My Wedding Dress Doesn't Fit After Alterations. What Do I Do?

Whether your wedding dress is too short, too long, too tight, or otherwise doesn't fit, there's a solve. Here's what to do if your dress doesn't fit after alterations and what to tell your seamstress.

By Alanna Nuñez

bridesmaid closes wedding dress for bride
Photo by Zola

By now, you’ve been wedding planning for awhile. The venue is picked, the menu is set, and you hit the bridal boutiques for wedding dress shopping, purchased that perfect wedding dress, and scheduled alterations. Now, it’s time to try the dress on post-alterations and … wait, was it always bunching like that? Isn’t it a little too long? And now the buttons won’t close either? Is this even the right dress size?!

Basically, your wedding gown doesn’t fit after alterations.

Deep breath! While it’s understandably stressful, it’s also actually a pretty common issue. Fortunately, it’s also a fixable problem. The solution, however, will depend on your timeline. Let’s break it down.

INLINE NSTPictures 1080x720 Elodie&Bertrand Photo Credit // NST Pictures

If you have at least two months:

Relax and go back to your seamstress to request more alterations to get the perfect fit. Here’s what to ask for:

  • Is your dress two small? Two months is plenty of time to let the seams out, says Leah Weinberg, wedding planner and founder of Color Pop Events. “There’s extra fabric intentionally built into the seams for this exact purpose,” she explains. Zipper just won’t budge? Ask your tailor to take it out and sew in a corset back, which will give you more breathing room (literally).
  • Are you swimming in fabric when you zip it up? Simply have the seamstress take it in a little more.
  • Is the dress shorter than you remember? Many dresses come with extra fabric sewn into the hem that can then be let down, Weinberg says.

Now is the time to be polite but firm. “If you've had one or two alterations appointments and still don't love how the dress feels on you, then keep at the alterations person,” Weinberg says. “There should still be a few weeks left to get everything fitting perfectly.”

Wedding planner Irene St. Onge, founder of Soiree Special Events, agrees. “Speak up and don’t take no for an answer,” she says. “Sometimes we are afraid to be our own advocate … but this is your dress and wedding day and it should be perfect.”

If you have one month:

You still have a little wiggle room. At this point, if you’re not happy with your dress, St. Onge advises finding a new seamstress, stat. Not sure where to turn? “Enlist all the help you can get–ask friends, family, Facebook groups, coworkers,” she says. “You would be amazed at the community out there who will want to help a bride in need.”

If you’re less than two weeks away:

It’s crunch time–but the pros still have some tricks up their sleeve. If your dress is too long: Try taller shoes, Weinberg suggests. If that’s not an option, duct tape can work miracles to “shorten” the hem, she adds. Don’t try this one at home if your dress is extremely delicate or sheer (fashion tape may be a better option in that case), but for gowns of a sturdier material, this can be a lifesaver.

  • If your dress is too short: Switch to flats, Weinberg recommends.

  • If your dress is too big: Safety pins will be your best friend. Weinberg recommends pinning your dress in at the armpits. “This is the least noticeable area,” she says. St. Onge also suggests packing a day-of emergency kit with a needle, thread, fashion tape, safety pins, and asking your mom, wedding planner (if you have one), sister, or anyone else who might be with you the day of to be on hand for any last-minute emergencies. Another tip: Your florist will most likely have some white ribbon on hand the day of your wedding to tie the bouquets, St. Onge says. In a pinch, the same ribbon can be used to cinch in your waist if you find that your dress is still just a little too big.

  • If your dress is too small: Both Weinberg and St. Onge recommend shapewear as your best bet. “The great thing about shapewear is that, these days, it comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, and strengths so you will have plenty of options to choose from,” Weinberg adds.

If you are less than a week away:

If, a few days out, you are just not happy with the fit of your dress, take another deep breath and think about how you feel. “The most important thing is that you feel your best and you feel comfortable,” Weinberg says.

Can you walk down the aisle in your dress as is and feel okay or will you feel self-conscious and fidgety? If you know in your heart of hearts that you won’t feel good in your dress, you may want to consider going nuclear and buying something off the rack. “Sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to feel good,” Weinberg says.

INLINE AndreaBibeultAWeddingPhotojournalist 1080x720 Joni&Janel Photo Credit // Andrea Bibeult

If your dress is too tight on the day of your wedding:

Once your wedding day hits, there isn’t much you can do in terms of changing your dress (for example, adding a gusset or letting out the side seams). But if you feel like your wedding dress is a little tight as you’re getting ready to walk down the aisle, there are steps you can take, including:

  • Don’t panic. If you try to put on your dress and immediately get the panicked thought, “my wedding dress is too small!” take a deep breath. Wedding dresses can be tricky to get on—and just because it feels a bit tight when you first get into it doesn’t mean it won’t ultimately fit. So don’t panic!

  • Ask for help. If your wedding dress is feeling a little snug, it’s time to ask for help. Ask your bridal party or family members to help you get into the dress—ideally with one at the front of the dress, one at each side of the dress, and one at the back of the dress. Have them shimmy the dress up to your natural waist, then have them push the fabric towards the back of the dress to give as much space as possible for the person in the back to clasp the dress. (Just make sure they’re gentle; you don’t want to rip or damage your dress!) The more help you have, the easier it will be to get your wedding gown on, fit, and fastened.

  • Try shapewear. If your dress is feeling tight (and if you’re not already wearing it), try shapewear. The material can help your wedding dress slide on more easily—which can be the solution you need to get into a slightly too-tight dress on your wedding day.

  • Swap your bra. If you’re struggling to fit your wedding dress over your bust area, try swapping out your bra for something with less padding.

Wedding Dress Alteration Tips

For many people, a wedding dress is the biggest clothing-related purchase they’ll ever make, and the alterations process can be emotional, time-consuming, expensive, and confusing. To lower the chances that you’ll find yourself wearing a dress you hate, here are a few tips to keep in mind while you’re shopping for your gown:

  • If possible, start shopping for your dress around 10-11 months out and make your purchase by eight to nine months out. This should give you plenty of time for alterations. “It normally takes around three or four fittings, but I’ve had brides who’ve done eight or nine,” St. Onge says.
  • Before you sign on the dotted line, ask the bridal salon if alterations are done in-house. If so, how much will they cost? If not, can the salon recommend a couple of reputable seamstresses for you?
  • For each fitting, try on your dress exactly as you would wear it on the big day: the same wedding shoes, the same underwear—the same everything. This will give you a detailed idea of just how your dress will look and fit on the big day.
  • Make sure the seamstress is the one pinning you at every fitting. “I find sometimes the small tweaks made at appointments get lost in translation, and I’ve had instances where the bridal salesperson doesn’t communicate to the seamstress and vice versa,” St. Onge says.
  • Lastly, remember that you’ve got a lot on your mind, and your memory is fallible. If you want something specific changed, take pics at every fitting. At your next fitting, you’ll remember exactly how the dress fit when it was last pinned, and you’ll minimize the chance of any confusion between you and the seamstress.

What to keep in mind during fittings

Part of getting the perfect fit on your wedding dress is knowing how to navigate the wedding dress shopping, fitting, and alteration process. Here are a few things to keep in mind during the dress shopping and fittings to ensure your dress fits exactly how you want it for your big day:

  • Choose the right dress. Some dresses are easier to alter than others. If you’re concerned that your size or shape will change between buying your dress and your wedding day, make sure to choose a wedding dress that lends itself to easy changes and updates (for example, a dress with a lace up corset is easier to adjust than an intricately beaded mermaid gown).

  • Talk to your seamstress. The first time you meet with your seamstress, talk to her about your concerns. For example, if you’ve recently experienced weight loss that you’re concerned is temporary, she might suggest a certain dressmaker or encourage you to size up.

  • Recreate your wedding look at each fitting. When you go to a fitting, you want to wear exactly what you’ll be wearing on your wedding day—including shoes, undergarments, and jewelry. That way, your seamstress can adjust your dress appropriately.

There's usually a solve for a wedding dress alteration mishap. The first step is always to breathe and then get in touch with your alterations specialist.

Up next for you

bride in headband with new husband

21 Stunning Headbands to Update Your Bridal Look


Now trending on bridal runways: headbands to replace veils. Find a wedding headband that fits your bridal look with our roundup of bridal headbands for every style.

bride in wedding veil

14 Wedding Veil Styles and Lengths Every Bride Should Know


From birdcage to ballet, there is an abundance of options when it comes to your wedding veil. Peek through our veil style guide to see which look and length best suits you and your wedding style.

bride wedding dress shopping

13 Tips for Choosing Your Dream Wedding Dress


Find the wedding dress of your dreams with our round-up of the 8 best tips for wedding dress shopping—from who to bring to how to budget.

veiled bride walking to wedding

How to Break Out of the #WeddingDiet Mentality

How To

The impulse to diet or lose weight for your wedding is strong. Here's how to break the cycle and focus less on your wedding diet and more on a healthy body and stress-free wedding planning.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola

Find even more wedding ideas, inspo, tips, and tricks

We’ve got wedding planning advice on everything from save the dates to wedding cakes.