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Wedding dress alterations

heirloom | Posted in Fitting on

My neice had a 13 foot train on her wedding gown and asked me to hem and bustle it. I raised the front by taking apart the waistline which worked out ok but forgot that when it is bustled the weight will pull it down again. So the dress was a little long after bustling but it worked out ok. My big problem was I could find no information on how to bustle it and ended up taking it to get it professionally bustled. Does anyone know of any rules, etc. to busteling? (I don’t even know how to spell it LOL)They put in 13 buttons at $10.00 apiece. Cost me $130.00!…Thanks!


  1. suesew | | #1

    It must have been quite a train to require l3 buttons. I usually charge at least $5 per button or hook or tie or however it is done. It can take a Long Time to get it right, but that does sound a bit excessive. In general I think the bridal industry is one of the greatest rip-off industries out there. They charge big money because they can.

    1. mainestitcher | | #4

      Had to reply, as I've worked in the industry:  YMMV

      Ten dollars a button is the going rate, and a 13 foot train is quite long.  That number of buttons for a long train is quite reasonable.  Too few bustle points results in tears in the fabric and an unbalanced bride.  I've never heard of a downside to too many points. 

      There is also a "royal" or "princess" bustle, (never done one) that runs a ribbon through plastic rings.  The ribbon is attached at the hem,  pulls the dress up and is tied underneath to achieve the correct look.

      A bride was absolutely furious when I refused to squeeze her in and give her an appointment exactly when she wanted one.  (2:15 Wednesday afternoon.)  The fact that we have two fitting stations, scheduled on the half hour, and that someone else,  real live people, were already scheduled for this time, was lost on her.  She swore up and down her appointment would only take five minutes. 

      Fat chance.  By the time the bride changes into her dress, complete with slip, bra, and shoes, that probably takes six or seven minutes, anyway.  Then she'll come out, and it may take ten or fifteen minutes to pin the bustle.  She may need to look at overbustles and French bustles to decide which she wants, (even if it's clear from the style of the dress which would be more appropriate, some have to see for themselves.) 

      Did she bring a friend with her?  Mother? MIL? They'll give their opinion, too.  On both styles.  Sixty per cent scowl a little bit when they see the horizontal folds formed by the bustle, will it make them look wide, or fat?  Can anything be done about that? 

      Does the back of the dress have any special detailing that the bride wishes to display, even when the dress is bustled? 

      You can see where this is going, right?  There can be a lot of time spent, and Bride is not being charged by the hour.  Believe it or not, ten dollars a button covers overhead, a decent (although not princely) wage and benefits for the full-time help and profit for the company.  This is a pet peeve of mine, as many can't make the leap of considering the difference in conditions and wages between where the dress is made (overseas, lousy conditions, subsistence wages) vs. where it is altered (in the US, by citizens or legally working immigrants, working in an air conditioned room and getting health insurance and paid vacations.)

      1. suesew | | #5

        I, too, have dealt with every one of those problems. You say you allow half an hour for "fitting" the bustle and another how much to sew on 13 buttons and loops is supposed to add up to $130?

        1. mainestitcher | | #6

          Gosh, I've never timed myself. 

          Actually, we allow an hour for fittings, and another half hour for pick-ups.  (That particular irate bride wanted to come in during pick-ups)

          My guess would be seven or eight minutes per pick-up point.  Ribbons are re-inforced hand-stitched, rings hand-stitched.  The points are evened out to be symetrical before we start stitching.  Half hour for fitting, another for pick-up fitting. 

          Another thing to consider:  the common alts (in bridal and elsewhere) quite often subsidise the operations which no one would have done, if we charged an hourly rate for them.  We charge (at job # 1) a certain price for hemming trou.  It doesn't take that long.  If we charged comparably for shirt sleeves, no one would ever have them done. 

        2. starzoe | | #7

          You have to take into consideration the training and experience the alteration required.

          1. mainestitcher | | #8

            Good point.  No doubt a bride could get it done for less by a seamstress working out of her home.  The question is, What happens when something goes wrong?  What will the independent seamstress do? 

            Now, about the only thing the independent has to do is give back the money and the dress.

            The reputable bridal shop will stand behind the work and replace the dress.  As a matter of fact, we did replace several 'maid's dresses when one of the seamstresses goofed this spring.  The store also sold a dress to a bride who brought a designer dress back from her vacation in Europe...after the seamstress she took it to ruined it.

            The store I work for allows one hour for the first fitting, and a half hour for try-on at pick-up.  That ninety minutes has to be compensated for...as do days off, vacations, sick and personal days, health insurance, unemployment, workers' compensation. The overhead also has to cover mistakes made, lights, heat, air conditioning, liability insurance in case someone is hurt in the store.

            A person working out of her home doesn't have all these expenses, though one might make the case to consider them. Even in my own home, my electric bill was double the amount while I was working from home than it was the following year when I worked those same months elsewhere. 


      2. sewchris703 | | #14

        I did a fitting yesterday which was just supposed to be a quick check on the sideseams with the new bra (took in the ribcage, then the bride changed bras) and the length of the train when bustled.  The side seam was fine with the new bra but it took over an hour to redo the bustle because the bride decided that she no longer like the original one that she ok'd at the previous fitting.  She ended up going from a 1 point bustle ($10) to 3 bustles and 2 snaps to fan out the bustle ($50). 

        10 years ago, we charged $5 per point for either over or under bustle.  And 5-7 points were the norm.  Now it's $10 for over and $15 for under with 1-3 points the norm.


  2. From my Stash.... | | #2

    Susan Khalje's book "Bridal Couture" has a good section on Bustling. Overall, I find the book is a good reference book for any formal gowns, not just wedding gowns.

    Hope this helps. 

    1. heirloom | | #3

      I will look into that. Thanks!

  3. Teaf5 | | #9

    In our area, it would cost us $100 just to have someone take a look at a wedding gown and give an estimate! If the dress was done correctly, quickly, and the bride was able to wear it, you got a great deal.

    An unhemmed and un-bustled gown may seem like a bargain, but in the long run, paying for full service ends up being the best investment.

    1. mainestitcher | | #10

      Most unusual bustle experience:  Working at an independent bridal salon, bride announces she wants a "custom" bustle.    She eventually decided on a regular French bustle.  Then asked, if it's just a regular bustle, does she have to pay the "custom"  price? ($250)  Owner told her the seamstress had spent over four hours, on two different days working with her and presenting different options to her, so yes.

      1. solosmocker | | #11

        I have such respect for the work you do. In my opinion you couldn't be paid enough. You make many valid points. I would like to make one more. When are we going to equate a highly skilled profession, bridal alterations, with other highly skilled professions, electricians, welders, etc. and demand the wages deserved? It is a real pet peeve of mine that seems to stem from what I call the "loving hands from home" syndrome. It's a business, and businesses need to make a profit. Off my soapbox!!!

        1. GailAnn | | #12

          I'm not entirely sure it is the "loving hands at home" syndrome as much as it is the "clothes should be dirt cheap" syndrome. 

          Someone mentioned in a prior post about the deplorable working conditions and subsistance wages paid for clothes made overseas, even in some cases SLAVERY, yes today, slavery!

          Sure we "think" about these things and, of course, recalls of things tainted by lead, fill the newscasts, yet, everyone Loves the Bargan!

          Folks will line up for the $8.00 t-shirt or the $80.00 wedding dress, and think they "made out like bandits."

          Who stops to think about the substandard conditions, the slave labor or safety when they go out to buy clothes.  Too many of us are way too eager to brag to their co-workers about the fabulous deal they got!

          Yesterday, my sister and I went to a local chain fabric store......Sis is on a crusade to NOT purchase anything made in China!  I saw her put back on the shelf, 10 or 12 bolts of cloth labled made in China.  She did buy some fabric labled "Imported".  On the way home we speculated as to what nasty conditions or slave labor would lead a company to lable something "Imported" but fail to mention imported from WHERE?  Gail

          1. solosmocker | | #13


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