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Clothing Alterations Are Expensive!

It can be a challenge to find off-the-rack clothes that fit well, especially if you’re a “special” size in the eyes of the retail industry (i.e. petite or plus). I’ve come to realize that it’s worth the money to invest in good clothing alterations.

Last year, I purchased a great olive green vest from Banana Republic, despite the fact that it was about 2 sizes too big for me (don’t ask me why). The vest only cost $19, but I’ve never worn it because it just looked so shapeless on me. Yesterday, I finally headed to the tailor with the vest and a too-big Lilly Pulitzer skirt. The vest needed about 3/4 inch taken in from both sides – $25. The skirt needed 3/4 inches taken in from the back – $20. My $19 vest just became a $44 vest, while the great $30 skirt is now $50.

My trip to the tailor made me understand how expensive clothing alterations can be. Now I am looking through my closet with a critical eye – if I really like something, but it’s ill-fitting, I’m taking it to the tailor for some fabric nip/tuck. It’s going to be expensive, yes, but this process has taught me some really valuable lessons:

  • Fit is paramount. Without fit, there is no style (thanks, TLC’s What Not To Wear). Even when the skirt was held in place by pins, I can see that it looks so much better – the waist is fitted at the waist, and the hem hits at my knees instead of below.
  • Invest in quality clothing and a talented tailor. It’s not flattering to wear cheap, ill-fitting clothing. There is no point in spending money on alterations to make cheap clothing better-fitting (i.e. I won’t be bringing a polyester shirt to the tailor). I need to make sure that that article of clothing will be with me for a long, long time – which means buying what I love (within budget, of course), instead of springing for what’s on sale.
  • Don’t forget the costs of alterations when considering a purchase! Had I realized that the vest alteration would cost another $25, I might not have made the purchase. This will definitely make me think twice about those “oh this dress looks so great, it’s just a tiny bit off…” moments.

I’ve also found some wonderful fashion blogs for petite ladies: Alterations Needed, Really Petite, Extra Petite and Style Pint. I can’t stop reading their blogs – unfortunately they are giving me the shopping bug.

  • Brad - BR does free alterations if you have BR card from what I hear ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I've heard of that too. Unfortunately they only provide alterations on full-prized merchandise, and for some reason I like to go straight to the tailor if possible. ReplyCancel

  • MoneyMaus - Thank you for this post! I am very petite (even smaller than most of those bloggers you mentioned – which I am now spending all morning reading!) at 4'10" and 80lbs, so I get items altered occasionally, too. That is, when I have to buy an adult size xxs/xs that's too large when the teen/children's stores just don't have what I need for work attire! ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - wow you are petite! I can only imagine what a challenge it is for you. What do you do for business professional wear? My problem with a lot of children's sizes is that while they are smaller, but they are cut for a child, not a woman. ReplyCancel

      • MoneyMaus - You're right, children's clothes are much more boxy! I buy a lot of my work clothes at Nordstrom's. I can wear an XS or XXS in the BP department for shirts/cardigans, and pants I buy in the children's department, usually 2 pairs at a time when they get their standard black pant in. It's really hit-or-miss though, unfortunately! ReplyCancel

  • me in millions - I'm just discovering those same blogs. I'm also finding them giving me the shopping bug! Especially with the weather warming up! I'm juuuust about the right size to not always need my petite clothing altered, but I think a few items I have could look a teeny bit better with a nip here or there. I just know how quickly it adds up and am too lazy to go see a tailor. ReplyCancel

  • Ciawy - I invested on a sewing machine, so I'm now I'm able to alter the hem of my skirts and slacks. I still have to learn how to alter the sides, though I think that calls for a good tailor. Also, I haven't tried to alter jeans yet, though I'm really tempted to do it. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - My grandmother was an excellent seamstress, but it appears that neither my mother nor I have inherited her talent. So.. it's off to the tailor for me. ReplyCancel

      • Kay - Dear welheeled, It's not too difficult to learn to alter. Might be too intimidating to make your own clothes from scratch. But if its just a small alteration or taking in a hem, it's really easy to learn – considering you'll be using these skills again and again and yet, again!

        You could ask a tailor if they can teach you these skills, for a barter or for a fee.

        Just something to think about. ReplyCancel

  • fallingintofavor - Thats why I want a sewing machine!! I always have to alter my jeans (5'4). Unless I want to wear them with high heels, but even then I still need to get some taken up an inch or so. Yikes. That will at least save me $25 a pair…to put the original bottoms on my jeans. ReplyCancel

  • Tea - How fitting. I JUST took two dresses to the tailor. The first was originally $80 on sale for $15. The second was originally $100 on sale for $20. (Oh yes, I find AMAZING sales). The will cost me $30 and $35 respectively and they'll fit like gloves. YES! ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Knowing that I'd have to pay for alterations makes me look at clothes in a different way – I'd be more willing to pay for full-priced merchandise if they fit me really well, and I'm more aware of what the "real" price of a clothing might be after alterations are factored in. ReplyCancel

  • PetiteAsianGirl - Great post…sadly alterations are expensive and I always have to factor them in when buying coats or suits. But for stuff like that which can be worn season after season, I don't mind dropping the extra $ to perfect the fit.

    I'm definitely going to read through your blog this week. I love the concept of savvy living via managing personal finances. Before starting Extra Petite I had a little blog "fashionable finance" which I talked about such topics – not so charismatically of course, and bored all my readers! ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Hi there, thanks for dropping by! Your blog is such a style inspiration – I'm pretty green over your lovely wardrobe. ūüėČ ReplyCancel

  • Samurai - If you ever go to Hong Kong, or Kowloon, definitely go and get some tailor made suits there. They are awesome, and pretty reasonably priced. You can pick out anything and everything! Materials, collars, patterns, cut angles etc. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Thanks for the suggestion… sounds like a great deal. I'll definitely keep that in mind. ReplyCancel

  • March Links Roundup: Yakezie Challenge Edition - […] Heeled Blog: Clothing Alterations are Expensive!: It’s rare that I consider altering clothing, but this post gave me something to think […]ReplyCancel

  • Best Products - Well alterations might be expensive but they have become need for those who do not fit perfect in the standard sizes. And when is facing a complex like such he or she never think about the amount of money he is wasting to get the fitting perfect. ReplyCancel

  • stylepint - I'm slow on commenting, but thanks for stopping by my blog. I've been an avid reader for a while now and you always have such great advice. When it comes to alterations, I'm slowing DIY-ing the easier alterations like hems and darts. For more difficult alterations, I take to the tailors and it's worth the additional expense. The three guidelines you mentioned are definitely important, especially when you realize something can't be altered properly if the fit is completely off. ReplyCancel

  • Fitness Talk Today » Blog Archive » March Links Roundup: Yakezie Challenge Edition - […] Heeled Blog: Clothing Alterations are Expensive!: It’s rare that I consider altering clothing, but this post gave me something to think […]ReplyCancel

  • Shari - I'm a Master Tailor and what really bothers me is listening to people complain how expensive alterations are. We have to make an hourly wage too! Only have investment pieces altered so it lasts for many years. Purchasing inexpensive items and expensive items take the same amount of time to alter. ReplyCancel

  • LW Interview Attire - I feel that alterations are totally worth it and dont always have to be so expensive! Living in a big city offers many options for alterations. When it comes to clothes fitting properly I believe spending that little extra money for alterations is worth it! ReplyCancel

  • Cheyl - I find that some clients fail to understand the work that is involved. I recently remade a vest that was 3 sizes too large. I charged $35.00. It took a effort to make sure it fit properly. The client was very pleased with it and did not mine paying for the work. ReplyCancel

  • Why Alterations & Tailoring Need to Be Part of Your Clothing Budget | When Life Gives You Lemons - […] Back in 2010 I got a few pieces of clothing tailored. But then I fell back into my faking-a-fit or this-is-just-a-little-baggy shtick. Then I got engaged and CB found a suit. We found a very good tailor – she did an amazing job on his suit that fit well off the rack, but looks SO MUCH BETTER once it was contoured to his lines. I couldn’t believe what just a little nip and tuck could do. And so, I went down the rabbit hole. […]ReplyCancel

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