Bridesmaid Dress Alterations: What to Expect & How To Eliminate Them

by Kennedy Blue September 30, 2016

So, your friend asked you to be her bridesmaid. Congratulations! You’re probably feeling honored, excited, grateful… and maybe a little financially stressed, too. That’s totally normal! From hosting a bridal shower to buying the dress, there can be a lot of small costs that are often overlooked. Dress alterations are one of those.

Being able to stand beside your best friend on one of the most important days of her life is a huge deal, however, after buying a $200 dress, the last thing any girl wants to hear is “your dress hem will come to $100.” Seriously!?

For a start, one is tempted to believe that alterations are not really necessary. The first time I was a bridesmaid, I thought: “well, I’ll just use very high heels…” but that didn’t work. I really needed that hem adjustment. It’s an unfortunate truth and a common expense.

But we have good news! Check out the tips and tricks below for reducing your alterations costs or better yet -- even skipping them all together.

Bridesmaid Dress Alterations: What to Expect & How To Eliminate Them!

First Things First: What Dress Style Fits You Best?

In our Online Shop, you’ll find a wide variety of dresses to choose from. You can choose solely by picking the one that catches your eye, or you can also follow a bit of fitting advice on what styles will greatly enhance your shape—and camouflage those not-so-great features. Hey, we all have them!

So I recommend to:

  • Have fun and do this quiz to find your bridesmaid dress, and, at the same time, find some tips about what dresses fit your body best.
  • Learn how to make an informed decision about the dresses prices and extra expenses of being a bridesmaid.

Alterations Tips and Tricks

Bridesmaid dresses come in standardized sizes, so it’s more common than not to find yourself navigating through skirts that are too long or straps that have extra length. Even when Kennedy Blue bridesmaid dress sizes fit close to normal dress sizes —a feature that it’s not easy to find, especially amongst other wedding designers— there’s always a thing or two that you might want to fix in order to have the best bridesmaid dress ever.

Common Bridesmaid Dress Alterations

Hemming the Skirt

A “hem” is when the length of the dress is adjusted to fit your height. Bridesmaid dresses come in different lengths based on the designer and style so it’s not uncommon to require the dress to be hemmed to your ideal length.

  • If your dress is floor-length, remember that the fabric must touch the floor while you’re standing.
  • Kennedy Blue bridesmaid dresses have a hem of 61”.
  • Most dresses are designed for someone around 5’8”or 5’9” with long waists. But yes, we know that most women aren’t that height or shape, so it’s always a good idea to try on the dress with enough time before the wedding.
  • A quick tip from Lois, the owner of the Wedding Shoppe: “Be aware of hem lengths on long styles. By wearing a taller shoe, you may be able to eliminate a hemming charge.”

Taking In the Sides

Sides are taken in when the dress needs to be adjusted to fit your body shape. For instance, I’m really small up top (size 2-4), but have a curvier bottom (size 6-8) so I would be recommended to order a size 8 dress and then have the sides of the bodice taken in to measure closer to a size 2-4.

Generally, the price shouldn’t change whether you take in 2 inches or 4 inches, as it’s not about the measurements but the work invested in the alterations. Taking in a little or a lot will usually cost the same.

Shortening the Straps

It’s not uncommon for a designer to make their straps slightly long so that they are able to fit broader figures. It’s pretty uncomfortable to have slipping straps when you’re trying to join your friend down the aisle while holding  a bouquet of flowers! That’s why I strongly recommend to adjust your dress’ straps to ensure a snug fit.

Our Violet Style has a strap length that’s comfortable from the very first try-on and also has a high waistline that creates an hourglass figure. Seriously, you guys, it’s really flattering!

Bridesmaid Dress Alterations

So, What about the Costs?

Prices can vary, but generally cost a bridesmaid around $75-150 (in Minnesota). Of course, when putting that in perspective, if you paid $150 for your dress, paying a similar price for alterations can become a surprise—and not a pleasant one. 

How do I eliminate bridesmaid alterations costs?

Try on the bridesmaid dress in the correct size.

Many bridal salons only offer each dress in a single size and, usually, it’s no bigger than a size 12—which is definitely frustrating for a preoccupied bridesmaid. In order to properly fit the dress, most bridal salons insist on taking a ‘maids measurements. I strongly recommend to try on the dress, because using a tape measure should get you the right size, but it’s not as accurate as actually making sure the dress fits (plus you get peace of mind).

There are two main benefits of trying on the actual dress:

  • You make sure that the dress or dresses you’re trying on will fit properly for the wedding
  • You can take a final decision and ensure what parts of the dress will need alterations down the road and in the meantime – call around to get some alterations quotes.

Dress samples get tried on multiple times per day, meaning they can stretch out up to 1-2 inches. As important as it may be to try on a dress in your actual size, we still stress the importance of having your measurements taken, just in case the sample you tried on has been stretched out.

If you are in Minnesota, our exclusive bridal salon, the Wedding Shoppe offers the entire Kennedy Blue collection in sizes 0-24 in multiple sizes and colors. If you’re not in Minnesota, we offer an At Home Try-On program that allows you to try on most dresses in the comfort of your home in sizes 0-24 and in many colors. If you are looking for styles other than Kennedy Blue, I recommend asking your local bridal salon before making your appointment.

Order two-piece bridesmaid dresses

Two-piece dresses are great for fitting! If you wear a certain size on top and a different one on the bottom, you can mix up the sizes—and the styles! This is something you cannot do with a regular dress, of course. For example, as I mentioned before, I’m a size 4 in my bust and a size 8 through my hips, so I can order a different size top and a different size skirt to completely avoid the need for alterations.

Choose a less fitted style

A-line is key—it creates a long, lean shape and isn’t fitted in the hips – the most common “problem-area” for most women. Since this dress style is really only fitted through the bust and waist, those measurements will be the most important to know.

Parker, our high-waistline style, is perfect for this purpose—you really just need a good fit through the bust and waist.

Or you can consider Anna, a style that combines an a-line skirt with a beautiful v-neck— which is great if you’re bustier and need some extra coverage.

Final Advice

Lois, the owner of the Wedding Shoppe, recommends to “order a dress that flatters and works best for your figure. A shape that has a smaller bust and waist, with a fuller hip, should order a-line dresses with a fuller skirt. If you would prefer a fitted skirt, you would probably have to order a dress 1 to 2 sizes bigger just to fit the hip area. Costly for alters, because you would have to have the entire top taken in.”

However, if you’re decided on your style and it’s now non-negotiable—I know, it happens!—why don’t’ you consider an in-home seamstress? They’re usually significantly cheaper than going to an actual business. They usually have more time to ensure that the job gets done well, too!

Let's Chat!

As you can see, there’s a number of alterations that need to be done when you want your bridesmaid dress to be perfectly fitted. Sometimes, the alterations are almost as expensive as the dress. Does that seem like too much to you? Or do you think that’s the price one has to pay for perfection? Let us know in the comments section!

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Kennedy Blue


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Measurement Guide - How to Measure for Your Size

Taking Your Measurements

For the most accurate measurements, do not measure over your clothing. Your measurements should be taken while wearing undergarments similar to the ones you will wear with your dress. The measuring tape shouldn’t be pulled too tight or have too much slack, and should always be parallel with the floor.

Wedding apparel is typically sized differently than retail clothing, so keep in mind that it’s not uncommon to find yourself requiring alterations.

Compare these three measurements to the Kennedy Blue size chart above. It is very important that you order the largest size that corresponds to your measurements. For example, if your bust measures 40.5” (size 12), your waist measures 31” (size 10) and your hips measure 41.5” (size 8), we advise that you order a size 12, and get your dress altered down to custom fit your body.

Bust Size

Wrap the tape around your back and under your arms at the fullest part of your bust (not underneath the bust).

Waist Size

While standing up straight, bend at the waist to one side. Take the measurement where the natural crease happens in your side. This should be a few inches above your belly button. Stand up straight and do not “suck in” when taking this measurment.

Hip size

Standing with your feet together, wrap the tape around the fullest part of your hips and butt to get this measurement.

Depending on the fabric, a dress can be altered down up to 2 full sizes, but can be very difficult to let out as there is only about .5 inch of fabric to do so at the seams.

Ordering anything smaller than a size 12 would not fit in the bust area. Please note: Our bridal gown size chart is different than the bridesmaids sizing and is listed below.