So you found the perfect wedding dress and now you need alterations? If you’ve started looking around for a reputable seamstress, you’ve probably already learned that it is nearly impossible to find one unless they come recommended. Although in most cases, it is more economical to find a seamstress that will be able to do the alterations for you rather than sticking with the bridal shop where you purchased your gown from, note that you will need to do a little bit of homework and check sources. There are plenty of seamstresses with years of experience that work from their home and who do this part time, but they are nearly impossible to come across simply because they don’t advertise their services enough.
You may want to start off by asking a friend who has recently gotten married for a recommendation. Another great resource is a local college or university with a fashion department. Get in touch with the department's head person and they'll be more than happy to give out a recommendation.
While the bridal salon where you purchased your wedding gown from is usually the best place to start looking for these services, take note that they may very well charge over $ 600 for alterations, especially if you are anywhere near the New York City area. Bridal shops make most of their money on alterations. So before you make your final purchase, consider the cost of alterations and make sure to include these in your budget. Sticking with the bridal shop where you purchased your gown from, will save you time, headaches (for the most part) and you'll have the reassurance of knowing that they have a vested interest in keeping you happy.
A seamstress will fit the dress on the bride and make recommendations to the areas that need adjustments, of course with the direction of the bride. For more on what to expect during your first fitting, read A guide to your first bridal gown fitting where I discuss everything you need to know including time line, about your first fitting.
Although the cost of alterations varies greatly depending on the complexity of the work, the major areas that will need alterations are the hem line, bodice and shortening of the sleeves
Whether you choose to get your alterations done at a bridal shop or seek out a seamstress on your own, here is what you should expect to pay in alterations
Some additional costs that you may want to consider are:
Bustle: $ 50-90 depending on the size of the train and how complicated the bustle needs to be in order to accommodate the train properly. See Different Types of Bustles
Bodice alterations: $ 50-150 depending on whether or not the gown has boning or beading that needs to be removed and reapplied.
Hemming: Unless you are purchasing a custom tailored gown, wedding dresses are designed to fit women who are 5’9 – 5’11 in height. Expect to pay $ 100-250 depending on whether a dress is single layered or multi layered and the intricacy of the lace and beading.
Sleeve alterations: $ 40-80 depending on the intricacy of the decoration and beading
Some Key Terms:
 Bodice – The part of a woman’s dress (excluding sleeves) that is above the waist.
 Boning – A strip of plastic that is inserted onto the inside of a garment to give it support
 Hemming – Folding back and sewing the edge of a garment
 Bustle – The type of framework that allows the skirt to be lifted and secured and keeps the skirt of a dress from dragging