Adventures in Alterations – Tailoring a Dress

Banana Republic Tweed Dress Pockets 600
Dress – Banana Republic Factory Store, size 00P – before alterations
ShoesCole Haan Carma suede pumps, size 5

Yes, that’s right…I too succumbed to the lure of the Banana Republic tweed dress. First, Jean vlogged about it. Then other petite ladies went wild for it. I resisted at first, but when I saw the dress in person at my local Banana Republic outlet, I decided it was exactly what I was looking for.

As you can see in the photo above, the fit off the rack is not ideal, but I decided to keep and alter it. Here’s why:

1) I had already been looking for a garment just like this. A tweed dress has been on my list of items to pick up for some time now, but I hadn’t found one I liked, with petite proportions, until this one.

2)  The proportions are right for my body. The waist is in the right spot, the shoulder fits well, and the overall fit isn’t terribly wrong. As long as the proportions are correct, other alterations are easier to make.

3) The zipper is in a place that makes alterations easier. The zipper runs along the middle of the back, as opposed to down the side seam, making the dress easier to slim.

4) I like the fabric. The dress feels nice and heavy, like how I’d expect tweed to feel. The fabric content is good for the price, and it’s fully lined.

Tip: test the quality of wool garments before you buy by grabbing a handful of fabric and squeezing hard for 20 seconds. Poor quality wool will be a wrinkly mess, as will your rear end after sitting in that garment. Yes, I did this test on the dress and it passed with flying colors. =)

Now, let’s assess what alterations it needs…

I like to pinch and grab at areas of fabric that aren’t quite working for me visually. This helps to give me an idea of what the item will look like after alterations, and whether alterations will even be worth it. So, here we go…


This dress needs to be slimmed all the way down from the bust to the hem. It also needs to be shortened to a more flattering length.

Tip: getting the bust of a garment taken in at the side seam will also make the arm holes smaller. From the side view, my bra peeked through the arm hole, which means it was too big. By pinching the fabric at the bust side seam, I saw that the alteration would also make the arm hole smaller. No more bra peek-through! Yay!

This dress fit my criteria (I’ve been searching for a tweed dress already, the proportions are petite friendly, fabric is nice, and alterations aren’t invasive), so I decided to take the plunge and get it altered.

Side note: San Diego ladies…I went to Francois at La Moda Fine Tailoring, as recommended by Christina in the Alterations Needed Forum. He did a wonderful job!

Ta-dah! After alterations…

Banana Republic Tweed Dress 2 500px
Pockets make me smile!

This dress after alterations fits like a glove! I don’t have a price for this because I got two other items altered at the same time and didn’t ask for an itemized receipt. Doh!
*UPDATE* I’ve been doing some guesstimating and I believe the price of alterations (slimming + hemming) cost between $40 – $50.  I paid full price on this dress ($99), which puts the final price after alterations somewhere near $150. I was willing to pay that much, or even more, for the perfect wool dress, so I’m happy with the final outcome. I’ve seen on Twitter that this dress is now $60 in stores, which helps factor in the cost of alterations a lot!

Banana Republic Tweed Dress 1 600px

And, because it’s tweed (and you know how much I love tweed)..gratuitous photo time…

Banana Republic Tweed Dress 4 600px
Banana Republic Tweed Dress 3 600
Tweed! Pockets! ♥!

PS – Apparently I can’t stand straight, hence the crooked looking hem in some photos. That’s me being a dork, not a problem with the hem. 

Disclosure – Clicking or purchasing through the links in this post may yield commissions for See the Alterations Needed Disclosure for more details.

Join the Conversation


  1. says: grace

    Haha, love the alterations – and it looks like Francois did an excellent job. It looks fantastic! :) I love the little graphics you drew up for what needed to be altered.

  2. says: thoshebebutlittle

    My initial reaction to the Before shot was, 'well, the fit's not so bad…' Then I saw the After, and wow – the changes were relatively minor, but now everything hits just where it should. A good reminder to be picky about fit!

  3. says: hurricanekerrie

    Gorgeous! I love how it looks after the alteration. Before I stumbled upon your blog and the forum, I'd never have given alterations a thought. I've only had quick hemming jobs done and that's it. This is great.

    Books and Looks

  4. says: Really Petite

    wooo hooo!! it looks AMAZING after alterations!!! I opted to go a bit shorter than you on the hem only because my legs are much shorter- you are lucky you have long stems..LOL

    Great decision and looks fantastic! I just got mine back yesterday- so jazzed!! :D

  5. says: Monkey

    I thought the dress only needed shortening in the before pictures but what a difference all the alterations made in the after pictures! Absolutely fantastic on you.

  6. says: Michelle

    Love it! The belted waist gives you such a nice shape!

    Lol! Love the "gratuitous" photos!

    Thanks for the 20 second grap test tip! That is a great one! I will be sure to take the item into the fitting room, rather than do that publicly!

  7. says: Jen

    I just tried this on a couple days ago and didn't buy because I was worried about the multiple alterations. NOW I DON'T KNOW WHAT I SHOULD DO!


  8. says: Petite Mom

    Wow! What a difference a nip and tuck make! This dress looks terrific on you and it's something I'm sure you'll be able to wear for a long time. Tweed is just delicious!

    Bummer that you didn't get down the cost of alterations. It would've been really great to know.

  9. says: Banhannas

    Ahh, tweed is such a classic! I'll be looking forward to seeing you style this dress, I'm guessing it will be with pearls. =0D

  10. says: curls-and-pearls

    OMG what an AMAZING job your tailor did – YAY! What a great post Kelly; it's great to see how you decided what needed to be altered. I have no clue when it comes to things like this. All of you ladies are making want this dress now LOL – but I will not give in to temptation as the itchy factor may be an issue for me ;)

  11. says: Alterations Needed

    @grace Thanks Grace! Francois did a great job. He even sewed the side garment care tags back into the seam! I would definitely recommend.

    @Jen HaHA – The fabric test is one of my favorites!

    @Frankincensy – Yup, I'm really happy with how the alterations turned out. =)

  12. says: Alterations Needed

    @Tara – Thanks! I love the end result and think I'll get a lot of wear out of it! I already have an event I want to wear it to.

    @thoshebebutlittle – It's amazing the difference alterations can make isn't it? It can be the difference between an "ok" garment and a fabulous garment.

    @hurricanekerrie – You're definitely not alone. Most women have no clue about even basic alterations. If I can open even a few women's eyes to the potential of tailoring…I'm happy. =)

  13. says: Alterations Needed

    @Monkey – The extra width of the dress wasn't too visible in the before photo, but the after photos just prove how needed they were. HUGE improvement!

    @Michelle – LOL…I wonder how many evil looks sales associates would give you if you wander around wrinkling all the wool. =P

    @Trish – Because I had to get the dress slimmed, the alterations weren't exactly cheap. But, the outcome was totally worth it, so I'm not upset at the price at all. If all it needs is a hem, the cost would not be very much at all.

  14. says: Alterations Needed

    @Jen – You'll need the same alterations I got, for sure. Expect to add probably around $40-$50 in alterations to the cost of the dress. I heard on Twitter the price just got reduced, so the price of alterations would bring the final dress price to somewhere around full-retail.

    @Petite Mom – I've been doing some guesstimating, and I think the cost of the alterations were somewhere between $40-$50.

    @Banhannas – I'm already trying to figure out how to style it as I type! I want to wear it to an event, so I have to get cracking!

  15. says: Alterations Needed

    @Danielle C – Great! I'll be wearing it to an event soon so I'm brain storming styling ideas. Stay tuned!

    @curls-and-pearls – I'm glad my goofy poses were helpful! Yeah…your crazy sensitive wool allergy might be too powerful for this little dress. I'm still amazed you could feel the wool through the lining of the LOFT tweed pants!

  16. says: a girl with two legs

    The dress looks great! I'm annoyed at all the different pricing going on. I picked it up for $34.99 at my BR outlet exactly 2 weeks ago.

  17. says: Alterations Needed

    @Jamie – Thanks! The dress turned out even better than I thought. Alterations can make miracles!

    @a girl with two legs – Lucky you! I wish I had gotten it on sale, but there was only one left at my local BR outlet and I had to snag it.

  18. says: PetiteXXS

    I was waiting for this post! I know Jean got by with just a hem job, but when I tried mine on I thought it might need some slimming as well, at least in the bust, so I wanted to see how yours turned out. It definitely looks much better on you post-alterations, so looks like I'm going to have to follow suit and get it slimmed as well. I got it at around $70ish though, so the added cost of alterations is going to hurt! Btw, did you find the belt to be a bit loose? Was the tailor able to help with adding a button hole or are you just using the original?

  19. says: Anonymous

    I’m a physical therapist and I just have to comment on your final comment about how you stand. You certainly are no dork but it is pretty clear that your right hip is higher than your left. If you look at how your waistband is sitting on your hips in your first "TA-DA" picture, you can see that it slants downward toward your left, meaning your right hip is higher. I would argue that your right shoulder is higher too. (Do you often carry a purse on your right side? If so, you may have overdeveloped muscles on that side compared w/ your left.) I believe it's coming from above your knees because your kneecaps look level although it’s hard to assess with heels as they change your true posture. There could be two causes of hip asymmetry 1) a true leg length difference (ie. you were born with one femur longer than the other) or 2) a muscle imbalance issue which is much more likely to be the cause. If you worked with someone on your flexibility you could probably improve the asymmetry quite a bit. (You can’t touch your toes can you?) I hope you don’t mind such scrutiny and please don’t take offense. This is what I do for a living and it’s probably totally “fixable.” I have been a fan of your blog for about 1 ½ years and think you have a lovely sense of style. Since you are so impeccable about fit, small postural differences like this are so much more apparent. If you walked around in sloppy sweats I would never even have noticed them!

    All the best,

  20. says: Alterations Needed

    @PetiteXXS – Yeah, you and I are similar in build, so I can definitely see you needing to slim it as well. At least you paid less than me! =P

    Yes, the belt needs probably one more hole. I didn't have my tailor make a hole, although in hindsight, I should have! I'm wearing it on the last hole in these pics, and if you look close, you can see the belt buckle pulling downward a little because it's not totally tight.

    @Lauren – That's such a great assessment! I'm glad to hear it's most likely a muscle imbalance and not just that I'm crooked…lol.

    You're right, I can't touch my toes, and I'm not flexible at all. I spent quite a few years doing repetitive scientific work, and my right arm, shoulder, and back were ALWAYS sore, stiff, and knotted. I'm also right handed and carry everything heavy on that side, as well as my handbags. I've always felt a little bigger and stronger on that side.

    I've been wanting to start taking yoga or pilates. Do you think either of those activities would help stretch me out?

  21. says: Lauren

    Hi Kelly,
    I think that yoga or pilates would be great for you. I have some experience with both, and as long as you have a good instructor, you would definitely benefit. It will be a challenge at first because you are so inflexible, but that's generally how most Americans are (as we sit in front of our computers and blog :-) so you won't be alone in the class. If you continue with right sided tension/pain, consider some easy things like switching your bags to your left side occasionally…this will feel really awkward but will be great for your posture and challenge the brain too. And you could consider a consult with a good PT or chiropractor for your muscle imbalance and some specific target exercises to decrease tension and increase muscle length.

    My mom's favorite quote about me growing up was that I was small but mighty. She taught me to shake hands with a firm grip (with leaves an impression when people expect a wimpy shake from tiny me). And I'm a stickler for posture. Holding one's head high makes any clothing fit more beautifully, engages core muscles and exudes confidence. Good luck Kelly and feel free to contact me if you want more information.

    Take care,

  22. says: kileen

    wow, the dress looks so amazing after alterations. and it looks great paired with the grey pumps. and good tip with squeezing the fabric to make sure it's wrinkle-free. i never thought of that but i'm definitely doing it from now on!

    cute and little

  23. says: Kionon

    It's a much bigger issue with jackets for me. I can never find a good tweed jacket new for much less than $200, and when I do find a nice tweed example that is on sale or at a recycle shop, it's a 40R or bigger, and I am like a 34R.

    I doubt a tailor can make that large of an alteration without the expense completely destroying any savings I may have made.

  24. says: Jane

    The dress looks amazing. I really like the breakdown you did of the alterations and they really do make such a difference! Awesome!

  25. says: Sidewalk Chic

    Fantastic breakdown of your alterations process, and that dress looks awesome afterward.

    I find alterations especially helpful with older vintage items.

  26. says: Sidewalk Chic

    Fantastic breakdown of your alterations process, and that dress looks awesome afterward.

    I find alterations especially helpful with older vintage items.

  27. says: Michelle

    Love it! The belted waist gives you such a nice shape!

    Lol! Love the "gratuitous" photos!

    Thanks for the 20 second grap test tip! That is a great one! I will be sure to take the item into the fitting room, rather than do that publicly!

  28. says: grace

    Haha, love the alterations – and it looks like Francois did an excellent job. It looks fantastic! :) I love the little graphics you drew up for what needed to be altered.

  29. Looks awesome! Do you have tips somewhere for finding a good tailor? I sew but would prefer to have these sorts of things done “out” and the only time I’ve used a professional seamstress, the jacket was really ruined — I mean, unwearable. Hints?

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