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Can You Make A Wedding Dress Bigger? [Do They Come Up Small?]

Your wedding dress. Often ordered months in advance and laced with anticipation; ensuring the fit is perfect is essential. But can a wedding dress be made bigger? Do you have any flexibility; or are you committing to a size far in advance that you’ll need to keep in mind? Having such concerns, I spent some time researching the possibilities and setting my expectations ahead of my own special day. I’d like to share what I found here with you today.

So, can you make a wedding dress bigger? In most cases, a wedding dress can be made bigger. In fact, most dresses worn for initial fittings will almost never fit properly. Many dresses have enough seam allowance to be let out between 1 and 3 inches, or 3 sizes bigger. Additional fabric, lace or beadwork can be used to extend the dress further. It typically takes between two and three months to alter a wedding dress.

Undoubtedly and unquestionably, all eyes are on the bride and the wedding dress during the ceremony.

It is one of the most discussed and anticipated aspects of this much awaited day.

While this is exciting, it does add to the pressure of finding the right dress, ensuring it suits and fits you just right.

Besides, depending on how many guests you have coming there can be quite the audience!

It comes as no surprise that we brides-to-be will spend months finding the ideal dress.

And while there are a lot of options at bridal stores, there is even the possibility to work closely with a designer. You can have a perfect dress made to your requirements from scratch. Although it will cost you, of course.

Thankfully, there are hundreds and thousands of styles, patterns and variations of wedding dresses on the market. So, it is still very affordable to get exactly what you want – hiring a designer absolutely not necessary, even if desirable.

Nevertheless, fittings are, indeed, a crucial part of the process.

Most brides go for at least 3-4 fittings before the ideal size for them is reached. Also, have in mind the wedding timeline to make sure the dress is ready in time for the ceremony as well as the availability of seamstresses.

Let us now take a closer look at some of those other questions you will likely be having. We’ll be looking at the re-sizing possibilities, the timelines involved and the costs.

If your wedding dress is too small; there is no need to worry! Just be sure to keep reading to get all the information you need.

Do Wedding Dresses Come Up Small?

Wedding dresses do come up small. By design, and on purpose. It enables wedding dresses to be fitted to the requirements and preferences of the wearer.

As such, the market for wedding dresses and ball gowns works differently than ready-to-wear every day fashion.

Let’s investigate further why wedding dresses come up small at first!

Wedding Dresses Come From The European Size Tradition

With most leading designers, originating or basing their work on European fashion and tradition.

The size charts in Europe are smaller than American ones.

There are also many designers that are European but work in America and use European charts.

This explains why you may try a dress that’s a 10 and end up buying size 14. Based on the European bridal sizes, many future brides have to wear up to two sizes bigger their usual American size.

Body Size Changes

This is not a matter of weight gain either.

On the contrary, it has nothing to do with weight.

European women are not much smaller or weigh any less than American women as an average.

Instead, the current size charts are based on measurements of women from decades ago and those same sizing charts have not changed or evolved.

Nowadays, women play sports a lot more and have more athletic bodies, which was not the case 30-50 years ago.

So, wedding dresses do come up small; but this is not a reflection on you.

It is just the industry, and of traditions.

How Many Sizes Can A Wedding Dress Be Let Out?

Every dress is different, but usually a dress can be let out between 1 and 3 inches. This means it can go up to 3 sizes bigger.

Letting out a wedding dress depends on the seam allowance. But thankfully, it is a common practice for designers to leave seam space for this amendment.

Every bride is different and alterations up or down are almost always necessary. The general case for letting out is 1’’-3’’.

Nevertheless, if you choose a dress that has to be made bigger, ask at the shop if letting out is possible before you purchase it.  

One thing to note is that in a lot of bridal stores, dresses will be 2 sizes smaller than ready to wear.

Ultimately, its important to have an honest and open conversation with a seamstress (a professional sewer) whom will be able to let you know of your options for each dress. They’ll also be able to ensure your preferences and comfort are taken into account.

For instance, corset dresses generally have more flexibility in terms of adjustability, whereas dresses that fasten with a zipper or a button will be harder to resize.

Equally, adjusting some dresses can drastically impact the look and the style; for better or worse. Again a seamstress can advise you before any changes are made.

Its just something to be aware of.

How Quickly Can A Wedding Dress Be Altered?

A wedding dress typically takes between 1-2 months to be altered. Although the amount of time needed will depend on: the style of the dress, complexity of alterations, type of materials, the service you use and how busy they are and their general availability.

Nevertheless, consider that a bride generally needs between 3-4 fittings before it is ready to wear.

So, you will need to take into account your wedding timelines; ensuring you are able to get the fittings in time for your special day.

In terms of the specifics.

It comes generally advised to have your first alterations 3-4 months before your wedding day. The final fitting, should then be about a month out.

Some brides may even have a small, minor adjustment 2 weeks before the special day.

You should ultimately consider the type of person you are, your body shape and your tendencies.

Does your weight fluctuate; or do you tend to gain/lose weight when stressed or anxious? These are things just to have in the back of your mind.

How Much Does It Cost To Make A Wedding Dress Bigger?

It typically costs between $150-$300 to have a wedding dress made bigger. Although, the total cost does depend on the following factors:

  • Type and style of dress,
  • The area where you are living,
  • The service used,
  • Reputation of said service/seamstress,
  • The amount and type of additional materials needed 
  • The complexity of the work required,
  • General availability and demand.

Bodice alterations may cost from $30 for a relatively simplistic dress to $100 for a dress that has beading or boning. This will have to be removed and then reinstalled. 

Hem alterations may cost from $80 for a simplistic dress to $200 and more for a multi-layered wedding dress.

Sleeve alterations cost from $40-$80 depending on how much beading and decoration there is.

Based on these prices the lowest expense you can typically expect for making your wedding dress bigger is around is $150, if you need all three parts fixed.

The highest price you can pay based on these average costs is $380, if you need all three parts fixed.

Take into consideration that these are just averages; besides your preferences and requirements may be more/less complex.

Some salons charge per service: $225 to shorten and $150 to resew seams.

Others do the so called flat fee – it ranges between $500-$900 and includes any alterations that the dress may need to be perfect.

Upon individual requests other additional costs may occur:

  • Securing and lifting the train after the ceremony usually costs between $20 and $90 depending on the size.
  • Steaming or pressing (if needed after alterations) usually starts at $40 and can reach up to $100 depending on how complex the dress is.

For best results during fittings and most precise measure don’t forget to bring the following items with you:

  • Wedding shoes
  • Undergarments and accessories
  • Bring along a friend for advice!

Tips For Getting Your Wedding Dress Altered

Altering your wedding dress can be stressful and an additional cost to an already pricey outfit.

Here are some tips on how to avoid stress as much as possible:

  • Schedule a visit with a professional seamstress,
  • Use a soft and flexible measuring tape,
  • Remember your bust size is not the same as your bra size
  • Get an accurate waist measurement,
  • Length matters

Working with a skilful and professional seamstress is very important to achieve that perfect size in time for the wedding.

For most precise and accurate measurements, use a soft and flexible measuring tape. Perhaps, you have noticed that seamstress (even in movies) use just that!

Make sure you know the difference between your bust and bra sizes. Your bust is the full width of your chest, while the bra is the area below your breasts.

For maximum comfort you have to know the exact size of your waist. You don’t want a dress that’s too tight at the waist or so lose that it looks like a sack on you!

The hem is very important and should be handled by professionals. For long gowns this includes the angle of the full skirt.


To sum up, it is absolutely possible to make a wedding dress bigger! Generally speaking, a wedding dress can go up to 3 sizes bigger or between 1 and 3 inches.

Possible alterations depend largely on the design of the dress and the way it is constructed. Most designers, however, leave some seam space and it is a common practise for wedding gowns to be re-touched.

Do not get stressed, if you have to buy a dress two or more sizes bigger than your usual clothing measures. Most designers of wedding gowns come from Europe or have completed their training there.

Therefore, wedding dresses sizes are based on European charts that also, have not been updated for decades.

Give yourself enough time for fittings and reaching the perfect size for you.

On average altering takes between 1 to 3 months.

It is recommendable to spend this amount of time on average to allow yourself to find the perfect size – between your first fitting and the final one.

Generally, a bride needs between 3-4 fittings before the dress is ready to wear. So, don’t be too worried or anxious about this happening.

It is all part of the process.

Finally; try to enjoy the process of finding your wedding dress and getting it altered to meet your needs.

While it can be stressful, it is exciting. You are getting married after all.

Other related wedding dress guides you may want to see: