Guide to alterations

I'm a big believer in alterations. Being short, I always have to take up hems and I've had pieces mended. I bought a retro 60's lime green and hot pink suit that was a size too big (thrift store) and had it altered to fit and I've had the lining replaced on expensive jackets. I've had fasteners added to tops and jackets that gaped a little and I've even had a dress made from scratch - a Regency dress ala Jane Austen, which I later sold to a costume shop. I always tell clients that if the clothing doesn't fit right, it's not about them. Fit models rarely match exactly to most women. So, consider altering - but don't take off the tags until you've checked it's possible. 

There's been some hiccups along the way. I had to wait three months for the suit and the dress wasn't quick either, despite my using two different people and giving plenty of notice. Both experienced seamstresses were busy, worked part time and had other responsibilities. One lined a coat in a material that turned out to be unsuitable and sewed the original label in crooked, but she offered to redo. I've had luck with the combo dry cleaning/alterations shops found in shopping centers, but English wasn't the first language in any of the three I tried, so there were a few misunderstandings and some work had to be redone. Always try a tailor first with something simple and on an item that you won't cry over if it all goes to custard.

Easy alterations: 
  • Shortening hems on pants, dresses, skirts, most sleeves. With jeans and trousers with detailed hems you can usually keep the original hem, the material will be cut and resewn. 
  • Adding darts on pants, dresses, tops and shirts to make a garment more fitted. Jackets and coats can be a little more tricky due to the fabrics. If the chest is too loose though, skip the top. Darts work best under the bust, not on it. 
  • Taking in side seams on dresses, tops, skirts, sleeves (check the armhole to make sure there is enough extra room to do this).
It is much harder to let things out, unless there is ample fabric. If you're tall, check to see if the hems have extra material, you might get lucky. Otherwise, consider sizing up and altering. 

A few other scenarios: 
  • Crotch baggy - go for a lower waist line
  • Waist too tight - size up or look for a higher waist line
  • Fits everywhere but shoulders too big - you can have shoulders taken in, but check with the tailor before you take off the tags. 
Always check that you can move in the garment! 

Fit is so important. If the zip keeps popping open, you expose your butt when you bend over, you can barely walk in that skirt, the top is too tight across the bust, your thighs are constricted when you sit down, the skirt rides up when you walk, fabric bunches when you fold your arms, pants slip down when you take a few steps, anywhere is tight, chest is baggy, it could be the wrong size, or it could be badly made. Either way, don't buy it.  

Happy shopping!


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Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

1 comment


Thanks for sharing your style perspectives! It's great you mention trying a lower waist if the crotch is baggy on pants, many people don't think of solving that problem by lowering the waist, but that is the best way! If you're ever looking for comfortable, sustainable, locally made clothing, check out Decent Exposures. Since we make everything to order, we can make it to fit without needing to take it to a tailor. We make clothing, bras and underwear...
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