How a Small Alteration Makes a Big Difference


altering clothing

Most women assume that they can walk into a clothing store, take a garment, in their ‘size’ into a changeroom, try it on and it will fit perfectly. Yet women’s bodies are so varied in shape and what I call variations (boobs, thighs, arms, etc.) and manufacturing of clothing shapes and styles so arbitrary, that really, we are crazy to think this is ever going to be true. Plus there is the additional aspect of height, some of us are petite, others tall and lots of us in between.  Unless we are having all our garments made for us individually by a tailor or dressmaker (or we do it ourselves), where the pattern can be adapted for our unique bodies, then we have to understand the reality of mass market garment production, that manufacturers are trying to make something that will not be too short or small for the tall people but can be taken up by the shorter people.

So one of the most common issues with fit is the length of a garment. With trousers, most of us will get the hems taken up if they are dragging on the ground, but how often do you look at a skirt or dress and realise just that a small alteration can make a huge difference to how it looks on you?

A Small Alteration Makes a Big Difference

The lovely author Alison Goodman (who is also an Evolve Your Style participant and is doing my 7 Steps to Style program) realised that this dress was just too long, and it was making her look more frumpy.  So she had it shortened and what a difference that few centimetres makes to the overall appearance of the dress.

make a small alteration

You can see that the dress looks fresher and more youthful as it’s a slightly shorter length.  Apart from hems on skirts/dresses and pants which are probably the most altered element of a garment, my other pet alteration is the need for a sleeve to be shortened, as a too long jacket sleeve (in particular) makes the whole jacket look too large, you can see my post on that issue here.

Thanks, Alison for sharing these pictures with us – and you should go check out her books, buy them and read them! Discover Alison’s books here.

More Tips on Alterations

Alterations are Not a Sign of Failure

The Magic of Alterations

Which are the Easy Alterations

How to Find Your Perfect Fit

Tips on Alterations Plus More Weekend Reading

Why You Should Revamp Your Clothes and Accessories Rather than Buying Something New

Have You Thought About Upcycling Your Clothes?


I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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  • Another GREAT post with an easy to see example! I have sewn many dresses for myself over the years but not always liked the result….. eventually I gave up trying to make them. However , once I took my Body Proportion Measurements, ( thanks so much for this lesson, Imogen) I discovered my correct length for a skirt / dress. This was so much shorter than I expected! I was making them all too long , & , therefore , the look was always frumpy. I have now made several dresses, enjoy wearing them, &, a bonus, get a few compliments as well!

  • I’m a big fan of having things altered, particularly now that I’ve found a good and affordable tailor nearby. I had a shirt that I have to wear untucked (heavy fabric) and I loved it but never felt it looked right. I took it to the tailor and had about 2cm taken off the hem and now it’s perfect.

  • After reading your posts about body proportions and the right top length for a figure 8, I got all my jackets shortened. What a difference and way cheaper than buying new.

    I also switch out all plastic buttons for wood/bone/mother of pearl ones. A small change that adds a lot of polish to a piece. Since I’m petite, I swap out large buttons for smaller ones and have chopped off many regular collars to make mandarin collars (I also have broad shoulders).

    Being a figure 8, I also need to have pants taken in at the waist. And being petite, I need to shorten many pants, dresses and shirt sleeves. I add $20 to my mental bugdet when I’m buying anything. Iron-on sewing tape is a wonderful thing.

    I make changes to almost all my garments since I know what proportion suits me best.

  • This is why it’s harder to be tall than short (not that short women don’t have their troubles). While taking up a hem can make such a difference, the opposite is usually not possible. Very few garments are made with a deep enough hem to let down to suit those of us with excessive leg and arm.

  • I am just a huge fan of alterations! The smallest changes can make the most amazing differences! Dresses that are plain and casual can be transformed into beautiful dresses at the hand of a good tailor- it is so important to either know how to fix your own clothes or find someone who can so you always have well fitting clothes! Thanks for sharing!

  • As a petite woman I find that choices have grown much more limited over the years. I purchase from sites that have good quality fitting regular sizes and get them altered by a very good tailor. This has made me have a unique wardrobe with far more diversity in terms of choice of fabrics and designs!!

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