Alter Your Way to a Perfect Fit
By Dina Younis
Many of us dread that fitting room in the back of the store. I’m pretty certain we all have had to deal with that frustrating experience in the fitting room of trying on garment after garment hoping to find that perfect fit.
In my previous article, I gave you a few pointers to help you understand your body shape and what type of clothes are most suitable for you. Following up this month, I’m going to focus on the garment itself. I’ll tell you a little about what constitutes a perfectly fitting garment and what you can do, and when, to turn it into one.
A garment fits you when the following conditions are met:
- Trousers and skirts are loose enough so that all pleats, pockets and zip opening lie flat.
- There is an inch* to an inch and a half of extra fabric at the hip line of your trousers so that there is no visible underwear line.
- The waistband of trousers and skirts allows for two fingers to be inserted and the stomach does not bulge over the top.
- Skirts turn around the body.
- There is an inch of extra fabric on the skirt that can be pinched away from the body at the hip or six inches below the waistline.
- Skirts don’t ride up when you sit down.
- Jackets are at least an inch wider than the shoulder bones.
- Jackets don’t crease or pull in the back.
- Buttoned up jackets don’t pull across the bust, shoulders or hips.
- Pockets and pleats on a jacket lie flat and do not crease at the waist.
- Jacket sleeve widths allow for a jumper or blouse to worn underneath and the arm rotates easily.
- Jacket sleeve length allows for a quarter of an inch of a cuff to show.
- The sleeve cuff of a blouse hits the wrist bone when the arm is bent.
- There is an inch of double fabric on either side of the blouse or top to prevent buttons from pulling in the chest area.
We are led to believe that there are standard sizes in the garment-manufacturing world, and that we must fit into one. What is true is that size tags are merely suggestions, and should not frustrate you when you don’t seem to fit into the size you have been steered by mass manufacturers to believe you are. So before you dejectedly walk back from the fitting room, leaving behind that ill-fitting but oh-so-beautiful blouse on the rack, go back and take a second look, and realize there may be something you can do about it. You may be able to alter it to perfection. Altering a garment is not a reflection upon you, but on the garment itself; it is just not manufactured to fit YOU or most people for that matter. Therefore, it would be good to change your mindset when shopping and embrace the idea that alterations should and can be an integral part of your shopping experience, and that there are a few that are worth the effort. Some of these are:
- Shortening a shirt or adding a curve to the hem to create a more flattering silhouette.
- Taking in a shirt at the side seams, but making sure there is enough room in the underarm area.
- Taking up a shoulder seam or shortening the straps on tops that hang too low in the chest area.
- Hemming a pair of pants, skirt, dress, or even jeans. With jeans in particular make sure the tailor reattaches the original hem to retain the original stitching so that it will look like it did when you bought it.
- Hemming the sleeve to the correct length (see the guidelines mentioned above).
- Adding darts to a skirt that fits in the waist but too wide in the hips. Use them also to improve the fit in the bust line or slim down a boxy but simply constructed jacket.
- Slimming down a sleeve.
- Tapering a trouser leg as long as bringing them in doesn’t exceed a couple of inches.
- Upgrading the buttons. It’s amazing what buttons can do to change the overall look of a garment. Upgrade from plastic to metal, leather or bone. This one is highly recommended because it can completely transform the look of a garment.
However, it is also smart to know when to stay away from altering a garment. Not every garment can be altered, it’s best to leave those alone and move on. The ones you should never bother with are:
- When you have a very bad armhole. A poor fitting armhole is what it is, and there is not fixing it.
- When a jacket is too long. Don’t even try. Jacket construction is complex and the proportions between the tops of pockets to the bottom of the jacket are a science in the world of pattern drafting.
- When a garment is too small. There are those that can be let out if there is enough seam allowance, but generally speaking it is rare to have a garment with enough fabric for a tailor to comfortably work with.
- When a garment is made of lace or chiffon or that is beaded, sequined or pleated. The highly delicate nature of these fabrics and embellishments require an extremely skilled tailor and will cost way too much to be worth it.
- When a garment has lining. The twists and turns that can result when fooling around with a lining, which is the equivalent of a second garment, are just not worth the trouble.
Realize that alterations are a stylist’s secret weapon. So go ahead and be your own stylist, seek recommendations and find yourself a skilled tailor. Understand and learn the basic terms for tailoring to help you communicate with him or her, and always examine the work to check that everything lines up, seams are even and threads are knotted securely.
Happy shopping and altering!
* 1 inch = 2.54cm
For more information or a custom consultation feel free to contact me at
Dana Dinnawi is an Integrative Nutrition health coach specializing in empowering women to improve their health and family life. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she studied more than one hundred dietary theories and a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. She can be reached through her website and Facebook page.