Knowing what a tailor can and can’t do is key. You should already know when to use a tailor, but when to use one and what’s even possible are two different things! When you know what’s possible or impossible for a tailor, you can buy things that don’t fit perfectly with confidence knowing they can be altered later.
First, I’ll start with things you can do at home if you feel comfortable:
- Probably the most common alteration that people make at home is hemming pant legs. It’s an easy alteration to learn if you don’t know how already. There is a blind stitch hem (can’t see the stitching) and a straight stitch that you can see. Blind stitch hems are used in dress pants, and a straight stitch is less formal.
- I’ve already gone over how to bring in the sides and arms of shirts in How To Tailor A Shirt.
These two things are probably the most common things you will need to do. You can lean more complicated alternations like adding darts or shortening sleeves, but they are more difficult and maybe better left to your tailor. Buying clothes at the thrift store to practice on is a good idea if you want to try it!
Next are things that a tailor CAN do for you:
- Hemming pants
- Adding darts to your shirts
- Shortening sleeves on jackets and shirts
- Let pants in or out (if fabric is available on the inside)
- Slim arms and pant legs
- Waist suppression on jackets (bringing in the torso to create that upside-down triangle)
Things a tailor CAN’T do:
- Make sleeves/pants longer (unless there is fabric available on the inside). Dress pants are more likely to be able to be brought out, but not all can. Pants like jeans can’t be brought out. They’ve already cut out the extra fabric.
- Make shoulders smaller on a jacket. This is “major surgery” for a jacket.
When you know what you can do and what your tailor can do, this will help you when you’re shopping. If you are having a tailor alter something, then you can add that cost to the price of the garment to see if it would be worth it. Honor thy tailor to Up Your Fashion Game…
“Pants need to be shortened, jackets need to be brought in, sleeves need to be narrowed (yes, you can ask your tailor to slim down your sleeves), and buttons need to be realigned with buttonholes (most guys’ shoulders aren’t entirely even, meaning your jacket often sits a bit askew). You should always buy your correct size, but you then need to have a tailor customize it to your body. It’s the difference between being appropriately dressed and being stylishly dressed.” – GQ