Being stylish and well dressed is about more than just buying good clothes. No matter what look you’re after, nothing makes you look better than a proper fit. Whether you buy your clothes in expensive boutiques or chaotic thrift shops, a good tailor can be your best friend.
Obviously, the best way to get a perfect fit is to have your clothes custom made, like our man Sean Connery in the photo above. If you’re doing that, you already know the importance of a good tailor and you can stop reading now because you don’t need my advice. If you’re not having your clothes specifically made for you, like most of us, then you’re wearing what is known as “off-the-rack” clothing. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality or a great fit. You just need to find a good tailor and know what to ask for.
Ready-made clothing, regardless of how expensive or high quality, is all made to fit a wide range of customers. As a customer, it’s important to know which aspects of a suit or jacket should fit well from the start and which things can be altered by a good tailor. It’s helpful to know that it’s alright if the clothes don’t fit perfectly right off the hanger.
In fact, if you buy your clothing from a high-end store with in-house alterations tailors, it will be expected that clothes will be left for fitting and picked up later after alterations. We all know that a new pair of pants may come with an unfinished hem and will at least need to be cuffed, and we should take the same approach with other aspects of our clothes. This used to be a given, and it’s something we’ve lost sight of in recent years. Here are a few simple things to consider and some tips for communicating well with your tailor.
Know What Can and Can’t be Fixed
There’s a lot that can be altered by a tailor when it comes to a suit, sports jacket or pair of trousers, but not everything. With jackets, the most important thing to look for is a good fit in the chest and shoulders. These parts of a jacket contain padding and complex construction, and if they don’t fit well from the start they can’t really be altered.
The sleeves may be too long or short, and the body of the jacket may be a little loose or tight, but all these things can be fixed easily and relatively inexpensively by a good tailor. Don’t let your eye be distracted by a sleeve that is a little long when shopping. When you do find a good jacket with a nice fit in shoulder, take the time to have these adjustments made. With a little effort and a little money, you can have your jacket fit as though it was custom made.
It may not seem like much, but a little thing like taking a quarter inch off the length of the sleeves can make a huge difference in how good you look and, by extension, how confident you feel in your clothes.
When you’re being fitted by your tailor, it’s important that you clearly communicate what you want. A good tailor will know what to do to make your clothes fit well, but he isn’t a mind reader. For example, a tailor may pin and mark a pair of trouser hems for you in a classic way, but if you prefer a slightly shorter, more modern look, you need to say so. Tell him whether or not you want cuffs on your pants. Explain whether you like a trim or a roomy fit in your jacket. It’s important to have a dialog.
When you pick the clothes up, always try them on before you leave to make sure everything is to your liking. If it isn’t, a good tailor will readjust things for free. The last thing you want to do is spend money on tailoring only to be unhappy with the fit of your garment. If you work with the same tailor long enough, he will get to know your preferences, you’ll get to know his work, and these conversations will only get easier with time.
Listen to the Tailor
As important as it is for you to say what you want, it is perhaps more important for you to listen to your tailor. Any tailor will just do what you ask, but a reputable tailor will also offer his own advice and even refuse to do an alteration if it is a bad idea. Remember that a reputable tailor is a skilled professional, and he knows more about the construction and cut of clothing than you do. There will be times when an idea for an alteration may not be a good choice, or simply can’t be done, and a good tailor will not be afraid to tell you this. Don’t be offended, but rather appreciative. This is a chance to learn from a professional, and an honest refusal to perform an incorrect alteration is what separates a true tailor from the dry cleaner down the street.
Besides fitting garments, a good tailor can also repair a lot more things than you might think, thus extending the life of your wardrobe. We’ve all torn a seam or caught our clothes on a nail occasionally. When these things happen, show them to your tailor before discarding your clothes. In many cases he may be able to repair your clothes, which is always cheaper than replacing them.
Good tailoring can be addictive. Once you begin using a good tailor regularly and see the difference a great fit can make, you’ll be less likely to settle for an “ok” fit. You’ll look better and feel more confident, and in the long run end up with a better wardrobe populated with items that you keep for years. Find a good tailor and make a friend of him. He can help you bridge the gap between just wearing nice clothes and dressing with true style.
Photo credits: Getty Images and mastered.com
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