10 Tips for Finding Your Perfect Tailor

PoD

I recently moved to a new city, which means…I need to find a new tailor! Oh no! My Los Angeles tailor is amazing, but I can’t drive back and forth for my tailoring needs (I tried, believe me), so it’s time to find a new tailor.

When you’re a special size and most clothing hasn’t been made with you in mind, the only way you’re going to find a great fit is if you get things tailored. It’s not fair, and can get expensive…believe me, I know.

In fact, even if you’re not a special size, there’s no way clothing manufacturers are going to get things completely right for your body.  Or get your pant inseam perfect. Or know your bust:waist:hip ratio. To expect a mass produced item of clothing to fit you perfectly is a pitfall a lot of women fall into, and quickly leads to fitting room depression when clothes don’t fit. Sometimes we get lucky and find items that fit amazingly, or close enough to squeak by, but to bypass a great item just because it needs a hem, or go your life without a button down shirt because nothing fits off the rack, is no way to live.

And once you get a few things tailored, perfectly, just for you, a whole new world of fashion will open up to you.

Okay, so how do we go about finding a good one?

Here are some tips from my experiences, and other resources, to help you find your new best friend.

1) Find tailors with high review ratings in your city. Search local review websites like yelp and citysearch for “tailor” and “alterations”. Extra points if there are positive reviews from other petite women. This is how I found my last favorite tailor in Los Angeles.

2) Ask other women. Know any perfectly tailored and well dressed women? Chances are these chic ladies have a fabulous tailor helping them out. This also works for impeccably dressed men. There’s also a thread in the Alterations Needed Forum dedicated to tailor recommendations!

3) Look for tailors that advertise as specializing in custom menswear. Tailors knowledgeable in menswear tailoring should be able to handle your most difficult of alterations, no sweat. (tip courtesy of The Pocket Stylist by Kendall Farr)

4) Ask high end boutiques and clothing stores where they send their clients for tailoring. Most of these stores have a reputation to keep, so will work with the best of the best.

5) Skip the dry cleaner tailor. Unless all you need done is a simple pant hem, these tailors aren’t as skilled as one who has their own shop.

6) Skip the department store tailors. They are often in a hurry, inundated with items, and disinterested. They won’t take the special care with your garment a privately owned tailor shop will take. (Of course, there are exceptions. I’ve heard of ladies requesting specific tailors at department stores like Nordstrom that they know for a fact do a good job. I’ve never had such luck).

7) Ask to see a piece of their work. This is a good idea if you have lots of complicated alterations or expensive garments. Make sure the stitches look good, garment looks symmetrical, and that it doesn’t look obviously altered. If a tailor shows you a hacked, misshaped piece of work, run away quickly!

8) Bring an easy, starter piece to be altered before you bring out the really expensive or complicated ones. Things like a pair of jeans that needs hemming or the waist taken in is good. That way, you can get a feel for the tailor’s work, before handing over anything of value to get altered.

9) Talk with the tailor, not at them. Tell them what bothers you about the garment and ask them what alterations they think it needs. This way you can get a feel for just how knowledgeable they really are. The mistake I made at first was telling the tailor what I thought the garment needed, and never asking them for advice. They made my alterations, but I was never satisfied. Why you ask? I’m not a tailor! I don’t know what a garment needs!

10) Make sure your garments are worth the cost of alterations. Don’t spend extra money to get an item altered if it’s going to have a short closet life. Avoid altering cheap fabrics or cheaply manufactured items. I’ve made this mistake, and ended up tossing tops I’d had shortened after only a few washes because they were cheaply made and ended up piling/fading like crazy. Never again!

Now go out and find yourselves a tailor ladies! And then add your new amazing tailor to the Tailor thread in the Alterations Needed Forum to help other petite ladies look as fabulous as you do.

Share any other tips for finding a great tailor in the comments!

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29 Comments

  • Reply January 24, 2011

    PetiteAsianGirl

    Great post! #7 is important. Ask to see specific examples, like a pair of pants with the waist taken in, a jacket or blazer with the shoulders narrowed, or a dress with the torso slimmed. Ask how much those examples cost. I think I did a post a looong long time ago showing some of my alterations failures and how I wished I had examined their work prior to paying so much for garments to be destroyed.

    Oh and #10 – it's not just cheaply made items, but also items that you don't see yourself LOVING. I've gotten quality items altered (first designer denim hem I paid $25 ..ahhhh…for the original hem. It came out great, but I didn't love the style and never wore them).

  • Reply January 24, 2011

    St Germain

    Like asking for custom menswear tailor, you could ask around for bridal tailors. They have to do SO many alterations.

    Another suggestion (though I know this isn't what you were asking for): consider taking a sewing class at a local fabric/sewing store and getting an inexpensive sewing machine from Target. My mom taught me how to sew back in the 70s when I was just a young girl and it has proved to be such a valuable skill! I can hem my designer denim with the original hem, I can hem a skirt with an invisible seam, I can shorten jacket sleeves, I can create darts, I can taper. It has saved me $1000s!

    Granted, it takes more time that dropping something off at the tailor (maybe not if you consider driving to and fro), but I work it in on Saturday mornings while my kids are watching cartoons. I keep a basket in my bedroom with things to alter and grab one if I have a spare 30 min. It gets easier with practice.

  • Reply January 24, 2011

    ReallyPetite

    I am in need of a diff tailor- mine is great but way too expensive…I will have to check out the one you used to go to. It's quite a drive for me but may be worth it :)

  • Reply January 24, 2011

    AubreyOhDang!

    I need to try out Christina's recommendation -Francois. but I haven't heard much about him or on yelp.

  • Reply January 24, 2011

    Nelah

    Great tips. I have never taken my clothes to get altered due to the price. Most of the time I just deal with ill fitting clothes which is not good. I am hoping to do a major haul on clothes outside the US soon and get them altered at a fraction of the price.

  • Reply January 24, 2011

    Alterations Needed

    @PetiteAsianGirl – Great tips Jean! Asking to see more difficult alterations (like taking in the shoulder of a jacket) is a wonderful point. If difficult alterations look good, then the tailor should be able to handle your worst tailoring jobs. Also a great point about #10. Making sure you LOVE the item is very important. If you're going to invest in alterations in a piece, make sure you'll get lots of wear out of it, and actually ENJOY wearing it. Otherwise, what a waste of money!

  • Reply January 24, 2011

    Alterations Needed

    @St Germain – Excellent advice about the bridal tailors! They often perform miracles on complicated bridal dresses, so they should be able to take in your clothes easy as pie. Learning to sew is another great option, although a bit time consuming, as you mentioned, and for someone like me who is very frustrated by mistakes in clothing alterations, a bit nerve racking. I have a little sewing machine that I just have not had the time or patience to sit down with…sigh…

  • Reply January 24, 2011

    Alterations Needed

    @ReallyPetite – You're right, my tailor is trek for you. I'm sure if you do some research, you can find a great one closer to home.

    @AubreyOhDang! – Me too! He's going to be my next tailor attempt. I'm so glad Christina shared him on the AN Forum!

    @Nelah – Wow! I have no idea how you lasted so long without a tailor! I've heard tailoring in Asia particularly is very cheap. My boyfriend has a suit custom made for him in Thailand that was dirt cheap. If I were to do that here in the US, it would cost a small fortune. =P

  • Reply January 24, 2011

    kileen

    i think it's really important to talk with your tailor about what you want and what they can do. sometimes what you had in mind isn't really feasible given the cut of the fabric or the material, so the result of the alteration won't end up being what you wanted. i've lost many items this way unfortunately. these are great tips though and thanks for posting this!

    cute and little
    come enter my giveaway!

  • Reply January 25, 2011

    Melissa

    A very informative post. First time commenter but have been a reader for awhile. My parents own two tailor stores and have been in the business for more than 20 years. Your ten tips are wonderful! You wouldn't believe the amount of customers that come in asking for help after another tailor or dry cleaners botched up their clothing! Along with menswear, tailors are experienced when they advertise specializing in formal evening wear. Evening wear has difficult fabric, many layers, boning, beading, etc. If they can master this, then they can pretty much do everything else. Also, please respect the profession. It's really irritating to see someone come in and say to my mother "$25 is too expensive for an original hem! I'll agree to $15" or "Why are you charging so much? It's only to take in the sides..it's easy work." If you do not agree with the price, say that you will shop around for another place. They don't mind…really! I consider myself lucky since my parents alter my clothes =D

  • Reply January 25, 2011

    Alterations Needed

    @Melissa – You're so lucky to have such talented parents! I'm glad you approve of my tips, since you're practically in the business yourself. =)

    Great tip with the formal evening wear! I never would have thought of that, but it does make sense that a tailor would be able to handle anything if they can alter difficult formal wear.

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Alterations Needed

    @ReallyPetite – You're right, my tailor is trek for you. I'm sure if you do some research, you can find a great one closer to home.

    @AubreyOhDang! – Me too! He's going to be my next tailor attempt. I'm so glad Christina shared him on the AN Forum!

    @Nelah – Wow! I have no idea how you lasted so long without a tailor! I've heard tailoring in Asia particularly is very cheap. My boyfriend has a suit custom made for him in Thailand that was dirt cheap. If I were to do that here in the US, it would cost a small fortune. =P

  • Reply July 2, 2011

    Ric

    Who was your tailor in Los Angeles.  I had a great tailor but he went out of business.  I need someone who really knows what he/she is doing in terms of altering men’s business and casual clothing.  Ideally it would be someone who came to your house, but I’d be willing to drive pretty far to find someone good.  I’m in the Hollywood/Los Feliz area.

  • Reply July 24, 2011

    Kpxbabii

    My mom is a “drycleaner tailor” and all our customers say shes far better than anyone they’ve ever been to! We’ve even done wedding dresses and do men’s suits all the time. To say that “drycleaner tailors” are not as skilled is an insult..

    • Reply July 24, 2011

      Alterations Needed

      Hi Kpxbabii! It’s fantastic that your mom is an excellent tailor! As I’m sure you know, there are exceptions to EVERYTHING, and this post is just a series of tips for people who are completely clueless as to where to look for a good tailor, based on my experiences (and others I know). If your mom is as good as you say (all family biases aside) then I’m sure she would end up falling under the category of a “good tailor” as per tips #1 & #2, because no matter where a tailor works, a good tailor really gains customers based on word of mouth.

  • Reply July 28, 2011

    Vicki

    Your tips for finding a good tailor are right on. Yes you can find a few good tailors in dry cleaners but most are over worked and under paid. They tend to hurry the work as the piles are endless and most do not do in dept alterations as you stated.

    Kpxbabii your mom probably would make more money on her own if she is as good as you say.

  • Reply August 11, 2011

    KL

    Never mind, wrong search term–Kelly, please delete?

  • Reply November 4, 2011

    Anna Strubczewski

    I am a tailor and i work at home. Skip dry cleaner and deptartment store tailors. Thay are to busy and in hurry.Thaywill not take a special care with yor garment.Look for tailor working at home like me.My ladies saying i am the best in town. And onceyou find a tailor that do good job for you,a whole world of fasion will open up to you.
    writeon my wall if you need my help.

  • Reply November 20, 2011

    Savvy Beautiful

    Thanks, this was very helpful!

  • Reply March 19, 2012

    Vicki

    As someone who has spent many hours altering clothes, very good advice. A good alterations specialist is worth not having to find someone else to fix a botched garment.

    http://www.alterationservicesnebraska.com  

  • Reply April 4, 2012

    S. Thornton

    I really thought tailors/dressmakers were only for rich matrons !  Using a tailor seems to actually SAVE money – if your clothes fit right, you wear them more often! 

  • Reply May 13, 2012

    Ayumi Lafser

    Wow, those are excellent advices! I will surely remember these when I go look for my tailors!  I’ve never given my clothes to tailors before but I think I have to in some of my clothes that are more than just hemming (I usually do that myself). Thank you!

     ayumi

  • Reply January 11, 2013

    Maria Stoycheva

    I chose my tailor when I saw her constructing a winter coat from a scratch. she alters everything for me and my partner

  • Reply February 17, 2013

    michellebrown

    any good tailors in the sacramento area, that is great with petites??? oh, and i mean sacramento, california.

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