Behind The Seams
One of the things we get asked about at nearly every first bridal appointment is alterations – ‘Will I need alterations?’ ‘Do you do alterations here?’ ‘Where do you even start?’ and most importantly ‘how much do alterations cost?’
Well, let me first start by introducing myself-
A lot of you know me from your first visits to the shop. As well as helping you find your dream dress I’m also the one you will see at your fittings. I began working as a costume designer in theatre and film before turning my hand to bridal, I have a Master of Arts Degree and have been making clothes since I was 14 (I won’t tell you how long ago that was).
This is Becky
You might see her around the shop during fittings, she is our seamstress extraordinaire! There is nothing she can’t do, our in-house bridal miracle worker! Becky has a degree in Fashion Design and has been designing, making and altering bridal gowns for 10 years.
Between us we have 25 years experience and I dread to think how many thousands of pounds of student debt getting ourselves qualified!
Therefore, yes, we do offer alterations in-house, but alas, yes alterations do cost money. A plumber wouldn’t get himself trained to then offer his services for free would he? (If only, right?) Well, we are in the same boat.
9 out of 10 brides will need alterations to their dress because we are not all a perfect dress size from bust to waist to hips to length and everything in between.
So to answer the baffling question of ‘where do you even start?’ What better than to guide you through the alterations process of our Becky’s very own wedding dress.
The process starts 2-3 months before the wedding, you will come into the shop (with your wedding shoes!) and we will measure and pin you up.
Then the real fun begins!
The dress goes up to the top floor of the shop – the alterations room.
The first job is to unpick the lace scalloped edge hem, depending on how wide the appliqué is and how heavily beaded the hem is this can take anywhere between 2 and 8 hours.
All of the layers of the dress are then taken up. In Becky’s case this was 1 tulle layer, 1 taffeta layer, 2 netting layers and 1 lining layer.
When we alter a dress we will always work from the bottom up, this is to make sure that all of the pins from the bottom of the dress are removed before we have to flip it inside out to work on the fit.
Therefore, working up, we then put the bustle in the train using a series of buttons and loops (at your final fitting we will show one of your bridesmaids how the bustle works so that you can dance the night away without your train getting under your feet).
The next job is to start working on the fit. Most of our gowns are designed in such a way that you can’t see the seams, so we have to remove beading and lace to free the hidden seams in order to start the work. The gown is then flipped inside out to reveal the construction and we can then take it in the desired amount, both on the main body of the dress (the top layers – the bits that you see) and also separately on the lining layers. Some dresses have multiple lining and construction layers hidden inside the dress – these all need altering separately. We then do the identical work again on the other side. So a ‘simple’ take-in job often actually involves altering 6 separate layers!
After the length and the fit have been done we can then work on any other little jobs that need doing – this is when we will insert additional bust cups, put fine darts in the neckline or across the back, or make any aesthetic customisations, for example adding or changing the buttons over the zip.
Once all the alterations have been made the lace scallop can then be pinned back onto the hem and the lace covering the side seams can be pinned or loosely tacked back on ready for the final fitting.
The final fitting gives you an opportunity to walk freely in your dress (possibly for the first time), the scalloped lace is only pinned on at this stage in case we need to move it up or down a fraction – we can often get the best position for the lace when you are standing in it.
Once we know at the final fitting that the fit is good and the length is spot on the dress then heads back up to our top floor for round 2.
Round 2 of the alterations process is focussed purely on aesthetics and quality control, no further amendments will be made to the fit, length or shape of the dress at this stage.
We use the remaining time to hand sew the lace back over the side seams and the scalloped lace onto the hem – this process takes considerably longer than the unpicking process. Some hems depending on the width of the scallop can take up to 3 days to sew back onto the dress. When the lace is sewn back on the beads follow, once again these are all individually hand sewn over the lace – no glue guns in sight!
After the seams have had one final press the dress makes its way down to our first floor where each separate layer is steamed ready for collection.
So that’s the process. Lengthy – yes, skilled – yes, worth it? – Absolutely! Imagine getting your hair cut by someone who hadn’t picked up a pair of scissors before – disaster! Or getting stitches in A&E by a nurse who had only put the uniform on for the first time that morning – you’d panic! Well, in the same vein, someone who is highly skilled and knowledgeable should carry out your bridal alterations. You wouldn’t pay for a spectacular wedding for your photographer to capture it on an iPhone, so don’t pay out for a beautiful wedding dress to ruin it with cheap alterations.
We are always on hand to talk to if you have any concerns or customisations you want to make to your dress, we will be happy to help.
Oh, and to answer the question I get asked at EVERY final fitting ‘how do I go to the toilet in this dress?’ Becky tried and tested this method for you. Sit front ways. Apparently it worked a treat!