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Ask 'The Wedding Dress Surgeon.'

We had the catch up with lovely Nikki aka 'The Wedding Dress Surgeon' last month and got her to answer some of hers (and ours) frequently asked questions when it come to alternations. The information that Nikki has shared is so informative, so please take the time to read through as it will definitely help you understand the whole alteration process.

How much are wedding dress alterations?

I offer a very bespoke service. No body or surgery is the same, hence why we have alterations and make the dress a perfect fit for you. However, I think it’s really important to know what these charges may be before you commit to working with me. I can offer you a bespoke estimate after we’ve been in touch and I’ve seen the gown. Typically, the most frequently required alterations cost £250-£450.

When do I need to book my seamstress?

As soon as you have a dress and a wedding date. A good wedding dress seamstress can be hard to come by and will book up quickly. It’s best to start a conversation early with them and find out the booking process. If deposits are required, get this done and secure your time.

When will you start work on my gown?

I like to work to a 12-8-4-week appointment system. These three fittings need to be booked in advance to allow me to plan my work schedule and so that you can book off any time you may need to attend fittings.

What if I change shape?

My advice would always be to get to your desired shape before we start fittings on your gown. I am however a realist and know that life gets in the way and things change. The pattern I work to allows for changes to be made and a new fit be done at the second fitting. In my experience, this works well and we can always tweak our plan to suit your needs.

What if I need you after my final fitting?

Get in touch. I can't help if I don’t know what's happening. Although my schedule works for most people, I know things change and if you've decided to add a strap at the last minute, changed your shoes – or any number of things – just reach out. I’ll send a new quote for the additional work and we can get you booked back in. We might need a little flexibility on your part to schedule time with me, but ultimately I want your gown fitting perfectly.

What if I change dress before my first fitting?

This may sound silly, but you would be surprised how often this occurs. Just let me know and I can revise your quote. You then don’t have to encounter the complete look of shock on my face when you pull a 12-layered princess gown out the bag, when I quoted for a three-layer fishtail. It happens!

Will I need my shoes before my fitting?

YES. I cannot guess the height of your shoe. Neither is it advisable for me to pin with you in barefoot if you're wearing flats. You will stand differently and even the slightest of rise on the sole can make a difference.

What if I change my shoes after my first fitting?

Ultimately, if I’ve already completed your hem, this can be a problem. If you opt for a higher shoe and the gown is then too short, this is extremely difficult to fix in most cases. Equally, if you opt for a lower shoe and you need to pay for another hem revision, that’s also not ideal. It’s best to decide on your shoes before the first fitting and stick to it. If you REALLY have to change your shoes, stick to the same height or be mindful of the above.

What about undergarments?

It's really important to have the correct foundation garments on when we start so I can adjust your dress around them. A strapless bra fits completely differently to a balconette with straps. Likewise, Spanks or similar completely distort how our body sits within the garment. If you're undecided on some of these things, it's better to bring a selection to try at the fitting and make a choice. Changing undergarments after the first fitting can result in further work being required and ultimately, more charges.

What does the term undergarments include?

Broadly speaking, anything you're wearing under your dress. A bra, shapewear or underwear, hoop petticoats…even tights. If you intend to wear it with the gown on the day, wear it to the fitting.

What if I can’t wear a bra with my dress?

There are solutions here if the problem is that you want more than you can naturally offer to fill the shape of the gown. I have various styles of bra cups that can be stitched into your gown. If it's that you need a little support, then I can add additional boning in most cases. However, if you absolutely cannot go without wearing the support of a bra, it’s best to choose a gown that can accommodate one, even if we have to be a little creative with where we sit your straps.

I want a sleeve added to my dress. Can we match the fabrics?

I have a wide range of fabrics available that can be ordered to best match your gown. That said, if you know when purchasing your gown that this is a requirement, then I would enquire with the store if you can purchase matching fabrics. With most made-to-order gowns in bridal boutiques, this is certainly the case and if you order this at the same time, it will match perfectly in design and colour.

I bought a sample/pre-loved dress that needs repairs and cleaning. Can this be done?

Repairs, almost certainly. Beading can be fixed, buttons or loops replaced and small tears in tulle disguised or repaired. A quote will be offered before repairs are undertaken. With cleaning, this may depend on the fabric of the garment. For most gowns, I can spot-clean if there are minor marks, or I have a contact that offers a hand-washing service that can be taken whilst the garment is with me. If your gown is pure silk and cannot be cleaned by any other method than dry cleaning, it’s best to get this done before you visit, or check there will still be time in the four-week window after your final fitting.

Can I bring someone to my fitting?

Of course you can, however my fitting room doesn’t allow for a full party of maids. I suggest bringing just one or two people to your fittings, for whom I have seating.

What if I need to cancel or reschedule my fitting?

In the height of the season this can be difficult and I would ask you to give as much notice as possible and be flexible with the new times I offer you. Things happen, of course, but in the height of a busy wedding season, my spare appointments are few and far between. Where possible, please stick to our arranged fitting times.

Do you offer weekend fittings?

I don't offer weekends, I do however offer evening fittings on a Tuesday to Thursday at 7.30pm and 8.30pm. These tend to fill up fast, so it’s best to book in early and stick to your scheduled appointment times.

When can I come for a fitting?

I offer fittings on a Wednesday during school hours and on Tuesday to Thursday evenings. In the height of the season, I also offer school hour fittings Tuesdays and Thursdays. I can’t offer fittings outside of these times as I have to be able to stitch your gown between fittings and my other days are sewing days. It’s also important for me to spend time with my family and Sundays will always be reserved for this.

You didn’t reply to my message, what's the best way of reaching you?

If you need to contact me urgently or you require a quick response, the best way to contact me is through WhatsApp. I don’t have social media messaging services on my phone so I don’t always see these straight away and emails come in thick and fast, so you can get unintentionally lost in my inbox.

I always aim to respond within 24 hours (with a Sunday exception, if you contact me late on a Saturday I’m unlikely to reply until Monday). And finally, I never mind being prompted to reply, so please feel free to nudge me – I may be working in a sea of tulle when I first see your message and unable to respond immediately!

Where are you based?

I’m based in Maidstone, Kent. The address will be sent to you once we’ve booked your fittings. I work on a strict, appointment-only basis. You cannot turn up without an appointment.

Is there parking?

Yes, on the driveway or off the road in front of the driveway.

How will I know I'm at the right address?

Google Maps is brilliant these days, right? Pop the address into the sat nav and it’ll bring you right to me. I have a welcome sign on the door and a floral wreath (it changes seasonally, but is always colourful!)

When is payment required?

Once we’ve met for your first fitting and I’ve finalised the quote for your alterations, I’ll raise an invoice for you. This will be sent to your email address. Payment is required by the second fitting date.

How do you accept payment?

My preferred method of payment is by bank transfer. I do however have a card payment machine if you prefer. I no longer accept cheques as a payment method.

How much can a dress be let out or taken in?

As a rule most bridal salon gowns can be let out at least one dress size, sometimes a little more depending on the grading. That said it is always best to check what seam allowance is in the gown as this is what we will be using. High street dresses are not made with any seam allowance so these gowns are unable to be let out. If your gown cannot be let out to the desired amount I may advise other solutions to the problem and will always quote in advance of starting additional work. Taking in is more straightforward. A standard take in can reduce a gown by two sizes. If it requires more sizes than this it can still be achieved but the additional work to achieve this will come at an additional cost. Estimates provided in advance.

Do you store my dress?

I will have your dress from the date of our first meeting until that final fitting date, usually 4 weeks before the wedding date. Unfortunately I cannot store your gown for any longer as I simply do not have the room to do so.

What are the most common alterations?

I would say the most frequently requested alterations are

Hem lift

Take in or let out

Shoulder or strap lift

Bra cups

Bustle loops for lifting the train in the evening.

Is my gown insured when it’s stored with you?

YES, your gown is covered under my business insurance and I have safety and security measures in place when storing, transporting and working on your gown. I do however suggest you get WEDDING INSURANCE and depending on the price of your gown consider listing it on your home insurance policy for when you collect it from me ready for your wedding day.

We hope you found this as helpful as we did, please bear in mind that all relates to how Nikki herself works and may vary with our seamstresses. Watch out on @vickisbride for more useful tips from Nikki.

Little Update: In some exciting news Nikki and Tracy will now be offering fittings out Vicki's on Wednesdays.


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