Rare is the garment—be it jeans or jumpsuits—that fits perfectly off the rack. After all, womankind is not a cast of mannequins, but rather a glorious range of shapes and sizes. A simple inch off the shoulder or a slimmed pant leg can immeasurably boost both the quality of your clothes and how great you feel in them. Here’s how to get it right.
Be commitment-phobic. Try several tailors until you find The One. “Start with a test garment—jeans or a T-shirt,” says ELLE senior accessories editor and tailoring diehard Jennifer Gach. Does the tailor take time pinning? Are hems even? Does she seem well versed in construction, able to tell how an alteration will affect the way a garment falls? Ask about her training, where she’s worked, and the materials she’s most comfortable with.
Honesty counts. “If you ask for something and the tailor knows it’s too expensive or won’t turn out the way you’re expecting, a good tailor should tell you,” says Johnny X, production manager at famed New York City alteration shop Madame Paulette.
Come prepared. Bring what you’ll wear with the piece in question—especially shoes (which will determine hemlines) and undergarments.
Pinning P’s and Q’s.“Never pin a hem yourself and drop it off,” Gach says. “You can never get it as even as you think.” From the Madame Paulette rule book: “Make sure the seamstress who pins is the one who works on your garment,” says Johnny X. “Every seamstress has nuances in how she sews to that pinning.” Both arms of a jacket and both legs of a pant should be pinned: “You’d be surprised how many people have one arm or leg shorter than the other.”
Denim in detail. When shortening jeans, ask for the original hem to be reattached rather than creating a new hem—that’s how to keep the distressed hem you paid for. If you can’t use the original hem, have the tailor try to match the stitching of the rest of the garment.
Know your limits. Certain fabrics can be problematic: Knits can unravel once cut; silks can break down if not handled with care; and most leathers require a specialist, especially for jackets.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of ELLE.
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