The Magic of Alterations


By Ms MakeItOver Bernadette Lis

How many times have you stared into a store dressing room mirror and said to yourself ,”This fits pretty well. The shirt is a little boxy, but that’s the fashion right now.” Alternatively, you’ve also thought, “This dress fits well. I don’t really like the short sleeves that long and the hem is only a little too long. I can get away without doing anything to it.” This kind of thinking is toxic! You are doing yourself the worst kind of injustice listening to that toxic inner voice and are giving yourself nothing but frustration in trying to achieve an attractive look if you listen to that voice! Yes, you are worth the alterations. You deserve to have your clothes fit perfectly and to feel wonderful and attractive in them.

I can think of only a handful of my clothing pieces which I have not had to hem, change or shape to suit me in one way or another. Just looking at my “before alterations” pictures is depressing for me, leaving me feeling like a fat troll! (It is a great diet motivator, though!)

All of my pants have had to be hemmed up. That’s a given written in stone for me so I will only show the one pair as a “before”.

The magic of alterations

First up is a fabulous-for-me blue and grey leopard print embellished tee and a pair of white jeans (trailing on the ground, as usual!). I shortened the hem of the pants. On the shirt, I sculpted the extra fabric out of the waist, hemmed up about four inches off the shirt hem, and shortened the three-quarter length sleeves to above my bust (I don’t need visual weight added to my bust, so never wear short sleeves which end at my bust line.) Short sleeves are better for the climate here and also give me an excuse to wear a third piece if needed (very rare!). The original three-quarter sleeves were not quite fully long-sleeved on me! Why didn’t I just make the tee, you may ask? The answer is that I am in love with the print (my usual weakness) and the fabric is not to be found! In the “after” picture, I am wearing a pair of grey jeans which also had to be hemmed up.

The magic of alterations


This handkerchief tunic was way too long for me (almost a dress!) but I love it now that I took four inches off the hem!

The magic of alterations

This porcelain print babydoll was also way too long for me and the long sleeves came below my fingers! The sleeves were slimmed down slightly and shortened and several inches were taken off the hem.

Now for some more alteration inspiration.

The lovely and kind ladies of the (SSSC) Style Sisters Sewing Circle (a sewing group within Evolve Your Style or 7 Steps to Style interested in doing or learning to do their own alterations) have kindly shared some of their results.

The magic of alterations

Toni Trott (our “fearless SSSC leader” and organizer) shares how she took an evening gown into a foxy-looking cocktail dress. Note the neckline and sleeve changes!

The magic of alterations

Carole has proven that yes, you can update and alter knitted cardigans! She shortened the long dress and altered the cardigan too!

The magic of alterations

Carole has also done a great job tweaking this lace shrug.

The magic of alterations

Jessie  took a first-time plunge at sculpting in the waist of her tee shirt. So much more waist-flattering now!

The magic of alterations

Kerry  successfully altered what few of us would try to do! She found a thrift store pair of boots and took them in by hand to fit her slender figure!

The magic of alterations

Celine Jalbert (SSSC member) did a marvelous job of shortening her coat length and sleeves to suit her.

If you want to learn to do your own alterations, you can join the Style Sisters Sewing Circle, it is free with either an Evolve or 7-Steps program just for the asking! There are all levels of sewers in the group.

If you need to find an alterations person, sometimes they can be found at a dry cleaner’s establishment or word of mouth but you may have better luck asking at any fabric store for a seamstress. Alternatively, a fashion design school bulletin board or guidance counselor may point you to a starving artist who is willing to do alterations!

If you know that something is just “wrong” and you don’t know what needs to be changed, just that it’s not “right”, do join Evolve or the 7 Steps program for some self-discovery!

Thank you to all the wonderful ladies in the Style Sisters Sewing Circle for sharing your work!

Read more blog posts discussing alterations.

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  • Great post! I agree on the need to fine tune fit and while I have basic sewing skills, I would entrust any serious alterations to a tailor (at my dry cleaners). As Bernadette said, so many of us accept a poor fit as the norm when it really degrades our look.

  • I am forever altering stuff, especially if I bought it in a sale, or second hand! I’m not very tall, so always have to shorten skirts and pants, and I also like fitted clothes, and a lot of the stuff you see in the shops is way too baggy. Anything really special I take to the professionals, but mostly I have a go myself.

  • Thank you Bernadette, Imogen and friends , At first I just skim read this article but after I couple of days of reflection I realised I do alter my clothes in a very simple manner. I am plus sized and so am probably the apple shape (big all over including tummy). I have a number of woven casual shirts that have vertical darts to give the shirts a waist. I have tummy not waist so I have been unpicking all the darts (anti-sculpting the waist!) to give me more room. I have also noticed that I now tend to buy shirts that have pintucks across the bust so it balloons out over the tummy.

  • Great alterations! I’m very impressed with the cardigan reshape – I can’t imagine how it was done. I’d love to know that technique

    • Style Sisters Sewing Circle is a sub-group within Evolve or 7 Steps to Style. We share tips and ideas on alterations within that facebook group with each other as well as “walk through” some beginners who are interested in learning to sew or do their own alterations. All different levels are welcome.

  • This is great! The ladies shown have done excellent work. How do I join the Style Sisters Sewing Circle? It sounds like something I would absolutely enjoy.

    • Membership to the Style Sisters Sewing Circle is free for the asking by any member of Evolve or the 7Steps to Style, Barbara.

  • What an awesome post!! I have already taken several items for altering. How was the lace shrug taken in? I seem to need that done to several jackets.

  • This a wonderful post for those of us who are petite. Encouraging to see the difference 4 inches can make, go ahead, cut it off !!

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