The cost of any alteration varies greatly due to the style of each garment or the complexity of the work and sometimes the bargain dress you bought can turn into a more expensive one once you've factored alteration costs into the budget.
With the standard length of a wedding gown averaging at around 60" means if you are 5'8" or shorter you may require alterations to the hemline. Sometimes wearing a bigger, poofier petticoat and heels can lift the length but this shouldn't be relied upon.
Even knowing your chosen gown may come in different lengths means you may very well pay extra for this service.
The most common alterations at the current time are at the bodice, taking in the sides or shaping the bustline, and as I've already mentioned the length or the hemline.
So, why are alterations expensive?
Many wedding gowns have a stiff braid inside the hem called horsehair. It adds a wonderful weight to the gown so altering the hem means unpicking, removal, replacing and then re stitching. Beaded trims at the hem edge means unpicking and replacement. This is all time before the hemline can be taken up and can take at least an hour for the unpicking task alone.
On occasion if the gown has a detailed hemline, ie embroidered, the skirt will need to be seperated from the bodice and the adjustment to the length will be made there. The skirt is then restitched to the bodice.
Sometimes, the bodice of your gown will stand out from your chest (which can sometimes be caused by the boning) This can be solved but the boning will need to be removed and replaced.
The same can apply to side seams. Boning needs to be removed and then replaced.
Some seamstresses can charge up to £30 an hour, again depending on the complexity of the work. She may work on a gown (unpicking to completion) from 1 to anything up to 4 hours. So nipping in the side seams and taking up the hem may seem a pretty straight forward job to some, but can add anything up to £120 on your gown cost. Bridesmaids should come in a bit cheaper, but if you have 3 or more attendents, side seams and hemlines can set you back up to £50 each depending on the work involved.
The best piece of advice is when trying on wedding gowns, choose the size which fits as near perfect as possible. When booking your appointment (and this may seem silly) make sure you take a pair of shoes with the heel size you may be wearing. Better still, the shoes you intend to wear. Underwear is important too. Wear the new bra or corset you intend to wear on your wedding day. It's surprising how corsets can reduce waistlines and enable a better wedding gown fit.
Sale or Sample Dresses.
If you buy the sample or sale gown, this can be altered down one size with no problem. Anything more can cause the shape of the bodice to be thrown out thus resulting in a possible re-style. Big bucks! Don't think that a gown can easily be taken in 2 dress sizes. It can but will cost you a small fortune.
So, why do bridal salons charge to alter a gown which has been purchased from the said salon? Well, some salons don't charge, but I suspect these will have been accounted for in the purchase price of the gown.
Sometimes the seamstress may work independantly to the salon so she will need paying for her time and skill.
Always ask the bridal salon if alteration charges are included. If not, you may pay a slight premium for the in house seamstress to undertake them. Always best to shop around or even better, made to measure for that perfect fit!