Many of us have had the experience of buying a new dress, shirt, or jacket only to find that it doesn’t fit quite right. Finding someone who can alter your clothing is challenging and time-consuming.
The best option for many people is to take their clothes back to the store where they bought them and ask if it can be altered by an in-store tailor. However, some stores are not willing to do alterations or charge too much money for these services.
Tailors often offer more affordable rates than going through a store’s alterations department. But what are the costs and benefits? Let’s explore this question!
The Advantages of Altering Your Clothes
It takes a little more effort to have clothes altered than it does to purchase fresh ones off the shelf. You must first locate a reputable tailor. Then you would make two visits to the store, one to drop off the clothes and the other to pick them up, and try them on each time.
Changes, on the other hand, can be worth the additional work. There are many explanations why getting your old clothing changed rather than purchasing fresh is always a safer option:
- The Ideal Fit. Clothing purchased off the rack is designed to suit a generic body with dimensions that are similar to the norm. True bodies, on the other hand, aren’t one-size-fits-all. Since everyone’s sizes are subtly different, the most you can normally aim for while buying off the shelf is a “good enough” suit. You can make off-the-rack purchases look as they were designed for you by getting them altered – all for a fraction of the expense of true custom tailoring.
- Size Changes. Not only is the body unique from anyone else’s, but it often changes from year to year. As a result, if you’ve dropped 10 pounds in the last year, the jeans that fit well last winter are likely to be too big this winter. You should just throw them away or store them in the wardrobe in case you gain weight back – but with a little tweaking, you might start wearing them and avoid having to find fresh ones.
- Changing Fashion trends. Fashion trends vary throughout the year, and clothes that still have a lot of life left in them can wind up in the back of the closet simply because they seem to be out of style. Raising a hemline or cutting a couple of bulky shoulder pads may also be enough to get them up to date. Even simply changing the buttons to a more contemporary design will give the garment a fresh look.
- Maintaining Your Dignity. Minor modifications will prevent your clothes from falling, stumbling, and gaping in ways that reveal more than you like. For example, to hold a shirt neatly closed at all times, busty ladies should add tiny snaps between the front buttons. Women with narrow shoulders can prevent their blouses against slipping down over them by inserting tiny loops on the insides of their shoulders that clip over their bra straps and secure the blouse.
- Old favorites can be saved. Clothes that are worn out don’t necessarily have to be thrown out. Through removing a lining or turning a faded neck, you might be able to prolong their longevity. And if this isn’t feasible, a professional tailor will also recreate your old favorites by creating an exact replica of the dress. This is an expensive operation, but it might be worth it if you have a dress that you adore and can’t substitute.
- Take advantage of exclusive offers. On occasion, you might come across a genuinely exquisite bargain on a sale rack or in a thrift store, but it simply does not suit. Instead of giving up the bargain, you may carry it to a tailor and get it changed to suit. Also after alterations, the net expense is always smaller than paying retail if the price is low enough.
What Are the Costs of Alterations?
The price of modifications vary greatly. Some jobs need much more complicated stitching than others, and as a result, they are more expensive. Also with the same work, though, the price varies depending on where you live and which tailor shop you visit.
The below are standard price ranges for different alterations:
- Changing a Zipper: $20
- Sleeves Shortening: $15 to $40 – Jacket sleeves are more expensive than sweater sleeves, and jackets with linings and buttons are more expensive than basic jackets.
- Adding a Jacket or Vest: $20 to $50 – Three-seam jackets are more expensive than two-seam jackets. Taking on the sleeves would set you back about $20, and changing the elbows will set you back around $40.
- Shortening a Suit Jacket: $30 to $40
- Replacing the Lining on a Garment: $50 to $150
- Taking In a Dress Shirt: $15 to $30
- Hemming Pants, Skirts, or Dresses: $10 to $25 – Hemming skirts with a lining costs more than skirts that aren’t lined.
- Adjusting a Waistband: $15 to $25 – Pants or skirts with linings are more expensive than those without.
- Taking In a Sheath Dress: $30 to $50 – A dress’s waist may be raised for around $60.
The Worth of Alterations
Altering something isn’t cheap. Take, for example, a $200 suit that has the collar and jacket sleeves pulled in, the waistband on the pants tweaked, and the sleeves shortened. Your $200 suit might end up costing you as much as $335 by the time you’ve done altering it.
However, for $335, you’re effectively having a tailored fit for a fraction of the price of a custom-made outfit. According to a Chicago tailor consulted by CNBC, a “made to measure” suit – one made to meet the buyer’s precise dimensions – costs anything between $800 to $1,800, and that’s with the stitching performed abroad, where labor is often cheaper. A “bespoke” suit costs between $2,800 and $4,800 and is hand tailored and sewn in the tailor’s Chicago store.
Alterations will save you money and as opposed to purchasing off the shelf. This is so you can use them to get much more deals from thrift stores and sales shelves. For example, my husband recently found a suit for $59 at a thrift store. The jacket was fine for him, but the trousers were too bulky, so we paid $35 to get them brought in and hemmed. We spent less than $100 on a suit that might have charged $650 on the high street, according to my research.
Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck
Changes are only worthwhile if you are pleased with the outcome. Whether the tailor doesn’t do a decent job – even if you didn’t care about the dress in the first place – you’ll wind up with a lighter purse and a garment you really don’t want to carry. To get the highest value for your alterations, begin with two things: a decent tailor and an outfit worth the effort of altering.
Locating a Reliable Tailor
Finding the best tailor is the most complicated aspect of having alterations completed. Tailoring systems are available at many discount stores and dry cleaners, but most style experts advise against using them. According to the style blog Alterations Required, dry cleaner tailors can normally only do basic hems, while department store tailors are typically rushed, overworked, and uninterested in your specific needs as a customer.
“You need a tailor who is your tailor,” Dappered, a platform dedicated to affordable men’s style, admits. Someone that understands what you want and don’t like, and who can reproduce your look after perfecting it on (hopefully) the first dress you carry to them.” Department store tailors, on the other hand, are worth a shot since they typically have good qualifications and cheap rates – and are often also free for easy repairs like hemming.
You won’t locate the best tailor for you by randomly selecting a listing from the Yellow Pages unless you’re really fortunate. Here are few suggestions from style experts:
- Inquire about it around. According to several reports, asking people you meet is the easiest way to locate a decent tailor. To figure out who changes their clothing, Alterations Needed suggests speaking with “impeccably dressed men” or “perfectly tailored and well dressed women.” Women are normally the right ones to question, according to Dappered, who met his excellent tailor by one of his wife’s former coworkers. You should also ask high-end retail retailers where their clients go for tailoring, according to Alterations Required, and they’re likely to choose only the finest. Another way to search for tailor recommendations in your neighborhood are online style forums.
- Look at the reviews. If you don’t know anybody, start looking for terms like “tailors” or “alterations” on online review pages like Yelp and CitySearch. Examine the tailors with the best average ratings to see what customers want and dislike in them. Pay special attention to feedback by those who have a body shape similar to yours, such as petite or curvy.
- Experience is a must. Look for an experienced tailor who deals with this kind of clothing on a daily basis if you need changes on an expensive designer dress. Even if you’re a woman, Kendall Farr, author of “The Pocket Stylist,” suggests searching for tailors who market themselves as experts in tailored menswear. She claims that a tailor who can design a tailored men’s suit from scratch can comfortably accommodate even the most difficult modifications. If you’re altering a dress made of an especially difficult-to-work-with cloth, such as leather or fur, seek out a tailor who specializes in these materials.
- Take a look at their work. Ask to see the garments that are sitting on the shelves ready to be picked up before recruiting a tailor. Examine each item thoroughly to ensure that it is in good condition. Stitches should be neat and smooth, with no pulling or puckering, and hems and sleeves should be the same length. From the outside, it should be impossible to know whether the garment has been changed at all. Extra Petite, a design forum for petite ladies, has a thorough guide to telling the difference between good and bad alterations.
- Begin with a small project. Don’t entrust a difficult job to a tailor you’ve never seen before, such as taking in a winter coat. Instead, begin with something tiny and straightforward, such as hemming a pair of pants or pulling in a waistline. You’ll be more comfortable turning over a tough or costly job after you’ve seen the tailor do professional work on these smaller tasks.
Knowing What Alterations to Make
Although the finest tailor in the world won’t be able to produce decent clothes out of shabby cotton. Many design experts believe that only high-quality garments are worth modifying since low-cost garments do not survive long enough to warrant the expenditure. The author of Alterations Needed laments that she has had cheap tops shortened in the past, just to discard them because they were so poorly peeled or faded after a few washes that they were unwearable.
And an elegant designer sweater, on the other hand, would never look nice on you if the colour or pattern doesn’t fit you. Style specialists advise that you can just change clothing that you really enjoy and can wear often enough to get your money’s worth.
Extra Petite recommends asking yourself the following questions before determining whether or not to carry a dress to the tailor:
- Is it something you adore? Don’t alter anything you’re unsure about. If you go through the hassle of altering a garment, consider how much you’ll really wear it. It’s not worth the hassle if it doesn’t flatter you or doesn’t meet a real wardrobe requirement.
- Is It Really Worth It? Think of the actual expense of the dress, including alterations, before you purchase it. For example, if you see a dress on sale for $50 but realize it would need another $50 in alterations to suit you correctly, consider why you will pay $100 for it if it fits perfectly. If the response is no, the clothing can be passed on. And if you’ve already purchased your “bargain,” don’t spend another $50 on it because you believe the end product would be worth it.
- Is your tailor up to the task? Consider how much effort it would take to get the dress to suit you properly. Then consider whether you have faith in your tailor to complete the task. Also, simple changes, such as taking in shoulders, changing the design of a dress, or moving a garment more than two sizes up or down, involve a professional tailor, according to Extra Petite, and complicated ones can be risky even with a decent tailor.
Extra Petite suggests going back to the first problem and reconsidering how much you enjoy the dress if you’re stumped on how to tackle the third question. It’s definitely worth taking a chance if you really love it and believe it’s well worth the money. Only be aware that the findings will not be flawless.
Keep in mind that certain modifications are beyond the the most skilled tailor’s abilities. Sweaters, for example, are typically knitted on machines, and cutting and resewing them seldom produces a seamless product. If you tamper with the initial seams, extremely fragile fabrics like chiffon and lamé are likely to disintegrate. Finally, any clothing with a given silhouette or intricate specifics is almost difficult to change – it’s like attempting to reconstruct the whole garment from the ground up.
Finding a Good Fit
You’ve got an excellent tailor. You’re working on a high-end garment. All you need now is the final component: the perfect fit.
It’s best if the fit isn’t too snug or too relaxed. This is, to some degree, a question of personal taste. Some people like their clothing to fit snugly against their bodies, whilst others prefer a looser fit. A clothing is obviously too heavy if it looks constricting, and it is obviously too loose if it sags and bunches in uncomfortable ways.
Please ensure that the altered clothing would give you ample space to breathe when you get it altered by a tailor. Try moving about a little after the tailor has pinned it up on you to see how it looks. If you’re seated or standing, it shouldn’t pull clearly around every aspect of your body – shoulders, stomach, legs, or thighs. Sleeves should enable you to freely shift your limbs, and trousers should not tie you in the front or back.
The fabric, on the other hand, should not be so sloppy that the dress is lumpy or misshapen. Pants do not drop in the buttocks or gap at the hips, and the legs should not be too big to trip over. When you drop your shirt or jacket sleeves, they can go all the way down your sides, but they shouldn’t reveal half of your arms when you lift them.
Don’t make the error of asking your tailor just what you want, such as “These shoulder straps have to be one inch shorter.” Your tailor should know more about how to change an outfit than you do, but just tell him what you don’t think about it – “The front of this dress seems to be too baggy.” – and he’ll tell you how to repair it. You can trust your tailor to obey your exact orders to the letter, but you will not be satisfied with the outcome.
Finding a tailor for clothing alterations is not just about the cost of having your clothes fitted, it’s also about getting them to fit you perfectly. It’s worth investing in alteration services if you want the best possible wearing experience with your clothes and don’t have time or skill to do it yourself. The right tailor can make all the difference when trying on new garments that might otherwise be too loose or tight around certain areas of your body. It will pay off in comfort as well as style points!
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