How to walk in a gown with a train

There are a few little tricks to walking in a long gown with a train. You want to look graceful and effortless, and it’s possible!

First, don’t look down. Your full-length gown is hemmed to just touch the floor when you walk. If you look down at your feet while you are walking, you will lower the front of the gown, making it harder to walk and more likely that you will step on the front of your gown. Walk with your chin up and your back straight and trust that your feet will know what to do. 

If you need to pick up the front of your skirt, to step up a stair, for instance, or to walk on the sand, use one hand to pick up the center front of your skirt just enough to clear your feet. I’m entirely opposed to the thigh grab!

When your gown has a train, you cannot successfully walk backwards. I repeat, you cannot step backwards without stepping on your skirt. The best way to turn around is to walk in a circle around the imaginary line created by the edge of your train. The bigger your train, the bigger your circle will be.

If you need to walk with your train and you don’t want it to drag behind you, the best way to pick it up is from a single point in about the center of the back of the train, caught in one hand, which is held relaxed at your side. 

Again, think graceful and elegant. We’re going for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady

You get what you pay for

Brides have different budgets.  The wedding gown market accommodates this reality by selling  gowns that run from under $100 to over $50,000.  While it never hurts to shop for a good deal, the reality is that more expensive garments are almost always made of finer materials and reflect more careful, and often more artistic, construction.

It takes about the same time and effort to alter an inexpensive gown as a more expensive one.  This means that the cost of alterations, relative to the cost of the gown, may be (much) higher for inexpensive gowns.  In fact, more expensive wedding gowns can actually be easier to alter, as their designers built them thoughtfully, e.g., with more seam allowance.  (And conversely, very high-end gowns, even if bought at a discount, are more intricately constructed and therefore can cost more to alter.)

Brides are sometimes shocked to hear that their inexpensive gown, made in a foreign land by low-paid workers, requires hundreds of dollars of alterations here in California by a skilled craftsperson.  Of course, there are alternatives.  Many dry cleaners will alter any garment requested, for very little cost.  For routine tasks, this may be enough.  But for anything more, their efforts can make things worse.

Fitting a wedding gown isn’t easy.  It can be complicated and subtle — regardless of the original price of the gown.  Whether buying a gown or getting it altered, you get what you pay for.

You have to try it on — with the right foundation garments

Is your heart set on a strapless and/or backless gown and you happen to be a 34 DDD? You need to try on that gown without a bra, because that is how you will be wearing it on your wedding day.  Pay attention to what the models in the photos look like. It’s very likely (although there are now a few sites with “normal” sized models) that in addition to being quite tall and slim, the model in that gown is an A cup or less, and she’s not wearing a bra.

How your gown will fit depends greatly on the foundation garments you wear. If you are trying on strapless gowns, consider if you will need a bra or bustier, and if that bra or bustier will be covered by the gown. 

You will definitely want to wear your shapewear for every alterations fitting.

What is that part of the dress called?

Communication is so important to the entire of process of selecting, customizing, and fitting your gown. You need to be able to communicate your ideas and what the picture in your head looks like. Here are some helpful vocabulary terms.

Bodice: the part of a gown between the waist and the shoulder. 

Skirt: not just a separate garment, but also the part of a gown below the waist

Seam: where two pieces of fabric are joined together

Seam Allowance: the fabric on the inside of the seam. The size of the seam allowance determines if a garment can be let out (made larger). 

Waist seam: a seam often, but not always, at the waist that connects the bodice and skirt

Princess seam: a shaping seam that runs vertically over the bust to shape the bodice over the bust. Princess seams can run down the entire length of the gown, eliminating the need for a waist seam

French seam: a small seam often used on sheer fabric where the cut edge of the fabric is encased in the seam allowance. Garments sewn with french seams cannot be let out.

Hem: both a verb and a noun! The hem is the finished bottom edge of a skirt (or sleeve), you hem a garment to finish the bottom edge, or make it shorter.

Armsceye: (AHRM-sy, -zy) the armhole seam where the sleeve is attached. A too tight armsceye is torture! A too big one can gape and restrict movement.

Introduction - Read this first

Weddings, as a friend of mine used to say, are not the sort of thing you are supposed to get good at. Ideally you do it just once, and high expectations make for a very steep learning curve. 

I’ve been fitting, restyling, restoring, altering, altering again, and sewing on wedding gowns for over 20 years now. Before I started working on wedding gowns, I worked in theater costume shops (fitting, alterations, patterning), and before that I sewed not only my own clothes, but also entire wardrobes for my dolls. 

Working on wedding gowns with brides, and their friends and families, is a niche occupation within the alterations world. I’ve reached the point where I don’t do anything except alter bridal gowns (and the occasional bridesmaid and mother-of-the-bride dress). A wedding dress is arguably the single most important garment a woman will wear in her life; it requires specialized attention and treatment.

There are many things that are unique to bridal gown shopping, selection, fitting, and even the wearing of it. I don’t know about you, but I wear jeans and a t-shirt pretty much every day. We are not well-equipped to make a purchase like a wedding gown. It’s all new — as it should be. 

I have advice. Practical advice. Advice that will make finding the right gown for you easier and less stressful. Read on.