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  • Laura Dallimore

Can my wedding gown/ bridesmaid dress/ occasion wear be made bigger?

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

This is the question I’m being asked more than ever before.

With more and more people ordering wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses and prom dresses online deciding which size to order can be difficult and unfortunately the dress that arrives sometimes isn’t the size that is expected.

When buying occasion wear it’s important to remember that sizes vary from designer to designer just like clothing sizes vary from shop to shop on the high street. Wedding gowns are notoriously small and you will nearly always need to go at least one dress size up from what you would normally wear. When it’s possible to try on multiple sizes, ignore the number on the label and buy the dress which fits you best rather than the size you want to buy. We need to be mindful of our weight when choosing a posh frock. Never order a dress that’s already too small as motivation to lose weight. It’s much better to buy a dress that’s too big rather than too small. It’s relatively straightforward to take in most dresses up to 2 dress sizes but making a dress bigger can be more tricky.

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There are a few ways to make a dress bigger

Another reason I’m being asked whether dresses can be made bigger is because of lockdown. If you put on weight during the pandemic you’re really not alone … and I say this with absolutely no judgement because I did too! Weddings and special events have been postponed, often numerous times, and so many of the lovely ladies I’m meeting are worrying because their special dresses and outfits no longer fit as well as they did a year ago.

If you're concerned that your wedding gown or bridesmaid dress is a bit too snug or isn't going to fasten (for whatever reason), I don't want you to panic. The first thing to do is find an experienced seamstress and have a chat about the options. There are different ways to make a dress bigger and sometimes the problem can be solved really easily saving a lot of stress and worry.

Letting it out

“Letting out" a dress is making it bigger by using fabric from inside the seams. Wedding dresses, formal gowns, and a lot of posh frocks will have extra material in the seam allowances which means they can comfortably be let out a size without any structural changes. Most dresses have a seam down each side under the arm and each of these seams can be let out around 1-2cm. So if your dress only needs to be a little bit bigger to make it fit more comfortably, this is the simplest option. The only downside to letting out a dress is that stitch marks from the original seam lines can sometimes be seen on delicate fabrics but there are ways to solve this problem too.

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The extra fabric inside a dress which allows it to be 'let out'

*If you want to see how much fabric is inside your dress it is often really easy to do so by turning the top layer and the lining layer inside out.

Adding panels

In situations where there isn’t enough fabric to ‘let out’ the dress, discreet panels can be added to make the dress bigger. The difficulty here is finding a piece of fabric that perfectly matches the dress. Fabric from the hem can sometimes be used if the dress is to be shortened, otherwise fabric has to be sourced from a supplier.

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Panels added to the sides of a dress to make it bigger.


Another option to consider when a dress is too small is restyling the back of the dress. This works well when a dress is too tight around the bust and waist but fits well around the hips. Lowering the back or removing some fabric to create a keyhole back can allow the dress to fit more comfortably when it’s feeling a bit snug.

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Restyling the back of an occasion dress to make it bigger

Changing a zip to a lace-up corset

Replacing a zip with a lace-up corset is a great way to add lots of extra room to a dress. The zip is removed from the dress and fabric loops are stitched down each side of the opening and tied together with a ribbon. A “modesty panel” sits underneath the lacing covering the entire back to just below the hip. Not only will it make the dress bigger, this type of fastening is adjustable to fit your figure which means that if you put on or lose a couple of pounds in the run-up to the big day it’s not a problem. If your dress already has a lace-up back then a wider modesty panel is sometimes all that’s needed to solve the problem of a dress being too small.

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Wedding dress with a lace up corset back which is too small

If you need any help or advice with what to do with any bridal or occasion wear which is too small please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Sending a photo of you wearing the dress is really helpful so I can send personalised information about the alterations you may need along with timescales and prices.

Laura x

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