Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What a tailor can & can't do (Part 1 - Suit Jacket/Blazer)

I've said it time and time again, looking good in your clothing is all about fit! It's much better to have a $250 H&M suit that fits properly then to have a $2500 Armani suit that doesn't. Trust me!

With that said, when shopping for tailored clothing it is important to understand what alterations your tailor (and by tailor, I mean your typical local seamstress) can and cannot do. So here is a brief FAQ of basic tailoring services along with approximate price ranges (based on NYC prices).

Can the shoulders be extended (made larger)?

Can the shoulders be taken-in (made smaller)?
In theory, yes, but this means reconstructing the entire jacket and can be very expensive (in many cases, more expensive than the jacket itself). For this reason, make sure you buy a jacket that fits properly in the shoulders! Cost: not worth it

Can the sleeves be made longer?
In most cases, yes, but only by the amount of fabric that is available on the underside of the sleeve, up to the beginning of the sleeve lining (see pic below). Also keep in mind the if the jacket has working or "surgeon's" buttons, those holes cut in the fabric cannot be covered or moved. A good tailor can, however, add a button hole or two if necessary to balance the extended sleeved (I wear 5 buttons on my sleeves anyway). Cost: $15-30 per sleeve (extra button hole(s) not included)

Can a suit sleeve be shortened?
Yes, but again, if the buttons on the sleeves are functional, then shortening the sleeve can bring the button holes awkwardly close to the end of the sleeve. Handle proportions with care. Cost: $15-30 per sleeve

Can a jacket be let-out (made roomier) in the sides?
More than likely no, because a typical off-the-rack suit comes with very little seam allowance on the sides.

Can a jacket be taken-in (made slimmer) in the sides?
Yes! This one alteration can make a significant improvement in the fit of the jacket. Cost: $25-$60

Can a jacket be made longer?

Can a jacket be made shorter?
In theory, yes a jacket can be "chopped", but this is risky because it can throw off the balance of the pockets as well as the proportion of the button stance. Cost: $80-100+

Can the "roll" at the back of my neck be removed?
Yes, but only by an experienced tailor. Cost: $50-75

Lastly. Is it worth paying $50-100 in alterations for a jacket or suit that wasn't very expensive?

More to come...

Yours in style,


Marvin! said...

This is a great post.

I was also wondering if all the answers apply to dress shirts as well? For example: I'm an extra small at Banana Republic and at times I can find very nice shirts down to about $20. However, I find that the shirts have too much material throughout the torso (shoulders sit at a very nice spot though). Can a tailor make it more fitted? Would it be worth it?

Thanks a lot!


Anonymous said...

Can a tailor put working cuffs on a jacket that doesn't have them?

DefineYourLife said...

I have a navy suit I bought 2 years ago that I would like to get altered and taken in. Is it possible to make pleated pants into flat front pants?

Jake said...

Absolutely agree with this. I like good mtm or bespoke suits, but I also really enjoy finding something off the rack and then paying £50 or so to get it altered. Small things like taking in the sides a bit, adding some nicer buttons, etc. make a big difference.

Incidentally, the sleeves can be shortened (a certain amount) even if they have real buttonholes. This is best done by actually taking material out at the shoulder. However, the roughly 'cone' shape of the sleeve means this can't be done by much and the fact that it requires the removal and reattachment of the sleeve means that it is, of course, very expensive.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I also live in NYC and would appreciate any suggestions on a good tailor. I have been going to the same guy for a while and was disappointed with the way a few jackets turned out.