Altering clothes not only makes you feel pleasantly adult and responsible and "because I'm worth it" — it makes your clothes fit. Seriously, what's not to love, Dress Coders?!
Tailoring can transform your clothes. Even if you're a straight off-the-rack size, a few judicious tucks can make your clothes look like a million bucks. If you're short, have lost weight, or want to knock new life into old stuff, it's also great. I have a friend who buys everything in random sizes at clearance sales and then has them adjusted; she looks great, and super-professional. But it doesn't come cheap. Even less-expensive places will charge prices that add up, so be prepared to spend anywhere from $10 to $40 for services like hemming, taking in, and basic adjustments.
Finding a Tailor: If you buy something — say, a suit — at a high-end store, many will have in-house tailors, in which case you're set. Here in New York, we're spoiled for affordable, competent tailors and it's a case where I really find Yelp useful: you can usually get a good sense of a tailor's ability and turnaround time. Most dry-cleaners can perform these services, but again, ask around. And when in doubt, ask at a store: most have go-to people who do their repairs, and they're invested in finding someone good.
Do your research and if you're not sure about a tailor or dry-cleaner, start off with something simple or not too expensive — it's a really crummy feeling to have those expensive jeans hemmed just that little bit too short.
When you get things altered, wear the stuff you'd wear with the clothes: shoes obviously, but also undies and bra or, if it's a coat, maybe a sweater so you know how much room you need. And try the garment on so a tailor can pin them for you.
Be vocal. You want gold "jeans" thread on the hem? Most places do it, but be sure to ask. A tailor can only work with what you give them. And if you want your skirt or pants a certain length and the tailor's incredulous, don't waver: you know what you want.
If you're a real fit zealot, go so far as to buy your clothes a size larger so's they can be tailored right to your body.
Keep in mind that not every shape is as easily altered as others — and trickier ones will cost you more.
Here are some of the basic services a tailor can provide:
- Shorten sleeves
- Hem pants, skirts, dresses and coats. Non-negotiable for the short amongst us.
- Take in the body of a jacket or shirt or dress
- Taking in the waistbands of jeans — super for those of us whose waists are a smaller size.
- Adjust the shoulders of a coat or jacket (nb, probably the most expensive of these services.)
- Replace zippers or buttons (which can do wonders for a cheap coat, btw — good buttons are practically a dime a dozen at flea markets or on eBay.)
- Add a hidden snap for gaping blouses — this can be life-changing.
- Add a little snap and strap for bra straps — standard on a lot of vintage dresses and quite genius.
Sure, one can do a lot of this at home, but if you lack the skill or the time, don't feel bad: there's a reason these folks are in business.
I have had clothes sitting in my closet for years, taken them to the tailor, lopped off maybe 3 inches, and fallen newly in love. Sometimes things you think are dowdy are just slightly too long. I know they say to go through your wardrobe and toss everything you haven't worn in x months, but I say go through with fresh eyes and see what can be altered to fit better first. Tell me, have you found Happiness Through Alteration? Do tell!
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