Tailoring: The Secret to a Great Fit

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Tell me the truth: do you get your clothes tailored? If you answered ‘never’ – you’re not alone. If you answered ‘sometimes’ – you’re on the right path. And if you answered ‘always’ – you’re in the minority, but it’s a good minority to be in.

I’ve got news for you. It’s incredibly common for clothes to not fit 100% correctly off the rack. Clothes are created for a fictitious ‘average’ build and proportions – they normally only fit a size 6 fit model perfectly, and then are graded up and down for the different sizes. But I know so many people (some of them are my clients) who bemoan the fact that they need alterations. And who actually get stuck in the desire to avoid alterations. They either wear clothes that don’t fit right or keep trying to find new brands that fit them better.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for finding brands and designers that fit you well off the rack. But when you find something that you love, that makes you feel great, that works for your lifestyle and existing wardrobe – and the only issue is something that a quick alteration can cure – it’s worth the time and cost of getting it fixed. So, why do I think it’s worth it?

  • You deserve to have clothes that not just fit – but fit you well.

  • You’re more likely to feel good in (and wear) properly tailored pieces than ill-fitting ones.

  • Fit is the most important consideration when buying clothes. And less expensive clothes that fit well are better than more expensive clothes that don’t.

The reasons people don’t get their clothes tailored are pretty common – money and convenience. So, here are a few things that you may not know about tailoring that can help you spend your money wisely and make it a more productive process.


Of course, you can walk into a tailor’s shop and ask how much they charge to hem pants. But what about shortening the sleeves on a lined jacket? Or taking in the waist on your jeans? Or reshaping the torso of a dress? A good tailor should be able to give you the cost of what it takes to make your item fit like you want. They can take a look, review the construction and anything else they need. And once they tell you the cost, you’re not committed to get it done at that tailor. You can take it back home and decide if it’s worth it. Or visit another tailor to compare prices. Then you have this information in your (figurative) back pocket so that you can factor in the cost of alterations the next time you go shopping. Click here for a few more tips to make shopping more productive.

BONUS TIP: Many dry cleaners have tailoring services, but their skill (as with all tailors) definitely varies. I will trust my local dry cleaner with basic hems on pants or simple sleeves – but for anything more complicated, I recommend a true tailor shop. And if you need help finding a tailor, check out the last tip.


Some stores offer complimentary tailoring services, especially if they do a lot of alterations. This is common in men’s suiting stores, nicer department stores and select specialty stores – but what is free will vary from store to store. The most common scenario is free basic alterations (shortening pants and most sleeves) on regular price product, but they charge for marked down styles. And anything more complicated is usually an extra charge.

But even if you have to pay for the alteration, it’s worth it for the level of convenience.

BONUS TIP: I shop a lot at Nordstrom, where they do free basic alterations on regular price styles. They also will tailor things from other stores. And if it isn’t easy for you to pick up your alterations, they may be able to ship it to you (but don’t take my word for it – definitely check with your local store).


As I say (a lot), fit is the most important thing about your clothes. And while this might seem counterintuitive, it makes more sense to buy a $75 top that will fit great with a $25 alteration than a $100 top that doesn’t fit as well. Well-fitting clothes look more polished, more pulled together and they just feel better to wear (read this for more steps to looking pulled together). So, I recommend factoring in the price of alterations if you’re shopping with a specific budget.

BONUS TIP: Ok, so this is less of a bonus tip and more of a clarification. Many people feel like it’s only worth it to tailor your more expensive clothes. But I wholeheartedly disagree. You can feel just as amazing in a pair of $50 jeans that you took the time to tailor as a $200 pair. Remember – no one knows how much you paid for your jeans, but they can easily see when they don’t fit.


A common question I hear from clients in fitting rooms is, “is it supposed to fit like that?” And yes, we’ll talk through how the item was designed to fit. But you don’t have to accept the fit of an item if you don’t want to. Are you looking for cropped pants? You can hem full length pants to any length you like. Do you prefer ¾ sleeves on your blazer? You can shorten your sleeves to hit at just the right spot. Are you a fan of more fitted styles? You can slim the body of a shapeless dress to hug your curves better.

BONUS TIP: If you’re not sure what can or can’t be tailored, shop where you know the return policy. Then take the item to your tailor and have them check it out. If they can do the alteration, that’s great. And if they can’t, then you can return it.


So, you’ve never used this tailor before. You’re not sure of the quality of their work, but you have a few things that need to be altered. I recommend that you test one item to see if you like the results. I just did this with a new client – we were shortening the sleeves on her basic black blazer (instead of cuffing them all the time). She wanted to use the tailor within walking distance to her house, so she tested one item. The blazer came out fine, but the lining was twisted – so I recommended finding a new tailor for more complicated alterations.

BONUS TIP: Before you start Googling local tailors or combing through Yelp, reach out to a trusted resource to find a tailor. Do you have a super stylish friend? They probably know of a good tailor. Is there a boutique that you really like? Ask which tailor they refer clients to.

Drop a comment to let me know if you’re more open to tailoring now than you were before you read this article. And if you’re not already following me on social media, let’s fix that. You can find me here on Instagram, here on Facebook and here on Pinterest. And for inspiration sent directly to your inbox, click here to sign up for my twice monthly email with style tips, advice and exclusive subscriber-only content.


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