Alterations and tailoring aren't just for wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses and tuxedos. Men's and women's everyday clothes and work wardrobe can be altered, too, for better fit and greater comfort. If you're shopping for secondhand gear on sites like eBay and Etsy, chances are that jacket you bought fits well enough but could fit better.
If suit jackets and trousers are a perfect fit off the rack, good for you. But most of us are a bit taller or shorter than the average person, or bigger or thinner. A suit jacket that isn't cut to the wearer's figure will only accentuate the differences between average fit and the actual body, which generally isn't flattering.
From jacket sleeves, dress shirts and blazers to the hems of jeans and everything in between, a professional tailor can make small tucks or major alterations to clothing to make it as flattering as possible and prevent clothes from slipping, sliding and gaping. Tailors can also mend clothing to look like new, which is especially important if you're buying secondhand from an online retailer. A good tailor can also mend torn buttonholes, adjust a jacket waist, add darts or update an off-the-shelf suit to look like it was made to order for you.
In general, the average cost of a tailor depends on the number of alterations made. Tailors typically charge a fee for each alteration, which may vary depending on location. That's why it's important to find and build a good relationship with a good local tailor. The more often you visit, the more your tailor will know what to do to make you look right.
What's in this cost guide?
Having a dress tailored is probably the most common alteration. Tailors specializing in formalwear, such as Mrs. Stitches Women's Formal Alterations in McKinney, Texas, are often the best option for a dress, whether it's a formal gown, a wrap dress or a sheath. Mrs. Stitches, for example, charges fees starting at $20 per hour for dress alterations, which include taking in and letting out the sides of a dress, hemming the skirt, and adjusting straps. Formal dresses often need repairs that are best done by a tailor, such as mending beading, replacing zippers and reinforcing weakening seams.
Tailoring pants and jeans
Pants can be cuffed, hemmed, tapered and more. Complicated men's trousers or pants made from fragile fabrics are likely to cost more to have altered. In general, though, most tailors' price lists are similar to that of DG Alteration in Baltimore, Maryland:
- Replace crotch linings: $14
- Add brace buttons: $15
- Hem or cuff legs: $16
- Replace zipper: $18
- Alter the waist, crotch or seat: $18
- Alter the waist, seat and crotch: $24
- Taper legs: $20
- Recut pants: $60
Tailoring jackets and sports coats
Common jacket alterations include changing the length of the sleeves and adjusting the side seams. Note that a lined jacket or blazer will often increase the cost of alterations because there's an additional layer of fabric that needs sewing. For jacket tailoring, DG Alteration charges:
- Add shoulder pads: $15 each
- Close the vent: $18 per vent
- Take center seam in or out: $20
- Shorten sleeves: $24
- Take sides in or out: $24
- Raise the back: $24
- Lengthen sleeves: $30
- Shorten the jacket: $70
hems on a skirt can usually be altered, too. For these services, DG Alteration charges:
- Hem: $25-$33, depending on lining
- Take in or out skirt sides: $25
- Alter the waist: $25
Most tailors can make additional alterations to the arms, neckline and even the seams of garments. In addition to slimming down sleeves that are too big, a tailor can usually open up sleeves that are too small; if the armhole is too tight, the tailor can likely drop the armhole down to make more room, use the fabric in the seam allowance to make the entire sleeve a bit roomier, or even remove the sleeves entirely and finish the armholes for a tank style.
A neckline on a top or dress can often be adjusted, too, to be more flattering to your chest and shoulders. A collar can be removed from a button-down shirt, a crewneck style can be turned into a boatneck, and most silhouettes can be made slightly more (or less) modest, depending on personal style.
If you'd like to make a dress easier to get into, a tailor can add a zipper to either the back or side seam. An exposed zipper can add a design element, while a side zipper can be hidden in the seam without changing the look of the dress. This alteration is particularly easy to do when you're having a dress taken in. Tailors can also easily fix a broken zipper in a skirt or dress.
Top tips for your tailoring appointment
Because garments are tailored to fit your body specifically, the tailor needs to spend some time with you to take accurate measurements and determine your goals for the garment. You can get the most out of your appointment with a tailor by following these tips:
- Make an appointment or call ahead. Even if your tailor accepts walk-in customers, call ahead to make sure they have time to meet with you, especially if you have more than one piece of clothing you need altered or a complex garment, such as a fine suit.
- Take your time. Expect the tailor to take several careful measurements, which can be time-consuming. Leave plenty of time; some appointments can take as long as an hour.
- Come prepared. Bring all of the undergarments, dress shoes and accessories you plan to wear with the garment; remember, the length of a hem is usually determined by the type and height of the shoes you'll wear with the outfit. If you're having clothing repaired, bring any items the tailor will need, such as the extra beads or buttons that came with the clothing.
- Be honest. It's very important to communicate with the tailor as you're being measured and while trying on the garment for pinning. If you want it tighter or looser or longer or shorter, say so! Your style and preferences are as unique as your body shape, and the tailor expects you to share your opinions while working on the garment.
- Try the clothing on before you leave. When picking up the clothing after it's been altered, try it on at the tailor's shop. If it's not perfect, the tailor can likely address any further changes before you leave.
Taking accurate measurements
The key to any successful tailoring is the tailor taking accurate measurements of your body. It can be helpful to know what to expect when you'll be measured by a tailor. It's also a good idea to know your measurements when having future garments altered as well as when shopping for new clothing off the rack.
Before you measure, figure out which undergarments you'll wear with the garment. Don't wear a bra for measuring your bust if you won't wear one with the dress, for example. Recruit an assistant to help you measure, stand in front of a mirror, and make sure you're using a flexible measuring tape that won't stretch out. Stand upright in a relaxed position with your feet together; breathe normally and make sure the tape is snug against your body, but not tight.
- Neck: Pull the tape around the middle of your neck, from back to front, letting it sit at the base of your neck right about the collarbone.
- Bust: Bring the tape around your back to the front, pulling it around the fullest point of your bust. Make sure it is parallel to the floor, making a straight, horizontal line across your bust. If possible, have a helper measure you while your hands are hanging at your sides.
- Bust depth: Start at the top of your shoulder against the side base of your neck, and measure down to the apex of your bust.
- Waist: Measure your natural waist, which is the smallest part of your torso directly beneath your rib cage. Make sure the measuring tape is parallel to the floor and is pulled evenly across your front and back.
- Hips: Measure around the largest part of your hip area for the most accurate measurement.
- Front waist length: Keeping the measuring tape straight, hold it against the side base of your neck, at the top of your shoulder, down to your waist.
- Back waist length: With the help of your assistant, measure from the nape of your neck, along your spine, down to your waist.
- Back width: Again with help, measure across your back between both underarm points.
- Shoulder: Starting at the base of your neck, measure along the middle of your shoulder to the tip of your shoulder.
- Arm length: Measure from the tip of your shoulder, past your elbow, to your wrist. This measurement is most easily taken with the help of a friend or assistant.
- Many tailors offer pressing and steaming services free of charge with alterations.