Top tips for you Wedding dress fittings

I have been altering and making wedding dresses for over 10 years now, and I have compiled my top ten list of things which I think are useful for a bride to bear in mind before and during her dress fittings.  If its all a bit new to you and you have no idea what to do or expect beyond buying a dress, keep reading...

 

1. Book your seamstress in.  Don't leave it until a week or two before your wedding.  Weddings are seasonal, so seamstresses get busy.  Either book your seamstress in for the work to do last minute, or book your fittings in 6-8 weeks before your wedding.  It is a gradual process and can take a few fittings to get perfect.

2. Bring a couple of guests to your fitting.  Some people like to be alone and don't need/ want opinions...Other people bring an entourage to their fittings.  Remember, too many cooks, etc, and too many opinions can become stressful and unnecessary.  Try and bring just your core team to fittings, and remember you'll have a few so can bring a couple each time, you don't need to bring 10 people every time you put on your dress.

3. Always bring your wedding shoes.  Even if you are wearing flip flops, the shoes you wear can effect the way you walk and the way you stand, which will have an impact on how the dress sits on your body.  

4. Don't wear fake tan.  This seems obvious but I'm amazed at how many brides come to their fittings wearing fake tan.  It does rub off.  Fact. You don't want your wedding dress with a tinge of brown inside the lining before you've even got married, so avoid the fake-bake before your dress fittings.

5. Bring your wedding underwear.  Check your wedding underwear doesn't show through your dress, or show if you have a low backed dress.  White shows through white so check while you're wearing the dress and of course if you are wearing a bra or control underwear, this will effect the fit of the dress, so is important you are wearing it for your fittings.

6.  Bring your accessories. I think it is always worth having your accessories with you for one fitting, to make sure everything looks good together, you haven't gone overboard with accessories and become a Christmas tree!  These details won't affect the fit, but they might make you change your mind on where your sleeve ends, for example, or the neckline of your dress if you have a specific necklace to wear.  This may also be the only opportunity to see it all together before the big day, so ask if its ok to try on all your kit while you are wearing the dress.

7. Bring image references for customisations.  I find it really useful when my clients bring a picture of something they want doing to their dress.  In some cases, even a little doodle has helped, just so I am clear that I know exactly what the bride has in her mind.

8. Maintaining your weight.  I usually see my clients 2-3 times and often get asked when can they keep loosing weight or exercising until.  Each seamstress might have different rules, but I say you have to stop by your 2nd fitting.  Continually taking a dress in, and in, isn't good for the gown so once you reach a point in your timeline, you need to stop and just maintain.  Speak with your seamstress and check what she is happy to do, and within a certain timeframe. 

9. Eating before your fitting.  I know loads of girls are trying to tone or get in to shape for the wedding, which is totally normal, however make sure you come to your dress fittings having had something to eat and drink.  I've had many a fainty brides who are so deep into dieting, after 20mins stood on the spot in their dress, and they've had dizzy spells and needed to sit down. Equally, don't book your dress fitting the morning after a boozy night out or too soon after your hen do. Alcohol massively bloats you so don't try your dress to close to a hangover or the dress might feel a little snug!

10.  Natural Light.  If you are able, look at the dress on you in natural light.  A lot of boutiques have downlighting/ spotlights which create unnatural shadows and not a realistic representation of what is there so get into some natural day light and the dress may look quite different. 

Pregnant and getting married….How to accommodate your bump in your wedding dress!

Thankfully we live in a a time where there isn’t a stigma about being pregnant when you get married!   As I write this I have just put my 20month old to have a nap while the small bump currently growing in my own tummy is making itself known!

I see more and more brides who plan to walk down the aisle with a baby on board that it’s no wonder there’s a huge amount of choice on the wedding dress market now, which can make you look elegant and still like a beautiful bride and not squashing you into a gown not designed for pregnancy.

There are so many styles out there which are perfect to allow for growing baby bump.  A soft floaty dress from French Connection would make a perfect low budget gown, as would the bump accommodating multiway from BHLDN.

 

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BHLDN 'Ginger'

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French Connection at John Lewis

High end gowns like this uber grecian design from Vera Wang and ‘REAL’ from Atelier Pronovias would give you a luxury feeling but allowing plenty of fabric to glide over your bump and most importantly give you comfort.  

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Vera Wang

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Pronovias, 'REAL'

Or, why not have something made from scratch which will suit your specific needs!?  Both dresses below were bespoke pieces I made for clients which had chiffon or silk fabric around the tummy and both had straps to hold growing boobs in place...Perfect for bride mums-to-be!  Check out my website for more examples of my work...joannarobertsbridal.com

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If you find out you are pregnant before the wedding and you’ve not bought the dress, then aim for something soft and loose.  An empire line gown will not restrict you around the waist and will give you growing space in the right areas.  Remember the rest of your body totally changes shape; your boobs will get bigger and across your back may broaden slightly, so if you are able to influence the size of the dress you are ordering, go for two sizes up at least, and if it needs taking in then that's not a problem...Always a little to much than not enough.

If however, you’ve bought your dress and you get pregnant during the wedding planning, don’t panic!!!  Within reason, there is quite a lot you can do to a dress to create more space in the required areas.  My first tip is don’t leave this until the week before the wedding.  Even though I know my clients will change shape, I’d rather meet with them 2 months before the wedding, knowing they will grow and allowing plenty of time to alter and adapt the dress (with extra room) for growth.

A common alteration is to insert a corset back…

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This bride was about 5 months pregnant with twins and her back had broadened a bit so we removed the sheer top and made the dress strapless which also gave her boobs more breathing room, and added a corset back to give her more space overall and meant she could loosen it as the day goes on.  If you are pregnant, you will find that towards the end of the day your bump gets uncomfortable or feels bigger so do allow yourself flexibility with the dress.  A corset back works great for these circumstances.  This bride had also pickled a dress with a really full skirt which was great as she had room for the bump to rest in and wasn’t being squashed.  If you have bought a dress already and have become pregnant, and have any questions about what can be done, please feel free to ask me any questions via my website or email directly, joannarobertsbridal@gmail.com

Depending on the style of dress you are committed to, panels can be inserted, pleats can be added, seams can be let out.  As with most things wedding, planning and booking in is key.  Don’t leave booking your alterations to the last minute.  Chat with your seamstress and find out the options and time frame to get your dress looking and feeling how you want.  As I’ve said before, we want you to look and feel good, so plan ahead and book in those fittings to make sure you’re dress is perfect!xxx

 

 

 

Wedding underwear...Big or Small?

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Making and altering wedding dresses gives you an insight into the different types of wedding underwear nearly ever week!  When I got married, I thought I’d wear something really pretty and ivory - my husband even bought me some lovely undies to wear but the reality of what goes on under the dress is a heap of nude coloured spandex and tape!  Whip the dress off and your new spouse might get a surprise!

The truth is, ‘white’ under ‘white’ or ‘ivory’ under ‘ivory’ shows up just about as much as if you wore pink pants under your dress, especially if the gown is lighter and with fewer layers of fabric to hide under!  

If your gown is light and floaty or really plain and a close fit, you need to go skin colour.  A white knicker will 100% show in certain lighting so just stick to skin tone.  I encourage brides to come to their dress fittings wearing the underwear they plan to wear, to check if you can see through the dress, and to make sure they see the dress in natural day light to see what can be seen.  These dresses can also show every lump and bump so even if you go for a thong, sometimes you can see the top line of the underwear and it can create a crease.  Just make sure you test with your dress before the wedding…no one wants VPL on their wedding day!

If you go small, I’d recommend something as plain as a no VPL nude from good old M&S and they will do the job brilliantly.    

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The other end of the extreme is the full body control underwear.  I see literally every size bride wearing control pant, from size 6 anything and everything beyond.  I do think you get the best results (for all sizes) with a control pant.  They start so high and end so low, there’s no chance of any VPLs or creases being made by seams around your hips, that you just end up looking streamlined, especially in a slim fit dress.  Stick to skin tone (again, another delightful surprise for your new spouse when you take off your gown!  Don’t worry, you’ll be too tired too get cosy after the wedding day, you’ll just want to curl up and sleep anyway!)  Lots of dresses have lower backs, so be mindful of where your dress end on your back and definitely take the underwear to your dress fittings to make sure you cant see your monster pants!  You can go worse than VPL, and that’s a giant pair of Spanx poking out above your dress…. The horror!!!!! Your seamstress wont mind at all taking the correct underwear to your fitting, to check that your expensive dress isn’t totally ruined by your pink unicorn knickers.

From clients I’ve met over the year,  winners have definitely been the good old classic, SPANX.  

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The SPANX are so effective, if you really want to commit to the smooth line, they are definitely the way to go.  

The catch of the SPANX which comes up a lot is the intensity of the control underwear.  Once you have them on with your dress and start thinking about spending a whole day wearing them, just take a moment to think about being able to comfortably breathe, go to the toilet, drink and eat!  If these things are important to you, maybe go for a gentler control pant which gives you control but comfort as well.   Lots of my clients have gone with good old M&S, Primark (i was a bit surprised at) Next and Debenhams, either going with the full short to under bust shape wear or the shape wear slip which works equally well.  

 

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If you have a fishtail dress, it will be more structured and more layered than a soft dress, and combined with shape wear you will get warm - just another thing to bear in mind!…as if you didn’t have enough!

As well as the overall aesthetic, your comfort is so important, so make sure you are.  You’ve put in so much effort, for probably quite a long time, into this one day, so make sure you are comfortable and can enjoy all of the things you’ve put all of the effort into.  Try and test when and where you can, and don’t be afraid to ask.  The wedding experience can be daunting sometimes, but most people are nice and ultimately want you to look and feel good, so if you need to try things out, just ask!

Next blog I’ll be sticking with what goes on underneath, with suggestions about bras, cups and tape!  xxx

Wedding Dress Alterations: The fitting process & TOP TIPS!

 

 

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Lots of brides at their first fittings ask the same questions: So, how does it work? How many fittings will I have? How long will it take? When do I need to stop loosing weight by? How many people can I bring?  Keep reading and I will answer these questions with the process laid out and you might be able to start planning once your dress arrives!

I like to start dress fittings with my clients 6-8 weeks before the wedding. It allows plenty of time to complete the work required on the gown, as well as schedule in fittings with the bride.  Lots of brides find themselves very busy in the build up to the wedding with events, so it’s not worth leaving anything to the last minute and being organised.

The process normally requires 3 fittings which take 1/2hr each and ideally no more than 3 guests accompany the bride, opinions are always helpful, but too many can create confusion…

FITTING 1

The gown gets pinned as and where appropriate by the seamstress, using knowledge of how a dress should fit, where and how to navigate different fabrics and styles.  You will be asked to confirm if the fit feels better and if you are happy with the pinned changes, then the dress gets whisked away to a studio where work begins!

FITTING 2

By this stage all of the work has been done to you dress that was pinned at the first fitting.  Here you can see the dress fitting you like it was made for you and at this stage you need to stop with any weight loss incase the dress needs further alterations.  Equally if you have changed your mind about footwear, this is the moment to do so as the work will be done between this fittings and the last.  There should however, at this stage just be final tweaks and finishing touches to get the dress fitting and looking absolutely perfect.

FITTING 3

The final try! At this fitting, you try on the dress and look and feel great, and know exactly how you will look on the wedding day.  

TOP TIPS:

-Bring your wedding underwear, pants, bra, stick on cups, etc.  If you don’t want to wear a bra, cups cane sewn into your dress, just ask your seamstress.

-Bring your wedding shoes.  It is really important to bring your wedding shoes so the hem can be pinned to the correct length.  

-At the 2nd fitting it might be worth bringing along your veil or jewellery so you can see how all of the elements look together. 

-Don’t wear fake tan, it will rub off on the dress even a little and it wont always come out

-Keep makeup to a minimum, especially foundation as this will rub off on the dress

-If you have ideas for how to customise your dress, bring images to your 1st fitting to discuss with the seamstress

 

Strapssssssss

There are lots of reasons brides end up having straps added to their wedding dresses.  Often a bride buys a wedding dress which is strapless and when their actual one arrives it can feel different to the sample - perhaps because the sample wasn't your size, or you were pinned into the sample, or you just feel different.  I often hear brides feel just more 'exposed' than they were imagining with a strapless dress, or they feel just at risk of a 'boob malfunction.'  When your dress is fitted correctly, you shouldn't ever need to worry about anything 'popping out' but you need to think and feel secure, so straps might be your solution just to put your mind at ease.

You could add wide tulle straps, or lace capped sleeves/straps, or spaghetti straps, usually the dress with decide for you depending on style and fabric, and depending on how functional you want the straps to be.  A delicate tulle strap is never going to hold a big pair of boobs up, nor is a lace to be honest.  You might feel safer, but they won't and can't hold big boobs up, they just aren't strong enough.  If you want the straps to hold the dress up they need to be a 'solid' material with a tight weave in the fabric, basically the fabric has to be strong, so a satin for example works well.  

If you want straps to offer coverage and is more of an aesthetic thing, then tulle and lace straps work really well.  They can looks really light and delicate and often don't look like an addition, if you or your seamstress can get a good match on the tulle or lace.  The straps can often be made detachable as well, so adding loops and buttons to the inside of your wedding dress, means the straps could be taken off if you wanted the option to take them off for the evening and give your wedding dress a second look.  Easiest option as usual is to browse some piccies for ideas of real brides who have had a variety of straps added.  Hopefully this gives you some ideas!xxx

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This dress was originally floor length but was shortened to become  tea dress and with the left over fabric from the hem, I made the halter neck strap to add some support.

The lace on this dress was appliquéd on in pieces, so the bride was able to order extra lace form Pronovias which is used to make these wide straps.  They were buttoned on inside and could be detached so the bride had a different look for the evening.

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Kate wanted just a bit of extra coverage in her strapless gown, so delicate tulle straps were made and added to the dress.

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Amber's dress was another strapless gown, and she wanted just a bit more support to feel secure in the dress.  Some satin spaghetti straps were added to help keep the dress up with making get dress too tight.  They were really delicate and looked in keeping with dress that you wouldn't think they were added.

Boleros

Lots of brides dislike a part of their body, and a repeat offender is the top arm.  Try as you might, it's a really tough part of a woman body to tone up, believe me, I did every type of lift, dip and curl to get my arms toned for my wedding!  

If your arms bother you, brides to be have requested boleros to be made for their wedding.  The great thing about the bolero, is it gives you coverage without being hot, and if you're feeling a bit more confident later in the day, you can whip it off and you've got a whole new look for the evening reception.

I regularly make boleros, and they are made to measure for each individual bride and their wedding dress needs.  The style of dress will often dictate the details, the neckline or fastening for example, but within reason you can have whatever you want.  Normally they are made from a lace fabric which is as close a match to your dress fabric as possible and fastened by lots of tiny buttons, hook and eye fastenings or a tie, usually at the back.  Other boleros have been made from silk organza and tulle.  Easiest thing to do is just pop a load of pictures below and you can see the type of thing you could have made!  If you are thinking of having a bolero or cover up made, then get in touch!x

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Less is more? More or less...

So often at a brides first fitting, they say 'Oh I forgot how big it was!'....

Lots of wedding dresses that have a fuller skirt come with several layers of gathered net under the outer layers of fabric.  The dress may be a bit pouffier than you'd remembered and now you're thinking about the practicalities of the day....will my dress fit down the aisle?.....will anyone be able to walk next me?....I've got to wear this all day and night, will it be comfortable?.....will I fit in the tiny classic sports car that's picking me up?!!  

A pretty straight forward solution to the volume of the skirt is to remove the gathered layers of net which you will find stitched to the lining of the dress.  Please note I'm talking about the stiff scratchy net right under the dress, not any of the tulle which is probably on the outer layers of the dress, you can't see them unless you lift up the top layers of the skirt.  It's these layers of gathered net which are creating the bulk of the volume.  Your dress might be cut in a certain way that it will always have a fuller skirt, but the net really gives the shape more definition.  You can just go for it and get rid of them - no problem, they can be unpicked and your dress will just fall a bit more softly, or you can unpick a couple of layers at a time so you can see a more gradual transition and find the right shape you're happy with.  All this being said, if your dress arrived and you thought, heck lets plump this dress out a bit (again depending on the style and cut of the dress) you can add in extra gathered net, or if you have an A-line or princess dress, order a hooped petticoat off the Internet (you can pick one up from eBay or Amazon for £10) and get the volume this way.    A fishtail/ mermaid dress can also have net volume added from the knee and you can also find specific fishtail hooped petticoats online to add more volume.  These hoops will also make walking a lot easier and in the summer if it's hot, the hoop will help keep the fabric off your legs to keep a bit of air circulating!!

If you're feeling really bold, you can even chop the bottom off the skirt and really show of those pins and make your dress short or tea length.  The two examples below are of dresses which had a makeover, the one on the left was an oyster satin dress which was being worn after the wedding for a cocktail party (love it got a second outing!) and the other was a sample for a younger bride who just wanted something a bit more fun... and why not, that's what girls are supposed to do right?!

 

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Repairs and Restoration, don't ignore the samples.

There are some absolute bargains to be had when a boutique needs to make way for their new collection and need to sell off their samples.  Some wedding dress samples are still immaculate but some have been tried on a few times and have the war wounds to show for it!  Lots of brides are put off by a wedding dress that has a few rips, or has a bust zip or has lost a bit of its fresh colour, so try not to be too put off by a dress that has seen better days, especially if you are on a budget and want to grab a bargain.  

Firstly a gentle wash or dry clean will make a dress look totally reinvigorated.  Unless there is a big dark stain then most discolouration can be brought out with the right cleaning products.  Once the dress has had a spruce up you can then address the injuries!  

So many samples just need the right TLC and careful restoration and they will be perfect.  Fastenings are all straight forward, loose straps, loose appliqués, no big deal.  Take sleeves off, put a strap on, completely change the hem, fix a rip, you name it, it can probably be repaired.  Admittedly a massive tear across the front of a plain dress would be hard to pretend never happened, but you could fix and cover with appliqués, or if the dress allows, replace the panel.  Just keep an open mind and try to look beyond the faults and see the potential.  You should always be able to arrange a chat with the seamstress before committing to the dress to find out what can be done to save it.  

If the sample is huge on you and about 2 sizes too big, then don't worry.  Taking a dress in two sizes is not a problem, and about the advised amount.  Generally any more and the dress could, could look a bit odd, but this is variable on the style of dress.  I have brought a dress down from a 14 to a 6 before and I think it still looked pretty fabulous.  Check out the pics below of Natasha who bought a tired sample and with the right fitting and customising (adding the blush sash and bow) it looked like it was brand new.  

If the sample you love it just a bit too tight, most manufacturers will leave about a 1.5"-2" seam allowance so there is a bit of give, but only about 1 dress size really (if you want room to breathe and sit down!) so there might be hope.  If the dress is too tight across your back, then think about putting in a corset back which will give you heaps more room, potentially up to about 6" across your top back.  Every time I have put a corset back in a dress it has worked for the dress and the bride.  Not all dresses will suit a corset back but that is up to you and get advise from your seamstress to make sure it is being put in a dress where it will work.

Enough waffling, pictures below of some restorations and Natasha in the sample which was brought back to life!

P.S. If you snap up an absolute bargain but it does need work, make sure you budget a bit of cash for the alteration work.  As with all of this work, it can be rushed and needs time and care if you want it to look good.  Don't panic if you looks at a bill near £200, it will be a few days of careful and experienced sewing to get your dress perfect! 

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Sleeves Please!

Top arms are a brides nemesis....bit of a sweeping statement, but it seems to come up a lot.  (Well, that and back fat!) No mater how many kettlebells you lift, some of us just can't get that top arm toned to look as svelte as we'd like!

Recently, more brides have asked for boleros to be made to wear as a cover up or sleeves to be added to their gowns as they know they want coverage all day long.  Sleeves are the dish of the day so remember they are a simple addition to most dresses, and keep that in the back of your mind when you are shopping.  Lace has been really popular in the last few years, and a lace sleeve looks really lovely and delicate on the arm - it provides the coverage you might need but still looks soft and not too heavy.  You really want to keep continuity with the sleeve addition and never want the sleeve to look like its been bolted on. A lot of the manufacturers might let you buy extra lace from them, so check with your boutique if they can arrange for fabric to be ordered, or they might sell you lace appliqués (pieces) individually.  If you need to order a length, try and get a meter for your sleeves, and if you need appliqués, ask advice from the boutique as it will vary on the size of each appliqué piece.  Usually I would say around 4/5 appliqués per arm on average.  Half of the time, your seamstress might have a good stash of lace fabric that she can use which is a near perfect match, and the sleeves can be made from that.  We're pretty cunning us seamstresses and have all kinds of tricks up our sleeves to customise your dress!  

I don't mean to harp on about lace as there are so many other fabrics out there. Other light sleeves have been made from tulle (that really soft net a veil is made from) and other sleeves can be added from satins or the heavier fabrics, but they would be pretty hot so take that into consideration when sleeves are keeping you awake at night.  If you want flexibility with your coverage and think, "Heck, I'm going to be a bit tipsy come 10pm and I want to be able to go nuts on the dance floor and couldn't give a damm about my arms by then!" then go bolero!  I'll come to boleros another day, but they give you the flexibility to have two looks and you can take it off if you get hot!

Word of warning with sleeves...dum dum daaaa....a fitted, beautiful lady-like sleeve isn't going to give you the freedom of movement your comfy house jumper sleeves give you.  There's a good chance you won't be able to get your arms right up in the air to do the YMCA.  You should be able to give someone a hug, so do arms out like a zombie test, but arms in the air like you just don't care, could be limited.

I wish I was better at remembering to take pictures of the bucketloads of sleeves I've added over the years, but I'm rubbish and haven't, so here's one example of a Lou Lou tea dress.  I managed to pinch a bit of the lace edging from the hem of the dress and put it on the cuffs of the sleeves so they blended it in and looked like they'd always meant to be there!

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First Blog of 2018...and Ever! Alterations, Amendments & Advice!

I have started this blog in a bid to reach out to brides to give them guidance and reassurance about getting their wedding dress altered.  So many brides come to their first fitting with me and don't really know what is going to happen to their dress and importantly, what can happen to their dress.  A good percentage of brides haven't worn a wedding dress before...It isn't an everyday activity that you can really compare it to, so no wonder brides find the experience a bit daunting. I love it when I have a creative client who has a bucketful of ideas of how they want to customise their 'off the rack' dress, but I'd also like to let the other brides know what other alterations or customisations can be done with their dresses.  Some are obvious, some aren't.  Sadly, I can't be there when the brides are shopping for their dresses to offer suggestions on what other potential a gown might have, so I will show examples of what is done, from quite normal alterations to what can be done, repairs and customisations. 

Im starting with an oldie but a goodie.  The Train.  

Some brides LOVE the mega train, and why not!? If your venue is big enough to take it and you want to make an entrance, and heck, when are you ever going to get to wear a wedding dress again?!? Then get your bridesmaids on full train duty and waft that bad boy out!  BUT, if your dress has arrived and you think, 'Oh........that won't fit down the aisle.' Or 'That won't fit in the low seated classic car' or 'how am I going to walk down my beach aisle with all that material behind me?!'....you get the idea, then don't panic!  Most dresses can have the train shortened and it will be OK.  The train would get pinned in your fitting so you can see a length you like, then it would get cut and finished to look exactly like it did before...but shorter.  Even a lace edged hem can have the train shortened.  The lace of a dress is appliquéd on, so the seamstress carefully removes the appliqué, shortens the train and sews the lace back on.  This takes ages, believe me, so don't leave it to the last minute! 

Loads of brides end up deciding to shorten their train when they realise some of the practicalities of getting married and wearing a long gown,  and it always looks great, really.  If done correctly, your train should look like it was always that length and no one other than you would know it was ever any longer! Your bridal boutique should be able to reassure you that it is achievable, so ask if you love everything about a dress, but just want a little less of it!

Here is a Pronovias dress I altered for a beach bride who just wanted to get around her destination wedding a little easier!

 

Next Blog: Sleeves Please!

If you have any questions I haven't answered then always feel free to get in touch!x