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What started as a side hustle for two creative, driven sisters has now become one of the Midwest’s premier event planning and design firms. At Elevate, we find pure, unbridled joy in celebrating all aspects of life - big moments, small gatherings and anything in between.

Wedding Dress & Suit Alterations 101: Tips from the Pros

With the start of wedding season feeling like it’s right around the corner, our friends in the suiting and alterations worlds are busy busy, making those final stitches and bustle loops to ensure our couples are feeling (and looking!) their very best on the big day.

Because the conversations around alterations always tend to get a bit murky, we want to be sure that everyone who wants to look their best has the tools and information they need to succeed, regardless of whether they are working with our team! So today, we’ve teamed up with our friends Mario of Monetti Tailoring and Donna of DMP Tailoring & Alterations, two fixtures within the Greater Madison wedding community, to collect some super helpful wisdom on the subject, as well as answer all of your questions! See below for our own Q&A, Mario & Donna’s helpful answers, and even some pro tips for making your alterations process as stress free as possible!

Wedding Dress & Suit Alterations 101: Tips from the Pros

Q: In your opinion, when do brides need to start the wedding dress alterations process?

Mario: I would suggest at least 7-8 months before the wedding – so for example, by February you should have a tailor for your October wedding. We offer free estimates and will meet with brides at any time in their process.

Donna: I think that finding an alterations vendor is one of the first things you should do when you get engaged. While your first appointment might not take place until a few months before the wedding, alterations businesses book up very quickly!

Bottom Line: Don’t sleep on this important step in the process! We would suggest that the minute you’ve said “yes” to your dress, build a list of potential alternations teams and give them each a call to learn about their availability and processes – you really can’t start too early!

Q: What does the alterations process look like in general? (i.e. how many appointments, length of appointments, etc.) 

Mario: You can’t do everything in one appointment. Depending on the dress, it can take 5-6 meetings. Again, the earlier the better! For an average, I’d say three appointments for a simple dress; more time for more detailed requests and dresses. Sometimes I will work on the dress when it is ON my clients, so it may take additional time!

Donna: Typically the wedding dress alterations process consists of a few appointments, depending on what needs to be done to your dress. Typically, the first appointment is about one hour long and includes time to talk through your alterations, ask questions, and get a better understanding of any additional things you may need, such as making a veil. We want it to be perfect!

Bottom Line: You’ll want to plan for at LEAST 2-3 appointments before your dress is ready to take home. Typically, we find that it takes roughly two weeks between appointments to allow your tailor to make the adjustments discussed during your time together. So, these time considerations alone equate to a few months of total alterations time! Again, start early!

Advice: How to prepare for your first alterations appointment

Wondering what to bring to your first appointment? You should have your appropriate undergarments picked out along with any and all shoes you are planning to wear! It may sound obvious, but it’s important to have a realistic idea about the day and what shoes will be the most comfortable for a long time. If you’ve chosen a veil that may need adjustments along with your dress, bring that with you, too!

Donna: You can’t really hem a dress for both parts of the day – when you are wearing heels and when you are barefoot or switch into flat shoes. With this in mind, I suggest choosing a modest heel for wedding day.

Bottom Line: First alteration appointment must haves:

  • Undergarments (underwear and bra, if needed, at a minimum)
  • Wedding Day Shoes (consider comfort!)
  • Veil
  • Second Dress(es), if any
  • A positive, helpful cheerleader
  • Anything else that may affect how your dress will function (stole, bolero, etc.)

Q: Can you explain your ballpark pricing so our readers know what to expect? 

Mario: Again, depends on the dress and clients’ needs, but I’d say $700-$1200 is the average cost for alterations.

Donna: On average about $350-$750 for alterations. Shops need to be better about communicating with brides about the work it takes!

The bottom line: Be sure to incorporate both accessories and alterations, along with the dress, of course, into your total attire budget. You don’t want this component feeling like the item you need to skimp on!

Q: How important is the specific dress designer to your work?

Mario: The specific designer is not important to my work, but rather what work is required to make the dress perfect. If the dress is more detailed, or the wrong size, more work will be required and therefore may cost more. I believe that it is very important to buy the correct dress size when choosing your dress. While alterations can of course be made to dresses that are not the correct size, it can lead to Brides paying a lot more money to alter. I suggest getting measured before you go wedding dress shopping!

Donna: The specific designer is not important to my work, but I do value designers that design with a woman’s body in mind!

Q: Bustles! Always a hot topic and something we deal with often on a wedding day. Any tips here?

Mario: There are so many different types of bustles. When I meet with a client I need to study the dress and their measurements to create the perfect bustle. Me and my team have also developed a fool-proof process that incorporates fishing line, so nothing will break. In our final appointment, I will teach you how to bustle your dress, and I suggest practicing. I really value educating people on what to do and how to do it when it comes to bustling!

Donna: I suggest taking a video when practicing your bustle, so that you can easily reference it when you are actually doing it! I also suggest staying away from tie bustles, as they easily come unraveled during dancing.

The Bottom Line: Bring a trusted friend or family member with you to your final appointment so they can learn this process right alongside you. (After all, they will probably be the official bustler on wedding day!) Spend a little time reviewing the video as the wedding gets closer, so you feel confident in the process once it comes time to help your Bride.

Q: What are some common misconceptions in the alterations world?

Mario: There are sadly some red flags in the alterations business. For example, I’ve unfortunately had to fix a lot of dresses from other shops that were “cheaper” but didn’t provide quality service. As is the case for many things in this industry, you tend to get what you pay for.

Donna: Overall, there is a lack of education on the alterations process. Many brides think it’s a one and done appointment, when really it takes at least two fittings before you can pick up your dress, if not more. Also, sizing is just so maddening. Everyday sizing is very different from bridal gowns, so it can be super frustrating for all sides. Mother of the bride/groom dresses also tend to fit poorly, so don’t forget to incorporate these into the alterations timeline too! Finally, careful about “adding things,” such as sleeves – don’t assume it can always be done, it. may require a lot more fittings and cost more.

Finally, for all of our suit wearers out there, don’t think we forgot about you! Monetti Tailoring also offers many different suiting options, so we dove a bit deeper into this topic with Mario as well:

Wedding Dress & Suit Alterations 101: Tips from the Pros

Q: Can you explain “Custom” vs. “Made to Measure” vs. “Made to Order” Suits?

Mario: Many of us are familiar with Ready-to-Wear or “Off the Rack.” This is sort of the least customizable option in the tailoring world. On the high end, however, I believe that custom made doesn’t actually exist. Made to Measure is really the most customized option – I craft a suit using your measurements. Made to Order is sort of the next step down – suits are made with certain specifications in mind, then are made in bulk so they can be ordered by size. Of course, you have to properly measure for the suit to actually fit.

In the Made to Measure Process, the client can select from any kind of fabric or style. The measurements are of course SO important and are taken in different forms. Then, I craft a new suit perfect for you – made to measure. It’s the best. Made to Order suits usually are not quite completed, you try on, give feedback and then send it back (or go to a tailor) for adjustments.

Q: Do you guide people on their Styles/Selections? Do you rent?

Mario: Of course! I believe that if you’re newer to this process, the first suit should be a classic, timeless suit. Even down to the measurements and the fabrics. In my opinion, others can overcomplicate it and try to excite you about little details that aren’t as important for the first suit. I like to concentrate on the important things in this circumstance: the measurements, the quality, etc. Typically we are looking at $850+ for Made to Measure to make sure it is perfect. 

I do also offer suit rentals or purchases – usually those are $200-$300. Those are probably for the guys who do not wear suits often, but would like to and/or need to for one event. If you wear suits frequently, I highly recommend purchasing a Made to Measure – it is worth the investment.

Q: Any tips/suggested time frames to start on suit alterations?

Mario: Start with at least three months MINIMUM before the event. It usually takes about 6-8 weeks to craft a suit.

Donna: I also do suit and tux alterations, and suggest getting an appointment as soon as you can. I have seen an increase in people purchasing rather than renting, because it costs about the same! If you do rent, my advice is to get your suit or tux a whole week in advance so you have time to fix it if it doesn’t fit properly.

We hope this information has been helpful! As is always the case in our world, we suggest working with vendors you trust and setting those expectations early on, and we promise, you’ll have a wonderful time planning and preparing for your big event. And if you happen to be in the midst of or have recently completed YOUR alterations process, comment below and let us know how things are going! And of course, don’t hesitate to reach out to your favorite local tailor EARLY to get on their books.

We want to extend a huge thank you to Mario and Donna for providing such excellent expertise, and always being such a pleasure to work with – cheers to many more beautifully dressed couples!