Tailoring Tricks You Need to Know
The way an article of clothing fits can make or break an outfit. Whether it’s a shapeless dress, a too-tight blazer, or a pair of jeans with an unnecessarily long inseam, you probably have something hanging in your closet that looked great in the store but just doesn’t seem to work at home. The easy solution? Tailoring. We talked to celebrity stylist James Cornwell and wardrobe consultant Nancy Nix-Rice for the industry’s top tailoring tricks. Read on, and get ready to look and feel better than ever.
Befriend Your Tailor
Trusting your tailor is one of the most effective tailoring tricks out there—you’ll get better results every time. “Get on a first-name basis with your tailor,” says Cornwell. “The more you communicate, the better the service will be, and the more comfortable you will be talking about your needs. It all adds up to a better fit.”
Off-the-Rack Isn’t Made for Everyone
“Don’t expect clothing to fit you perfectly right off the rack. Think about all the different ways women can be shaped,” says Nix-Rice. “Fine-tuning the fit makes your clothes look classier, and you’ll look slimmer every time. It’s worth the investment, and it motivates you to buy fewer but better-quality pieces.”
Hit the Sale Rack
“If you’re shopping on a budget and need a tailored fit, hit the sales rack,” says Cornwell. “You can find great shirts, pants, suits, and dresses at huge discounts. Maybe the size is off by a couple numbers. That doesn’t mean you have to pass on a deep discount. Most of the time you can have it fitted to your body, as long as it’s not three sizes too big. This is an amazing way to get customized pieces at a fraction of the cost.”
Everything Can Be Made Smaller
Buy big, but don’t skimp on tailoring the less-than-obvious parts of the garment. “Buy the size that goes around your “critical fit zone” (i.e., the widest part), and anything else can be made smaller. Nothing can be made larger,” says Nix-Rice. “Go for a sleek, body-skimming fit over bulk every time. For instance, if you need a larger pant size for your hips, of course you’ll want the waist made smaller. But also have the legs tapered a bit to remove any excess fabric that would just make your legs look heavier. Taper straight skirts at the side seams, too. A slight inward angle from low hip to hemline trims at least 10 visual pounds off most women’s bodies.”
“Changing buttons is the easiest update, a DIY effort for most women,” says Nix-Rice. “Changing a bright metal button to a more matte or brushed-surface one is usually more elegant. Changing to a button in a color related to your hair makes your garment look more connected to you—changing silver buttons for gold ones if you’re a blonde, for instance. Replacing white plastic buttons with creamy mother-of-pearl ones upgrades just about any shirt or blouse. Not sure how? You’ll find plenty of instructional videos on YouTube.”
We often forget how effective a little sleeve-tapering can be. But that’s one of the easiest tailoring tricks to get a little slimming and shaping action, according to Nix-Rice: “Especially in jacket sizes above a 10, the width of the sleeve is often increased proportionally more than the body width. Narrowing the sleeve creates some daylight between your body and arms so you don’t look unnecessarily wider. Straighter, athletic build? Fitted button-front cotton shirts may tend to pull into horizontal wrinkles through your waist area. Easy fix: Use manicure scissors to carefully snip away the stitching that makes the shaping darts inside the garment. Press out the remaining creases, and you’re good to go.”
Be sure to wear proper undergarments when going to a fitting. Wear the bra you would normally wear so the measurements will be accurate. Note that Spanx will always be your best friend, tailored outfit or not.
Crucial Tailoring Tricks
1. Bring in the bust: A properly fitted bust can transform the entire look of a dress or top.
2. Take in the seat so the fabric doesn’t bunch or gather.
3. Taper sleeves for a feminine shape.
4. Tighten elastic on sleeves or bottoms of shirts.
Common Tailoring Terms
Shorten: Take length out
Lengthen: Add length as much as possible (sometimes visible hem)
Hem: Folded and sewed edge of cloth, used to protect cut edge of cloth from unraveling
Cuff: A separate band at the hem of the sleeve
Taper: Pants are made to look narrower and longer by taking them in from top to bottom
Take in: Make seat, crotch, or waist smaller
Let out: Make seat, crotch, or waist larger
New zipper: Putting in a new zipper in pants or a skirt or dress
Blind zipper: An almost-invisible zipper usually found on ladies pants or skirts
Reinforce: Support or partially replace buttons, open seams, or something similar
Seam: The line where two pieces of fabric are connected with thread
Lining: The inner layer of fabric on a piece of clothing. Helps to conceal construction details and aids in putting the piece on and taking it off
Darning: Repairing holes or worn areas
Dart: A wedge-shaped fold of fabric, generally stitched in around the bust or waist
Figure-Friendly Shirt Tuck
Sometimes a quick switch in the way you tuck in a shirt can transform your waistline. Nix-Rice’s favorite tip: “If you’re wearing a top or T-shirt untucked, break up the horizontal hemline by doing a quick front or off-center tuck, catching an edge of the hem into the waistband of the garment underneath and transforming the straight horizontal bottom edge into a figure-friendly diagonal.”
"Fashion tape is your friend," says Cornwell. "Fashion tape is double-sided fabric tape designed to adhere to skin and clothing. This amazing little invention can hide a million and one ill-fitting articles of clothing. It can contour shirts around the cleavage area and show off as much as you want without a 'slip.' It holds straps in place, holds sleeves up, and even in a pinch, will hold a hem in place to get you through. Fashion tape is like being your own fast tailor without the sewing."
Other Easy No-Tailor Hacks
Shoulders: A too-big shoulder (read: broad, bordering on manly) can be fixed by pushing up the sleeves—this will create volume and neutralize the big shoulder.
Sleeves: Roll them a few times for a laid-back, intentional look that will mask too-wide, too-long, or too-short sleeves.
Armholes/Torso Width: Wear as a layer, not a stand-alone piece.