The Most Common Wedding Dress Alterations

Everyone’s body is different, and it is rare for a garment to fit perfectly straight off the rack. Some people may have a larger bust, smaller waist, or longer legs than the average size, which can make it difficult to find a wedding dress that fits well without some adjustments.

Alterations allow the garment to be customised to fit the wearer’s specific body shape more closely. This can result in a better fit and a more flattering appearance.

Even if a garment fits well in general, there may still be areas that need to be adjusted for comfort or aesthetics. For example, a wedding dress may fit well in the bust and waist but be too long or too short, or the straps may need to be adjusted for a better fit. Alterations can address these issues and ensure that the garment is comfortable and looks its best on you.

Finally, even if the wedding gown fits perfectly, you may still want to make changes to the style or appearance of it. For example, a wedding dress may come with removable sleeves or a detachable train, and you may want to add or remove these elements through alterations.

Common alternations your ready-to-wear wedding dress may need


Hemming involves adjusting the length of the dress so that it falls at the correct length for the wearer. This may be necessary if the dress is too long or too short.

The amount that a wedding dress length can be changed will depend on the specific dress and the amount of fabric available in the hem. In general, a wedding dress can usually be shortened by several inches without a problem, but adding length may be more difficult.

  • If the dress needs to be shortened, the seamstress or tailor will simply remove the excess fabric from the hem and reattach the hem at the desired length. This can usually be done without affecting the overall appearance of the dress.
  • If the dress needs to be lengthened, this can be more challenging because there may not be enough fabric in the hem to add the desired amount of length. In this case, the seamstress or tailor may need to add a panel of fabric to the hem to create the necessary length. This can be done in a way that is not noticeable, but it may require more time and effort to accomplish.

Waist adjustments

The waistline of a wedding dress can be altered to fit the wearer’s natural waistline more closely. This may involve taking in the dress at the sides or adding a belt or sash to cinch in the waist.

Similar to hemming, the amount that a wedding dress waist can be changed will depend on the specific dress and the amount of fabric available in the waistline. In general, it is usually possible to take in the waist of a wedding dress by several inches without a problem, but adding width to the waist may be more difficult.

Shoulder adjustments

The straps or shoulders of a wedding dress can be adjusted to fit more snugly or to be more comfortable for the wearer. This may involve adding padding to the straps, shortening them, or adjusting the placement of the straps on the bodice.

Bust alterations

If the bust of the dress is too loose or too tight, alterations can be made to create a better fit. This may involve adding cups or padding to the bust area, or taking in the fabric to create a more fitted look.

Adding sleeves

Some wedding dresses may not come with sleeves, or the sleeves may be removable. If the wearer wants to add sleeves to the dress, this can be done through alterations.

Adding a bustle

A bustle is a series of loops or buttons that allow the train of the dress to be lifted off the ground and fastened up when the wearer is dancing or moving around. Adding a bustle to a wedding dress can make it more practical and comfortable to wear.

Related reading: ‘Everything you’ll need to know about wedding dresses’

About Emerald Bridal

We hope you found this guide to common wedding dress alterations useful.

Emerald Bridal specialises in off-the-rack (ready-to-wear) wedding dresses that offer a careful balance between style, affordability, and quality. Our focus is on helping brides find their dream dress so that they look and feel comfortable and beautiful on their big day.

Come visit our Sydney showroom for a personalised fitting.