How to Do Alterations On a Suit

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Rarely does a man’s suit, especially one bought “off the rack,” fit properly. You will probably need to make some minor alterations.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape and ruler
  • Needle
  • Thread in matching colors
  • Thimble
  • Sewing machine
  • Chalk
  • Pins
  • Sewing tape
  • Paper and pencil or pen
  • Make all measurements first, keeping the “fit facts” in steps 2 through 5 in mind.

  • Measure the shoulder area by stretching the measuring tape from one shoulder to the other, across the shoulder blades. You want the suit jacket to hug the shoulder blades but not be so tight that it looks as if the seams will burst any minute, nor so loose that it looks as if there is a small canyon running down the back of the suit. The jacket should hang smoothly from the shoulders, with a little bit of drape lower down on the back, then expand slightly again over the rear end.

  • Make the jacket long enough to completely cover your rear end. If it isn’t long enough to do this, take measurements from the bottom hem of the jacket down to just below where the hip (actually, “butt”) meets the thigh so that you will know how much to let the jacket hem out. If it is too long, take the same measurements so you will know how much the jacket needs to be hemmed up.

  • Measure the sleeves so they hang right in the middle of the wrist bone. You want about 1/2 inch of shirt cuff to be visible.

  • Make the pants legs long enough so that one (and only one) slight crease is seen before the pants legs touch the top of the shoe.

  • Use chalk, pins or fabric tape to show where and how much you need to alter the suit. If necessary, write down the measurements on a sheet of paper or in a notebook.

  • Make the necessary alterations, according to the measurements taken. Use the sewing machine for large areas, such as the back seam on the suit jacket or the hem of the suit jacket. Hemming cuffs will probably require hand sewing.

  • Have the wearer try the suit on again AFTER alterations have been made but BEFORE any seams have been trimmed. If adjustments are needed, you will still have enough fabric to work with.

  • Trim seams to about 1/4 inch once you have determined that the alterations are correct.

Tips & Warnings

  • The words to remember here are “minor alterations,” not “makeover.” If it is apparent that the suit simply does not fit, then a larger or smaller size should be tried.
  • Sewing equipment that is in good condition will make it easier to alter the suit. Scissors should be sharp; sewing machines should be well-maintained and in proper working order.
  • If it is necessary to stand on a small stool or ladder to take measurements, be sure your footing is secure. Use care when climbing on and off the stool or ladder.

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