It is that time of year when the flowers are in full bloom, pollen counts are high and brides everywhere are awaiting the arrival of their gown to begin the alterations process! I know you have all heard horror stories about half-done alterations and demanding brides. Those stories truly are the exception rather than the rule. I have personally lived through hundreds of bridal alterations and I can tell you there is one thing that will carry you through the entire process without fail, “Always Be Prepared”. Once again the Boy Scout motto will help to guide you through a sometimes prickly process. If that seems too vague, I have some tips for stress-free alterations.
Better safe than sorry. Make sure the salon and fitting rooms are clean and that you or no one else brings food or drink of any kind to any fittings. Not even bottled water. Nothing. Ever.
Try on the gown as soon as it comes in. Call the salon, speak to your bridal consultant and make an appointment to try on the gown. You will want to make sure your consultant or an alterations expert is available to help you at least get in and out of the gown. It is critical that you have some assistance because this is the time you will be deciding on what type of undergarments to buy. Will you need a petticoat? If so, what kind? Yes, there are several types. Will you need a strapless bra, merry widow, or cups? Do they have these available or do they have recommendations where you should buy? If the gown is tight, this is the time to decide if you are able to lose weight or if you are looking at making the dress bigger. Bring a scarf or makeup hood so you do not get foundation, lipstick or anything else on the gown. Use this every time you try on the gown. At this time the seamstress will not do any pinning but you should have a good idea of what kind of alterations lie ahead. If you have selected a headpiece or veil, try it on with the gown. If you have not – now would be a good time to do that.
Be prepared for your first fitting. Bring your shoes, undergarments and arrive on time. Schedule at least an hour for this fitting. During the busy alteration season it may take even longer. Don’t be in a hurry and don’t rush the seamstress. It is always best to call ahead and it is also wise to schedule all fittings during a time of day when you are less stressed, not after a big meal, and not a time of the day, week or month when you are bloated (wink, wink) if at all possible. If you can – bring a trusted friend, maid of honor or family member with you. If you are not comfortable with your seamstress at any point in time, talk to your consultant and request another seamstress.
No distractions. DO NOT schedule bridesmaids fittings at the same time as your bridal fitting. This to much to worry about at one time. You and the seamstress will need to focus on the bridal gown right now and not the needs of others. You also don’t need several varying opinions on what, when, how and why.
Ask questions. Before you are pinned into the gown, ask about the pricing for alterations. Bridal seamstresses spend years learning their craft, they spend hours working on a single gown and are skilled professionals and therefore deserve to be paid fairly. If you fear you cannot afford the alterations, don’t ask the seamstress to pin you. In all fairness, a good pinning is complicated and you might be charged for it or the seamstress will remove the pins if you choose to alter elsewhere.
Second fitting. At your second fitting you might be trying on the gown in the middle of the alterations. It may not be sewn shut, it may still have some pins or it may be completely finished. Speak now or forever hold your peace about any concerns you may have. The hem might have to wait until the next fitting, depending on the gown… since not all gowns are created equal.
Final fitting(s). When you arrive for the last or even second to the last fitting, the gown should fit well and be near completion. If the hem has not been finished, this is the time to finalize that as well. Generally this is when you will also finalize any details of your headpiece, jewelry, etc. Someone should be with you to learn how to handle the gown, especially if there is a bustle involved.
Pick up/try on. When you schedule the time to pick up your gown, you might want to try it on one last time to inspect it and make sure there are not problems. You may not need to try it on, you decide. Either way, an appointment is required so the gown can be steamed, stuffed, bagged and ready to travel home with you. This kind of preparation requires time and planning on the part of the salon. You will probably be escorted into a room where you can either try on or inspect the gown in private. This is your last chance to make sure everything is the way you expected. It is important to note that you should not double-park for this. This might take longer than a couple of minutes and you don’t want to be hurried…. or worried. Take your time, do this right and you will have one less stress headache. If there is a balance due, some salons do not take a check at the time of pick up.
Alterations can be the most pleasant experience of your entire wedding process and it can also be a nightmare (from all angles) if not handled properly. Always, always, always ask for references, check with the better business bureau and communicate with your seamstress.
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago