Hi! I'm Kate and I bought a second-hand wedding dress from a charity boutique. It needed some minor alterations but the alterations shop wanted to charge me £500 for the work - so I decided to do it myself! Here's what I learned along the way.

My Wedding Dress is too Small! Can it be Altered?

Yes absolutely! You have several options, and the one you choose will depend on how much more wiggle-room you need to add to your dress.

  1. Let it out at the seams using the seam allowance in the dress
  2. Add panels of matching fabric
  3. Reconstruct the dress entirely

I was lucky that I only needed to add a few inches to my dress so I could use option 1!

I'm also a reasonably experienced dressmaker - I've been sewing my own clothes for as long as I can remember, so I was confident that I could understand the construction of my dress well enough to undertake this work. I wouldn't recommend this kind of high-stakes project if you've never sewn before, but it is actually easier than it seems!

Watch the Video!

Over on YouTube, I'm showing you the whole process of altering my dress. Subscribe to the Love Sewing YouTube channel to see it all unfold!

How Easy is it to Alter a Wedding Dress?

It can be very easy - broadly speaking, wedding dresses are made with alterations in mind. Whereas the seam allowance for a standard dress on the high street might only be 5mm, a wedding dress often has a couple of extra inches hidden inside the seams.

If you need to add extra panels of fabric, the great news is that most wedding dresses are made in a reasonably narrow range of whites and creams, so if you take your dress to a fabric shop, you're likely to find a good colour match.

If your dress features lace, beading or embroidery this might be a little tricker to find a match for, so consider where you want to add extra fabric. In my case, the lace was only a collection of appliqué pieces, so it was easy to unpick and replace them. I also chose to let out only at the sides, where it would be less visible.

How Can I Let Out My Wedding Dress?

This will depend entirely on how your dress is constructed, but if you examine it carefully, turn it inside out and get your good glasses on, you'll be able to see how the pattern pieces come together. To let out the dress, you will need to unpick a seam and then sew it back in place, with a smaller seam allowance.

When unpicking your dress, a good seam ripper will become your new best friend! Check out our easy guide to unpicking here.

How to Alter a Wedding Dress That is too Small in the Back

A lot of people describe their dresses as being too small in the back but really you are a 3D shape, so that circumference is all around - you don't need to add fabric in the back, you can add it anywhere!

You will commonly see a corset back being used in dresses that won't zip up and this is of course a relatively quick and easy option as it allows for flexibility of fit.

However, I didn't want to go for this option because I loved the look of the buttons that run down the back of my dress, so I chose to let out the side seams instead. This allowed for the back to be done up nicely and for the dress to fit across the back.

Wedding Dress Alteration: Before and After

So, how did it turn out? Overall I'm pretty happy with my results! As you can see, I needed to add a little room around the bust in my dress, so I unpicked the side seams (freeing up some of the lace appliqué) and re-sewed the seams to create a bit more space.

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