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  • Laura Dallimore

Can a wedding dress train be shortened? What is a wedding dress bustle?

Updated: Apr 8


A guide to wedding dress trains and bustles. Can wedding dress trains be shortened?  how long should my bridal gown train be? Can a bridal seamstress add a bustle?

There are no rule as to whether you should or shouldn’t have a wedding dress train or how long it should be. They’ve been around since medieval times and were initially a sign of wealth, with the longer the train, the wealthier the family.  These days most gowns are usually made with one because they add formality and fluidity to dresses and give the illusion that the wearer is taller as the fabric trails behind.



A guide to wedding dress trains and bustles. Can wedding dress trains be shortened?  how long should my bridal gown train be? Can a bridal seamstress add a bustle?


As a specialist bridal seamstress, I find that there can be a lot of debate about what to do with the wedding dress train.  A lot of brides love the look of them but are concerned about the practicalities of having one.


A guide to wedding dress trains and bustles. Can wedding dress trains be shortened?  how long should my bridal gown train be? Can a bridal seamstress add a bustle?

The standard train sizes are;

Sweep/Brush: This is the shortest type of train which just sweeps the floor.

Court:  This is a slightly longer train and is usually around 30cm (1 foot) long.

Chapel:  This is a mid-length train which is generally around 100cm (3 feet) long.

Cathedral:  This is a long train at about 180- 200cm (6 feet) long.

Monarch/Royal: This is the longest possible train and generally around 300cm (10 feet) long. 



Bridal seamstress Manchester, wedding dress alterations, bridal gown adjustments, wedding dress hem shortening

When a wedding dress hem is shortened, it’s usually only done so at the front to allow the bride to walk without tripping.  However I’m finding that more and more brides are choosing to have long trains removed.  There are a few important factors to consider when deciding whether to do this;


1.      How much of a statement you want to make with your outfit. A long train adds drama.

2.      Your proportions. A long train can often drown brides with a petite frame and look disproportionate.

3.      The location of your wedding. A longer train generally suits a more formal venue.

4.      Comfort and practicality. A shorter train is a better option if you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors.

5.      Whether or not you would like a bustle.


But, what is a bustle I hear you say?

A wedding dress bustle is a series of hooks, buttons or ribbons which lift the train so the bride can move around easily and comfortably. This means it’s a great option for brides who want the best of both worlds because it allows you to have a long train for the ceremony and a shorter (or no) train later in the day. Sadly there’s not a one-size-fits-all bustle because it depends on the bride’s height and the style of the gown.  For this reason, wedding dresses don’t often come with a bustle but a bridal seamstress can add one.  There are different styles of bustles ranging from very simple to very complex but the most common styles are;


An American bustle or over bustle. The train is gathered up and fastened over the rest of the skirt.

ain be? Can a bridal seamstress add a bustle?
An example of an American or over bustle

A Ballroom bustle. The train is folded beneath the skirt and fastened at several points so it is completely hidden.

ain be? Can a bridal seamstress add a bustle?
An example of a Ballroom bustle

A French bustle or under bustle. The train tucks beneath the skirt creating a neat fold or two of fabric.



So, when should the train be bustled?  Again, there are no rules, it’s your day and your dress so it really is up to you. Some brides choose to put the bustle into action immediately after the ceremony and photos.  Some choose to keep the train until the evening guests have arrived and seen the dress.  They then bustle the train for the first dance. 


It’s really important to teach someone your bustle before the big day. Brides sometimes bring someone with them to their wedding dress collection appointment so the seamstress can show them how it works. Alternatively, some record a video showing how their dress is bustled and some ask for a diagram of where the bustle points are. It may also be helpful when you’re planning your wedding day to schedule time to fasten the bustle. It’s best to do it in a quiet space with good light.


Bridal seamstress Manchester, wedding dress alterations, bridal gown adjustments
A bustle makes it much easier to dance!

What do I do if my bustle breaks? Unfortunately, a broken bustle happens from time to time. It’s worthwhile having something in your bag that’ll solve the problem just in case the worst happens. It’s helpful to pack:


1.      A needle and thread; use these to reinforce a button or hook that comes loose. If the loop breaks, you can make a new one by making a few loops with the thread. The bustle could even be sewn into place as a more permanent fix.

2.      Safety pins; these could also be used to hold the bustle in place but, depending on the fabric, they may cause damage to the layers of your dress.


Bridal seamstress Manchester, wedding dress alterations, bridal gown adjustments
Wrist loops can be added to the train so it can be quickly lifted


There is another option for brides who want a long train but don’t want a bustle…wrist loops.  These can be positioned on the train so it can be lifted and hung on your wrist.  I add these to nearly every wedding dress I alter, often in addition to a bustle, as they can be useful when getting to the venue and walking around having photos taken. 


A good seamstress will go through all the options for the train during the alterations process so the bride can choose her favourite and enjoy every second of wearing her dress.

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