August 15, 2023

Common Wedding Dress Customizations for Sizing, Modesty, and More!

As the owner of a bridal boutique in San Diego, I love sharing advice, tips, and knowledge about the wedding dress experience. Today, I’ll be discussing a few common wedding dress customizations. They will cover sizing, modesty, and more. Please also watch my video below to hear about even more than what I’ve shared in my blog.

Common Wedding Dress Customizations: Sizing

Wedding dress sizing is quite different than what we call “street sizing” that you’d find at a regular store at the mall. Bridal sizing is about 1-2 sizes larger than street size, so a bridal size 10 is roughly equivalent to a street size 6-8 (this applies to many designers, though not all).

Your stylist will measure you and choose the dress size that can accommodate all of your measurements. So if your bust measures a size 10, waist a size 8, and hips a size 8 or 10, the stylist should order you a 10, because an 8 would be too tight on your bust. Altering one size smaller in the waist area is no problem. Always defer to the stylist for sizing – they are the experts that know what size to order. And never go by the size of the dress you tried on because it’s been stretched out! Most importantly: it’s much easier to take in a dress than it is to let it out.
Wedding at Rancho Bernardo Inn. Bride in backless Berta wedding dress. Cavin Elizabeth Photography film photography

Split Sizing

Some brides have measurements that are more than 1 size apart: bust 6, waist 8, hips 10. For this example, many boutiques will simply order a 10 to ensure the dress fits the hips. That’s fine as the alterations will fairly easily allow for the bust to be taken in 2 sizes to bring it closer to a 6. However, some boutiques offer custom sizing or what is called “split sizing” which is usually $100-300, on average. In this case, my boutique would order a 6/10/10 because many designers only allow 2 numbers with a 2 size jump (6/8/10 would be 3 numbers and some designers allow that, but not as many).

In my opinion, it’s absolutely worth it to have the dress come as close as possible to your measurements. The integrity of the original design will be best preserved this way. You’ll still need alterations, but not as extensive meaning you will save some money in alterations. This balances the cost of split sizing a bit! I could get more detailed about this type of sizing, but I think this introduction should be enough. And remember, always defer to your stylist for their expertise and don’t fret too much if they don’t offer custom sizing.

Bride with medium hair curled in spaghetti strap Martina Liana gown. Bride holding Large pink and yellow bridal bouquet shot on film with coral charm peonies, roses, and ranunculus. Cavin Elizabeth Photography.

Other Sizing Options

More deeply discussed in my video above, there are also options for petite and tall brides to ensure the dress comes in at a height that prevents you from losing 12+ inches of your dress or that it is long enough for your height.

Have a very large bust compared to your frame? You may do well with a bust sizing custom. You might think, what about split sizing? Well, sometimes that won’t achieve what you need for your bust. You may need both or just a bust sizing custom to ensure the bust has a deep enough pocket in the dress to prevent under or side-breast from spilling out of the cups. This is typically $100-250 on average.

Netta Benshabu strapless sweetheart floral beaded wedding dress. Cavin Elizabeth Photography

Common Wedding Dress Customizations: Modesty (& Less Modesty)

Many boutiques and their designers will offer the option to adjust the height of the neckline and backline of of a wedding dress. If you’ve found a plunging v-neck and want it higher, you could raise it 2″ or possibly higher if the designer allows for that. The same applies to the back of the dress.

Let’s say your dress doesn’t show enough skin – in this case, you’d ask to lower the front and/or back as much as they allow for your liking.

Both of these options would run about $100-300+ depending on how many inches. The average in my boutique would be about $250.

Martina Liana 1235 crepe square neck fit to flare gown from The White Flower. Fine art bridal curled updo with long veil. Cavin Elizabeth Photography - film photographer in San Diego. wedding dress customizations for modesty

Common Wedding Dress Customizations: The Train

Trains are another area that many designers will allow to be customized. There are three types of train customizations: extending, shortening, and cancelling. The first two are self explanatory. Cancelling the train means completely getting rid of it so your dress is the same height around the entire hem.

Usually, extending the train is most expensive of these options. It could run $100-450+ depending on your dress, the designer, and the boutique. You might think shortening or cancelling should have no cost or make the dress cheaper; however, any change to the original pattern of the gown causes the designer to deviate in how they cut and produce it. It is a new pattern for your specific dress and dress size that creates new work. Shortening and cancelling are typically $75-200, on average.

1104 cap sleeve lace dramatic drain with floral lace Martina Liana wedding dress in San Diego by Cavin Elizabeth - San Diego film photographer; wedding dress customizations for trains