How to Alter a Wedding Dress

Over the past ten years, I’ve altered dresses for 20+ weddings. I must admit that taking scissors and a sewing machine to a gorgeous wedding dress or bridesmaid dress is one of the most exhilarating and terrifying and stressful and satisfying things to ever do. Yet in doing so over the years, I’ve learned some tips by trial and error, and then turned these into life lessons.

First, the bride’s opinion is the only one that matters.

There was an alteration experience early on in my sewing days which included a fitting I’ll never forget. The bride tried on the dress to check that the alterations I’d done thus far were according to her design. The problem was that her bridesmaids and mother were also present, and they each had different ideas for how the alterations should go. Some of their ideas would include undoing several hours of my work, to redo it in a completely different way. After listening to their input, I thanked them and asked everyone to exit except the bride and her mother. I then explained to the bride that it was her day and her dress, and I would do whatever alterations she wanted, even if it included hours of ripping seams that had taken me hours to put in place. Not surprisingly, the bride wanted to go with her original plan of alterations, so the work I had already done stayed done.

“Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ,
doing the will of God from the heart.” Ephesians 6:8

Principle: you can’t please everyone. God has clearly laid out His design in His word, but that never stops the well-meaning grandma or aunt or coworker or friend or sister from giving her input anyway. Politely listen, but then check your next steps against God’s word. He’s the one who has the final say.

Secondly, have several dress fittings.

The first fitting is to get a good general idea of what needs to be done, but each subsequent fitting will ensure you’re on the right track and the bride is still pleased. Be prepared to change your mind on a few things as the alterations progresses. What you thought would be the best method may end up being too laborious or impossible, requiring that you seek another solution.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:9

Principle: keep looking into the mirror of God’s word daily. You may think you understand God’s full plan for you right now, but be prepared to realize that you may not understand it completely. Remember that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and adjust your thinking to align with His.

Next, clear a large working area.

A wedding dress is typically constructed of layers and layers and layers of delicate fabric. While on a hanger, this may seem manageable, but trust me, when you turn the dress inside out to get to the troublesome seams, you’ll soon find yourself swimming in a sea of white billowing fabric. You’ll be grateful that you cleaned your sewing room first!

“But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”James 1:25

Principle: make time for God to speak to you. You may think that 10 minutes at the sleepiest part of your day may be sufficient, but when you start digging into God’s word, you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed by truths! Plan extra time or multiple times throughout the day to meet with God. This is not something to rush.

Then, wash up!

Take off your makeup, use only untinted lip balms, remove your nail polish, and make sure you smell fresh and clean but not perfumed! When you work that closely to a delicate fabric, you’ll find that you may unintentionally leave behind traces. A cheek smudge of foundation or a teeny kiss of lipstick leaves a visible mark, but an unwashed body can also leave an unpleasant aroma, since the dress will surely envelop you as you try to sew even the most outward parts. And I promise that the bride doesn’t want to smell like her seamstress’s perfume on her wedding day!

“Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James 4:8

Principle: wash up! Figuratively, that is. You may think your complaining is charming, your flirtatious ways are just natural, and your lies are cute, but start paying attention to the marks they leave behind. You can damage your reputation and portray an unpleasant aroma of the gospel by the actions you choose. When attempting to share the sweetness of God’s love, you may be shocked to discover that you still carry the stench of the world with you.

Not last but not least, choose new straight pins, safety pins, and scissors.

Brand new ones. Straight from your favorite fabric store! You have no idea what kind of panic can strike your heart until you remove a pin from a crisp white sleeve and notice it left behind a rusty spot. Besides, half the fun of altering a wedding dress is buying brand new straight pins and decorative scissors!

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts…And that ye put on the new man, which
after God is created in righteousness
and true holiness.”Ephesians 4:22, 24

Principle: it isn’t enough to wash up as we previously discussed; you have to replace your crummy habits with brand new clean ones! Turn complaining into complimenting, and refocus your flirtatious nature into being extra friendly to a sister who needs some cheering up.

Lastly, keep bandaids near your sewing machine.

Even the most careful of seamstresses can draw blood with the tiniest prick of a needle. I’ve actually discovered that the whiter and more expensive the dress, the more likely I am to accidentally poke my finger. This of course leads to a temporary halt in the sewing as I bandage the wound. Though the wound is far from mortal, the tiniest bit of blood would stain and cause a noticeable blemish to an otherwise spotless dress.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9

Principle: you aren’t perfect. Even if you walk daily with God, you will find that you sin anyway. The key is to recognize and deal with the sin immediately before it becomes a habit. The Bible teaches that your thoughts are the cultivating grounds of sin, so it is most important to stop the sins at the thought level before they spill over to your actions and blemish your Christian testimony to the world.

Altering a wedding dress may not be in your wheelhouse, but living for God certainly is! The next time you smudge foundation on your clothes or prick your finger with a pin or see a bride in a stunning dress, I hope you’ll be reminded of the importance of your daily walk with God.


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Comments 2

  1. What an interesting article and full of good spiritual tips. I am proud of your use of God given talents including your talents in sewing . . . and I feel very joyful that it was my privilege to give you your first sewing lesson 🙂
    Love you,

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