A common theme throughout many of my articles is the importance of understanding how clothes fit, and the best ways to find things that complement your body type. More often than not, buying off-the-rack clothing doesn't allow for the best fit since they are made for generic body sizes. This becomes more obvious when talking about pricier garments such as jackets and suits. You can avoid this, however, by taking a trip to your local tailor and getting that garment altered to your specifications.
You'd be surprised by the things an experienced tailor can pull off, and how great a tailored piece of clothing can look. Visit my man Shidi over at Honor Thy Tailor for a prime example of the improvement a tailor's skilled hands can make to your clothes, and ultimately, your overall appearance.
If I've sold you on the fact that tailoring is good but you have yet to visit one yourself, you may be asking yourself questions such as: “Exactly how do I find a tailor?”, “How do I know he or she is any good?”, “What do I need to get altered?”, and “Can he shorten / lengthen / add a cuff / slim this out…”
Trust me, I know how that feels. Hopefully I can clear up a couple of these burning questions.
How do I find a tailor?
Ask the Cleaners
Dry cleaners may be able to recommend a reputable tailor; some may even work directly with a specific tailor to service their clients… but be careful with seamstresses that do their alterations at the cleaners. They are often sufficient for basic alterations (discussed below), but trust your more complicated jobs to a real tailor with years of experience. Finally, finer department stores often have in-house tailoring, though be prepared to pay premium prices.
Yelp is probably the most obvious choice when looking for tailors in your local area. You can field tailoring recommendations from hundreds of people. Make sure to read every review objectively, and remember that those who had a negative experience are more incentivized to leave a review than those who had a positive experience… so take them with a grain of salt. On the other hand, give positive reviews their deserved weight, because if a client is happy and takes his or her time to tell people about it, that's a good sign.
Make sure to talk to someone you trust, someone whose style you like or find yourself emulating. Ask where they take their clothing; these referrals are often your best resource. You could also ask stylish friends if they know of good tailors. When you have several leads, research each one on Yelp and see what others are saying.
What Should I Know Before Going? What Am I Paying Him To Do?
Know the basics and standards of fit
The basics refer to your specific body type, and how clothes should fit on you. This topic goes beyond the scope of this article, but if you need a little refresher, go through the archives of Primer's style articles, head on over to effortlessgent.com, or email me (b(a)effortlessgent.com) and we'll talk.
The standards refer to the standard measurements of clothing in proportion to one another. For example, 1/4″ to 1/2″ shirt cuff should peek out from the end of your jacket sleeve, or a medium break on the pant leg (when looking at the back of the shoe) hits halfway between the top of the shoe and the top of the shoe's sole.
It is imperative to understand the basics and the standards, and adjust according to your taste. Just because a medium break is most common, you may desire a more modern look to your slim suit, so you would prefer no break on the pants. Go to the tailor only when you know what you want done. If you don't, the tailor may fit you according to what he believes is correct, and will not necessarily be what you want in the end.
Know some common alterations
- Getting shirt sleeves and suit jacket sleeves shortened
- Having pants hemmed
- Adding or removing pant cuffs
- General slimming of the arms and body of a suit jacket
- General slimming of the seat and legs of the pants
- Addition of darts to slim the body of a button-up shirt
Know the pricier alterations
- Any jacket restructuring involving altering the shoulders—this affects the way the jacket lays, is delicate to handle, and can be costly
- Shortening jacket sleeves with working button holes—more difficult since the sleeves have to be taken in at the shoulder seam
- Some leather work—the heavier material is more difficult to work with and doesn't bounce back from hole punctures, which limits what can be done without permanence
Trust the tailor's expertise
Be specific with what you want, but also allow the tailor to give his input if you're unsure. If he's as good as his reputation says he is (and I trust you've done your research), he most likely has plenty of years of experience and knows what he is talking about.
As I stated earlier, the first essential step is understanding how clothes should fit your specific body type. When you know this, you can easily recognize an ill-fitting garment the second you put it on, and you will know how to direct your tailor.
Still have reservations about visiting a tailor? Do you have lingering worries or questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!