Posts Tagged ‘tailor’

Consider this your ultimate guide from the experts.

Woman getting measured for alterations at the tailor

Is it worth altering the item?Getty ImagesJune 22, 2018, 2:47 AM AEST / Source: TODAYBy Chrissy Callahan

Most women fall into one of two categories: Those who have their tailor on speed dial, and those who’ve never ventured into the world of clothing alterations.

If you fall in the latter group, you might think alterations are just for the rich and famous or that they’re not practical for your wardrobe/lifestyle/budget. Then again, you might be wrong.

The truth is, there are many misconceptions about tailoring and many women are intimidated by the whole process. That’s why TODAY Style consulted the experts to help debunk some of the most common myths about clothing alterations, and break down some of the hidden secrets about tailoring that only the pros know.

You can thank us later!

Tailor calendar
The most-sought-after tailors can have an impressive waitlist. Shutterstock

1. Don’t expect results overnight

Getting a last-minute appointment at a popular hair salon can sometimes take an act of God, and some of the hottest tailors book up just as quickly. The good news? If a tailor is really busy, it’s a pretty good sign that they know their stuff and have a loyal clientele. But whether you’re going to the most-sought-after tailor in town or a newbie you read about online, don’t expect a miracle overnight.

“Turnaround time really depends on the item. If it’s something simple, a one-week turnaround is possible; two weeks is more typical. For something more complex, we require more time,” said Ludmila Tomashevskay, owner of Ludmila Couture, whose clients have included Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria and Christina Aguilera.

Rush service may be available in emergencies, but in general, if you need an item for a certain event you should always bring it in with time to spare and expect that it might take a few weeks to get altered.

“If you know in advance, call ahead. Depending on the season, formalwear may need two weeks or more if additional fittings are necessary,” said Robin Chalfin, owner of Toolkit Tailoring Studio.

Basic clothing alterations, like hems, can take anywhere from 3-5 days to a week, depending on how busy your tailor is. “It comes down to what the tailor has on their plate, how many projects they have in front of yours,” said Leesa Evans, Hollywood costume designer and private stylist for celebrities like Amy Schumer. “I have tailors I go to for classic alterations (like hems or taking in a waist) that can be done quickly, and others that I bring more couture or elaborate items to because of their experience. For those more complex alterations, I expect a longer wait time.”

Cutting fabrics at the tailor
Altering a silk blouse takes a lot more skill than taking in a cotton dress.Getty Images

2. All fabrics aren’t created equal

Do a chambray top and a silk blouse take the same amount of time and money to alter? Not quite. Certain fabrics are naturally more delicate, and some materials will always take a bit more time (and cash) to alter.

“Silks, for instance, feel great on the body and move well, but they’re extremely temperamental when it comes to alterations. Best to have someone that hand stitches versus machine tailoring for silks,” celebrity stylist Alison Brooks said.

Chiffon, organza and some jersey fabrics can also be a bit challenging to alter, while cotton and linen are some of the easiest fabrics to tackle.

“Non-stretch woven fabrics are the easiest for tailors because of their stability. Stretch fabrics are typically harder to handle when making adjustments,” said Adrienne M. Kronovet, founder and CEO of the stylish workwear line Ameliora. “That being said, good tailors can handle (almost) any fabric. When looking at garments, the fabric composition is essential. High-quality fabrics perform better and last longer than inferior constructions.”

At the end of the day, if you have a tricky fabric you want altered, it’s all about doing your research and finding the right tailor.

“Some establishments who advertise tailoring services may be well equipped to handle hems and repairs, but may be unable to alter the bodice in an expensive gown. Some tailors are unable to work with leather, others can. Again, do your research,” Chalfin said.

Clothes in a closet
Avoid buying clothing that are too large! It’s difficult to alter anything that is too far from your actual size.Shutterstock

3. Please, buy the right size

Most of us fluctuate in weight — a few pounds here, a few pounds there — so having a few kickass wardrobe staples that fit you whether you’re up or down five pounds is always a good idea. Purchasing clothing you know is way too big or too small for you, on the other hand, most definitely isn’t.

We’ve all been there: You find the perfect dress on clearance but it’s two or three sizes too large. You swear you’ll get it tailored one day, so you jump at the opportunity and stuff it in the back of your closet. Then when it comes time to tailor the garment, you wonder if it might be more trouble than it’s worth.

“Please don’t buy clothes that are too small or too big, even if they’re on sale! It’s not recommended or sometimes even possible to alter anything more than one size — either down or up,” Tomashevskay said.

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MARCH 31, 201801:49

Pants, in particular, are usually difficult to take in multiple sizes, since the proportions can change so drastically. On the other hand, a coat or blazer that just needs to be taken in a bit (say, in the shoulders), is much more doable.

“Considering the work that goes into tailoring an item that is multiple sizes too big, it’s probably best to buy new clothes,” Evans said.

That doesn’t mean you should abandon all hope of getting your favorite oversized piece altered, though. According to Tomashevskay, tailors do try to accommodate client requests (within reason) so it’s worth getting a second opinion if you have a piece you’re really hoping to alter.

To help you avoid this scenario in the first place, seek out quality materials that have a bit of give to them, and will see you through minor weight fluctuations. “With the advances in fabric construction, stretch is widely available and a must when selecting your key pieces. This helps diminish issues with weight fluctuation while providing an extra level of comfort,” Kronovet said.

Woman getting fitted at the tailor
Many tailors don’t list their prices. Getty Images

4. No, tailors aren’t scamming you

If you’ve ever secretly wondered whether you were getting scammed at the tailor, you’re not alone. Many tailors don’t list their prices on their website or in store, so it’s not surprising that many women worry that tailoring fees are pretty arbitrary.

How can you make sure you’re getting a fair price for your alterations? It’s actually pretty simple: Just ask!

“You should always ask before you get fitted. Call ahead to see if they have a price per item or charge hourly,” Chalfin said. “Just like a car mechanic may not have a standard cost sheet because all cars are different, tailors need to think the same way.”

Most tailors will be able to estimate the cost of basic alterations, but they still might need to see the items in person to get a more accurate estimate. “It is more common for a typical men’s tailor to provide a cost sheet since the alterations are usually similar across the board. Prices will vary in different locations and cities,” Chalfin said.

At the end of the day, tailors aren’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes; they’re just trying to offer the most fair price — for themselves, and for you. “Tailoring is an art form; tailors are not out to scam their clients,” Brooks said. “Work is done by hand, even if they machine sew it. Tailors usually charge by how many hours or time it took to alter.”

Basic clothing alterations — like pants hemming or sleeves hemming — typically have set prices, but some alterations (like dress hemming) can vary in price based on the fabric, cut, layers and other factors, according to Tomashevskay. Certain materials like silk, for instance, might be a bit pricier to alter.

Woman looking in her closet
Clothing alterations can totally transform your wardrobe!Getty Images stock

5. Tailoring is worth it …

If the price of tailoring gives you major sticker shock, you might be questioning whether it’s actually worth the investment. But as it turns out, a quality tailoring job can totally change the way you see yourself!

“When your clothes fit properly, you look better and, more importantly, feel better and more confident. Tailors add tremendous value to your wardrobe by keeping your clothes well-fitting and comfortable,” Kronovet said.

Think about it: How many items in your closet actually make you feel amazing when you wear them? So many women’s closets are filled with less-than-flattering garments that simply don’t do their fabulous figures justice, and altering an item can help breathe new life into it.

“Small tweaks in pants, jackets and even blouses make such a difference,” Chalfin said. “You should be wearing the clothing; the clothing should not be wearing you. A good fit can make you look and feel 10 pounds thinner.”

In some cases, tailoring your clothes can even make them look more expensive than they really are. “A properly fitted garment makes all the difference in the world. If you buy an H&M piece the fit is usually off, and minor alterations will make the dress or skirt look as if it is a couture piece,”Brooks said.

Of course, it’s easy to say how awesome tailoring is, but at the end of the day, your lifestyle, wardrobe and career will all play a role in determining whether alterations are right for you.

“If you invest money into wardrobe pieces that are classic and made well, then yes, absolutely alter your wardrobe. If you are putting your best foot forward at work, then yes, alter your wardrobe,” Chalfin said. “On the other hand, if you purchase more trendy, less expensive clothing, it may not be worth it. You will be paying more for the alterations than the garment is worth.”

Closet filled with clothes
Be selective about the items you choose to alter. Shutterstock

6. … but don’t alter everything you own

Any woman who’s ever been bitten by the tailoring bug can tell you how easy it is to rack up a hefty bill in no time. But just because tailoring is pricey doesn’t mean it’s out of reach! You just have to be selective about the pieces you get altered.

“The best items to tailor are versatile pieces that elevate any outfit. For instance, a well-fitting jacket can transform multiple looks,” Kronovet said.

Classic staples — like a fabulous shift dress or the perfect pair of jeans — are always worth altering, because you’ll wear them to death and feel fabulous while doing so. Trendy, cheaper items, however, aren’t typically worth the price of altering.

Woman using sewing machine
Think before you try to DIY your clothing alterations.Getty Images

7. Use DIY alteration tricks sparingly

Any woman who knows how to thread a needle might be tempted to go DIY with all her tailoring needs. But should you really attempt to do your own alterations?

“If a button comes off a shirt, we should all have a pre-threaded needle in our bag of tricks and hopefully the skill to sew the button back on. Temporary fixes, like hem tape, are useful if you’re really in a squeeze and want to wear something tonight,” Evans said. “But eventually, hem tape will cause damage to fabric, so this is only a temporary fix.”

There are a few clothing alterations you can more easily attempt yourself, like adding cups to a strapless dress, Chalfin said. Just buy some cups at your local fabric store, and tack them in with a few stitches. And if your bra straps are always showing, you can pick up a pack of small ribbons with snaps that be be safety pinned into the shoulder seams of your garments. Double-stick tape pieces can also be used to temporarily repair a hem, close an unwanted blouse gap or protect against any cleavage mishaps.

The bottom line? Use DIY tricks sparingly, because they’re not always the best long-term option. “DIYs are good in a pinch, but, with something semipermanent (like fabric glue, for instance) you risk damaging the garment,” Kronovet said.

Find Tailor Clothing Alterations

There’s nothing so frustrating as having a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Maybe you’ve lost a few pounds, and pants that once fit you like a glove now fit more like a saggy diaper. Or maybe you have a whole stack of shirts that you bought because they were such great bargains, but every time you try them on you remember that the sleeves are too long or they gape open between the buttons. Perhaps you even have a few garments lurking in your closet that were the height of fashion when you bought them, but now they make you look like you’re stuck in the past.

This situation isn’t as hopeless as it sounds. With the help of a good tailor, you can turn all these near misses into perfect fits. Those too-big pants can be taken in, the shirt sleeves can be shortened, and even those oversized jackets can be updated to a slimmer, modern silhouette.Make money investing with Motley Fool, whose stock picks have returned an average of 472%Sign up for Motley Fool Stock Advisor by July 31, 2020 to get access to the next best buys.

Of course, all this doesn’t come free of charge. Yes, alterations cost money, but usually far less than it would cost to replace the clothes completely. Not every garment is worth altering, but for pricey items – or anything that you really love and can’t bear to lose – alterations can be a great investment.

Benefits of Clothing Alterations

Getting clothes altered is a bit more work than buying new ones off the rack. First you have to find a reliable tailor. Then, for each garment being altered, you have to make two trips to the shop – one to drop off the clothes, and one to pick them up – and try them on each time.

However, alterations can be worth the extra effort. There are several reasons why having your old clothes altered is often a better bet than buying new:

  • The Perfect Fit. The clothes you buy off the rack are made to fit a generic body, with measurements that fall close to the average. However, real bodies aren’t one-size-fits-all. Each person’s measurements are slightly different, so when you buy off the rack, the best you can usually hope for is a fit that’s “good enough.” But by having your off-the-rack purchases altered, you can make them fit like they were made for you – and for a fraction of the cost of real custom tailoring.
  • Shifting Size. Not only is your body different from everyone else’s, it doesn’t always stay the same from one year to the next. So if you’ve lost 10 pounds in the past year, the pants that fit you fine last winter are likely to look a bit baggy this winter. You could just give them away, or keep them in the closet in case you gain the weight back – but with just a little adjustment, you can keep on wearing them and save yourself the trouble of buying new ones.
  • Changing Styles. Fashions change from year to year, and clothes that still have plenty of life left in them sometimes end up stuck in the back of the closet just because they look dated. However, bringing them up to date is sometimes as simple as raising a hemline or removing a pair of oversized shoulder pads. Even just replacing the buttons with a more modern style can give a garment a fresh new look.
  • Keeping Yourself Decent. Minor alterations can keep your clothes from slipping, sliding, and gaping in ways that expose a bit more than you’d like. For instance, busty ladies can add tiny snaps between the front buttons on a shirt to keep it neatly closed at all times. Women with narrow shoulders can keep their blouses from slipping down over them by adding small loops on the insides of the shoulders to snap over their bra straps and hold the blouse in place.
  • Save Old Favorites. Clothes that wear out don’t always have to go in the rag bag. Sometimes it’s possible to extend their life by replacing a lining or turning a worn collar. But even when that’s impossible, a skilled tailor can sometimes keep your old favorites alive by making an exact copy of the garment. This is a pricey service, but for a garment you truly love and can’t replace, it can be worth it.
  • Take Advantage of Deals. Sometimes, you find a truly exquisite bargain on a sale rack or in a thrift shop, but it just doesn’t quite fit. Rather than passing up the deal, you can take it to a tailor and have the garment altered to fit. If the price is low enough, the total cost – even after alterations – is often less than paying retail.

How Much Alterations Cost

The cost of alterations varies quite a lot. Some jobs involve much more complex sewing than others, and therefore cost more. However, even for the same job, the price depends on where you live and what kind of tailor shop you use.

Prices for common alterations typically fall into these broad ranges:

  • Hemming Pants, Skirts, or Dresses: $10 to $25 – Skirts with a lining cost more to hem than unlined ones.
  • Shortening Sleeves: $15 to $40 – Jacket sleeves cost more than shirt sleeves, and jackets with buttons and linings cost more than plain ones.
  • Adjusting a Waistband: $15 to $25 – Pants or skirts with linings cost more than unlined ones.
  • Taking In a Dress Shirt: $15 to $30
  • Taking In a Jacket or Vest: $20 to $50 – Jackets with three seams cost more than those with two. Taking in the sleeves costs an additional $20 or so, and adjusting the shoulders costs around $40.
  • Taking In a Sheath Dress: $30 to $50 – Raising the waist on a dress costs around $60.
  • Shortening a Suit Jacket: $30 to $40
  • Replacing a Zipper: $20
  • Replacing the Lining on a Garment: $50 to $150
How Much Alterations Costs

The Value of Alterations

Alterations aren’t exactly cheap. For instance, suppose that you buy a suit on sale for $200, and then you have the jacket and jacket sleeves taken in, the waistband on the pants altered, and the sleeves shortened. By the time you’ve finished altering your $200 suit, it could end up costing you as much as $335.

However, by spending that $335, you’re essentially getting a custom fit for far less than the cost of a custom-made suit. A Chicago tailor interviewed by CNBC says he charges anywhere from $800 to $1,800 for a “made to measure” suit – one constructed to fit the buyer’s exact measurements – and that’s with the sewing done overseas, where labor is much cheaper. A “bespoke” suit – one that’s custom fitted and sewn in the tailor’s Chicago shop – costs between $2,800 and $4,800.

Even compared to buying off the rack, alterations can save you money. That’s because you can use them to take advantage of even bigger bargains from thrift shops and clearance racks. For instance, on a recent thrift-shopping trip, my husband found a suit for $59. The jacket fit him perfectly, but the pants were too big, so we had them taken in and hemmed for $35. Altogether, we paid less than $100 for a suit that I later discovered would have cost $650 retail.

Getting the Most for Your Money

Alterations are only worth the money if you actually like the result. If the tailor doesn’t do a good job – or if you didn’t really like the garment that much to begin with – then all you’ll have at the end is a lighter wallet and a garment you still don’t want to wear. So to get the best value for alterations, you need to start with two things: a good tailor, and an outfit that’s worth the trouble of altering.

Finding a Good Tailor

The most difficult part of getting alterations done is finding the right tailor. Many department stores and dry cleaners offer tailoring services, but most style experts usually say it’s not worth bothering with them. According to style blog Alterations Needed, dry cleaner tailors usually can’t handle anything beyond a simple hem, while department store tailors are usually rushed, overworked, and not that interested in your particular needs as a client.

Dappered, a website devoted to affordable men’s style, agrees, stating, “You need a tailor that is your tailor. Someone who knows what you like and what you can’t stand, and can replicate that same look after they perfect it on (hopefully) the first garment you bring to them.” However, department store tailors are worth a try, since they usually have decent skills and low prices – and are sometimes even free for simple fixes, such as hemming.

Unless you’re very lucky, you’re not going to find the right tailor for you by picking a listing at random from the Yellow Pages. Here’s what style experts suggest:

  • Ask Around. Many sources say the best way to find a good tailor is to ask people you know. Alterations Needed recommends talking to “impeccably dressed men” or “perfectly tailored and well dressed women” to find out who alters their clothes. Dappered says that even for men, women are usually the best people to ask, noting that he found his superb tailor through one of his wife’s former coworkers. According to Alterations Needed, you can also ask high-end clothing stores where they send their clients for tailoring, since they’re likely to recommend only the best. Online style forums are another place to look for recommendations of tailors in your area.
  • Check Reviews. If you don’t have anyone to ask, try searching local review sites such as Yelp and CitySearch for phrases such as “tailors” or “alterations.” Look at the tailors who earn the highest overall reviews and see what people like and don’t like about them. Pay extra attention to reviews from other people with your particular body type, such as petite or busty.
  • Look for Experience. In particular, if you’re seeking alterations on an expensive designer garment, look for an experienced tailor who works with this kind of clothing on a regular basis. Kendall Farr, author of “The Pocket Stylist,” recommends looking for tailors who advertise themselves as specialists in custom menswear – even if you’re female. A tailor who can make a custom men’s suit from scratch, she says, can easily handle even the trickiest alterations. If you’re altering a garment made with a material that’s particularly hard to work with, such as leather or fur, look for a tailor who specializes in these fabrics.
  • Examine Their Work. Before hiring a tailor, ask to look at the clothes they have hanging on the racks waiting to be picked up. Examine each piece carefully to make sure the work looks good. Stitches should be neat and even, with no pulling or puckering; hems and sleeves should be even. It shouldn’t be possible to tell, from the outside, that the garment has been altered at all. Extra Petite, a style blog for petite women, offers a detailed guide to discerning good alterations from shoddy ones.
  • Start Out Small. Don’t entrust a complicated job, such as taking in a winter coat, to a tailor you’ve never used before. Instead, start out with something small and simple, like hemming a pair of pants or taking in a waistline. Once you’ve seen that the tailor does competent work with these smaller jobs, you can feel more confident about handing over a difficult or expensive one.
Find Good Tailor

Knowing What to Alter

Even the best tailor in the world can’t make good clothing out of shoddy fabric. Many fashion mavens say only high-quality clothes are worth the effort of altering, because cheaply made clothes don’t last long enough to justify the investment. The author of Alterations Needed laments that she has had inexpensive tops shortened in the past, only to end up tossing them because a few washes left them so badly pilled or faded that they were unwearable.

However, even an expensive designer jacket is never going to look good on you if it’s in a color or style that just doesn’t flatter you. Style experts say it’s only worth altering clothes that you truly love and will wear often enough to get your money’s worth out of the alterations.

When deciding whether to take a particular garment to the tailor, Extra Petite suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Do You Love It? Don’t alter something you feel “lukewarm” about. Ask yourself how often you’ll really wear this garment if you go to the trouble of altering it. If it doesn’t flatter you, or if it doesn’t fill a genuine wardrobe need, it’s not worth the trouble.
  2. Is It Worth It? Consider the total cost of the garment plus alterations – ideally, before you even buy it. For instance, if you find a dress on sale for $50 and you know it will need another $50 in alterations to fit you properly, then ask yourself whether you’d be willing to pay $100 for it if it fit perfectly. If the answer is no, pass on the garment. But even if you’ve already bought your “bargain,” don’t invest another $50 in altering it unless you expect the final result to be worth the extra cost.
  3. Can Your Tailor Handle It? Think about just how much work is needed to get the garment to fit you. Then ask yourself whether you trust your tailor to handle the job. According to Extra Petite, even basic alterations require a competent tailor, and complex ones – taking in shoulders, altering the design of a garment, or shifting a garment more than two sizes up or down – are risky even with a good tailor.

If you’re not sure how to answer the third question, Extra Petite recommends going back to the first question and reconsidering just how much you love the garment. If you truly adore it and you think it’s well worth the cost, then it’s probably worth taking a risk. Just be prepared for the possibility that the results won’t be perfect.

Keep in mind that some alterations are beyond the skill of even the most competent tailor. For example, sweaters are usually knitted on machines, and cutting and resewing them never yields a smooth result. Extremely delicate fabrics, such as chiffon and lamé, are also likely to disintegrate if you tamper with the original seams. Finally, any piece with a very defined silhouette or elaborate details is almost impossible to alter – it’s essentially trying to rebuild the entire garment from the ground up.

Getting the Right Fit

You’ve found a good tailor. You have a high-quality garment to alter. Now all you need is the final ingredient: the right fit.

The ideal fit is neither too tight nor too loose. To some extent, this is a matter of personal preference. Some people like their clothes to fit very close to the body, while others prefer a more relaxed fit. However, a garment is clearly too tight if it feels constricting, and it’s clearly too loose if it sags and bunches in awkward places.

When a tailor is taking in a garment for you, make sure that the altered garment will leave you enough room to breathe. After the tailor has pinned it up on you, try moving around a bit to see how it feels. It shouldn’t pull visibly across any part of your body – chest, stomach, hips, or thighs – whether you’re sitting down or standing up. Sleeves should let you move your arms freely, and pants shouldn’t bind you in either the front or the rear.

On the other hand, the fit shouldn’t be so loose that the garment looks lumpy or misshapen. Pants shouldn’t sag in the buttocks or gap at the waist, and the legs shouldn’t be so long that you risk stepping on them. Shirt and jacket sleeves should reach all the way down your arms when they’re lowered, but shouldn’t expose half of your arms when they’re raised.

Don’t make the mistake of telling your tailor exactly what you want done to a garment, such as, “These shoulder straps need to be one inch shorter.” Your tailor knows more than you do about how to alter a garment, so just explain what you don’t like about it – “This dress feels too baggy in the front” – and let the tailor advise you on how to fix it. If you give exact instructions, you can expect your tailor to follow them to the letter, but you won’t necessarily be happy with the results.

Get Right Fit

Final Word

Finding a trustworthy tailor opens up a whole new world of possibilities for clothes shopping. Suddenly, the question to ask yourself in the fitting room is not, “Does this fit me?” but, “Could this be made to fit me?” If you find yourself stuck between two sizes, with a medium being too small and a large being too big, that’s no longer a deal-breaker: You now have the option of buying the large and turning it into a medium-large, the perfect size and fit for you.

Of course, when shopping this way, you always have to remember to factor the cost of the alterations into your calculations. An oversized vest that looks like a great deal at $17 looks a lot less impressive when you tack on an extra $25 to have it taken in. On the other hand, a $15 pair of dress pants that needs only $10 worth of hemming to make it look like a $60 pair is still a steal.

Do you have your clothes altered regularly?

Even though I don’t perform clothing alterations as often, this is a question I get asked a lot by clients who have taken their clothes to others to be tailored. I think it’s helpful to explain what goes into altering clothes so you have an understanding next time you need it done.

I’ve also included some tips on what to look for when shopping for clothes.

Based on the materials and how the garment was constructed, altering clothes can sometimes be more difficult than sewing new clothes. New clothes start with freshly measured and cut pieces, and are assembled in a pre-defined, efficient order. Altering clothes takes time to review the construction, take apart a section of the garment (or sometimes the entire garment), make the alteration, then reassemble it correctly for the right fit. This should also be done without damaging the fabric and look seamless.

This requires the time of an experienced craftsperson, with knowledge of an array of  fabrics and techniques, to effectively alter a diverse range of garments. Investing in well-made clothes to start with can make the process of altering easier and worth the expense. Unfortunately, the value we place on clothing, sewn goods, and the craft of sewing in general, has fallen to a point where it may not seem worth it to have clothes altered.

Most clothes bought off the rack aren’t intended to be altered. If you do have a garment you like and want it altered, but it was poorly made, modifications could be more difficult or even impossible. If it was an inexpensive garment, paying someone to alter it may not seem like a good value. Why pay $50 to alter a dress that cost $75 brand new?

The answer – you’re paying for the tailor’s time and skill, plus materials, meetings and fittings, regardless of what you originally paid for the garment. In order to provide the service, they still need to be adequately compensated.

The trend of low-cost clothing has created a perception that fees for alterations are out of line because they’re not coming down to match the low value placed on the clothes. So I don’t think it’s alterations that are expensive, it’s just that we’ve come to expect all aspects of our clothing to be much cheaper, and match what we paid for them new.

Fast Fashion

Beneath this low-cost trend is a huge problem of fashion waste that negatively impacts the environment across the world. Clothes are more often thrown away because they don’t last long and it’s cheaper to replace them with new ones.

If you want to learn more, see this post on issues with fast fashion.

Refashion, Reuse, Upcycle

This isn’t going to change overnight, if at all, and I don’t expect everyone to revert back to having all their clothes custom made for them. But that doesn’t mean the value of having clothes altered is completely lost.

Upcycling and refashioning are ways to alter clothes to get more life out of them or changed into something completely unique. Items you may have thrown in the trash are instead personalized just for you and have new value because they can’t be found anywhere else.

I frequently work with clients on refashioning garments and repurposing other items. I also recently participated at the Clothing Swap, hosted by Reduce Reuse Remake, where people can contribute to or explore piles of sorted clothing to get something new. I was on-site to alter and restyle clothes that people brought or found in the donated piles of clothes. It was really fun to design on the spot with whatever was on hand to create something entirely unique.


When you’re shopping for clothes, here are a few things to look for that can help you determine the overall quality. Remember, price is not an indicator of quality. Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s made well or with good quality fabric.

  • Does the fabric feel thin, rough, or brittle? Higher fiber content can sometimes indicate higher quality fabric that will last longer.
  • Hold the garment up to the light. This will give you a sense of the weight and density of the weave. The tighter the weave, the better.
  • Check the outside AND inside of the seams. The stitches should be tight, evenly spaced, and lie flat.
  • Make sure buttonholes are sturdy and not fraying.
  • Expect to pay more for quality clothing that will last.

I also encourage people to shop at thrift stores to find unique treasures that can sometimes be tailored. Here are examples of pieces transformed into new garments:

Thrifted Pieces Made Trendy Through Tailoring

Shift Dress Remade into Vest and Skirt

Here are a few tips when looking at clothes you may need altered:

  • If it’s too large, there’s a better chance it can be taken in. If it’s too small, a different approach may be needed to expand it, like adding other fabrics if there’s not enough to take out in the garment.
  • Lined garments are more difficult and time consuming to alter.
  • Chiffon, lace, delicate fabrics, and beaded clothing cost more to alter because they require more time and care to sew.
  • Men’s jackets are also expensive because of their complicated construction.