Ask Belle: How to Find/Handle a Tailor

Oct 17, 2012

Belle,

I purchased my first suit earlier this year and I hate it because the jacket is too big. I have a large bust (34 D/DD), very small waist and hips. So, while i’m a small/xsmall in regular tops, my jackets and buttoned shirts need to be a size up to accommodate “the girls” and my hips. But, when I spoke to the tailor about altering the jacket sleeves to fit better (thin arms/wrists) she somewhat scoffed and said, “that’s how it’s supposed to fit”… I was a total newbie so I believed her. 

So, Belle, how does one go about getting a legit tailor who will make my garments sing when I wear them?  Is it even possible for the sleeves to be taken in width-wise? Or are me and “the girls” just shit-out-of-luck in the blazer department?

Thank you!! Amanda

Sleeves can be taken in, but you need to be careful about how much.  You don’t want to look like you have peg arms.  But yes, it can be done by a competent tailor.

Here in D.C., I like Cheryl Lofton in the Shaw area and Stephen the Tailor by GWU.  But no matter where you live, finding a good tailor is as simple as checking review sites, like Yelp, and picking up a phone.

Make a list of tailors with good reviews and then call them to get a gauge of their prices.  Someone who is a knowledgeable tailor should be able to give you a range of what narrowing a sleeve on a blazer should cost.  Not an exact price, but a range.  If they refuse to give you even a basic range, in my experience, that is not where you want to go.

Then, call the nices men’s suiting or women’s clothing store (that isn’t a chain or department store) in your town.  Ask them if they do tailoring on site, and whether they take garments purchased elsewhere in for tailoring.  If they don’t offer tailoring on site at all, ask where they advise customers to take their garments.  This should give you a good idea of who is reliable.

Always try on a garment when you take it to a tailor.  Then stand in front of the mirror and show the tailor what the problem is, ask what can be done.  They’ll pin the garment, and if it still looks wrong to you, say something.  Be respectful, but don’t just assume that they’ve got it right because they’re the tailor.  It’s your garment, you’re always right.

Lastly, when talking to a tailor, never take no for an answer.  If a tailor tells you no and then leaves it at that, they’re probably a hack.  A good tailor may say that they can’t do something, but they will always suggest something they can do.  

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  1. BN says:

    “nices[t] … women's clothing store (that isn't a chain or department store) in your town”

    What would this be for DC?

    Thanks for the great tailor tips!

  2. Nina says:

    Cheryl Lofton's staff is truly excellent. I had a tiered chiffon bridesmaids dress extensively tailored there – a super difficult project, some of the chiffon layers were even pleated – and it fits perfectly. I am now looking for excuses to wear it because it fits me so well!

  3. J says:

    I've gone to a tailor at Metro Center a few times and they've been great and reasonably priced – I don't remember the name but it's right next to Macy's. I've only had pants and dresses hemmed – but i'm sure they could fix a blazer.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I just wanted to echo Nina's comment about Cheryl Lofton – she and her staff are the best! I also have a large bust and small waist/hips, and she made my newest suit jacket fit perfectly. She even took it in more for free when I was not totally happy with it the first time around. She's also done some button-front shirts for me, and they are MUCH more flattering now.

    I can't say enough good things about her!

  5. gingerr says:

    It would probably be worth you time to study up on jacket design. Some jackets will alter more easily with less expense than others.

    I have short arms and often take jackets in to have the sleeves taken up. Rolled-up sleeves say, “I should ahve had this taken up” when I see other people in them. If the jacket has a placket/buttons that almost always is removed. If it's long enough to remain it will be more intensive to alter because they have to work with the facings.

  6. Amanda says:

    Thank you, Belle! This is very helpful =)

  7. Becky says:

    Another shout out for Stephen the Tailor. I've had repeated successes there.

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