Every woman needs a good tailor. Even if you buy most of your clothes off the rack, he can make the necessary adjustments—changing the hem, cinching the waist—to make your outfit look like it was designed just for you. Here are some tips on how to ‘collaborate’ with your tailor. While this takes a little more effort than ordering a dress off an online catalogue, the results are worth it: an outfit that perfectly flatters your silhouette.
1. Make sure you get the right measurements.
Schedule your visit after lunch (yes, even if you feel a little bloated) and don’t try to hide the pounds by sucking in your belly! Remember: a flattering fit is an accurate fit. Stand straight, but relax your stomach muscles to give an accurate waistline. Your tailor should also insert two fingers into the waistband when he pins the cloth.
2. Prepare garments you want to alter.
Wash clothes and make sure all stains have been removed. Tailors usually pres fabrics during and after alterations, and the heat could permanently set any dirt or marks.
If you know you’re going to have an item altered, go up a size. That gives plenty of fabric for your tailor to work with.
3. Alter pants to suggest your leg shape.
The best pants skim over your leg, and are long enough to skim the top of your shoe. This makes your silhouette look longer and leaner. If you’re restyling wide-leg trousers, make sure the tailor cuts along the inseam and the outer seam. If the bottom seems a little baggy, your tailor can snip off any extra fabric in the center seam. If the pants tend to bench around the waistband, tell your tailor to cut off the extra cloth and reattaching the waistband.
Petite women may also want to have long pants cut for their height. Aside from the hem, the ‘rise’ may often be too long. You need to pick a fabric or cut that are easy to ‘reinvent’ without losing the item’s proportion—like wool, or pants with a smooth cut and zippers found in the side or back. Avoid any pocket details that are near the waistband, since these may be snipped off when your tailor cuts off fabric.
Some trousers fit perfectly except for ‘air bags’ around the hip. Your tailor can easily fix this by cutting off the extra fabric, starting from the waistband to the lower hip.
4. Skirt materials make a big difference
Some skirts are harder to alter. Bias-cuts, if done badly, will have rippled seams. Other skirts made of clingier fabric like jersey or thin cotton might bulge to reveal panty lines. The solution for thinner fabrics: ask your tailor to add lining.
5. Jackets and coats should flatter, not hide, your silhouette.
A badly cut jacket will make you look fatter and even shorter. The trick is to cut it so it follows the shape of your body. Ask your tailor to ‘nip’ the waist, cutting off any excess fabric along the torso. If the jacket is baggy around the neck, shoulders and sleeves, your tailor can also adjust along the seams.
Shortening a jacket is harder, since the tailor can’t cut off too much without affecting the proportion of item. To avoid this problem, buy a jacket that is right for your height. It’s easier to fix a ‘loose’ jacket than a ‘long’ jacket.
Coats are more difficult (and more expensive) to alter, so it’s best to buy one that already fits your shoulders perfectly, and needs nothing more than shortening of th sleeves and length.
6. Think in terms of ‘outfits.’
If your tailor is adjusting the hem of pants and long skirts or dresses, bring the shoes you’re most likely to wear with these outfits. You can’t have it all, though: a pair that’s cut for your favorite stilettos will obviously drag along the floor when you wear them with kitten heels.
Same thing goes for jackets: what type of shirt will you usually wear underneath it? Your tailor needs to make allowances for thicker materials, especially when altering the shoulders and sleeves.
7. You get what you pay for.
Tailors can’t work miracles on items that have bad fabric and shoddy labor. So if an item’s really cheap, check the seams and the ‘stretch’ of the material. Can it hold up to wear and tear? Is it stable? Does it bulge? If it won’t lie flat and smooth out even after being professionally dry-cleaned, there’s a chance that its material tends to shrink and the entire cut of the item is wrong, wrong, wrong. Your tailor may not be able to salvage it (or the cost of having it fixed will be greater than what you would’ve paid for a high-quality item).
As a rule, buy quality items and then have your tailor adjust the way they fit against your body. Don’t buy cheap items and then expect your tailor to miraculously turn them into designer duds.