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Expert Advice on Wedding Dress Alterations from Vera Skenderis

Martha Stewart Weddings, Fall 2012

Vera Skenderis

Alterations Manager

Known for Tailoring couture wedding gowns with impeccable precision, as well as appearing on TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress"
Where to Find Her Kleinfeld in New York City (kleinfeldbridal.com)

Good tailoring is worth every penny. Even at upscale bridal boutiques, alterations are generally a separate fee. Expect to pay between $400 and $700 for professional tailoring -- any less and I wouldn't trust it. Like my mom used to say, "The cheap thing is expensive." Bad work can ruin your dress.

Certain fabrics demand to be tailored by someone with tons of experience. If your gown is made of charmeuse, chiffon, or georgette, it's crucial to invest in the best professional you can afford, because these materials tend to be more difficult to alter. Lace, shantung, or linen, however, can be finessed by someone a bit less seasoned.

Ordering your gown early (as in, very early) is always best. Eight months will suffice for most frocks, but couture demands a year of lead time. You'll nab your favorite design, avoid incurring costly rush fees, and give your tailor more time for modifications.

Stay flexible when it comes to wearing an heirloom. Many brides want to walk down the aisle in their mother's wedding gown, but with time, fabrics can become so discolored or full of holes as to be ruined. If you're working with a top-notch tailor, you'll trust her when she tells you, "The fabric is irrevocably damaged. There's no saving this dress." And with a pro on the case, you'll also have faith as she cuts up your treasure to create, say, a bodice to layer atop a new gown.

Go for a wedding dress one size up. Planning nuptials can result in weight fluctuations. Sometimes a bride-to-be wants me to order her gown a size down, but what if she doesn't hit her goal, or even gains weight? Remember: You can take a dress in, but not out.

Seek undergarment advice early on. If you buy your gown at a bridal salon, discuss proper underpinnings the day you purchase it. Inheriting a dress, or buying one online? Then just wait to get ideas from your tailor. Generally speaking, a lace-up corset with boning is great because it works with most dress styles, pulls in jiggly spots, and gives you curves in all the right places.

Check out several tailors in action. Solicit names of tailors from friends or a trusted boutique, and then observe them during a fitting. Watch how they handle a tape measure and pins. Ask questions to make sure they thoroughly understand fabrics and the way they drape.

Ask about the various ways they tweak strapless. Approximately 85 percent of our brides pick strapless. Women are crazy for this style! But the fact is, it doesn't work for everyone. This is where a master at alterations will prove invaluable. Buy the strapless dress you love, then assign your tailor the task of making it work with your figure. An expert can fashion a cap sleeve or a shrug in a see-through fabric, or build up a more modest neckline, camouflaging what you want hidden without changing the look significantly. But be aware: Custom work and remodeling that requires additional material is pricier than basic fit changes.

Countdown to a Perfect Fit

First: 3 Months Prewedding

This initial fitting runs an hour. Bring along the shoes you'll wear day-of so the tailor can accurately adjust the hemline.

Second: 1 Month Prewedding

Strive to be at your target size by this appointment so that any major alterations your tailor makes will work on the aisle.

Third: 1 Week Prewedding

This session is exclusively for final tweaks and therefore should happen as close to the wedding as possible.

Comments (2)

  • Julie M 8 Sep, 2013

    What great advice! Tailoring your
    wedding dress to fit perfectly is one of the most important things to
    do for your wedding day. As with many things. It takes time and
    effort and its well worth investing time with a good and trusted
    tailor or seamstress to get this element right. After all you will
    enjoy your day even more if you know your wedding
    dress
    fits perfectly.

  • byAnoushka 3 Sep, 2012

    Thanks for this great article! It's important to give brides as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions, and also so they can choose an experienced tailor.