While shopping online recently for a dress to wear to an upcoming event, I came across the perfect BCBG dress. It looked like it would fit my body type to perfection, and I instantly knew that I simply NEEDED to have it. But, since I was running on typical Mama time (late!), I only had enough time to run to one location while praying to the “fashion gods” that this dress would be in stock. When I arrived, I saw that my coveted dress was part of their window display. “Oh no!” I thought. “It’s probably really popular since its in the window! I really hope they have my size left!”
Being that I am a fairly average-sized female, they didn’t have any middle sizes, only XS and XL, of course!!! “Crap!” So I tried on the XL to get an overall idea of how the dress flowed, made the purchase, and headed straight to my trusty tailor. (See post “Size Matters?” to help yourself get over buying a size that is larger than what you typically wear.) It is IMPERATIVE that every fashionista befriend an amazing tailor. (Seamstress is a suitable word too, but for the purpose of this article, I am using the word “tailor” interchangably with seamstress to describe a man or a woman who can sew and alter clothing with great skill.) So, yes, we need a tailor who really knows what he or she is doing and who will make your clothing fit your frame perfectly and therefore look fabulous! But I’ve met so many people who struggle to find a tailor, while not even being certain of the proper way certain pieces of clothing should fit. So, I thought I would share the process that I go through to have my clothes fit correctly…the proverbial tricks of the trade!
So, first things first: How do you find the perfect tailor?
Step #1: Shop Around
In order to find the perfect tailor, use the same methods that you would use to find the perfect pair of wedge sandals for spring. Whether you are looking around local storefronts, scouring the Internet, or getting recommendations from friends, take some time to find feedback from people who have used them before. Narrow your search down to a lucky 2-4, and then make appointments to speak with them. Everyone has different attributes that they want their tailor to have beyond the basics (i.e. good prices, good listener, ability to alter the style along with the fit, or a mastery of working with specific fabrics), so it’s important that you are aware of what you are looking for, before going to your appointment.
Step #2: The interview
Take this opportunity to ask your prospective tailor/seamstress questions about their background, training, prices, specialties…EVERYTHING! This is your time to find someone who is going to fit your specific needs. After all, they are going to be taking apart your prized possessions and stitching them back together, you want to make sure you can trust them!
Step #3: The Decision
Take some time to weight the pros and cons of each of your hopeful tailors and choose which one works best.
So, now that you have found the right tailor for you and your wardrobe, let’s talk about fit, since sometimes it can go a little bit beyond your tailor’s expertise.
Alterations and Fit 101
1. A great point of reference for how articles of clothing should fit is to use each seam as a guide. The shoulder seams should lay on your shoulders, the waist seam should sit at your waist, and so forth. It’s very basic, but very true. This works whether you are shopping for petite, plus size, or even maternity clothing. Garments that are made well and sized properly will fall within these guidelines; conversely, if clothing is made cheaply, these details will give that away.
2. Since fashion trends change each season, it’s important to examine these trends and see how they are laying on models as they come down the runway. This is a great implication for how a garment should fit, especially if it is an out of the ordinary piece. It is also beneficial to print out a picture and take it to your tailor so they understand the concept that you have in mind.
3. Learn to look at fabrication in your clothing choices. Each type of fabric needs to be altered with different care (i.e heavier fabrics need stronger thread and thicker needles). Make sure that your clothing is being treated correctly!
4. For more in-depth alterations, or for very special occasions (think wedding gown!), make sure that you try the clothing on multiple times throughout the process.
5. If you are uncertain as to whether an item of clothing you love in the store can be successfully or affordably altered, tell the salesperson that you intend to go to a tailor and make sure the item is returnable if you don’t like the answer your tailor gives you.
6. Whenever you are having garments such as pants, skirt, and dresses lengthened or hemmed, make sure that you bring the shoes with you that you plan on wearing with it. Simple lengthening or hemming can make the world of a difference for a garment and the way it looks on your body, and this should not break the bank.
7. Also note that some establishments do their own alterations, some for free and some for a reasonable fee. This is usually fine, since if you don’t like their work, they are more likely to work with you to keep your business. Also, be aware that certain stores, like J. Crew, will do free alterations on their own clothing line if you use a J. Crew Charge Card for the purchase.
I hope these tips serve you well and even help bring some of your favorite garments back to wearable life!