I have long been a strong advocate of alterations. I’ve had my own clothing tailored for years, and back when I worked as a wardrobe consultant, I always suggested alterations to help take my clients’ garments from good to fabulous. It’s difficult for many of us to achieve a perfect fit “off the rack,” so tailoring can help fill in the gaps so our garments fit us like a glove.
When I first started having my clothes tailored, I pretty much stuck to standard types of alterations, things like pants hems and minor nips and tucks. However, at some point, I lost my way and started using alterations as a means of completely overhauling my clothes. I slipped into what I now term the “dark side” of alterations.
In today’s post, I will share my insights on both the bright and dark sides of altering our clothes. I’ll fill you in on the types of tailoring that has served me well over the years. I’ll also highlight some of my alteration failures and offer tips on tailoring that is best avoided. I hope to save some of you from making the types of mistakes I’ve made so you won’t throw “good money after bad” the way I have. I can’t bring back my lost dollars, but perhaps I can prevent some of you from losing your precious money through tailoring nightmares.
The “Bright Side” – Successful Alterations
Let’s start on a high note. While I’ve made a lot of mistakes in tailoring my clothes, I’ve also experienced quite a few alterations victories. Fortunately, the successes have far outweighed the failures and I’m very grateful to have discovered the power of alterations to help me achieve better fitting clothing. Some of the alterations that I’ve successfully had done over and over again include:
- Hemming pants – This is a clothing adjustment that most of us have done. In my case, I’m usually lengthening my pants (to the max, no less!) rather than shortening them. This is pretty much an alterations “no brainer” and many people even handle this adjustment themselves.
- Hemming Skirts and Dresses – As hemline trends have changed (or my preferences simply shifted), I’ve been able to adjust my skirts and dresses accordingly. As long as a skirt or dress is a straighter shape, this is an easy alteration to make. I’ve even successfully shortened a maxi dress to knee length.
- Shortening Straps on Tank Tops and Dresses – Even though I’m tall, straps on tank tops and dresses are often too long on me. For just a few dollars, I’ve been able to have these straps adjusted to the optimal length for me. No more having to yank up necklines or pull fallen straps back up on my shoulders!
- Taking in Waistlines on Pants and Skirts – Since my waist is fairly small in comparison to my hips, I often have to take in the waistlines of my pants and jeans at least an inch or more. I sometimes have to do the same with my skirts as well. This alteration has always been successful for me and usually only costs me only ten dollars or so.
- Taking in Sides of Tops, Jackets, and Dresses – This is another common alteration for me, as I have broad shoulders and a narrow torso. I often need to size up in order to get a good fit in the shoulders, so the body of many of my garments is a bit too large as a result. As long as one is only taking the sides of a garment in an inch or two on each side, this is a fairly easy alteration that has virtually always been successful for me.
- Shortening Tops – Since I have a relatively short torso, many of the tops I buy are too long, particularly in the case of those I want to wear with skirts (and not tuck in). I’ve frequently had my knit tops with straight hems shortened, which is an easy and inexpensive alteration.
- Tapering Pants – As pants are so difficult for me to find, I opted to narrow some of my wide-leg pants and jeans to the straight-leg silhouette that’s more in line with my newly preferred pants style. Since the tapering started at the knee of the garment and wasn’t a severe modification, the alteration was successful for me in all instances. I now have pants that I feel are more modern and flattering as a result.
As I looked through all of my clothes, I noticed that at least half or more had been altered in some way since they were purchased. The alterations mentioned above constitute the bulk of what I had done. I also had sleeve hems taken down, wrap-style garments sewn shut or snaps added for modesty’s sake, skirt waistbands altered, and pants pockets removed and sewn shut. I have been happy with all such alterations and feel that they took good garments and made them even better.
Here are a few garments that I’ve successfully had altered during 2013 (click for a larger view):
And Then There’s the “Dark Side”
So that’s the good news of my alterations journey, which is fortunately a much larger part of the equation. But unfortunately, there’s also a darker side to my tailoring experiences, a side that has grown larger as I’ve become increasingly cavalier about the power of alterations.
As I shopped, I began to envision how my tailor could re-work various garments that I tried on. I mistakenly viewed many of these potential transformations as “easy;” thus I brought home a number of garments which should have remained in the store. If an item in question was purchased at a second-hand store, I was unable to return it, so I often proceeded with ill-advised alterations even against the good judgment of my talented and knowledgeable seamstress.
While the alterations I mentioned above are fairly straightforward and generally result in a favorable outcome, many other nips and tucks are “tricky” and may not always produce desirable results. Such alterations include but are not limited to:
- Shoulder Modifications – Anytime the shoulder area of a garment needs to be altered, we’re talking a lot of money and questionable results. Taking in or letting out a garment in the shoulder area is risky and is usually not advisable.
- Pants Rise Changes – Sometimes the rise on a pair of pants may be too tight or perhaps a bit droopy. While one might think it would be easy for a tailor to take this area in or let it out a tad, this is not an easy modification to make. In such instances, it’s better to keep looking for a pant that fits you better in this critical area.
- Tapering a Flared Skirt or Dress – While it’s usually quite simple to narrow a straight skirt, it’s much trickier to do this with an A-line or flared garment. It’s difficult to get the slope of the line just right, so the result may end up being a bit “off.”
- Shortening a Flared Skirt or Dress – It’s easy to shorten a straight skirt, but the same can’t be said for a more flared silhouette. If you shorten such a skirt or dress more than a couple of inches, you may significantly change the line of the garment such that it doesn’t hang or look right at all.
- Taking Up a Neckline – While I’ve been able to have the neckline of some of my tops raised successfully, I’ve also ended up with less than ideal results. This type of alteration involves taking a garment up at the shoulder line, which usually involves removing the sleeves and sewing them back on. This can be costly and a good result is nowhere near guaranteed. Far better to either wear a camisole under the top or search for a top with a more suitable neckline.
- Taking Anything In Too Much – A good rule of thumb is that garments can be taken in approximately one size. If you lose a lot of weight, it’s usually better to purchase new clothes than to try to tailor down your existing garments.
- Multiple Nips and Tucks – If a garment needs too many modifications in order to fit you like a glove, it’s probably not the right garment for you. If you need to take something in a bit in one or two places, that’s generally fine. But any more than that and you’re basically reworking a garment, in which case you’d be better off finding something that’s a better fit for your body from the get go.
Personal Examples from the “Dark Side”
Sadly, I have more personal examples of alterations’ dark side than I care to count. I’ve committed the “seven deadly sins” mentioned above and more! The photo below (click for a larger view) shows some of my alterations failures from this year alone!
Here’s a brief overview of where I went wrong, listed from top to bottom and left to right.
- Black long jacket – I bought this jacket at a consignment store and it was way too big for me. I definitely should have left it in the store, but I opted to buy and tailor it instead. My tailor even warned me against making the alterations, as too much needed to be taken in all over. But since I couldn’t return the jacket, I went ahead with the tailoring. Sadly, the end result looked “off” and I ended up re-consigning the jacket after wasting quite a bit of money on alterations!
- Blue zip-front top – This was another consignment store buy. I liked the color and zipper detail, but the top had an uneven hem. Unfortunately, since the fabric was thin and flimsy, it was difficult to get the hem right and the zipper continually weighed down the top, causing me to have to readjust it often. I wore the top twice, but ultimately decided it was far too “fussy” to keep.
- Black and white coat – I bought this coat online at a bargain basement “final sale” price after seeing it on a style blogger. Although the style blogger wore the same size as me, apparently her shoulders are less broad than mine. I had the shoulders of the coat let out as much as possible (not cheap!), but it still wasn’t enough! The coat was never comfortable to wear, so I consigned it without ever having worn it. Note to self – don’t buy final sale items online, and don’t try to “rescue” bad buys through ill-advised alterations!
- Green/grey striped waffle top – This top didn’t look right without the cuffs turned up and the sleeves were too short that way. So I had the sleeves shortened to ¾ length. Unfortunately, however, they were shortened too much and now ride up above my elbows when I bend my arms. In the future, I will measure the sleeves on a ¾ sleeve top that works for me and use that sleeve length as a guide. This top will likely be consigned, though.
- Grey skirt – This alterations failure really makes me sad, as this was a favorite skirt of mine and I have yet to find a suitable replacement. I tried to have the skirt both narrowed and shortened to a more modern length and shape, but the result was unflattering and “off.” I wish I would have left the skirt alone and continued to wear it as it was. Difficult lesson learned – don’t try to completely remake a garment!
- Leopard print coat – This coat was boxier in shape than I liked, but I bought it because I loved the print and “the price was right.” I later tried to have it tailored into a more fitted shape, but it didn’t work out. The result looked unnatural and unflattering. Although I had worn the coat several times prior to the alteration, I think I only wore it once afterwards. I didn’t really like the look either way, so the coat should have remained in the store!
- Leopard print tee – I wore this top a number of times but always felt it was too low-cut on me. I was constantly tugging it up in the front, so I tried to have the shoulders taken up to make the neckline more modest. Although I have had this type of alteration done successfully, this time it didn’t work out. I think the cap sleeves combined with the relatively flimsy fabric made it difficult to alter this particular top. The sleeves had to be removed and sewn back on and they just didn’t hang right afterwards. I was sad to have to let this top go, but it never really worked well on me to begin with.
- Red print skirt – This story is similar to that of the black jacket described above – a consignment store buy that was too big for me (in this case, the length was the main problem). I thought it would be easy to just shorten the skirt, but because it needed to be shortened considerably, the line was off as a result. I then had the skirt narrowed, but it never ended up looking right. I wasted far too much money trying to make a skirt work that I should have never bought in the first place!
Lessons Learned and New Promises Made
As you can see, I’ve learned some very difficult, not to mention expensive, lessons in regards to alterations. I’ve either thrown good money after bad trying to remedy poor purchasing decisions or I simply miscalculated what a tailor can really do to modify a garment. I wish I could turn back the clock and regain the lost money, but as with all mistakes, that isn’t possible. All I can do is learn from my mistakes and try to help others not to follow in my misguided footsteps.
As of today, I vow not to attempt any more “risky” alterations or try to remake garments by means of tailoring. I will only use a tailor for simpler, more straightforward alterations like the ones I mentioned above under “the bright side.” If a garment needs to be modified considerably in order to fit me, I will leave it in the store and search for a more suitable alternative. I won’t allow impatience and my “I want it now!” mentality to push me into making ill-advised buys. Also, if my tailor recommends that an alteration not be done, I will listen to her and heed her advice!
I remain a strong advocate of tailoring and I will continue to have alterations done to my clothes. However, I will only pursue prudent alterations from this point forward. It’s taken me many mistakes and a lot of wasted dollars to know the difference, but now that I know better, I will do better. If my sad tales of alteration failures have saved at least one person from throwing caution to the wind and money down the toilet, I will feel at least somewhat vindicated for my past faux pas.
I know some of you have a lot of experience with alterations, either via an experienced tailor or on your own, so feel free to mention any alteration tips that I might have left out. I definitely don’t want to dissuade anyone from altering their clothes. I just want to help you make better tailoring decisions and maximize your clothing dollars. Any other tips to help people achieve that goal are welcome. No need to flog me any further for my mistakes, though! I’ve already done quite enough self-flagellation and I really do “get it” now!
What a great post — thank you. I can’t count the number of times I ruined an “ok” item trying to have it altered so it was “perfect.” While I assume I’ll always use a tailor to lengthen the legs of my pants, I’ve given up on much of anything else. The exception is a high quality piece in exceptional fabric — otherwise, today’s cheap, throw-away clothing just doesn’t warrant the expense.
Glad you liked the post, Bette! You raise a good point about the cheap clothing that’s so prevalent these days not being worth altering. Often the result with such pieces is sub-par. I have ruined many an “ok” garment through tailoring myself (as you read) and I learned my lesson the hard way. From now on, I’m sticking to the tried and true alterations and staying away from anything more complex!
I seldom alter anything. There could be two reasons for this: either I am of such a generally average size (5’5″, size 10/12) that its easy enough for me to find clothing I like that doesn’t require alteration, or that I hardly ever see an ill-fitting garment I am so in love with that I am willing to go through the laborious process of alteration. I pretty much draw the line at hemming and swapping out buttons.
I grew up with a grandmother who was a seamstress. All my clothing (including some of my undergarments) were hand sewn and embroidered/trimmed until I was in the 7th grade. In elementary school I was so envious of the girls whose clothing came from the chic children’s clothing store in our neighborhood. At the time I didn’t realize that my clothes were totally unique, instead I felt hopeless different. My grandmother died when I was 13, so that was the end of my custom wardrobe.
Unfortunately, to me as a teenager, “hand sewn” and “altered” garments had become synonymous with not fitting in appearance-wise. As soon as I was able to choose my own clothes, my greatest pleasure came from going to the kinds of stores where my classmates shopped, to try on a vast plethora of clothing that was “ready to go” and none of it needed altering! I just needed to find my right size.
In later years I came to realize the uniqueness of my childhood of custom clothing, crafted from interesting fabrics, but as a child we don’t have that level of maturity to appreciate! Today, I still have my grandmother’s collection of buttons, and sometimes I take them out and remember playing with them when I was a little girl, sitting on the floor in her sewing room on an oriental rug, the sun slanting in the window, a priceless memory of a typical afternoon.
I had the same experience. Both my grandmother and my mother made many of my clothes. I never appreciated them and all I wanted was a pair of Calvin Klein jeans.
How wonderful that you had relatives who sewed clothing for you, Deby and Tonya. I did have one grandmother who sewed and I remember her making a few pieces for me when I was very young. I think I did appreciate these items, but there weren’t very many of them as I recall.
I do think some people can fit into ready to wear garments off the rack better than others. My problem was tw0-fold – harder to fit and tremendously picky. There was also the cavalier attitude I mentioned. I wasted a lot of money to learn my lesson, but I will no longer try to attempt any difficult alterations. I will also try harder to find things that fit from the get go, as I don’t want to waste any more money on risky alterations!
I have had my own share of alterations disasters. Fortunately, I did them myself so I wasn’t out the price of a tailor. I have learned one very valuable lesson you shared – do not attempt to alter the shoulders on a jacket. I have ruined two, both thrifted. I have learned that if a jacket has droopy shoulders, leave it at the store. Maybe someone broad shouldered, like you, can use it.
I have had good success shortening the sleeves of two thrifted, lined jackets. There are excellent tutorials on the Internet for those of you who are adventurous. They turned out great and look really professional.
I have had mixed success shortening skirts. A few turned out great but several, not so great. Since they were too long for me anyway, I decided that they were no great loss. But I was out the time I invested in them so I am much choosier about the skirts I decide to shorten drastically.
I have also had mixed success with shortening knit tops. For some reason, they get wavy or rippled on the bottom. I have decided not to do this type of alteration anymore. But I have had good luck narrowing knit tops and shortening the straps on tank tops.
I have to shorten all of my slacks as I never wear heels. That is an easy fix, unless you measure wrong, which I have done. Again, a great tutorial saved the day and I learned how to add fabric for the hem.
All of the alterations I have tried have been on older clothes of mine that needed refashioning or thrift finds that I was willing to gamble on. I don’t think I could pay full price and chance ruining something with my alterations. I am sure I have left some good things behind but I am not much of a gambler.
I think it is so nice of you to share what you have learned. It helped me reflect on what I have learned. Thanks for being so open with us.
Thanks for sharing about your alterations experiences, Anne. You raised some very good points. I have mostly had success in shortening straight skirts and knit tops, but flimsier fabrics could be problematic and sometimes I experienced the problems you mentioned. I agree that shoulders are the riskiest areas to alter. I’m going to stay away from that one from now on! I shudder to think of how much money I’ve wasted on ill-advised tailoring. Best not to do the math, but instead to learn from my mistakes and move on!
Thanks for this great post, Debbie! After seeing you mention your hit and miss alterations, it’s actually something I’d been meaning to ask you about. I have some experience in alterations from working in a menswear store and doing my own, but it’s definitely an area I want to learn more about.
I’ve heard people likening shoulder alterations to doing open heart surgery on a garment – difficult and risky. Another thing to consider is the material of the original piece. If it’s a high quality, nice-to-wear material that’s in good condition, alterations can create something you will love for a long time, but if those fundamentals aren’t there, it’s best to look for something else.
Very good points, Emma. I like the comment about shoulder alterations being akin to open heart surgery. That really paints a good – and appropriate – picture! Your comment about fabric quality is very important. I think many of my alterations “nightmares” were at least partially due to flimsy or less than impeccable quality material.
I’ve only had a few simple alterations done. Hems on pants and shorts or sleeves. Since many places have a “short” inseam of about 30″ I usually don’t even have to have that done anymore. I guess I was lucky that the one difficult alteration I had came out well. I handed my mom my wedding dress that had much too low of a vee neck and she took up the top, reattached the sleeves, and completely re-beaded everything. It looked perfect. I never knew until now how lucky I was that everything came out so well!
I too was lucky that my Grandma Bev, a talented watercolor artist who was very experienced in altering and making clothes, was still around when I got married to work her magic on my wedding dress. She reduced the size, made the custom hem I envisioned w/ a mini “train” trailing the back, and added a gauzy hand-embellished scarf attachment. Her health declined rapidly after I got married, so I feel very fortunate to have been able to share that experience with her.
I’ve generally done ok with having simple alterations done now and again over the years. Moving around so much, the hardest part for me has been locating skilled folks who know how to provide good customer service. On the one hand I have worked with some great people, but on the other I’ve had more than one unpleasant experience with gruff and rough seamstresses whose alterations turned out only just adequate. Sometimes it’s enough to discourage me from the whole task of finding someone professional and just continue to try to get by with my own amateur efforts! It’s been a source of frustration at times, because when I do find that needle-in-a-haystack pair of pants that actually fits, I certainly don’t want them to get messed up!
I, too, have moved around quite a bit, and I have found that the seamstresses at Nordstrom Rack or Nordstrom are pretty good and I am usually close enough to one wherever I land to take advantage of them. Other “better” department stores may have similar services if you don’t have a Nordstrom.
It’s a little bit more expensive than other shops, unless you buy the clothes there, but if you have a Nordstrom credit card you get at least $100 of free alterations each year.
(And I swear I’m not shilling for Nordstrom; I’ve commented here before! My husband did work at a Rack years ago, though.)
Thanks for the thought, Mrs.M. A similar idea I’ve pondered is the store tailor at Men’s Wearhouse where hubby gets his suits.
Interestingly, I didn’t need much tailoring done on my wedding dress. As I recall, it only needed to be taken in slightly in the bodice. I think the straps were even the right length. Often, wedding dresses need quite a bit of nips and tucks, so I lucked out there (and I only shopped for the dress at one store!).
Claire’s point about having to find new tailors is a good one. I’m not sure what I’d do if I moved or my tailor moved away. She has helped me so much with my clothes for about 6 years now. I don’t go to her as much these days and she always says, “I haven’t seen you in so long!” now when I come in. I think I sent her on a nice vacation with how much business I’ve brought her (not just my own but all of the people I’ve brought to her over the years).
Thanks for recommending the Nordstrom tailors, Mrs M. I have been happy with the alterations I’ve had done there (using the $100 credit you mentioned), although they definitely do charge more than my tailor. I know you’re not shilling for Nordstrom! I remember you commenting before and I’m glad you’re back 🙂
I’ve had good experiences with alterations- but they were all simple ones. I did have a dress altered though and am going to sell it or donate it because it never fit right, and it still doesn’t. So yes, i threw more money at a bad purchase and lost out even more!!! I won’t be doing that again. I’m glad you wrote this- I’ll be even more careful in the future now!
I’m glad my mistakes may help save you from future misguided alterations, Meli! Yes, it pays to be careful and to only pursue the easier tailoring jobs. While I’ve had some luck with the harder jobs, as often as not I’ve been less than thrilled. Sometimes I’ve had to ask my tailor to re-do something (she never charged me for this) and even that didn’t always do the trick 😦
From what I read here, it sounds like you have a short torso & long leg body proportions + inverted triangle shape (broadest at shoulders.) I have the same body proportions and shape.
With shorter torso proportions it means that the vertical measurements are shorter, so, between the shoulder and your bust point and then from the bust to the waist, waist to crotch is shorter than average RTW measurements. This is why straps are too long for you, necklines too low and why you feel like lifting the shoulder seams & armholes up, as the overall area is too large on you. Reducing the shoulder seams is a complex alteration as it requires removing sleeves, cutting a new armhole and sewing the sleeves back in place.
Better to search for a label whose measurements are more in line with yours. For example, many italian labels are cut shorter in the torso. Some labels just don’t work at all. Zara does not work well for me as the shoulders are too narrow.
Have you ever considered having something tailor made to you and your measurements. I would think that you would get better value from your dressmaker to make something from scratch that fits you perfectly than trying to salvage RTW.
As a dressmaker myself the only time I would do major restructuring type alterations is when the fabric itself is worth it, such as, it is a designer print & superior quality wool, silk or cashmere worth $xxx per meter.
Finally, I do think that people who look at ways to reconstruct/remake things are on the whole very creative. So, you obviously have a very creative mind. Like all creative projects some work brilliantly and some don’t.
Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful expertise, CS! I have a better understanding now for why some clothes don’t work for me. I don’t have a standard inverted triangle shape, as my hips aren’t exactly small, but my shoulders are about 2 inches wider than my hips. My torso is definitely short and my limbs are very long. I appreciate your tip about italian labels and broader shoulders. I will try to look for such brands in the future.
I’ve never had a garment custom-made, but I’m open to that possibility. I am not sure if my tailor does much custom work, but I can ask her or see if there’s anyone else in my area who does this. What I do know, though, is that I’m no longer going to try to salvage bad garments through tailoring. While it’s true that I’m very creative like you said (thanks!), I think I’m better off applying my creativity to other pursuits that have a better chance of going my way.
I agree with nearly all of this except having the crotch depth of pants altered. Increasing the crotch depth is a routine easy fix I always have to have done, resulting in much better fit. Shortening it cannot be done as there is no fabric with which to do it-that has already been cut out to create the original seam. That said, as I shop with someone who tailors, she tells me what to avoid buying if the alteration is overly complex-you have to start with a garment that can be altered successfully.
I’ve never tried to deepen a crotch on my pants, Maharani. I’ve only tried to shorten it and it didn’t work well. Thanks for explaining the difference and that increasing crotch depth is relatively easy to do. It’s great that you shop with your tailor/personal shopper and she advises you well. Most of us don’t have that, but I know I’ve learned enough now that I can discern which alterations to pursue and which to leave alone!
As a seamstress and pattern maker I generally know what can be altered easily and cheaply — and this post covers most of the problem areas. However, I did want to point out one thing. If you find a coat or skirt with a lot of fabric that you absolutely love, you can make another garment out of the fabric. This is more than an alterations job: an entirely new (and smaller) garment will have to be cut from the taken-apart garment’s fabric. So you might be able to make a girl’s coat out of a women’s coat, etc. Some years ago I fond a gorgeous coat with badly damaged lining. A seamstress friend relined the coat for me at for short money — and voila! a “brand” new coat!
Thanks for this great tip, Dottie. I’m sure a lot of young girls would love to have a coat or dress that matches the one their mom or grandmother is wearing.
You are absolutely right about your observations. Also, the simpler the garment is made the more successful the alterations will be. I lost 25 lbs. a year ago (which translates into almost two sizes at my height). After the first 15 lbs. were gone, I was able have jeans altered, after another 10 lbs. those jeans went into the donation pile. Luckily I seem to be fairly easy to fit off the rack , but also I pretty much stay with my tried and true labels. That seems to help too.
Congrats on your weight loss, Cornelia! I’m glad you didn’t try to alter your jeans down two sizes. It’s great that you are easy to fit off the rack. I agree that it’s best to stick with tried and true labels. The only hard part is when brands dramatically change their fit and quality. I’ve experienced that recently with some of my favorite brands, which is part of why my pants pursuit has been so very challenging.
I have the same background as Deborah (Deby).
If it doesn’t fit, I send it back. My standards are probably much lower than Debbie Roes’.
I am also not fussy about things fitting perfectly as I have stopped tucking tops in. My main problem now is that I like the feel of traditionally cut pants that sit on my waist but I have a short rise so the rise on this cut is often too long for me. I am not comfortable in lower rise (below the waist) pants. My solution has been to wear the same style black jean every day and everywhere.
I am short, long waisted, with a short inseam. I wear petites in pants, regular in blouses and dresses.
I think my standards for fit are probably TOO high at this point, Sandra. Good fit is very important, but I’ve been striving for perfection and that simply doesn’t exist! It’s great that you send back garments that don’t fit and that you don’t settle for pants cuts that don’t work for you. I have seen more traditionally cut pants in stores as of late, so perhaps you’ll soon be able to enhance your pants collection beyond just black jeans soon. Fingers crossed!
I agree with all of your points about which alterations can be successful and which ones to avoid. One other item I would like to mention is in regard to hemming or tapering skirts and dresses when the garment is cut on the bias of the fabric. When cut on the bias, fabric tends to stretch and it can be very difficult to generate an even hem. It CAN be done successfully but the tailor must be extra careful and take the time to do a good job.
Good point about hemming skirts and dresses that are cut on the bias, Grasshopper. I think it can sometimes be hard for non-sewers to tell when this is the case. If you have tips for how to discern these types of cuts, it would be helpful. I wonder if some of the skirt alterations which failed for me were on bias cut garments. That would explain a lot!
A great reminder to consider the total cost of an item. One reason why I like to shop at Nordstrom, is because basic alterations are included. I rarely own a pair of trousers or jeans, that haven’t required shortening. But I have also made the mistake of purchasing items that required more than a basic alteration, and it has never worked in my favor.
I do a lot of shopping at Nordstrom, too, and I appreciate the free alterations for many items. I still get tailoring done, but where I really went wrong was in trying to totally remake garments, especially consignment items that were too big for me. No more! I almost never have to hem pants (if anything, they’re usually too short), but I have to take in almost all jackets (bigger shoulders and narrower torso) and the waists on pants (my waist is small compared to my hips – I’m what Angie calls a “pretty pear,” just with broad shoulders). I’m still a big fan of alterations, just not the crazy ones I used to attempt!
It is hard to not recognize myself in some of your recovery posts. I thought I was the only one who is a serial returner and winds up spending more than an item is worth getting it completely remade by the sweet (expert) Asian alterations lady-who must sometimes dread to see what I have brought her this time! It’s good to have you shed a little light on my own ‘challenges’. Thanks.
I think there are many of us who return a lot of things are try to re-make garments, Brenhna. But it’s embarrassing to admit such things, so most people just keep it to themselves. Yes, I have a sweet, Asian alterations lady, too, and she would chuckle at the “projects” I would bring to her. But now I’m just getting standard alterations done and not nearly as often. When I go to the alterations lady, she now asks me where I’ve been. 🙂