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Alteration Industry Standards

caras | Posted in General Discussion on

Is anyone aware of industry standards as they pertain to alterations of a wedding gown?  General care of the gown etc.  Any references or resources would be appreciated.  Thanks!


  1. ixs | | #1

    Give us some more info. 

    1. caras | | #2

      I recently had a experience and it involved a bridal gown.  I had ordered it new from a manufacturer and had the salon do the alterations.  I had ordered it close to my size and did not size up as they often recommend to limit the need for alterations to basically hemming the front length and the bustle of the dress.   I'm not sure what happened to the dress but it was delivered on my wedding day with yellow stains, snags, holes in the fabric, a ring a dirt around the bottom of the train (looked like ring around the collar of a white shirt) and the fabric was pilled around the base of the dress. It looks like they tried to scrub the ring of dirt out and when that didn't work they cut as much as they could off and hemmed the whole dress including the train!  I had specifically mentioned to them that I did not want the train shortened. It doesn't make any sense to me that you would hem a train because they are always longer than the front of the dress...it also doesn't make common sense that the dress would end up dirtier after alterations.   They told me that it is normal  through alterations for a bridal dress to get that dirty.  I just don't think that is the case but I want to hear from people who have more experience in this area.   I have seen other friends bridal gowns after alterations and they looked brand new.  I have had  evening dresses that were pale pastels and the same fabric as my wedding dress as well as other items altered and they never looked like this.  In addition someone who does this type of work you would think take more care on bridal garments given the costs of the dress, color of the fabrics, and importance of the garment.   

      What can a customer expect regarding the care of the garment while during alterations.  Are there industry standards for general care of garments during alterations? 

      1. Jean | | #3

        That's horrid.  It sounds like it had been already worn.

        Did you wear it? I hope you haven't paid them yet!

        1. caras | | #6

          Thanks for your response.  I believe it's pretty much common sense that after alterations a dress should not be delivered in this type of condition.  I agree with you, I think it had been worn, either by another bride, used as a sample,  or perhaps worn in some trunk show.  Since I don't do alterations, I appreciate your feedback regarding the condition of the gown.  

          Unfortunately, I had already paid for the dress.  I had  ordered the gown new from a manufacturer many months prior to my wedding date and deposits were necessary way in advance to get the order placed.   So they have all my money including all the alteration charges!

          On my wedding day, I needed to be dressed and out of the hotel by 2pm, unfortunately they finally showed up at around 1:30 pm with the dress.  I think they knew that there was no way I could find a wedding dress to replace it with such little time, so I would be forced to wear it.  Which was true...I tried to find another dress the morning of my wedding, but no luck. All needed alterations etc. and with no sewing machine,it was either my PJs from the night before or I had to wear the dress.

          It was a terrible experience, quite stressful on all family members since at one point several members of my husbands family thought the wedding was called off due to things running quite late. 



          1. Jean | | #7

            Wow, you have my sympathy...I'm not a litigious type, but it sounds like the makings of a law suit to me. You should try to get your money back!

          2. FitnessNut | | #10

            I'm so sorry to hear that your wedding memories will include this fiasco. This is definitely not the norm, at least as far as I can tell. I don't do alterations, but I do design and sew custom wedding dresses. There is no way that I could ever deliver a dress in that kind of shape. My principles would not allow it. Your dress should have been delivered to you in plenty of time and in perfect condition (and cleanliness).I agree that it sounds as if the dress had been worn previous to you receiving it. I would recommend, at the very least, writing a letter of complaint to both the owners of the bridal salon and the manufacturer of the gown (after all, their name is on the product). It may not get you any tangible results, but at least your dissatisfaction will be made evident to all the parties concerned.

          3. caras | | #11

            Thanks Sandy for your input and understanding.  I appreciate hearing the opinions and expertise of people who have experience with these types of fabrics and garments. 

            Are you aware of any resources regarding general care of garments while in the alterations process?  Any sewing 101 books laying around that would state the obvious that I could reference?  I know it is common sense that the condition of a new gown should be delivered in pristine condition.   Just thought someone somewhere may have stated the obvious and put it in print.  

            Thanks for your response. 

            By the way...unfortunately after my experience, I have personally heard from two other brides who have had similiar experiences with this salon.  I don't know how they can sleep at night.

          4. FitnessNut | | #12

            Not only do I not understand how they could sleep at night, but I want to know why they are still in business!As far as resources are concerned, the only one I can come up with at the moment is Mary Roehr's series of books. See http://www.maryroehr.com for more info, but she has written two books on altering clothing (one directed for women's clothing and the other for men's) and one on sewing as a home business. She must include such issues in her discussions, I'm sure. And if not, perhaps you could email her and ask. You may be able to locate one or more of these books at your library.If I come up with any other places you could look, I'll be sure to pass the information along.

          5. mainestitcher | | #13

            Oh, Cara, what a lousy experience! Hopefully, though the wedding dress sounds like a small disaster, the marriage works out!I worked in a bridal salon part-time one summer, and have sewn since the Stone age. No way the owner would let a dress go out in that condition. And we aimed to have the dress ready two weeks before the date of the wedding. (Really, the sooner we had it out the door and off our hands, the better)

      2. suesew | | #4

        It almost sounds like someone wore your dress before it was returned to you. All of those things you mentioned are totally unacceptable. I wash my hands and sweep my floor before I take any dress out to work on. I also look for soiled areas at the first fitting so I can point them out to the bride and not be accused of putting them there, (I also try very hard not to bleed on any dress! I swear I prick my finger and draw blood everytime I work on a wedding dress. I simply have to drop everything and walk away for a few minutes. Ask me how I learned that.)

        1. caras | | #5

          Thanks for your response and sharing your experience regarding alterations.    I agree with you regarding someone wearing the dress and so do many other people who saw condition of it  when it was delivered.   I didn't go into all the details but there was even a light graying of the fabric under the armpit area.   To make matters worse not only did they deliver it in bad condition but they arrived much later than the scheduled delivery time. They finally arrived just 30 minutes before my wedding!  I think they figured that if they delivered it right before I would have no option but to accept the dress because I would not be able to find another gown that fit on such short notice.   Which quite frankly was true!  Talk about stress! 

          1. suesew | | #9

            We had a new bridal store in town for a short time that did some of the things you mentioned - delivering late, ordering the wrong dresses or colors, not completeing the alterations by the wedding day. They didn't last long - word gets aaround pretty quickly. Be sure to spread the word about these leeches.

      3. ixs | | #8

        I don't know how salons operate these days......

        It doesn't sound as if that salon has any ethics, so I doubt any discussion with them would have any effect.  I would consult a lawyer, if the fee was right, just to see what your rights are, but I think small claims court would be your choice.  But I heard once you "win," it's hard to collect a judgment, so is the trauma worth it?  Only you will know.

        My daughter in law ordered a very simple dress from the Penney's catalog and tried it on at the store; it was returnable if not acceptable.  Then she took it to a trustworthy bridal shop and had it embellished/altered. 

        Good luck, but really, consider your time involved in this and if the final results are worth it.  My husband and I have those discussions a lot.

  2. carolfresia | | #14

    Hi, Cara,

    I don't know if there are industry standards in any formal sense, but obviously the shop should have returned the dress to you in spotless condition, if that's the way they received it. This really sounds like a nightmare!

    Others have given you good advice about assessing how much energy you want to put into pursuing this matter.  I think I'd want to recover the costs of the alterations at least, and if you had intended the gown to be an heirloom to hand down to future brides, maybe you require compensation for the fact that it's not in good enough shape for that. Or perhaps you just want the shop to pay for a very thorough professional cleaning (by the cleaner of your choice). Spreading the word will certainly help other potential customers avoid the same problem; you could also call your local Better Business Bureau and register a complaint--be sure to let the shop know that you're doing this, if only to make them squirm!

    There was an article in No. 106 by Rae Cumbie, an experienced dressmaker who specializes in gorgeous wedding gowns, on how to handle white fabrics. It includes a section on cleaning your sewing area before starting, and on how to keep the finished garment clean. Helpful advice for anyone, but certainly for the "alterations expert" who botched your gown.

    I hope your wedding day was otherwise wonderful and that you have lots of other, more pleasurable memories to look back on!


    1. caras | | #15

      Thank you for the references.  Last time I check they had around 34 compliants to the Better Business Bureau. Very few of them were resolved! No surprise given my experience dealing with them.  I did intend for the dress to be a heirloom that is not an option for me now given the condition of the dress when delivered.  I'm going to try to find that article your referenced.  It sounds like it would be helpful!  Thanks, Cara

      1. lindamaries | | #16

        I agree with another posting person. You definitely should write a letter to the manufacturer as well as the Better Business.
        As far as bridal gown care, check in your yellow pages of your local phone book, and talk with a dry cleaner that offers gown preservation. They would know and also have writen material regarding the care of your gown.
        I'm sorry for the troubles and hope that the memory of this will not forever cloud all the other wonderful things that happened on the blessed day. We all learn by experience, unfortunately some of those experiences have to be totally crumby.

  3. torryhill | | #17

    I am so sorry Cara. I have worked on many gowns and the first priority is to keep the gown clean. I have worked on gowns that I felt were already worn but ordered new . I inform the bride when this happens and tell her of some recourses she may have. The Manufaturer may be a place to start as well as the Better Business Bureau. Because you have survived a brides worst nightmare you be proud of going forward . You must be a very strong lady.

    1. fronno | | #18

      I do not know Cara how it is in the USA, but I should get them in front of the court. They have been breaking a contract with you. A contract of delivering a new and well sewn bridal dress. And even when there is not such a thing as industry standards for the selling, alterating and or delivering of wedding gowns, certainly there should be something in the law about ethical and moral obligations. Or am I thinking to simplistic about this.
      I as a fashioner would not even think about getting a dress like that out of my atelier. I have my name to think about, the mouth to mouth advertisement, and last but not least the feelings of the women whom is going to be married in that dress.with love for you and your husband

      Edited 1/25/2005 10:20 am ET by Francois

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