How to Get Your Prom Dress Altered for the Perfect Fit
How to Get Your Prom Dress Altered for the Perfect Fit
When the box with your dream prom dress arrives, what if it doesn’t fit perfectly? Sometimes choosing the next size up or down doesn’t quite fix your fit concerns, so alterations are the way to go for the best prom dress fit. Before making any decisions about prom dress alterations, here are 5 steps to consider:
Step 1: Can I Get My Prom Dress Altered?
It’s not a straight “yes” or “no” answer when considering if your prom dress can be altered. It depends! It is important to make sure that your formal dress can be altered without changing the overall look of the prom dress. For instance, if you need to shorten the hemline, will it remove a stunning embellishment or print design that is part of why you loved the dress in the first place? No one wants to spend money on alterations and then not be happy with how the dress looks. That would be a total bummer!
There are a lot of variables that play a role in whether or not a prom dress can be altered. While a good seamstress will be able to add a lining to a dress, rework a zipper, and alter even a heavily sequined or beaded dress, some types of alterations are very difficult, if not impossible. No matter how badly you want a seamstress to be able to work magic, sometimes the design and fabric of a dress limits the alterations that can be done. Below are some common types of dress alterations:
Can bra cups be added or removed?
Adding bra cups, or an extra lining for bodice coverage, on your prom dress can add the support or modesty you need when you can’t wear a bra with your chosen style. The worry-free support of bra cups is especially helpful with strapless or open-back dresses. Sewn directly into the bodice of the prom dress, bra cups are typically a quick and easy addition depending upon the fabric and shape of the bodice. If your prom dress allows for the use of a bra, but comes with bra cups anyway, you may want to skip the bra cups in favor of the additional support a bra provides. You can typically have bra cups removed if they add unnecessary volume or unwanted shape to the bodice of your dress, but be careful if the bodice material is thin or sheer. Removing bra cups from a sheer bodice may require the use of a backless body shaper, stick-on silicone bra cups, or breast petals to provide coverage.
Can I add a corset back or a corset modesty panel?
A corset back is a trendy detail that allows you to adjust the bodice fit by tightening or loosening the laces. Lacing up a corset to be looser or tighter can make a formal dress fit like it was custom-made for you. As an added bonus, lace-up dresses can even make it possible to adjust the dress to fit years later after you’ve grown and matured. If your dress has a zipper closure, but you would prefer a corset for the look or the fit, a seamstress or tailor may be able to take out the zipper and put in the corset for you! Does your dress already have a corset, but you want additional coverage? Ask the seamstress or tailor if a modesty panel can be made to fit under the corset detail. You may have to buy matching or coordinating fabric for the panel, unless the seamstress happens to have fabric that will work well with your dress.
Can a dress with embellishments be altered?
A dress with embellishments like beads, jewels, sequins, or embroidered appliques can usually be altered by a skilled seamstress or tailor. The cost and time it takes for altering an embellished dress depends upon the placement of the details and the work that you’d like to have done.
Can my prom dress be hemmed?
Having a dress hemmed is one of the most commonly sought after alterations. Let’s face it, we’re all different heights! Your height and body shape can actually both affect the placement of the hemline on your prom dress. Hemming for a proper fit typically means more than just simply cutting a straight line around the bottom of the skirt. Depending upon how the dress fits over your curves, the front hemline may need to be longer or shorter than the back hem in order for the dress to appear to be the same length all around when worn. When there are multiple layers in the skirt, then each layer must be hemmed. If there are a lot of beautiful details near the hem of the skirt, like scallops, ruffles, or a print trim, you may lose them in the hemming process. The look and length of trains or godets could also be changed significantly when a prom dress is hemmed, so be sure to ask about such alterations before leaving the dress with the seamstress. Pro Tip: When preparing to have your dress measured for hemming, be sure to wear the heels that you intend to wear to your formal event. In some cases, your posture changes when wearing heels and that can affect the hemline placement too.
Do you want to do more than simply hem your dress as is? Do you have a creative idea to alter the original design, like making a long gown into a trendy high-low dress? Or, maybe you found a long dress you love, but you want to turn it into a short dress. Presenting all of the ideas to the seamstress in advance is a good way to determine if the dress style allows for such changes, as well as the possible cost.
Can I add illusion mesh for more coverage?
Adding illusion mesh can help if your formal prom dress has cut outs, an open back, a deep neckline, or another detail that you like, but you would prefer to have some additional coverage. Some school dress codes may not allow plunging necklines, backless crop tops, or revealing side cut outs, but will make allowances for sheer coverage on those features. An experienced seamstress may be able to add illusion mesh or opaque fabric that can camouflage deep necklines, even out the skin tone on open backs, and provide additional coverage to cut-out details. Before leaving your dress with the seamstress for these changes, it’s smart to be sure that all alterations comply with your school’s dress codes.
Can a lining be added to my dress?
A lining on a formal dress is like a built-in slip for lighter, see-through fabrics and gives a smooth inside finish to hide seams. Linings also help with the shape and drape to improve the overall structure of the formal dress. If your dress doesn’t have a lining and you wish it did, consult your seamstress or tailor. They will know what fabric and seam allowances to use to give you the coverage and look you prefer and will keep waistbands, darts, zipper placements, and other closures in mind when adding a lining to your formal dress.
Can I change the neckline on my dress?
If you would prefer a more flattering or modest neckline on your prom dress to suit your body type and fashion preference, a good seamstress may be able to change or completely reinvent the neckline style. Be aware that while changing a straight or scoop neckline to a sweetheart or v-neckline (which involves cutting away at existing fabric) may be a snap for a good seamstress, doing the opposite (which often involves adding fabric) may not be an option. If a neckline is too low, an alteration might be as simple as raising the shoulder straps or as tricky as matching additional fabric to the existing neckline. A gaping neckline could be easily fixed by sewing darts or small pleats in the bodice that will make it more flattering for your shape. Adding a binding or embellishments can narrow the neckline and class up the look of your formal dress as well.
Sleeves: Can I add, remove, or alter sleeves on my dress?
Removing, shortening, or adding sleeves to a formal dress is definitely a job for the pros. A good seamstress can tell you right away whether your dress can be altered to accommodate your needs. He or she may be able to make sleeves slimmer if they’re too big, or adjust the fabric near the armholes for a looser fit. In most cases, the sleeves can be completely removed to transform the dress into a tank style. Adding sleeves can be challenging and expensive, especially if you don’t already have additional fabric and embellishments that match the style of the dress. If your seamstress determines that she can’t add sleeves to your dress, a stylish and popular solution is a separate bolero, jacket, shawl, or shrug.
Straps: Can straps be added or removed from a dress?
Sometimes a prom dress comes with removable straps to give you the option of a strapless style. But what if your strapless prom dress needs additional support and didn’t come with handy removable straps? Adding straps is usually not a problem as long as the seamstress can easily match or complement the fabric of the formal dress. Make sure to tell the seamstress what style of straps you prefer. Some common requests are simple spaghetti straps, 1 - 2 inch straps, or trendy off-the-shoulder straps. Removing existing straps is another possible alteration that can be done, as long as the structure of the gown is still supported. If the gown is backless, for example, it may not be designed to stay up without straps. A good seamstress will let you know if removing or adding straps is possible and if it will change the design or look of your formal dress.
Can my prom dress be taken in or let out?
It is much easier to take in a seam than to add fabric to a formal dress, so if your prom dress arrives and it is a little too big you shouldn’t have any problems having it taken in some. If you need to have the dress made bigger, you will need to ask a seamstress if it is possible. Some dresses have smaller seams than others, and the placement of embellishments may make it tricky to let the dress out. This is why it is often recommended that you order the larger size if you are between sizes. Successfully taking in or letting out a prom dress may depend upon embellishments, boning, and the type of adjustments that may need to be made.
Can I add, remove, or change the zipper location on my dress?
Don’t like the pullover design of your dress? If there is enough remaining fabric (in the way the dress fits you) to accommodate the zipper, a seamstress may be able to add a zipper to make it easier to put on. Also, if zipping up the back of a dress is a hassle, a tailor may be able to remove that zipper and add one along the side of the dress under the arm instead. Although exposed zippers are trending, if you prefer an invisible zipper on your formal dress, it may be possible to swap out the zippers to showcase a more polished look. Be sure to refer to an expert to ensure that such design tweaks are possible on your dream dress. If the fabric and style allow such changes, zipper alterations on your formal evening dress can make a difference in comfort and style.
Step 2: Who Can Alter the Dress?
To get your prom dress altered, you’ll need to find a skilled seamstress or tailor. Tailors are known for custom-fitting a garment to the wearer, while seamstresses typically adjust details in specific areas of existing prom dresses and other garments bought off the rack. If you are lucky enough to have a professional in your family that can find your proper prom dress size and do minor alterations for you, be sure that they are experienced in working with the type of material from which your prom dress is made. Fabric grain affects how the material moves, so the sewing technique used on the alterations of your prom dress may vary depending upon the type of fabric. For example, silk, satin, chiffon, and lace are lightweight, delicate fabrics that can be slippery and require careful attention and skill to alter. Taffeta, charmeuse, crepe, and velvet are stiffer blends that are easier to fold and feed through sewing machines, while knits and spandex are stretchy and trickier to maneuver through a sewing machine while keeping the fabric aligned. A skilled seamstress knows the do’s and don’ts associated with biases, fabrics, and grain lines, so it’s important to make sure that your friend or family member is comfortable with the unique challenges presented by the fabric of your dress.
If there are no seamstresses or tailors in the family, no worries! A professional seamstress or tailor is but a call away! Most towns have skilled seamstresses or tailors nearby that offer some form of prom dress alteration services, or you can ask for referrals to a private seamstress that typically works out of his/her home. Don’t forget to check out local dry cleaners to see if they can do formal dress alterations. Be sure to do your research if you’re not sure about the quality of work that a seamstress is capable of providing. After you find good prospects, it’s time to shop around for the best deals and inquire about the hourly rates that are common in your area. Yelp is very useful in getting a good sense of a seamstress or tailor’s ability and turnaround time
What should I wear to an alterations appointment?
When you get to your alterations appointment, be sure to bring the dress, shoes, and undergarments that you’re going to wear the night of your event. Sometimes shoe height and undergarments can drastically affect the fit of the formal dress. This is a good time to check that your bra straps won’t show, or to make sure that the dress provides enough coverage and support if you are planning not to wear a bra. Wearing heels can affect your posture, and therefore change the length and the hemline of the dress, so it’s helpful for a seamstress to see the way the dress fits you while you are wearing your chosen prom shoes.
Step 3: What is the Cost for the Alterations?
Once you’ve found a seamstress or tailor for your prom dress alterations, it’s very important to know how much the work is going to cost. On average, a professional will charge between $30 and $50 per hour for prom dress alterations, depending upon where you live. Of course, the type of fabric and the complexity of the alterations on your formal dress can add to the cost. When the prom dress alterations become a bit trickier (like working with multiple layers and linings, adjusting embellishments, dealing with delicate fabrics), expect the price to go up. Be sure that you know the cost of alterations and the time it will take to do them before any work on your formal dress is started. If you don’t, you may be in for a big surprise once the work is complete! When you receive the estimate for the alterations, you will have to decide whether or not it is worth the added cost. Finding out that alterations will run two to three times what you spent on the dress itself might mean that it’s time to exchange your prom dress for a different size or style.
Step 4: How Long Will Alterations Take?
Having a dress altered can take anywhere from a week to two months, so ask upfront how long the alterations process will take before leaving your prom dress with a seamstress or tailor. The amount of time it takes for getting a prom dress altered depends upon the professional’s schedule and the type of alterations required. For instance, it may take a few days to shorten a hem of a prom dress, but if there are sequins, beads, appliques, embroidery, or necklines to be modified, it could take much longer.
Generally, there will be an initial consultation appointment, during which you would try on the dress and discuss the possible changes with the seamstress or tailor. The amount of work to be done would then determine the length of time your hired professional will need to complete the alterations. Another appointment would then be scheduled to try on the altered dress and see if any additional adjustments might be needed. Keep in mind that if it’s the middle of prom season, available appointments with a good tailor or seamstress may be few and far between, so don’t wait until it’s too late! Since time slots fill up quickly, make an informed decision promptly to either proceed with the alterations or return the dress for one that fits better. Remember, even if you have a simple alteration to be done, prom time is very busy for seamstresses and tailors, so get to one as soon as possible for a breakdown of the turnaround time and cost estimate.
Step 5: What Can I Do If I Can’t Get My Prom Dress Altered?
If you’ve done the research and find that the alterations for your formal dress can’t be done, the alterations cost too much, or the alterations can’t be completed in time for your formal event, then returning your dress and ordering a different size or style is your best option. Did you place your order with PromGirl? Lucky you! PromGirl has a super-easy return policy with a fast turnaround time and no restocking fees, so you are able to get a new dress in record time.