The Perfect Fit
"These dresses are too long for me!"
"The waist is too big!"
"I'm planning on losing weight, so order me the size down." (FYI: please don't do this...it rarely works out in my experience)
"No way, I'm not that size!"
"I'm normally a size 10 when I shop at the mall, why does this not fit?"
This is just a small sample of the phrases a sales person will hear at a formal/bridal boutique on a daily basis. "Do you have a good seamstress or tailor"? If not, it's time to find one and make them your new friend. Someone who is experienced in the art of alteration can nip and tuck all the places you desire (from dresses, to pants, to tops, to bathing suits!). The reality is, all of us are different shapes and sizes, and our measurements are all different. Very rarely does a dress fit perfectly. Every designer has their own size chart, with different measurements from other designers. With one designer, a size 10 waist might be 29 inches and another 30.5 inches. The measurements can be different by an inch, a half inch, a quarter of an inch. One just can't trust that every designer size 10 will fit in the same way. So, just keep your mind open to a different size than you are used to wearing. Really, it's just a number. With formal wear, as with bridal dresses, you will likely have to go up a size or two than you are used to. This is normal! Alterations help to customize a dress to your measurements.
So, here's the deal: a seamstress/tailor that is experienced is your best formal friend. If you go into the store knowing that you will likely have to have some work done on a dress (shorten the hem, take in the bust-line or waist, etc.), then inevitably you will have more dress style options available to you. At certain boutiques the sales staff can even help come up with ideas to add some extra customization: straps, halter neck, turn a strapless into an off-the-shoulder dress, add beading to a more simple dress, add bra cups for extra support. This is how you can make a dress off-the-rack (and even ordered dresses) fit you. A dress that fits well will help you feel your best for that special event. A word of advice: don't forget to budget for it (alterations at most boutiques cost extra money).
Once you find a alteration specialist, use them for all your tailoring needs. Trust them. They know what can be done with a garment, and what is impossible (no matter how awesome the vision is in your brain, sometimes it just can't be done). Often, you can also ask if there are two ways to do an alteration: for example adjusting a beaded strap without removing the beads and the other more expensive way of cutting the fabric, reinforcing the beads and removing the excess, and stitching back together. If you are on a budget, it's worth asking. Someone who knows what they are doing will be creative enough to come up with solutions to your tailoring requests.
So, whether you order in-store or online, it's best to be prepared for the fact that you will need some work done on a garment (especially formal dresses and bridal gowns). It's best not to assume it will fit perfectly right out of the box/bag. Having someone to do expert alterations may be some extra money out of your pocket, but it's worth every penny if you want to feel just right in that garment.