How to Use a Tailor to Expand Your Wardrobe

April 10, 2015

Chances are good that you were not taught that using a tailor is necessary in creating your wardrobe. Don’t feel badly. Most women weren’t. With the exception of special occasions like proms and weddings or maybe basics like hemming a pair of pants, tailors often seem like a luxury you don’t need and can’t afford either financially or in terms of time and energy expended—or both! Ahhh, not so fast.

If this is true for you, it is time to rethink this outdated approach to fashion. With every designer having a different fit model and therefore a different set of measurements with which to create the clothes, it is unreasonable to expect everything you buy to fit perfectly off the rack. But I suspect that either consciously or subconsciously you do expect that to happen, right?

While it might seem frustrating to have to take most things (yes, sometimes even the most casual items) to the tailor, the rewards are great. Once you rethink this service and see it as wonderful and actually time-saving, you will have a much happier time shopping.

Here are the 5 ways using a tailor can change your life. It will:

  1. Ease Your Mind – What a relief it will be to know that most women cannot buy off the rack (or at least not always) and wear the garments without some tweaking. At least 60% of my clothing purchases head to the tailor before I wear them. The sleeves might need to be shortened, the sides taken in or the shoulders lifted. It is liberating to become aware that there is nothing wrong with your body, but that the garment was made to fit someone else’s measurements.
  2. Open Up Possibilities – How many times have you scoured the stores looking for the perfect pair of pants that don’t gap at the waist or aren’t two inches too long? Or maybe you found a pretty sleeveless dress in a lovely color that fits around the hips but is now too big on top. Don’t just take it off and keep looking. Take it to your tailor and find out if it can be altered to fit you. Chances are good it can and if not, you can return it. Imagine the time you can save if you invite a tailor into your wardrobe rather than being limited by what fits perfectly off the rack.
  3. Get a Million $ Look – You can spend large amounts of money on an outfit, but if it doesn’t fit properly your money is wasted. It will never look like a million bucks.
    Have I worn this at least two times over the past season?

On the other hand, you can take a less expensive piece and make it look amazing when it fits you perfectly. I am not telling you how much to spend on your clothes. That’s your choice and only you know what your budget will allow. What I do know is that when your clothes fit you perfectly no matter how much you spent on them, you will look like a million wearing them! That extra $15, $30 or $50 can make all the difference in the world.

  1. Leverage Your Current Wardrobe – Do you have clothes in your closet that you are not wearing because they don’t fit well? If they are too small, chances are good you will have to pack them away until they do fit. But, with items that are too big or gap in a peculiar way a tailor can often work miracles so you can get more wear out of what you already own. Sometimes you can even breathe new life into something that just needs an update. If the zipper is broken see what it will cost to have a new one put in. Maybe you spilled something on the skirt of your favorite dress. Could it be made into a tunic or top? Or, perhaps you have a dress with cap sleeves and you just don’t love the way they make your arms look. Sleeveless often looks better so why not have the cap sleeve removed. Take a look through your closet and see where a little tailoring can mean the difference between it sitting unworn in your closet and being one of your favorites again.
  2. Choose the Right Tailor – Not all tailors are created equal and you want one that is not just adequate but great. The best way to find someone you can trust is to ask around. Find out whom your friends or co-workers use and go there. Find someone as convenient to your home or work as possible to make it easy to get there. If it’s too far away you are more likely to keep putting off taking your clothes to be altered. It is also generally best to find someone who is a seamstress and understands the mechanics of making an outfit from scratch. I have had clients who have gone to someone who does ‘alternations’ with disastrous results: hems that were crooked or pants that pucker in the back of the waist. You want to be able to trust them to say, “You really don’t want to take this in this much because it will throw that off or make it pull here…” If someone just does what you tell them to, the end result can be weird.

One final word about tailors: If you are not willing to tailor something (assuming it needs it) don’t buy it. Resist the urge to assume that it won’t matter if your sleeves are too long, the jacket gaps at the back or suggest that you wear a long sweater so no one will see that the pants are bagging at the butt. You will never feel good wearing these clothes (and you are kidding yourself if you think you will).

It is too easy to say, “Well, I only spent $14.99 on that top. It’s not worth tailoring.” Ooops, then don’t buy it. Yes, I know I am unrelenting on this because what will happen is that either you will wear it and never feel good in it (admit it!) or you won’t wear it at all because you don’t like how you look or feel in it. Either way the $14.99 is a waste of money. I once bought a top for $30. It had long flouncy sleeves that drove me crazy and the top, in general, was too long. But, the color was beautiful and the fabric felt so nice. I spent $30 having it tailored, but once I did I wore it all the time and always felt good wearing it. I would have had to search for who knows how long to find a top for $60 that I loved as much. I wore it so much that the price per wear was very low – lower than it would have been if I had kept the top for $30, never had it tailored and rarely worn it.

To get into the swing of using a tailor regularly keep this exercise handy:

  • First, find a great tailor. If you don’t have someone you trust, ask a friend, family member or co-worker to recommend someone. If you live in the Boston area, and need a recommendation, let me know. I have a list of tailors and if I know someone near you I’m happy to give you their name.
  • The next time you put something on assess whether it could benefit from some tailoring. Look beyond the regular hemming and see how else it might benefit (new buttons, a repair or lingerie straps to hold your bra straps in place, just to name a few). Be honest (it’s so easy to fall back into bad habits). If so, start a pile and set a date to take them.
  • Always calculate the cost of tailoring into your purchases. When you are shopping and about to buy something. First determine if it needs tailoring and then figure the approximate cost into the cost of the garment. Spending your maximum budget on something and not allowing for tailoring is like buying a house and then not being able to furnish it because you spent all the money on the house itself. Don’t do it!
  • Determine your best strategy. When I shop with one of my clients we go directly to the tailor before I take her home. She knows that if we don’t do that the clothes will sit for months waiting for her to do it. Figure out your best strategy for getting to your tailor. I now have a tailor that is on the road I travel 3 times a week to go to work out and yoga. I plan to leave a few minutes early and stop there first which makes it so easy.

Keep this list on your dresser or your closet door so you see it regularly until this all becomes second nature. Remember, you are rethinking an old belief and creating a new habit. Once you find someone you like you will rely on him or her to refine and expand your wardrobe and will wonder how you ever lived without a tailor all those years!

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