Fix Your Malfunctioning Wardrobe Cheap: All You Need Is a Good Tailor

Cut Costs By Getting Your Clothes Tailored
Clothing is hardly the biggest-ticket item on the average family's budget; in fact, the average person only spends a little over 3 percent of his or her income on clothes. But when it comes to buying clothes or taking care of your favorite garments, the emotional value of your togs can sometimes far exceed the number on the price tag. And when they don't fit anymore, it can sometimes feel like you're throwing money -- and old friends -- away.

Luckily, there's another option: tailoring. For a relatively low price, it's possible to get your favorite shirts, pants and other garments brought in or let out to suit your changing figure.

For that matter, you don't even have to gain or lose weight before you visit a tailor. As Ian Weeldon, a stylist at New York's Dejavu Tailoring notes, a good alteration can make your new garments look like they were made for you: "Off the rack clothes are cut to sell to the widest range of customers," he explains. "Ninety percent of them are going to have issues that make them not perfect for your shape."

Most of these problems are barely noticeable, but the ones that are can really ruin the look and feel of your garment. Luckily, a good tailor can easily bring in a jacket or shorten the sleeves on a shirt, transforming an item made for the masses into something that fits you perfectly. Dejavu's prices are fairly standard -- they charge $15 to have a shirt taken in, or $5 to have a pair of pants hemmed -- but when it comes to looks, the alterations are well worth the money. This is doubly apparent when you consider that good shirts routinely cost $30 or more, and that tailor-made shirts are at least triple that.

Finding a good tailor isn't easy: There's no national needleworkers registry, no Better Seamstress Bureau to help you find someone to help you with your clothes. Personally, I had to try four tailors before I found one whose work was high quality, but reasonably-priced. Wheeldon suggests using Yelp, Zagat or other rating services. Or, alternately, he notes that you might try asking your friends: "Word of mouth is the best way to find a good tailor," he says. "Find your most fashionable friend, and ask where he or she gets work done."

After a few visits to your tailor shop, you'll get a feel for what they can and can't do -- and, in the process, you'll get a great tool for maximizing your shopping dollar. After all, if transforming an ill-fitting shirt is only a matter of a few dollars, it could be a great bargain. Conversely, if it's going to cost you a fortune to make a sportcoat fit, maybe it's a good idea to leave it on the rack.

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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Talitha Garlic

I buy my clothes at WalMart and Goodwiil. I love that some people can afford a tailor, but really? To promote this as a way to save money is just silly, unrealistic and insulting to those of us who work for minimum wage (which I would bet is not the case of the tailor).

October 07 2013 at 11:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

lol. tailoring isn't cheap (nor should it be). if you really want to fix your wardrobe malfunctions on the cheap learn to sew!

October 06 2013 at 10:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Most people who complain of high seamstressing & tailoring prices don't sew. They think it's a 5 min. quickie to do a hem. However, hems depend upon the fabric, if there's a lining, if there's a pleat in a skirt, tapered legs or cuffs on pants. Each presents different problems. A kick-pleat on a skirt may mean that the entire pleat has to be disassembled... and if the skirt is being shorted, you need to figure a way to maintain the proportions of the pleat. If a skirt is silk, it may need to be hemmed by hand. With other items, there are other issues... has interfacing been glued into the garment? Are there adequate seam allowances? Was the garment even constructed in a way to allow an alteration? When you look at older clothing from 1960s and before, even manufactured clothing was constructed in ways that showed they expected alterations to be done. When clothing was made to last, it was considered an investment. Fabrics were high quality. Garments were designed to be tailored. Clothing was expensive... so the cost of alterations seemed relatively small in comparison. Now people buy an expensive item off a discount rack... or they buy something at a swap meet or Walmart.... and they expect the work done by a tailor or seamstress to be proportional to what they paid for the item... so that they can keep their bargain. However, all too often, the cheaper the item, the more of a nightmare the alteration. A good, simple hem on a straight skirt or pair of pants takes most good seamstresses about 30 min by the time you've undone the original, pressed it out, measured, pinned, found the right color thread, rethreaded the machine, stitched, and pressed again. Most will charge between $5-12 for the hem. That means that you're paying the seamstress slightly above minimum wage.... and most seamstresses are small businesses... They own their machines, they rent their space, they pay for the thread & the electricity.

October 05 2013 at 11:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom Harrell

A "Relativly LOW price" ? ? ?------Talk about being TOTALLY out of Touch with the Real World--------------Who do you Think we are, QUICKEN LOANS ? ?

October 05 2013 at 10:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply