Taking In A Dress That’s 5 Sizes Too Big

I haven’t written in almost a month. Not because I didn’t want to.

I was preoccupied with altering a bridal gown.

I should have known that taking in 8 inches at the bust was going to prove to be difficult.

Isn’t there an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t take in more than like three inches or something?

This dress was a size ten and I think the bride is a size zero.

To complicate matters, there was a band sewn in around the top edge of the dress.

As in many strapless dresses, the front was higher than the back, so when you take it in at the side seams, the new seams don’t match up.

Here’s a drawing of the side view of a gown:

If you take in an inch from the front and back, which is a total of 2″ (I just folded the paper along the side seamline to make the point here), you can see that the band doesn’t line up now.

Neither does the dress itself:

My alteration was double the amount of the one in the photo above.

Plus there was beading involved.

And appliques.

But those were the least of my problems.

Here’s how it looked midway through the project:

The band is lining up fairly well with the main body of the dress. I’ll need to tweak it a bit, but do you see the “sagging” at the bottom of the photo?

My next challenge was to pull the band down lower on the dress to take that excess out of the dress and get it to lay smoothly.

This was much more difficult than I thought it would be.

The more I pulled it down, the less circumference of the band I had to work with.

Eventually, it worked.

I also added some boning to give her support on that side seam.

The manufacturer had added the original boning to the inter lining (yes, it’s a third layer…not the dress, not the lining,, but another layer.)

The interlining was made of self destructing fabric (ha!) and there wasn’t much of it to begin with. So, I needed to use some Fray Block on it to save what I could.

I would have loved to tear it all out and get rid of it, but time was of the essence and I knew whichever way I went, it was going to take time. (Oh, maybe I should have just cut it out! Hmm. Hind sight is always 20/20, isn’t it?)

I think my mind was on getting ready for Christmas and not stressing out!

Haven’t you had alterations like this before?

The farther you dig in to the garment, the more work you find to do?

I don’t run into this very often, but this was just one of those times.

Notice in the photo above that the band seam is now not perpendicular to the floor.

That is because it wouldn’t match up if I did that.

Thankfully, this seam was under her arm and mostly covered with the applique when finished, so no one cared. Or noticed.

I forgot to mention that I also had to take up the hem.

It had horsehair along the bottom and a huge train (which I didn’t have to alter, thankfully)!

The bride had a rough work schedule, but we got her fittings in when we could, sometimes at night.

I finished the day before Christmas Eve!

There were bridemaid alterations that had to be done the following Monday and the wedding was Tuesday!

What about you, have you ever had a project that consumed you or stressed you out to the point that you didn’t think you could finish it on time?

I’d love to hear about it.

Also, are you making any New Year’s resolutions?

I think you know mine!!!!


22 Responses

  1. Wow, that is quite an accomplishment! I’ve never altered any garment that much. 🙂 But, you’re the pro and I’m the novice.

    I did not have any stressful projects this year (unlike past years). I managed to get gifts done early.

    Main New Year’s resolution: exercise more.

  2. Hi Michelle,
    Thank you for your nice comments. Actually, I don’t consider myself pro, more like stupid in this case!!! That is my New Year’s resolution…to be more smart about what I take in to alter! I am so glad you didn’t have any stressful projects this year. And I’m so impressed you got your gifts made early. What did you make?

    That’s a great resolution about excercising. I need to do that too.

    Hope you have a great day!

  3. Are you sure you weren’t working on MY project????
    Wedding is next week and I have to bustle a huge train that I’m struggling with—thanks for your pointers-they are very helpful!!!
    I also had to take in the bust a few sizes and the extra underneath to compensate for a short body length. Not to mention hemming it and taking out the sides a little. Oh yeah….I have to re-sew on microscopic beads on the bust yet. I’m not sure about getting done!!!!
    My new year resolution is to rest when I’m done!

  4. Oh, wow, this sounds just like it. Try not to let it stress you out. Take alot of breaks. I wish you the best!

  5. Hi Linda, I just stumbled onto your blog ( i am just starting one, also), and read about taking in the wedding dress so much! I had to chuckle, as I had the same issue a couple years ago. I do bridal and formal wear alterations and custom dresses so I understand! I am collecting other ‘sewing’ blogs, and plan to build myself a network of them. I look forward to reading more from you!

  6. Hi!
    I’ve got to hand it to you making custom dresses. That is alot of work.

    I am glad you are starting a blog. This one has been very rewarding. I never dreamed I’d have this many followers. It’s great to meet people from all over the world. I’m just so glad the information is helping so many people.


  7. Okay, Linda…

    I’m beginning to think that you’re writing just for me. I just got a bridesmaid dress that is 8-1/2 inches too big for my client. Nonetheless, I have taken on the task. It has princess seams in the bodice with boning attached to the fabric. The dress gaps a little in the front, too. At least there isn’t a band with it. Approximately, how long (excluding a learning curve) should an alterations like this one take?

    Linda M.

    • Hi Linda,

      Well, it looks like I’m going to take this dress apart and resew it too fit. There is just way too much gap between the front and back under the arm.

      Pray for me and I will be sure to take plenty of breaks.

  8. Hi Linda,

    I just got a wedding dress to take-in the sides. The dress is strapless and is covered with a netting and some beading. I have not worked on a wedding dress before so I have a little bit of apprehension. Do you take in the sides by turning the dress inside out and then take out the threads just at the armscye area?

    Also, the bust area is a little big going across the front. Do you put elastic across the chest area so that it can fit closer?

    Hope I am clear. Thanks, Linda M.

  9. I love the Bridal gown adjustment 5 sizes. As a costumer I have run into the same kind of thing, but thought that I was the only one crazy enough to do this!! LOL..I needed a size 26 wedding dress for a musical, of course couldn’t find anything at Goodwill, etc..so I had to buy a size 12 and remake it to a 26!!! IT was fun and challenging and a lot of sleepless nights. I sort of remade the bodice to the measurement I needed adn ungathered the very gathered waist, and reattached it to the bodice. I used a combination of the underskirt, laces, etc. to do this. I was so proud of myself and the actress looked great, even though the director has her wear converse , high top, of course!
    Isn’t sewing just grand!! I love it!!

  10. I did one recently where the dress fit perfectly except it was 6″ too big just from the apex of the bust to the top. It was so heavily beaded that it took 3 hours just to remove the beads to get to the seams! Then I discovered that the gown was the best constructed one I had ever had to tear apart (four layers to be adjusted plus boning to be relocated). After everything was sewn back together it took five hours to rebead it.

    • Oh, my goodness, Adrienne. What an incredible story! That’s 8 hours worth of work. Were you able to charge for all your time? That was incredible. Thanks for sharing your experience. I know you did a wonderful job!

  11. When you run into a situation where you have to do a lot more work than originally thought because of construction issues, how do you decide how much more than the original estimate to charge?

    • When a project turns out much longer than thought..I usually call the person and talk with them. I just explain
      what a how it is evolving into and if they want me to proceed..I also keep tracxk of the hours so that I can show them WHAT a deal they are getting! I have nver had any problem with this and even calling while 1/2 way trhough can happen. I don’t always get what I SHOULD get, but it will be come compensation for all the extra work and time!

  12. I have just found your site and think that it is wonderful. I do bridal alterations and custom (I draft patterns) and would love to have a place to chat about clients.


  13. Oh my heck! I thought I was the only one who, in the middle of the project, felt I had “bit off more than I could chew”!
    In the middle of prom season, I altered a dress from a size 32 to an 18! The girl and her family were so happy that she found a dress that they didn’t mind the cost or the tweaking i had to do to make it right at the side seam under the arm where you are talking about. What a job!

  14. My horror story is about the bride whose aunt offered to do do her alterations and bustle. As it had a laced up back, it only needed a hem. So far so good. The night before the rehearsal, the bride admitted to me that the aunt had said it couldn’t be bustled! It took me an hour to convince her to let me look at it. Turns out, it was identical to my daughter’s dress, although I didn’t tell her that, so I did the bustle overnight and got it to her at her rehearsal. Phew! She loved it.

    Thank you for this very informative site! I have done many of the alterations you have discussed, learning as I go. It is good to see my problems are not just mine!

    I will be making a 50’s short full dress for my daughter-in-law to be. Your information is very helpful.

    • Margaret, I’m so glad to hear that this website is accomplishing the goal that God gave me 7 years ago….to be able to help people all over the world learn to do alterations for fun or profit. Thanks for your sweet comments and I’m so happy to hear of your successes!

  15. This dress (2014) made me cry, rethink my job, pray, pray and pray even more. The bride had purchased a size 20, then lost weight to about a size 12/14. I would like to take credit for making this fit but, after much frustration, I just reminded the Lord that it was His business and He would have to take over. I have Psalm 90:17 taped to the top of my sewing machine; I prayed that verse over this dress over and over. Praise His high and holy Name, He took over and worked through my hands to make a happy and beautiful bride.

  16. OH MY, YESSSS! I have a real knack for under-budgeting my time and difficulty saying “no” to jobs I have no rightful business messing with. My most recent was a $1500 bridal gown that needed a lace hem shortened, bustle, sides out, modesty panel, and here’s the part that I should have said “N.O.” – the back was a beautiful sheer mesh with lace appliques in an intricate design. But, it was 4 inches too small! I had to remake the back entirely. Add in a short deadline. There were a few late nights, and one 24 hour sew-a-thon, but I got it done! I always take your advise about praying before I sew, and that’s probably the only thing that got me through that one!

    • Oh, wow! That was a huge job! I’m so glad you got it done and I love your comment that praying beforehand is so important to you! If we think about it, we can’t do anything on our own, not even breathe, so it’s always good to acknowledge Him and ask His help for all we do. So glad He got you through it! Thanks for sharing your story.

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