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An alterations professional is a tailor or seamstress who specializes in altering clothes to fit better. Having custom-made clothing is less common today with the easy availability of ready-to-wear designer fashions; however, seamstresses and tailors can provide that service. The cost of a custom garment covers the professional’s time plus the cost of all materials. For alterations, most tailors charge by the job or project and prices are often standard—running from $8 for hemming pants up to a few hundred dollars (or more) to alter a wedding gown or other special occasion garment. If a garment requires a special fabric or sewing method, the cost will be higher. Likewise, if a garment must be enlarged, it will cost more for the extra material and the more time-consuming tailoring techniques.

Type of alteration

Professional tailors can make alterations to correct almost any problem in terms of how a garment is not fitting perfectly. Shortening the length of pants or sleeves on a shirt is the most common type of alteration and the easiest because it’s a matter of removing fabric rather than adding fabric to enlarge a garment. Garments can be enlarged (referred to as "letting out") using a variety of tailor’s tricks — it doesn’t hurt to ask an alterations pro what’s possible. It all comes down to how many layers of material and what type make up the garment, as well as how much time it will take to make the alteration in a way that no one will be able to tell it was altered. Some tailors charge more to alter women’s clothes than men’s. Here is a list of common prices for standard alterations on a variety of garments:

  • Shorten dress shirt sleeves: $19

  • Shorten jacket sleeves: $23 (without buttons) to $28 (with buttons)

  • Take in the body of a jacket: $40 (two seams) to $52 (three seams)

  • Take in a dress shirt: $20

  • Adjust the shoulders of a jacket: $35

  • Hem a skirt or dress: $10–$14

  • Take in or let out a skirt or pair of pants: $15 (unlined) to $20 (lined) or $25 (with a zipper)

  • Shorten top-stitched pants: $10

  • Shorten cuffed pants: $14

  • Shorten lined pants $14

  • Shorten lined and cuffed pants: $18

  • Take in a sheath dress: $45

  • Restitch a fraying seam: $5

  • Replace buttons: 50 cents each

  • Move a button: $2

  • Add a hook and eye: 50 cents per set

Any of the above examples can cost more if there are "extras," such as a vent in a suit jacket sleeve or hem, or any unique stitching or feature in the cut of the garment.

Stitch type

The type of stitching used affects the price for alterations as well. A blind-stitched (invisible) pants hem costs less than a top-stitched hem, for example. If an alteration requires a lot of hand sewing work, it will also cost more. For example, a bridal gown with elaborate beading or any garment made from delicate or slippery fabric may need to be hand sewn.

Fabric

Certain types of garment materials cost more to alter. For example, it typically costs $4 or $5 more to have denim jeans shortened and hemmed than pants made of other fabrics because tailors must use a sewing machine with a heavier-gauge needle and thread. Also, jeans require different hemming methods and styles than regular pants. If you need a pair of cuffed slacks taken up, you’ll pay around $5 more.

Leather

Altering leather garments is not only more expensive but also a specialty tailoring field unto itself. Some standard tailors can alter lightweight leather garments for an additional cost—sometimes as much as 50 percent more than altering fabric pieces. But for heavier or specialty leather, it’s a good idea to find someone who has experience working with leather. Teresa Condoy of Bdesign & All in Fairfax, Virginia, provides all kinds of sewing services—from clothing alterations to furniture upholstery. She works with a variety of materials, including leather, and says it can be hard to tell how much more a leather garment will cost to alter or repair. For example, she might charge $50–$75 to alter a leather jacket, but if a customer only needs some restitching done, it might only cost $25. It all depends on how many pieces of the garment she has to remove, alter and sew back together.

Wedding gowns

It’s common for wedding boutiques to keep only one or two sizes of a certain gown design in stock. Wedding gown sizes differ from standard women’s clothing sizes for ready-to-wear clothes—what’s referred to as the "street size." Wedding dress sizing is typically smaller than street sizes, so you may end up purchasing a dress one or two sizes larger than your street size. More often than not, brides-to-be will need their gown altered in some way, whether it’s adding fasteners to bustle the train or adding bra cups in a backless or strapless gown. Depending on the region, brides can spend anywhere from $75–$300 or more to have a wedding dress altered.

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