Yesterday, I was shopping at a fun consignment store near me and tried on a jacket. It fit perfectly. Wow! I had a moment when I thought, “Yay, it fits, I’ll get it.” Believe me, that moment was fleeting, until I remembered that I need to be sure the colors were good (check), I had other things to wear it with (check, and I wore it today on a cable TV show), and I loved it (yup!).
Is this a regular occurrence for me? No. At least 75 percent of anything I buy needs to be tailored in some way, whether it’s taken in, taken up, let out, or redesigned in some way (which isn’t as daunting as it sounds).
When you open up to the possibility of tailoring a garment you expand your options considerably. Take something that once was so-so, apply a little well-placed nip and tuck or realigned detail, and there you have it – a garment that is made just for you. Whereas if you try to wear it ‘as is’ off the rack you end up looking like you are wearing someone else’s clothes (which, in essence, you are!).
Somehow we’ve gotten it in our heads that we should be able to go shopping, try something on, and wear it out of the store that day looking great, and if we can’t there is something wrong with us, with our bodies. Let me set the record straight. There is nothing wrong with you. Our bodies are individual. No two are exactly alike. We vary in height, weight, valleys, hills and all kinds of in between curves. To think that one garment could fit everyone who is 5’5 and 140 lbs, for instance, is fantasy!
Okay, so you can all now breathe a collective sigh of relief!
So, how do you know? What do you look for? Let me share with you a formula for shopping success once you find something that intrigues you:
Take the garment into the dressing room and try it on.
Complete the outfit as much as possible. In other words, if you try to evaluate a long sweater while you’re wearing shorts and a pair of sneakers, chances are really good you’ll hate it. The parts are incongruent and, as they say, “A confused mind always says no.”
Once you have it on, decide if you like the basic look. Then look for things that aren’t quite right. Here are a few quick tips to think about:
Pants, skirts or sleeves are too long. This is an easy alteration. You can waste a lot of time trying to find something that fits perfectly and is the right length when a quick alteration can take care of it.
Pants, skirts or sleeves are too short. Check to see if there is enough seam allowance to let it down. Do it before you wear it and wash it so that there won’t be a telltale sign you let it down.
Too big on top. If it has sleeves, this can be a tricky alteration. If it has straps then it’s often a super quick, inexpensive alteration to have the straps adjusted so the top fits in the right places.
Pants are too big at the waist. This is a common concern. Women either have gapping at the waist or they have to fit their waist and then it bags at the bum. Either way, if it’s minor gapping or bagging, usually it can be tailored to fit nicely. When buying a garment you want to fit the widest part of you first (whether this is your hips, waist, shoulders or bust) and then have the rest of the garment altered. Remember, it is usually easier to take something in than out.
Top is too long. Have it taken up – even if it’s just a t-shirt. This is usually one of the easiest alterations and one that most people seem to overlook. It can take a garment from looking frumpy to fabulous with a quick flip of the hem.
Pockets that gap. I often ask myself why they put pockets in women’s trousers! More often than not they gap. And, other than putting a tissue in the pocket who stores anything there – it will just add width to the hip line which most women don’t want to do. If yours don’t gap, you’re lucky. If they do, the easiest alteration (and it will have a big positive payback) is to have the pockets removed and sewn up. Easy and clean!
Go from the store immediately to the tailor. Too many times if you take it home first it will sit there for weeks or months waiting to go (I know, I’ve done it!).
Those are just a few tips to get your mind thinking in this way when you shop. If you immediately dismiss something because the fit is off you will lose some really great clothing possibilities. Yes, sometimes, the alteration is just too big or can’t be done and then, you can let it go with confidence. But, you will be surprised at how often a minor tweak here or there can make a major difference in how something looks and fits.
This part is really important: Always allow for alterations in your clothing budget. If you can’t afford to make the alteration, don’t buy the garment. And, yes, this is absolutely true…if you aren’t willing to spend the money on the alteration (sometimes people say, “Well, I only spent $19.99 on that top. I’m not going to spend $15 to alter it.”), then, don’t buy it. It will never look right and isn’t worth the initial $19.99 (or whatever) investment.
One more thing: If you don’t have a great tailor, ask someone who does. This is really the best way to make sure you get someone who knows what they are doing. The last thing you want to do is entrust someone with your garment and then get it back and find it is unwearable. I have seen this happen more often than I’d care to, so finding your tailor through a referral is the best way to avoid having this happen to you.