Please explain tailoring to me
October 13, 2014 2:24 PM   Subscribe

I would like to have a few shirts made, I think? And maybe, eventually a suit? Please explain the basics of a professional tailor.

I am upgrading my wardrobe. I need a few nicer shirts for professional and social occasions. I’m a woman who wears masculine clothes. (Like, I don’t own any clothes designed for women – not like, tomboyish girl.) So the problem with off the rack shirts is the sleeves are invariably too long and sometimes the chest is a bit tight. I think I can afford to have a few nicer shirts made? And I think that’s a good idea if I want something that fits right?

So in broad terms: am I even on the right track here – or is there some brand of nicer, off the rack shirts I can buy with short arms and possibly a slightly more generous chest?

And if I should be going the tailored route, where is the tailoring 101 faq? Should I find something online or in person? There is a local tailor I like a lot who has shortened many pants for me (Ritz Taylor in Oakland). Should I just go to him and say, “Please make me a shirt”? If I do that, what should I expect him to do next, and how much (roughly) should he charge? (This is a very affordable, Chinatown-based shop, who, based on reviews and my experience he is very good.) There are also a couple Bay Area based queer tailors for masculine women, but they seem more suit-oriented...

Uh, this is sort of open-ended because I don’t really know what to ask about this, so any advice on getting reasonable but better quality shirts and clothes in general for the masculine woman’s body would be great.
posted by latkes to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
You might look into made-to-measure programs. I know Brooks Brothers does made-to-measure shirts, and Lands End used to (I have one of those shirts), but not sure if they do know that Sears bought them. Made-to-measure can be a way to get a customized fit for less money.
posted by primethyme at 2:31 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I got a suit made to measure (experience was reasonable) and the tailor asked me to bring in clothing that I already owned that I liked and that he could get cues from. The Chinatown-based shop sounds promising. Try to get a recommendation from a trusted person for a tailor.

If you get shirts made, bring stuff that you own, if you can. Obviously that may be a challenge if you have decided to get shirts made. I.e a lack of what you need has caused you to contemplate this. That is the case for me.

I would check out Kipper Clothiers. Just imagine, you could get nice semi spread collar shirts, or button downs, but it would suit the proportions of your body. Off the rack, I would see if anything from Brooks Bros could work for you (e.g. larger boys). That is my route. But I am in a different boat from you as I have no chest.
posted by radiocontrolled at 3:15 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also I really like Jesse Thorn / Put this On, and he has highlighted queer clothiers before.. And also there are good posts about shirting on that site. Here is his guide to finding a tailor.
posted by radiocontrolled at 3:18 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


When you say "off the rack shirts" do you mean men's dress shirts--shirts with a placket down the front, buttoning cuffs, and a turndown collar--or something more general? If you do mean men's dress shirts, shortening the sleeves and taking in the waist are routine and probably the two most common alterations done on this type of garment.

Before focusing on having shirts made for you, I would try taking a shirt which fits through the neck, chest and shoulders to a tailor for modifications. Cuffs are designed to be removed so that the sleeve can be shortened, and the waist can be taken in either by adding darts to the back (which may be too feminine for you, but is also fairly common on higher quality shirts for men) or by taking in the side seams, or both. If you plan to wear the shirt untucked and the body is uncomfortably long, you can have the hem recut as well.
posted by pullayup at 3:27 PM on October 13, 2014


I don't have any experience with them, but Kipper Clothiers is in San Francisco and makes custom menswear-style clothes for women.
posted by radioamy at 3:58 PM on October 13, 2014


There are so many options! Well, relatively now vs. just a few years ago. I'm in the same boat and have found that my ability to buy clothes that are "me" is so much easier. MTM (Made to Measure) stuff is great, but really, you should be able to go off-the-rack and have some minor alterations done and it'll be great. (For reference, I'm 5'2" so sleeve length is my enemy.)

Saint Harridan is in Oakland. I have one of their shirts and the collar/shoulders/sleeve length is perfect. I did have to have the sides taken in just a little bit, but that was super quick. SH has great customer service too, so email them with any questions you might have.

Androgyny is out of San Francisco. I don't have personal experience with this brand, but based on their models, I'd say it's certainly a viable option.

Also in SF is Gustin who works on a crowd-sourcing model. I have their XS shirts (regular fit) and the length for me is perfect. The sleeves are a hair long, but hardly anything in comparison to other menswear out there. Their measurements are super helpful and they do have open days there where you can try on product. I've corresponded with the customer service people who are lovely and really dig that women are wearing their clothes.

I have also found a lot of great, general information on The Modest Man which is aimed at short men who want to dress well. Many of the issues that short cis men face when buying masculine clothing are the same as what I find.

If you can get the shoulder/sleeve/bust fit right, any tailor can do some basic alterations on both the midsection billowing and the length. (If you're wearing them untucked, you'll probably want to have shirts shortened.)

Memail me if you have more questions. I have lists of brands that I've tried with varying levels of success. (And literally just now, two new shirts from a new brand arrived.)
posted by komlord at 4:40 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you need to get a lot of clothes made, or anything expensive like an actual suit, you might consider doing some tailoring tourism :) If you go just about anywhere in Asia (but I've heard especially Vietnam, China, maybe Singapore?) you can get clothes made to measure for next to nothing. The money you save on that would probably cover your travel costs, so you basically get a free vacation.
posted by lollusc at 5:52 PM on October 13, 2014


I've found that it takes a tailor a couple tries to really nail a dress shirt, for both men and women. So don't be surprised if the first attempt is underwhelming; shirts are tricky and you are more likely to notice the flaws than you would in a suit, for example.

I've actually had the best results buying off the rack and then getting them altered by a good tailor.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:14 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


OK, good start so far. I actually didn't know you could get shirts altered for a reasonable price - assumed that was some masters-level tailoring thing. So maybe I'll start by getting a handful of nicer shirts at Nordstrom Rack or something and getting them altered

Meanwhile, I will check out the masculine/genderqueer clothiers out there - would be good to support them.

Still welcome more suggestions, but that's a great start.
posted by latkes at 6:47 PM on October 13, 2014


My husband does not have an off the rack shape and one thing that really helped to get him well fitting shirts was talking to the tailor before buying shirts. My husband has long arms and broad shoulders but a narrow waist (think Mighty Mouse) and the tailor told me to buy him shirts that fit his arm length and shoulders because taking in the waist was easier than letting out the arms. This helped me know what shirts to buy that the tailor could then easily customize, so you might want to talk to your regular tailor and ask them what part of your body to buy for and what parts are easy to tailor. We had been tailoring the arms of his shirts and it looked nice, but taking in the sides turns out to be cheaper for us than letting out the cuff, so definitely ask your tailor.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 6:47 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I recently bought several dress shirts from Taylor Stitch - they're not explicitly queer oriented, but they did a good job with measurements for my non-normative (disabled) body. And I think the queer tailors for masculine women you mention would be able and willing to do more than just suits - most tailors that do bespoke suits are also used to doing a more limited job (just shirts, shirts and pants, etc), especially because suit jackets and pants tend to last longer than shirts do.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 1:23 PM on October 14, 2014


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