Types of alteration services

The most common reason to visit an alteration shop is to have hems and sleeves adjusted on skirts, dresses, jeans, slacks, shirts, bouses and blazers.

Other popular services include mending and resizing garments. Mending services include repairing holes and tears and replacing broken zippers. Size changes can be achieved through adjusting or adding darts to blouses, dresses and blazers. Seams can be taken in or let out to improve fit. The waistlines of pants, skirts and dresses can also be adjusted.

Best fit for pants, dresses and jackets

Here are best-fit guidelines for men and women:

Ideally, the pant leg falls to the top of the shoe and fabric does not touch the floor.

Jacket and blazer sleeves should fall to the bottom of the wrist bone on the thumb side when arms are resting at both sides. For men, shirt cuffs ideally fall one-fourth to one-half of an inch lower than the blazer sleeve to show a show minimal cuff.

An empire waist flatters women with fuller hips and a smaller torso by bringing attention to the waist. An empire waist also flatters straight female silhouettes by creating the impression of a curvy figure.

Custom, or bespoke, tailoring

Custom tailoring is the process of making clothing to fit an individual, and differs considerably from alterations made to a ready-made piece of clothing.

Custom tailors, also known as bespoke, or made-to-order tailors or dressmakers, are highly knowledgeable about how to get a good fit, and about sewing and clothing construction methods. They often work in specialty clothing boutiques and family-owned businesses, or as independent tailors.

Costs depend on the type of item, type of fabric and embellishments, amount of detail requested and prices of the specific tailor. Shirts generally cost at least $100, pants cost at least $250 and jackets are at least $350.

Custom tailoring takes between one to six months, depending on amount of detail and garment type.

Tips for finding a tailor:

Research and get recommendations

In addition to consulting Angie's List, ask friends and family for recommendations for dressmakers or tailors. Ask your favorite dry cleaners if they have an alternation or tailoring staff or could make recommendations, since they often work with expensive, custom-made clothing.

Seek specialties

Ask whether a sewing professional has experience creating the kind of garment you want. Ask to see photos or examples of the dressmaker's or tailor's work.

Ask for quotes

As noted above, custom-made clothing can be very expensive. However, the price depends on several things, including the type of garment you want, the complexity of the pattern, whether you need a pattern made for you, and the fabric used. If you have to undergo numerous fittings, that will increase the cost. Ask for an estimate before commissioning any work.

Expect fittings

You'll be called in at least once or twice for fittings. Fittings take time, so you may want to look for a seamstress or tailor who works close to where you live or work.

Cost-saving tip: If you can't afford custom-made clothing, having store bought-clothes professionally altered can be a good compromise. The secret of many well-dressed people is that they take their moderately priced clothing into a dry cleaner, seamstress or tailor for alterations for a close to custom fit.

Restyling services

Sewing experts can provide additional services, including restyling clothes and repairing fine leather. Restyling keeps clothes current. Sewing experts who provide this service can convert necklines to accent the chest or elongate the neck. They can turn a dress into a skirt or alter the style of the sleeves to create a fresh look.

Minor fine leather repairs involve carefully weaving new stitches to blend into the fabric. Extensive damage to a leather garment may require new material to replace the original leather.

Fur care

Work with a reputable fur salon before deciding to buy a fur coat. It's best to hire a professional to repair, clean and store your precious fur.

Learn more: Buying and Caring for a Fur

DIY tailoring

DIY tailoring is not as simple or easy as it sounds. Sewing a hem or stitching a seam is not tailoring. To get the fit and lay you want for your clothes to fit right usually requires a sewing machine, serger, seam breaker, sewing mannequin, irons and various other seamtress tools. Tailors even use specific type of sissors called shears.

For most consumers it's not worth an investment in tools or material. Not the mention the damage that can be done by incorrectly cutting a piece of fabric or finished garment. If you're not willing to learn or don't have the patience to apart seam, leave it to the professionals.

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