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 found that dream 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? Basically, your wedding dress 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. 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 life-saver.

  • 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

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.

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.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola