As you know, I'm a pretty big proponent of tailoring. So, when one of my favorite bloggers (Cynthia from Marcy Very Much) asked me how to find a good tailor - I jumped at the chance!
I've been using a tailor regularly since I graduated from college. I loved collared shirts from Banana Republic, but if I got the size that fit my waist, then it was too tight under the arms ... this really pissed me off! So, one day I was complaining to my sister when she said, "Why don't you just get the larger size and get it tailored?" It was such a simple response, but it revolutionized my wardrobe. If you still don't believe me, I'll relate a story I read in a fashion mag once.
They asked a group of fashion editors, "If I offered you a million dollars but said that you would also automatically gain 100 pounds, what would you do?" Most answered "heck no," but one lady said something to the effect of, "Sure, I'll take it ... I'll just get a great tailor!" While I don't like the implication that gaining weight is the absolute worse thing that could happen to a person, I love the point she makes! A tailor can do wonders!
Type in 'Tailor', and sort by distance closest to you. I would go to anyone with four or five stars. Try less expensive areas of town. Generally, the glitzier the area, the more expensive the tailor.
Be able to communicate!
I believe that Jean from Extra Petite said that her favorite tailor in Boston only speaks Cantonese, but most of his clients are english speaking Americans. I have done this many, many times...almost all of my tailors barely speak English (and I only speak English), but we made it work through gestures and a few basic words. However, if you are just getting started with alterations, then I would stick with people who speak your native language.
Interview! Interview! Interview!
Pop into a shop when you aren't getting anything altered and ask how much they charge a basic jeans hem. The importance of this question is more than just getting an idea for their prices; it also gives you an idea of their personality. First, I have found that $10 is a good price to pay for a basic jean hem. However, I have seen this price go all the way up to $20 and I have still paid that price. If I get a really good feel from the place and feel that I will get top notch service, then I will pay a higher price. Second, it is uncomfortable trying things on and getting pinned; often you will feel like a pain in the tush. You want a tailor who doesn't treat you like a pain in the tush ... who won't rush you when you get that unsure look on your face. Someone who will partner with you and turn your "something about this dress is not right ... what do you think the problem is?" into a solution. I know that this is a lot to determine in a couple minutes, but if the person is friendly, then I say go for it!
Don't give up!
A bride always goes in for a fitting before picking up her dress, right? This may be the same for your items. When you go to pick them up, try the clothing on...it may need a few tweaks.
If you are taking in the waist, sit down after they pin you. Your stomach always expands when you sit down and you don't want your waistband digging into you all day. The same is true for taking in sleeves: flex your bicep.
Don't forsake the dry cleaners!
Ok, I know this will shock most people, but don't rule out dry cleaners if you are doing something simple like hemming or getting the pockets removed. They can be a great, cheap resource. My local dry cleaners will hem pants for only $8, which is great! (Just make sure they have a place to try your clothes on in.)
Know when to fold 'em!
Sigh, sorry, it's true: sometimes you realize that "taxi cab yellow" is not a flattering shade only once you've painted the whole room. The same is true for alterations. Sometimes, you will not be able to make a piece work. Take the advice of a trusted tailor if he/she raises concerns. Also, realize that this is an art form to a certain extent. Your piece may come out different than expected, but may still meet your needs.
I can't guarantee that all of you will have successful experiences, regardless of whether you take my advice. However, I have found that if you follow these steps the vast majority of your experiences will turn out right.
Let me know if you have any questions or tips and I'll either answer them or include them in Part 2 of this article. Thank you for reading!Peace, Love and Tailoring!
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