What modifications can a tailor make
May 28, 2009 7:33 AM   Subscribe

I have never been to a tailor before. What exactly can a tailor do? Extend, chop shorten, etc? What are good prices?

I'm a big deal shopper, so my clothes are often purchased on a range of sizes, as I want to get the best deal. I have jeans that are too long, too tight on the waist, too short. Jacket arms that are too short and tight. Shirts that are too big on the shoulder. And about everything in between.

Could a tailor help me with these things? What else can a tailor typically accomplish? What kind of prices should I be looking for?
posted by ShootTheMoon to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
In general, a tailor can take things in pretty easily, but it's harder to let things out or make them longer. Pricing is usually dependent on where you live - in my area, things like hemming up pants or sleeves should be around $10. More detailed reconstructions are around $15-$20 - if they have to reconstruct a seam or add extra material, for example.

I would just find a local tailor through recommendations and then take in the garments you love to see what they can do and at what cost. But stop buying jeans that are too tight or too short!
posted by muddgirl at 7:46 AM on May 28, 2009

A tailor can do quite a bit. For example, I had a tailor take two suits, split them down the middle, and then swap them, so I have (suitAleft+suitBright) & (suitAright + suitBleft), for both the pants and the jacket.

I'm not entirely sure on pricing, but what you're asking for is not unreasonable. Ask your friends/coworkers/etc around town for a good tailor, then go talk to them.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:48 AM on May 28, 2009

Anything that is too short or too tight will be difficult or impossible to fix unless the item has a generous seam allowance; it might require more fabric than is there.

Too big on the shoulder and anything else involving seaming on a section that is too large is do-able but it depends on how elaborate the section is. I bought a suit jacket with very elaborate sleeves that were far too long (I have super short arms compared to my height), but fortunately the cuffs had a seam three inches from the wrist. They were cut and re-sewed, without needing to do it from the shoulder (which might have involved also re-seaming the arms to get a nice fit). It cost $50, but it is a classic fit and style, excellent workmanship etc. and well worth it even though it was a hundred dollars brand new.

A tailor can pretty much do anything but make extra fabric. Get some recs, look at community papers because finding someone reliable who works out of their home will have slightly lower prices since there are fewer expenses. Any alteration place will have a basic price list (say, hemming jeans = 10$) but expect prices to go up with complexity (hemming my grad dress that had a funky hem was almost 40$). Get an estimate first. You'll learn by trial and error, but FWIW never buy anything too small unless you want it shorter, and always see alterations as an investment; only do them on things that are well sewn in the first place, good fabric, unique color/print, or you have other plans (make a slip dress out of a gigantic skirt or something). I LOVE great deals but it definitely pays to be picky.

In the end: carefully picking what you buy that can be altered is SO worth it. There's nothing like having perfect cuffs or tailored shoulders. What Not To Wear harps on it, but those tiny details make a world of difference- just start seeing off-the-rack as a starting point :) Good luck, hope this helps!
posted by variella at 7:49 AM on May 28, 2009

Clothing isn't a good deal if it doesn't fit you.

Just Because It's On Sale Doesn't Mean You Should Buy It

Just because it’s on sale, you don’t have to buy it

Don't be afraid to shop the sales rack. But, don't think you have to buy something just because it's on sale.

Don’t let shopping for bargains be your downfall - buy what you need when you need it, and try to avoid being sucked into the “sale” mentality.

Sale time is the absolute worst time to go shopping, & if you insist on doing it, again, take a list & don’t feel tempted to buy something because it’s only $10 down from $100, or whatever. It was probably passed over by everyone else for a reason!

I'm not trying to drill this point home to be a jerk. I do the exact same thing, and I'm always giving ill-advised purchases from the clearance rack to Goodwill. When you find a local tailor and get prices for hemming and taking things in (as mentioned, expanding too-small clothes is going to be more expensive and difficult), add that $10 or whatever it cost to the sale price in your head when you think about buying something that doesn't make you look fabulous and fit you like you'd like.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:56 AM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I had a tailor take two suits, split them down the middle, and then swap them, so I have (suitAleft+suitBright) & (suitAright + suitBleft), for both the pants and the jacket.

Tailors are not wizards. I can always tell when a suit has been altered too much. You don't want to look like that. Buy a suit that's your size and have it altered the correct way.

All you are doing is paying a lot more for something you would have never needed had you purchased the correct size.
posted by Zambrano at 9:05 AM on May 28, 2009

There is not a lot of extra material in factory made clothes with the exception of the back seam of men's pants where waist adjustments are made. A jacket with sleeves too tight and/or too short is basicially unfixable unless it's the kind of thing to which you can add a second fabric. The problem with things that do not fit in the shoulders is: the shoulder area is the hardest to alter correctly; there's lots of interfacing and padding in the shoulder; a jacket has to be deconstructed to a large degree to fix this; the collar and lapels may well need altering once the width across the back and around the chest are altered. Altering shirts that are too wide across the shoulder means ripping out/cutting out the sleeve's flat felled shoulder seams and resetting the sleeve. Depending on the length of the shirt sleeve, it may or may not come out the right length as the extra width in the shoulder drops the top of the armhole and makes the sleeve appear longer.

I'd recommend buying things that are easily fixable as there is a lot of work/hours in deconstructing clothes and the results can be uncertain. You're going to pay for the the deconstruction. Sometimes when you take something apart, you can't salvage the interfacings, so that's another cost.

Taking in/letting out a waistband, except on jeans which are not made to be adjusted, shortening pants and sleeves (couple of inches max), narrowing lapels or ties, moving buttons, adding elbow patches. Don't ask a tailor to rework broken buttonholes unless you're happy with adding something like suede for reinforcement. Tailors can do virtually anything, but you have to look at the cost of deconstructing/reconstructing a garment and the uncertainty of the result.
posted by x46 at 12:09 PM on May 28, 2009

For example, I had a tailor take two suits, split them down the middle, and then swap them, so I have (suitAleft+suitBright) & (suitAright + suitBleft), for both the pants and the jacket.

Whaaat? Explain/show me.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:06 PM on May 28, 2009

Maybe Lemurrhea is secretly Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip?
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:12 PM on May 28, 2009

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