After one of my posts mentioning tailoring and alterations stirred up a number of questions I decided to dedicate a post to it all! Consider this like a Section B to the Basic Guide to Proper Fit from the Wardrobe From Scratch Series.
Intro to Tailoring and Alterations
Many people think that it is impossible to find clothes that fit them, and honestly this may be true if you are expecting clothes to fit you right off the rack. I used to think it was impossible for me to find pants. Since I have disproportionately larger hips and thighs compared to my waist, it seemed that whatever pair I could squeeze my thighs into ended up being too big in the waist.
It was frustrating to shop for pants and I hated the disappointment I often felt, condemning my body for not being “right”–whatever a “right body” is supposed to be like. Whatever body fits into clothing straight off the racks, I suppose.
Make the Clothes Work for You, Not Against You
Like I said, it might very well be impossible for you to find clothes that fit you straight off the rack, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate a wardrobe that fits you well and flatters you. One thing Stacy and Clinton always say is that you have power over the clothes. If things don’t fit, it’s not because there is something wrong with you, rather, something is wrong with the clothes! And the great news is that we don’t have to take clothes at face value off the racks. You actually have the power to make the clothes work for you rather than feeling like they’re working against you.
That’s where alterations come in. Alterations are extremely helpful for those of us who cannot find what we need straight off the rack. While this is useful for particularly curvy women or petite women, it’s actually true for most of us! I don’t consider myself particularly curvy or petite and still over half of my pants have been to the tailor.
Even though I mostly only have very simple alterations done on my clothes, I put together a 101 guide to clothing alterations in an attempt to the questions you guys asked.
Keep In Mind
One thing Fran said was, “I’ve never been to the tailor. I don’t even know how to explain what I want.” If tailors are totally foreign to you, don’t worry.
Buy garments that are returnable if you are unsure about possible alterations. You can take the garment to the tailor and they will be able to tell you if what you want to do is possible and how much it would cost. If they can’t do what you want or it’s more expensive than you’re comfortable with, you don’t have to get the item altered and can always return it to the store.
A Good Tailor Can Help You
A tailor should be able to look at the garment and tell you what’s wrong with it. Often times I’ll change into the pants I want altered, and without me even saying anything the tailor will look at it and know, “You want to take in the waist?” “Do you want to hem the pants?” You can say yes or no, of course. And whatever you want them to do, they will start pinning stuff. If it’s too short or too tight or not short/tight enough then let them know and they’ll repin.
That said, I think it’s still important to know what kinds of alterations are possible so that when you’re shopping you can know what your options are. The following list will be helpful.
What Can Be Altered
The easiest alterations to make are ones where there’s already a seam. The more seams a garment has, usually the more possible and flexible it is to alter.
Here’s a quick list to help you know what kinds of things you can tailor. I broke them up into two categories, the first being easy and common alterations–the cheap and quick ones!
The second category are the ones that are a little more involved. Garments with lining are not difficult for a tailor, just a bit more expensive for you. Garments with intricate details may be very involved and much more expensive. How much more expensive it is depends on how much you want done on the garment and how difficult the seamstress deems it to be.
- “If you love a pair of pants and know you’re going to have to get them tailored, do you intentionally size up?” (Kate)
- “Do I buy pants that are in “my size” but fit weirdly in a certain way, or do I buy pants that I like, but are a couple sizes up so the tailor can cut them down?” (Whitney)
The more alterations you do, the more expensive it gets. Personally, I wouldn’t buy a garment that is a few sizes too big that I’d have to alter in a bunch of different places. Instead of completely altering a garment I look for one that mostly fits but that I would need at most 1-2 alterations, particularly from the “easy and common” list, aka the cheaper list. If the garment needs a LOT of work (read: requires a lot of money to alter), for me, it had better be a one-of-a-kind, can’t-live-without thing. But if you have such a unique shape that a lot of alterations are absolutely necessary, then factor that into your budget when shopping and deciding on pieces.
Making an Investment
If you have other tips on tailoring that I left out, please share them in the comments below so we can all learn!
**For all 6 parts of the Wardrobe From Scratch Series, click HERE.