Tailoring – What Are Your Top Five Alterations?

The Top Alterations Women Request at the Tailor | Corporette“Tailoring can really make or break an outfit.” We’ve heard it a million times! On blogs like Extra Petite and Alterations Needed, the bloggers talk — a lot — about what alterations they get done to make things fit. (Jean from ExtraPetite even guest posted on which suiting alterations you should consider.)  I always think every body is different — but that said, there is a lot to be learned from which are the most COMMON alterations. So I thought we’d have a poll: which are the top 5 alterations that you get the most often? Do you think tailoring makes a big impact in your wardrobe? For those of you who’ve lost or gained weight, have you had success with altering older clothes to fit your new body? (If relevant, please consider disclosing your height, body type, and maybe even your weight in the comments.) (You can answer up to 5 times in the poll.)  (If I haven’t listed something that you get done frequently, let me know and I’ll try to add it to the poll.) (Pictured: Expert Tailoring Alterations, originally uploaded to Flickr by Jeremy Brooks.)

frequent tailoring alterations for women

Comments

  1. lawsuited :

    I am a huge proponent of tailoring 9about 90% of my work wardrobe has been tailored in some way). Tailoring makes THE difference, provided you find a great one. Tailoring is well worth the money because good fit makes clothes look higher-end (even if you purchased them at a deep discount like I frequently do!)

    • Merabella :

      I agree that tailoring makes all the difference. I think this is one of the main differences between men and women. Men often get their suits tailored, they don’t even think twice about it, but most women I know think that their clothes should immediately fit off the rack. Clothes aren’t made to fit everyone perfectly, you need a tailor to make it fit perfectly.

      • lawsuited :

        Exactly. I’m a 16-18 and a lot of clothing in my size is boxy rather than carefully shaped so I feel like I can’t wear anything off the rack. I assumed that slimmer women could always find workwear off the rack, but I frequently have much slimmer friends asking where I shop because they think the fit looks great. There is no magic store, but I do refer them to my magic tailor!

      • Cornellian :

        Yes. Men make their clothes fit them, and women alter themselves to fit their clothing.

  2. For one that’s not listed that I sometimes do – change buttons. Particularly with cheaper suits, I really don’t like those plastic blazer buttons that say Calvin Klein or whatever on them, so on those suits I’ve always gotten new buttons to replace them, which I think makes a big difference in how the suit looks overall.

    • I should add that this is an easy one to do yourself, but since I usually need to have a suit hemmed anyway (either pants or jacket or both), I buy the buttons before I go in for that and ask the tailor to do it while they have the suit.

      • What kind of buttons do you buy? I’ve thought about doing this, but I’m never sure what buttons I would use to replace the ones that came with the jacket.

        • Depends. Simple ones usually or pretty tortoise shell ones . I usually go to the Garment District in NYC and just buy what I think will look good. I either cut off an existing one to bring with me (the spare one attached is great) or measure so I know what will work (most of the blazer buttons are the size of a nickel so that’s a good guide). I find this trickier with sleeve buttons, but the kinds of jackets I’ve done this with usually don’t have those. I prefer simple styles on work clothes, but there’s no reason you couldn’t do the opposite and take a plain button and switch it out for something snazier.

    • Along a similar vein, I’ve added a button to a suit jacket. I had a one-button jacket for a suit that I absolutely LOVED but just felt that the jacket would look better on me as a 2-button. So I took the jacket to the tailor (with the extra button that was provided with the jacket). A couple hours later and $10, I had a 2-button jacket!

    • lawsuited :

      I’ve also removed buttons on jackets and pants that seem to have them everywhere are decoration or ” hardware”.

      • Yes! I hate that. I once found a really great fitting skirt on enormous sale but it had an inexplicable wide pink ribbon at the waist to fashion into a bow, I guess. I ended up having it removed and it was one of my go-to pencil skirts after that.

  3. I’m short (5’2), so most pants are way too long. But I also have a large chest (39 inches), so finding flattering shirts and blazers is quite a challenge: I need to size up for them to fit, and have the sleeves and waist altered to make them more fitting and flattering.
    I often buy clothes on Etsy, because you can have them tailored to your exact measurements.

  4. anonforthispost :

    Sorry for the immediate threadjack, but:

    Can anyone shed light on the court martial process? A friend’s ex-H is being brought up on serious charges (almost certainly true) and I want to support her as best I can, but I don’t know what the process entails.

    Also, if anyone has experience supporting a friend through this type of event, I’d appreciate some words of wisdom. She’s pretty overwhelmed. He is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad man, but they have a young child together (he currently has visitation rights). I think she’d be perfectly happy if they locked up ex-H and threw away the key but the $$ factor is a source of serious anxiety – she can’t afford daily life for herself/her son without the child support she’ll lose if he’s convicted and imprisoned.

    How do I be a good (long distance) friend?

    • I don’t know anything about the court martial process, but I know a few things about criminal convictions and child support. In the jurisdictions where I’ve worked (and I think in most jurisdictions), nothing except a court order can remove the obligation to pay child support. If you are in prison, you are still obligated to pay child support. If you are unable or unwilling to pay, the other parent can, through the courts, go after any and all assets that you have – so if he owns a house or car, receives social security, owns stock, has any other assets at all, they can be seized/garnished. Even if he has some 10-cent-per-hour prison job that could be garnished. It’s important that she talk to an attorney about this as early as possible, because he may have other debtors, and the date on which you file a claim can affect what order of priority his debtors are repaid.

      Not sure how to be a good long distance friend in a situation like this, so I’ll leave the words of wisdom for someone else.

    • Sounds like Bluejay’s got the knowledge about their material situation. I think you’re on the right track trying to find out specifics about the process. Can you google it? That way, you can mention upcoming big dates without her needing to tell you about them.

      On the other stuff:
      I’m a single mom. My ex hasn’t been court-marshalled or arrested, but he is a pretty nasty guy–spends lots of his money on booze when his mom has no retirement (she’s in an underdeveloped country), faked a marriage to get a green card, threatened to hit me and the kiddo, has never financially supported us but has claimed us as dependents on his tax return. I don’t know if any of this exactly matches up with your friend’s ex (probably not), but I think I have an idea what it’s like to have a child with a creep. Here are my thoughts:

      He is the child’s father. Around 5 yrs old, DS began asking why all the other kids have a daddy and he doesn’t. That was hard. I think it’s really important at those times to present reality at the child’s level as best you can. I don’t need to make his father sound bad–that only makes me look bad (eventually) and DS will, unfortunately, figure it out on his own. When my parents say ugly things about my ex in front of the kid, I think it only hurts him. My role, I think, is to try to support any relationship they can have, even if it’s just an occasional phone call. I don’t sugarcoat it either–when daddy sends a birthday email 5 days after his birthday and congratulates him on turning 3 years older than he is, I let him see it as is. I heard a really frightening This American Life once about a girl whose mother faked letters from her dad all through her childhood, and then the girl moved 1000s of miles to live with him…

      I try not to piss him off. When the state decided to go after him as a deadbeat dad, I was right on it, but always spoke to him about “them” requesting info from me. When I found out about the tax thing–I was SO–angry–I found a way to let the IRS “find” it and take it from there. And so on.

      Decision-making–What to pack in the diaper bag? Can I switch the car seat around? Is he ready for preschool? Which one?–was crushingly difficult at first. Eventually I realized that the decisions I make as a parent are good ones, and if I goof, I’m the one who has to clean it up anyway.

      Being my child’s only parent makes me worry for my own safety in ways I never did before. Yes, I love his godparents dearly and know they’d take good care of him, but he is so attached to me, it would be very very hard for him if I die when he’s young.

      These days (warning, saccharin ahead), I feel really privileged to see my son develop from up-close and to be “in” on sides of him he doesn’t show to other people (no, I’m not allowed to let on that he plays Justin Bieber and dances at home). Seriously, it is amazing, and no one else even comes close.

      Those decisions that were so scary at first? This year, I decided at the last minute to take a vacation. To Baltimore. I didn’t have to fly it past anyone, or put up with anyone’s comments on that strange choice. We went and had a great time. Every once in a blue moon, we actually get a banana split for dinner and I don’t have to explain a thing. Having our house be just the 2 of us is so much easier than having to keep track of a bunch of people.

      The hardest parts, for me, have been having to take a major career hit to be a single mother, and helping my son cope when I made what turned out to be a really bad choice. But we are making it and, like I said, the payoffs are all mine.

      I don’t know if any of that’s helpful. Obviously, you can’t give advice if she doesn’t ask for it, but maybe this will give you an idea of what the single parenting without a net part is like. But she will make it. Your confidence in that could mean a lot to her. One other piece of really basic advice: get to know her schedule and ask her every single call if it’s a good time for her to talk, and if she calls you and only has 90 seconds, make sure you listen very closely, and let her know you’re there for her.

      Good luck to her!

    • I served as an escort for a soldier who’d gone AWOL during his court-martial when I was a corporal, so I might be able to answer any specific questions you have (with the caveat that this was years ago, so my memory might be a little fuzzy.)

      I’m pretty sure it’s similar to the civilian judicial process, though. The only differences I can think of off the top of my head (though I’m not very familiar with civilian trials) are that everyone’s in uniform and the defendant can be tried for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as violations of the law. Also, he had to have two noncommissioned officers from his unit to escort him. (And technically it should have been at least a sergeant instead of a corporal like me, but we were way undermanned.)

  5. Anyone in DC have a good recommendation for a tailor (especially one who understands how women’s suits should fit)? NoVA area works, too. Thanks!

    • Mrs. Joon at Dupont Court Cleaners is the best I’ve found.

      http://www.yelp.com/biz/dupont-court-cleaners-washington-2

      There’s also a small, organic cleaners storefront on the same block as the CVS at 1901 Pennsylvania Ave NW (near the World Bank). The lady who works there is Chinese, but I don’t remember her name. She did great alterations when I used to work near there, and I assume she still does.

    • DC Lawyer :

      Mr. Yu in the Air Rights Building in downtown Bethesda is fantastic. I have a size 12 waist and size 8 shoulders and am 5’8, so just about nothing fits off the rack. He does shoulder and seam/dart adjustment on just about every jacket I own, and always does meticulous work. You can absolutely trust him with a $1000 designer jacket as well as with making a $30 Chico’s jacket look great. I have him turn cheap cotton leggings into shorts that are exactly the right length. He’s prompt, extremely pleasant to deal with, and has reasonable prices. I’ve been going there for so long I don’t remember when I started — at least a decade.

    • Just got my three favorite pieces tailored after losing lots of weight (about three sizes) at Georgetown Valet near McPhereson Square. Went there because they have a five star rating on Yelp (unheard of!). http://www.yelp.com/biz/georgetown-valet-washington-9

      My clothes looked great, turn around was about a week and a half for a dress, pair of pants, and skirt (all with lining). About 120 dollars total with cleaning. Sorry, I know this sounds like a yelp review, but it was my first time getting clothes tailored so I am kind of excited about it :-)

    • Anonymous :

      Blue Orchid Cleaners in Arlington (between Courthouse and Rosslyn stations). Jenny is the owner. I am 4’10 and need to have almost everything I buy altered. I’ve been going to her for about 6 years. She has altered suit jackets, pants, dresses, shirts…just about everything.

  6. Anon for this :

    I could use a recommendation for a good tailor in Houston if anyone knows of one.

    Thanks in advance!

    • I use Donna’s on Holcombe. It’s near the med center.

    • In the Pink :

      Have used Thanh of SH Tailor in Bellaire…across the “street” from Hefner’s Plaza Cleaners in the strip where there is a BBQ place and two gathering/meeting halls.

      She has made me custom suits, tunics as well as tailored just about every jacket, dress, and skirt I own. She even ‘fixed’ errors made by the tailor who altered the vintage formal dress I used this summer.

      Busy, but knows her art and crafts fine things. Does alot of wedding, pageant, and dance competition gowns. However, I think her daily regular clothing work is just as detailed and fabulous.

      Tell her Elizabeth sent you.

    • anon in tejas :

      thank you for asking! I have had piss poor tailoring by Martins on Shephard and the dry cleaners/tailor on Stella Link and Holcombe.

  7. Diana Barry :

    I mostly get skirts and dresses lengthened. For everything else, I have been pretty lucky to have stuff fit me off the rack.

    I just don’t buy button-downs any more, though, bc I can’t get them to fit right without tailoring and I don’t like the way they fit (and never wear them) even when they fit right.

    • Any recs for brands with sizeable hems that can be let out? It seems like more and more clothing has too tiny of a hem to make letting it out worthwhile.

      • Two Cents :

        I do this with most of my dresses and skirts too. I have had the best luck with Tahari ASL, Classiques Entier, Maggy London and Eliza J dresses. These brands typically provide a generous 2 inch hem to let out.

  8. I am 5’4″ and weigh 135 — not really small — but find that I almost always need alterations even in petite sizes. In fact, some brands (such as J. Crew) have recently increased the length of petite inseams and sleeves. With an A-cup bustline, I also need to have armholes, straps or bust darts tightened on sleeveless tops and dresses. Since pants now seem to be cut straighter nowadays (even the ones labeled “curvy”) I have to buy a size up and have the waist taken way, way in. That’s less of a problem with skirts. I try to stick to petite sizes for blazers because it is expensive to have shoulders and vented/cuffed sleeves altered.

    • When I called customer service about the J Crew Hacking jacket last year, they told me the petite sleeves for that style were the same length as the regulars. So it doesn’t surprise me that the sleeves are too long for some petite folks (I find this with all my petite J Crew blouses) but at least customer service will tell you what to expect if you ask.

  9. I recently lost 20 pounds and 1 dress size (I am 5 feet 1 inch tall, and went from a 14p to a 12p) and had an important court appearance coming up. I had recently (after having a baby, but before weight loss) bought a nice suit from Talbots and did not want to have to buy another new suit. So I had both the jacket and the skirt taken in and it came out beautifully! I love it, though am still losing weight so we will see how many times it can be altered….

  10. Hemming anything and everything. Hi, my name is Bluejay, and I have a 28.5 inch inseam and t-rex arms.

  11. layered bob :

    5’9″ in the morning
    172 lbs.
    Shape: Rectangle with b00bs.

    Always always always hem pants – regular inseam pants are too short and “tall” or “long” pants are too long. Generally am lazy and wear size 12 long pants, just hemmed, but really should take them in all over.

    Always looking for pencil skirts that are longer than average – often let the hem out there too.

    Hate blazers because they make me look even more rectangle/square-shaped. Probably a good tailor could fix this…

    • Even though I’m short overall, I sometimes buy “tall” skirts for the extra coverage. (Nobody wants see my 40-year old thighs.) Ann Taylor and LOFT have a good selection online.

      • Could you please forward this message to the attorney I sat next to in a deposition a few days ago. She wore a skirt that was just a “tiny” bit too short. That is until she decided to hike one leg across the other (think cowboy sitting on the tailgate of his truck) and use her thigh as a writing board to prop up her legal pad on. Seriously. She was probably late 20′s, but Way too much cellulite thigh in a deposition that took Way too long.

  12. I always have to get dresses taken in. Love shifts but I have teeny tiny ribs and a big ol booty

  13. Any suggestions for a tailor in Chicago loop-area. I have been here a few years but I’m still disappointed in everyone that I try or astonished at the price. I have a pile of pants that need hemming and haven’t found a good option yet.

  14. Does anyone else lose/gain weight so often (mmm, carbs!) that altering something to a perfect fit at one weight renders it unwearable 5 lbs later?

    • Thankfully, no, 5 lbs on 5’10″ doesn’t make anything unwearable, more places to spread out the weight, I suppose! But then again, I don’t generally wear my clothes very form fitted, I’m more of a ‘comfort’ kind of girl and lean more towards a looser fit which gives me some room to grow or shrink.

    • yesssssss
      I have a range of sizes in my closet. Stretchy knits are my BFF.

    • TO lawyer :

      yes I’m 5’1 so 5 pounds makes a huge difference. I have a couple pencil skirts that I love, but if I gain even 3 lbs, they’re uncomfortably tight. I also have some skirts that are too big for me now but I’m sure as we continue into fall, they’ll fit me again.

      Also don’t have this issue with stretchy stuff!

    • BigLaw Refugee :

      Yes! Since I gain all my weight in the lower stomach/hip area, 5 pounds is a clothing size. My solutions:

      - Lots of wrap dresses. These always fit.
      - Buy any nice A-line skirt I can find that looks good with a black top. The A-lines look better to begin with and are also more forgiving of gaining/losing weight – they just sit in a slightly different place, at the hips versus at the waist.
      - Mostly wear outfits that consist of black pants, a neutral color top (usually black also), and a contrasting blazer. That way, as my weight fluctuates, I can switch out the black pants but still wear the same jacket.

    • I’m 5’4″, 125 lbs, and smallish weight fluctuations definitely change how my pants and dresses fit. Usually I’m heavier in winter and fitter in summer, so I try to build this into my seasonal wardrobe by buying my winter clothes a bit bigger. Still, my wool pants are a bit big when it starts to get cold, my linen shift dresses are a bit tight when it starts to get hot, and sometimes I estimate wrong when shopping and buy things that are just too big / small to ever get worn. I second the suggestion of stretchy knits, though.

  15. Having hems, on pants and sleeves, let DOWN. Sometimes if I find something on the sale rack that is close to long enough (I have about a 34 inch inseam) a good tailor can get that last 3/4 to 1 inch out and it’ll work!

    • Yes! I was going to make the comment that my most frequent alteration isn’t on there. I’m 6′ tall and have to have EVERYTHING let down. I have a 36″ inseam, so that makes pants buying difficult, although I think finding long enough sleeves might be harder than finding long enough pants. Thank goodness what you said is true – a good tailor can usually get an additional inch or so, and it makes a world of difference!

      • AMEN Sistahs! Would someone explain to me why everything, I mean everything (dresses especially), are getting shorter? And, never enough hem…

        • Ditto! In addition to skirts getting shorter, I’ve also noticed that a lot of skirts (even cheap brands) now have mitered seams in the back vent. Ugh. I know that’s supposed to be a nice design feature, but with the seam allowances cut off at an angle, it makes it way more difficult to let the hem down.

          A hem facing is a tall girl’s friend, as you only need about 1/8″ of the existing hem to attach to the facing (http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/18768/go-to-great-lengths).

  16. I hem everything and take in all blazers and a lot of shirts.
    I am 5’3″ and “petite” pants are all either too short or too long. I also wear a 10 for most items, but need to go up to a 14 or 16 in suit jackets due to ‘the girls’. I am also short-waisted, so that is even more fun!

  17. Mom Associate :

    I hem almost everything I buy – I’m 5’2″. Petite sizing doesn’t always work for me, as the bust, sleeves and waist is sometimes too small. Except for the length of garments, I’ve found that a size 6 regular fits me perfectly. A size 6P is too small, and a 8P is too big.

    I also lost 50 pounds somewhat recently, and have been maintaining for 2 years. Throughout the weightloss process, I did tailor items smaller on a regular basis. However, I had the best luck with pencil skirts. The cost to take in the waist and hips on a pencil skirt was very managable. I’m still wearing my size 10 pencil skirts tailored down to a size 6. I had a dress altered once to reduce it 2 sizes, and the tailoring cost almost as much as the dress. Also, you can’t really tailor a size 16 garmet to a 6. At some point, you just have to buy new. I would size something down 2 sizes, then donate it to the goodwill after that and buy something new.

    • I agree: simple pencil skirts are really easy/cheap to have taken in.

      I recently lost over 40 lbs — very slowly, over 6 years — and as I lost the weight, I had a lot of my professional clothes taken in. I just now finally tossed a size 16P skirt that I had already tailored down twice (first to about a 14 and then again to about a 12).

      I also had good luck taking in lightweight pants, without hip pockets (or if I had the pockets removed and stitched closed). Almost all my pants were taken in at the seat/inseam, and the end result fit better than when new.

      I lost weight *really slowly,* so tailoring allowed me to adjust my wardrobe a half-size or so at a time. I read somewhere that there is an average of 7 lbs between sizes (and more like 10 lbs between plus sizes). It’s sooooo nice to be able to have clothes that fit without waiting to loose another 5 lbs.

      Although it’s not tailoring, I’ve had good luck with “strategic shrinking,” inspired by AlterationsNeeded. I have successfully used this method on tees, sweaters, cotton shorts, dry-clean skirts, unlined dryclean pants. So far, I have had no disasters, except some fading and a rougher finish on the fabrics. Also, clothes shrink more vertically than horizontally, so you can easily end up with your pants too short. Now I just wear them with flats.

      Right now, I’m experimenting with DIY alterations, inspired by ExtraPetite. I’m going to try ruching the shoulders and/or sides of my too-big-now casual tops.

  18. Anyone have a recommendation for a good tailor in Los Angeles? Downtown or Culver City areas would be great, but any suggestions would be appreicated!

  19. Another one with T-rex arms. I always have to have my jacket sleeves hemmed. And I just learned the hard way not to buy jackets with button holes at the cuffs (it’s ok as long as the holes aren’t cut). Two different tailors told me the jacket could not be hemmed. I ended up paying significantly more to have the sleeves shortened from the shoulder.

    • Ha ha, T-Rex arms! I have that problem too. Regular sleeves are always way too long on me, but petite tops are too short in the body. I have the same problem with pants, too — I have abnormally short calves but a regular rise.

      I just had the sleeves shortened on two different jackets, both with non-working buttons on the sleeves, with completely different results. One tailor just folded up the sleeves and hemmed them, and charged me $20. It looks pretty bad. The other tailor hemmed the sleeves from the bottom, but remade the button holes and the sleeve vent, and charged me $50. It looks great.

      Tailoring is like gambling, just with buttons instead of poker chips.

  20. Does anyone have a recommendation for a good tailor on the Westside of L.A.? Thanks!

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