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My Wedding Dress is Too Small! Can it Be Altered?

For many brides, one of the biggest fears is not being able to fit their dress. I started wondering, what happens if my wedding dress is too small? These tips and ideas will also if your bridesmaid’s dresses are too small.

Can wedding dresses be taken out? Most wedding dresses have approximately 1″ seam allowance on each side of the dress. Therefore, the seams can be undone and sewn so that the dress can be let out and made a little bit bigger.


This can be extremely stressful, but thankfully there are some great options if you are facing a wedding dress that’s too small. If you’re worried about how your dress is going to fit when you get closer to the wedding, there are some great options!

You don’t have to be stressed out over your wedding dress if you make sure that there are good seams on the inside of the dress when you purchase it. Any seamstress will be able to let it out as long as you have options!

There’s nothing that a few alterations can’t fix!


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How to Let Out a Wedding Dress

It used to be that wedding dresses absolutely could not be let out. However, wedding dress designers have started using 1″ or even 2″ seam allowances. This makes a stressed-out bride’s day much easier.

The first thing your seamstress should do is measure the amount of space needed to make the dress comfortable. This can be done by measuring the space between the teeth of the zipper (with the zipper open). This will tell her how many inches the dress needs let out.

Your seamstress should be able to undo the stitching on both side seams (under the arms) and let out the seam allowance to make the dress bigger. However, dresses can only be let out a size or two. Anything larger than that is going to take more alterations.

Get a Wedding Dress Zipper Extender or Corset Back Dress Alteration

Your seamstress could also see about letting out the zipper allowance for a little extra space or add a zipper extender to the back of the wedding dress.

If you don’t have enough seam allowance to make the dress bigger, you may need to consider adding a corset back. Your seamstress can simply remove the zipper, add a panel of fabric and some corset loops. This could add up to 5″ to your dress!








If you have concerns about your dress being too small or uncomfortable, be sure to talk with your seamstress. She’ll know best about what can be done. One thing to watch out for is the type of material. Some materials will show the original stitching, which will look very tacky. If the type of material you have shows the old stitching holes, your best option will be to remove the zipper and make the dress have a corset back.

Your seamstress may be able to remove old stitching marks with at 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar and some careful ironwork.

Lastly, your seamstress might be able to add a gusset to the inside seams (under your arms) so that you can have a little more room. She’ll need to use some extra fabric from the bottom of your dress.

In sewing, a gusset is a triangular or rhomboidal piece of fabric inserted into a seam to add breadth or reduce stress from tight-fitting clothing. source, Wikipedia

How Do You Tell if a Dress Can Be Let Out?

The easiest way to know if your wedding dress can be let out is to turn it completely inside out so you can see all the seams. With a fabric tape measure, measure how much allowance there is from the seam stitching to the end of the fabric.


This dress has about 3/4″ seam allowance

Many formal dresses and wedding dresses have a large seam allowance for this very reason. If your seam allowance is 1/4″ or less, you will not be able to let out the seams. You’ll need to consider other options.

Before deciding that your dress needs to be let out, also consider how the dress should fit. Especially if your dress is strapless, it needs to be tight enough that it doesn’t fall down. Many brides complain that their dress is too tight when they first put it on, but as she wears it, it tends to stretch out enough that she doesn’t even notice it the rest of the day. The tightness could simply be that you’re not used to wearing such a dress and it takes a little while to get used to.

What is the Average Price to Alter a Wedding Dress?

The average cost for wedding dress alterations is around $300 for typical alterations such as taking in the bust, hemming, and adding the bustle. The cost depends on how much the seamstress needs to do to make your dress perfect.

It’s important to note that paying for alterations on your wedding dress will usually cost more when done by the seamstress at the store where you purchased the dress. Check around for a local seamstress as she’ll likely make the changes for much cheaper.

Also, keep in mind that it takes just as much work for the seamstress to take out the dress “just a little” versus “a lot”. Each layer of the dress (which could be up to four layers) has to be taken apart either way. If your dress has a beaded, sequin, or pearl overlay, it has to be carefully removed and tied off so they don’t unravel or fall off. Once the alterations are made, the beads, sequins, or pearls have to be hand sewn back on the dress. Therefore, you can expect higher costs with a dress with this many embellishments.

The hem can also pose a challenge to seamstresses. Most dresses have 3 or 4 layers that will need to be adjusted. Additionally, many wedding dresses have a horsehair braid to give the hem body but are one of the most difficult hems to alter. Scalloped hems are also extremely difficult to seamstresses to alter.

Seamstresses also face the challenge of the bustle which needs to be durable enough to withstand sitting on it, dancing, and even people accidentally stepping on her hem. Depending on how big the drain is, the bustle needs to be durable enough to hold all the extra material.

You may want to consider hiring a local designer to custom make your wedding dress. This could pan out to be cheaper than buying a designer gown.

When Should You Start Alterations on Your Wedding Dress?


You should have your first alterations made approximately two months before the wedding. A final fitting should take place two weeks before the wedding to ensure that your gown still fits perfectly.

Be mindful of the dreaded wedding weight. Are you a person that tends to easily gain weight? Or do you tend to lose weight under stress? You’ll want to keep all this in mind to determine the best time to have your dress altered.

It’s always easier to take in a dress than it is to let it out. Your dress should be ordered bigger than you need and then altered to fit your body type.

You should also keep in mind that the number of fittings could change depending on the amount of work you need to have done. You might need to go 3-4 times for your seamstress to get the right adjustments.

What Do You Wear to a Wedding Dress Fitting?

When you go for the first time to try on wedding dresses, be sure to wear clothing that is easy to change in and out of. You also want to wear a white or nude-colored bra. Consider wearing a strapless bra so that you don’t have to worry about unsightly straps when trying on different dress styles. Also, if you plan on wearing heels for your wedding, be sure to bring a pair so you can see how different dresses look with heels. Here are some more helpful ideas of what you should wear when you try on your wedding dress.

When you go to your first dress fitting, bring along your wedding shoes so you can see how the length looks.

You also need to bring the exact bra, seamless underwear, and/or body shapers that you plan to wear on your wedding day. Consider bringing a couple different styles of bras to see what is most comfortable and works best with your dress.








Lastly, bring your veil, jewelry, and any other accessories that you plan to wear on your wedding day. This will help you know exactly what your dress will look like with all the components.

Related Questions

How early should I get my wedding dress? It will take 16-20 weeks on average for your wedding dress to arrive after ordering. Plus, you’ll need 4-6 weeks to get the alterations done.

How much is the average wedding dress? Brides in the United States spend around $1000 for their wedding dress. Prices vary greatly and there are many inexpensive options.

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kristin-the-wedding-blogger-2020-300x300.png

Hi, I’m Kristin. While I haven’t found my Prince Charming yet, I’ve been dreaming of getting married for a long long time. I started this site as a place to record all the things I’ve found and researched in preparation for my own wedding someday. I can’t wait to share it all with you!

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