off-the-rack dress has many missing beads? Finding matches is the difficult part here. The first place to start looking is at the bridal shop itself. They may have more little bags from other dresses from the same designer. If you purchase a separate sash which has bling and want to match that bling – simply buy two sashes. After a trip to the craft department for beads you will discover that finding matching beads is only possible for the simplest of bead styles. Any bead out of the ordinary will be difficult to match. Rhinestones and crystals are more difficult to match yet. You can add beads where there were none and then incorporate the new beads among the original beads to make it look blended and not added on. Appliques with bead work on them can be purchased and these can be sewn onto the dress. Bead work is all done by hand and it takes time. Bead work is custom work and is charged by the hour. Beads should be sewn onto the gown – not glued. Be sure to talk about time with the alterations person. Giving the shop a dollar amount you are willing to spend on bead work is also helpful. Bead work can make a beautiful dress exquisite; anything you dream of can be done.
When should I order my gown with alterations in mind?
If you have already visited a bridal shop you may have heard that it might take 6 months to a year before you have your gown in hand if you order it. Bridesmaids sometimes take up 6 months to receive. This should be a warning that these things take time. So finally, now you have your gown and it doesn’t fit. Do you have time for alterations? There are differences between bridal gown and bridesmaid dress alteration time frames. Obviously, the bridal gown is more involved, generally has more fittings and will take longer to complete than a bridesmaid dress. We like a full 2 months to alter a bridal gown. This gives the bride, the shop and the seamstress enough time to complete everything without feeling rushed. A typical bride will have 4 one hour fittings. First fitting we work on the bodice and mostly things above the waist to make sure the dress fits properly and won’t be falling down. During the second fitting we focus on the hem, third is the bustle and finally a final fitting to make sure everything is perfect. Other alterations like straps, bead work, belts and repairs get worked in along the way. As you can see this an undertaking for the bride as well as the shop. For bridemaid’s dresses and other formals we like a month to be able to work on them which usually include 2 or 3 30 minute fittings. The order of work completed is the same as a bridal gown. Most alteration shops will charge a rush charge if the time frame is rushed to complete a dress. When a rush order comes in several things happen. The bride needs to have time available for all the fittings; the shop appointment book needs to have openings and the sewing schedule at the shop needs to be re-arranged to accommodate the rush. A rush charge should be expected if you are running short on time. Our rush charges are 25% of all work completed on a bridal gown under 4 weeks, bridesmaid or formal under 2 weeks. There is a 40% charge for a 36 hour turn around. Many times we have heard dismay at rush charges because she had the dress hanging in the closet and simply procrastinated bringing it in. It’s usually not too early but it can be too late, we have turned dresses away especially during busy May and June. So the moral of this story is to think time when you pick out dress. A little planning can save you money or least not cost you more.
Are there good dresses on the clearance rack?
Bridal Gown Alterations Tip #3
Many wonderful gowns can be found at rock bottom prices by those who search. Gowns can be bought on-line, at consignment shops or in the back room at the local bridal shop. Sometimes they are pristine new, but more so they may be gently used or shop worn. One of my brides found a brand new Maggie Sottero on line for $200. Score! Recently I worked on a gown that retailed for $1200 – the bride bought it on clearance for $50. Yes, $50. We did two hours of bead-work on the dress and it was good as new. Another bride, about a year ago, brought us an A-line dress. She loved the top of it, but really wanted more of a mermaid style bottom. We transformed the dress to match her dream. Please keep in mind the average alterations for a bridal gown are just over $300. If you pay $800 for a dress that requires $300 of alterations you need to budget for $1100 for your dress. However, if your initial dress cost is reduced to $200, the budget will require $500 for the gown – a savings of $600. I’m sure there are a great many things to spend an extra $600 on.
How many layers are being hemmed?
Designers wish everyone was tall and skinny – however we beautiful females come in every shape and size. And sometimes – even with 6″ stilettos- your gown still needs to be hemmed. Hemming wedding gowns is a timely task. If it appears a hem will be needed on your gown, here are some things to consider-there are many layers, linings, petticoats, underlinings, lace over-lays, beads, lace, wings, appliques, pick ups and the list goes on. Every time something is added to the hem of your gown the difficulty factor, the time involved and the price increases. The experienced staff at Rapids Alterations have hemmed hundreds and hundreds of gowns. Bringing your gown to us is the first step to insure that you may trip the light fandango but you won’t be tripping during your steps down the aisle.
What is a bustle?
Wedding Gown Alteration Tip #1:
If your gown has a train, you more than likely want/need a bustle. The bustle is the technique used for the dress which lifts your train up off the ground so you can walk and dance without fear of tripping. Since each bride has different tastes and are different heights, manufacturers do not provide bustles in dresses. (the large ribbon loop is for hanging it on the hanger). There are many different styles of bustles. We love being creative with custom, one of kind, unique bustles that show-off the best features of the gown and express the personality of the bride.
Call for an appointment today 320-255-9083.
Why are Appointments Needed in the Bridal World?
Brides are very special people preparing for the day they have been dreaming about for years. Allow us, in the bridal business to cater to you, to be ready to meet you and listen to your ideas. Calling for an appointment is not only polite -but sometime it’s crucial. Spontaneous acts are great in most situations – until the day you and your girl friends decide at the last minute to go bridal shopping and cannot be helped at the shop because all the clerks are tied up with customers already. Same for alterations. Our shop has someone working during business hours, but only certain people actually do bridal fittings. Appointments are made to ensure a bridal professional will be available to assist you at your fitting. Walking in without an appointment may work, but I would hate to waste your time and mileage by not having anyone available to help. A quick phone call can set up your fittings and ease your mind. Welcome. We are here to help you.
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