12 Game-Changing Tips for Clothes Alterations

Because fit is everything.

blake lively suit
(Image credit: Archive)

"Why do Europeans always look so good?," Michael Kors once posed. "They have a relationship with their tailor and spend the time and money to make their clothes look their best."

Tailoring is every style icon's worst kept secret, and yet, people aren't taking a bespoke approach to building a wardrobe like they used to. We suspect that part of the problem is that many are intimidated by the process, from choosing the right tailor to knowing what questions to ask when you're there. In our experience, the role you play is just as important as who you work with. On the same token, you don't want just anyone tinkering with your clothes — being choosy is key.

For insight, we looked to tailor-to-the-stars Mario Gonzales, who's currently overseeing alternations for Hunger Games: Mockingjay stars Jennifer Hudson, Elizabeth Banks, and Josh Hutcherson, as well as president of Saint Laurie Merchant Tailors, Andy Kozinn, and a master tailor from New York's Madame Paulette. They told us exactly what we need to know before stepping in front of the three-way mirror, as well how to find the best tailor on the block. And for good measure (pun very much intended), we included editors' tips we've picked up along the way.

Getting the Right Fit:

1. Test how the garments will photograph

Bring a camera! "Everyone wants to look as slim and clean as possible, especially in the age of social media," explains Gonzales. "You're going to want to see it in a photo."

2. Listen to your tailor

"Trust us, we know what's going to make things look cleaner and more fine-tuned, be it lowering the neckline, shortening the hem, or tapering the sleeve." - MG

3. Accept when it's not going to work

"It's better to tell clients up front that a garment isn't plausible — we shouldn't be giving false hope. Either we can definitely do it or we can't. It saves everyone time" - MG

4. Bring the correct undergarments

"Whether it's the bra, corset, Spanx, or underwear, it's always good to be prepared." - MG

5. Bring the shoes, no matter what's being altered

"Shoes are essential to not just achieving the right length on a hem, but fully realizing the look." - MG

6. Editors' note: bring inspiration photos

If you want your dresses form-fitting like Joan Holloway, or a suit to lay as it does on Katherine Hepburn, bring photographs or pull images up on your phone.

Dress, Style, One-piece garment, Monochrome, Monochrome photography, Black-and-white, Vintage clothing, Bicycle wheel, Gown, Door,

(Image credit: Archive)

How to Find the Right Tailor:

1. Do your research

Editors' Note: Look on Yelp or Angie's List for a tailor who constantly receives positive reviews, particularly from customers that fit your demographic.

2. Look at the team

"A good tailor is really a team of tailors—a designer that understand the human shape, fabric expert, customer service person, and good business person. No one person can do it all." - AK

3. Asses their work

"Ask to see samples of their work or their workrooms." - AK

4. Observe them in action

"A good tailor is very thorough when doing a fitting, careful with measuring, and takes their time with accurate pinning. They ask questions pertaining to the garment, and voice their opinions and concerns." - MP

5. Be mindful of red flags

"When the tailor is less attentive, rushes with a fitting, or puts too few pins, it's a red flag." - MP

6. Prioritize honesty

"He or she shouldn't claim that they can make anything you want. He or she must recognize their limitations. A tailor should explain their process thoroughly so there's no mystery to it. Remember, manicurists and haridressers are licensed. Tailors are not! There are many folks pretending to be what they are not." - AK

Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.