Your Guide to Tailoring and Alterations


For most of us, spending thousands of dollars on our clothes will always be a pipe dream. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make our high-street items look like couture. 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. Looking at “before alterations” pictures can be depressing but you are worth the alterations. You deserve to have your clothes fit perfectly and to feel wonderful and attractive in them.

Fit Points

Clothes are made by manufacturers to ‘fit’ the most number of people.  There are so many fit points in a garment, I’m not so deluded as to expect that you will be able to walk into a store and have everything, or anything for that matter, fit you.  But some garments will fit better than others. My first strategy in Creating Your Perfect Wardrobe is to recognise that you are likely to need an alteration here and there to create a good fit for your unique body.  Tailoring is key in having a wardrobe full of clothes you love, because if a garment doesn’t fit well, you’re never going to love it (and it certainly isn’t loving you back).

When you consider how many different body shapes we have, our variety of body proportional differences, plus all our other body variations (large or small bust, petite, curvy stomach, luscious thighs etc), it’s a wonder that anything fits us or looks good at all. The reality of buying ‘ready to wear’ is that it may not actually be ‘ready to wear’ for us. We may need to make an adjustment or two to make it work well for your body shape. Adding in a dart or some other alteration can make the garment fit like it was made for you, not just the coathanger. 

Tailoring and alterations

Tailoring and alterations are words that are thrown around a lot when discussing garments. While some people might use them interchangeably, they actually mean two different things.

Tailoring refers to a garment that is custom-fitted for the wearer. Of course, since the garment is custom-fit, it looks really, really good on the person it was made for. Tailoring often comes at a price if you can’t do it yourself, but it is absolutely worth it because of the huge difference it makes in the look and fit of your clothes.

Alterations are less extensive changes to the garment that also change the way the garment fits, and are usually focused on one particular fit area. It could be as simple as taking up the hem on a pair of pants or shortening a sleeve. 

Alterations are less intimidating to attempt on your own. Tricks as simple as swapping out the buttons on a garment can totally change its appearance, while ditching the belt that came with a cheap dress is almost always the right decision.

If you have no idea about sewing or patterning, there are a few Easy Alterations so you have an idea which alterations should be fairly simple (such as  Hemming Jeans Without Losing the Original Hem) and which will involve serious re-sewing.

Take Action

So over the next few weeks, go through your wardrobe and try on those clothes that you know don’t fit quite right as Alterations are Not a Sign of Failure. Decide if you want to get them altered and what needs to be done to have them made to fit you correctly, write a quick note and pin it to the garment.

Take everything that needs alterations to your dressmaker or tailor (or if you can sew, do it yourself). 

If you’re not prepared to invest in an alteration, consider if the garment still earns its place in your wardrobe and if not, then let it go… 

Your Guide to Tailoring and Alterations


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