growing a minimalist wardrobe: tailoring.

July 14, 2015

growing a minimalist wardrobe: tailoring | reading my tea leaves I’ll come right out and say it, I’m a little bit afraid of tailoring. For me it’s mostly fear that I’ll take something that’s good enough and make it not very good at all. I’ve mentioned my hacked chambray dress before, but there’s also been jeans made too short, and—years ago—a bridesmaid dress made so tight that I had to get it taken out mere hours before a wedding.

Since my own tailoring skills end at sewing on a button or lopping off the bottom of a pair of jeans and calling them shorts, I admit that the question of price plays a big role my tailoring phobia. If I buy an item and then need to factor in the cost of actually paying someone to make it fit, I’m looking at a more expensive final price point which might be a deal breaker, even if I’m trying to alter something I’ve found second-hand or on sale.
growing a minimalist wardrobe: tailoring | reading my tea leaves Still, there are moments when a simple fix can make a world of difference. Better yet, a little tweak is sometimes all you need to take something from staying hidden in the back of your closet to bringing it out front and center. And if the mission here is to own only clothes that you actually like and wear, than it makes sense that a little alteration might be the answer to minimalist wardrobe woes. growing a minimalist wardrobe: tailoring | reading my tea leaves Some of you might remember that I had my wedding dress made by Nayantara Banerjee—otherwise known as the Williamsburg Seamster. She’s up to her ears in wedding gowns these days, but she had a bit of advice for folks hoping to get their duds tailored for a more perfect fit.

Tailoring advice straight from the source:

1. Start big: The most obvious tip, maybe, but Tara emphasizes first and foremost that it’s always easier to tailor something down rather than make it larger.

2. Shoulder trick: Tara explained that “in blouses and dresses, pulling up the shoulder seam from a pinch to an inch can make a great deal of difference fit wise.” She explains that taking in a shoulder can “reduce or eliminate gaping along the neckline and sagging in the bodice, and generally align the bust and waist of the bodice better on the body.” I did a little trick in my own closet and pinched up the shoulders on a few dresses that have particularly wide arm holes…and presto. Problems solved.

3. Know your materials: Tara suggests understanding the materials and silhouettes that work best on your body and then learning how (or if!) they may be alterable. She mentioned that even if a clingy knit works best for your body they can by tricky and bulky to tailor. Similarly, tailoring a boxy cotton cut into something that’s super fitted would likely be a tailoring challenge.

What about you guys? What kind of tailoring tricks are your favorite? I have friends who tailor nearly everything they buy to make for perfect fits. Do you fall into that camp, too? Any tailoring disaster stories to make me feel better about my own?
growing a minimalist wardrobe: tailoring | reading my tea leaves If you’re just getting started on the road to a minimalist wardrobe, here are the first steps: One
& Five

Puzzling over shoes or bags or clothes to wear while nursing? There’s my two cents.

PS. Nayantara’s up to some pretty fascinating graduate research studying social responsibility and human and labor rights in the global garment industry. You can read more about her, here.

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  • Reply Victoria July 14, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    I've never had anything tailor, tailored! When I was growing up, my Mom was always safety pinning things so that they weren't falling off of me. Eventually, she learned how to "tack" things and she would do that on a few skirts that I had – which I thought was the coolest thing ever!

    Now that I'm grown, I just try to buy things that fit and make the best of it! I'd love to be able to tailor things myself, but I just can't see spending the time or money to have my everyday clothes professionally done.

    In other news, my great grandparents were tailors in NYC!!!! I'm sick over the fact that none of their granddaughters or great grand daughters were taught any of their secrets!!!! It's a crying shame if I do say so myself!

  • Reply k.mandeng July 14, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I totally emphasize with your tailoring phobia! I've also been the victim of both terrible tailoring (bridesmaid dress that went from a bit too big to having its shape completely changed to look like it should have been sold in the maternity section) and awful buying decisions where the item I've purchased skyrocketed in price point after a "little" fix turned out to be more than I estimated. I think both experiences have lead me to ultimately become a better, more thoughtful shopper, so I am chalking them up as a good lessons to have learned! Your wedding dress look absolutely beautiful on you, so simple yet so fitting! I'm going to try that shoulder trick on my Everlane dress, where I have a large armhole going on! Thanks for the tips!

    • Reply Erin July 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      Thank you! (I've found pretty bras help the armhold situation, too;))

    • Reply admin July 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      Thank you! (I've found pretty bras help the armhold situation, too;))

  • Reply Emily C July 14, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    I've had mixed experiences getting things tailored… I bought a pair of fancy black jeans (i + w) on super sale online once, and had to have them hemmed as they were way long. When I brought them home I realized… wider legged black jeans (on me at least) look like waitressing pants, not super fun fancy black jeans. Went back to the tailor to have them pegged, then back again when the first go of pegging them wasn't tight enough at all (baggy knees). I wound up feeling like the most ridiculous person, spending $30 extra, making at least 3 extraneous trips to the tailor downtown to find them closed or on vacation, and not even really liking how they turned out in the end. Lesson learned: don't buy fancy unreturnable jeans online no matter the sale, and don't try to change the cut of the jeans so drastically.

  • Reply Jessica July 14, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    The shoulder trick is a genius as it sounds. Things like hems on skirts and sleeves are easy. Changing pants from flares to straight cut isn't too difficult either. Tailoring will always be easier if it is taking in fabric along already existing seams. Find a good tailor before you start shopping, get a general pricing list, and have them do a few smaller alterations before you have them cut up something special. Stores like Nordstrom's and Macy's often have relationships with tailors (and cobblers and other specialists) and will be able to give recommendations.

  • Reply missris July 14, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    I'm only five feet tall, so tailoring has been part of my repertoire for a long time. I can sew a button back on or pull up a hem with the best of them, but I recently got a free sewing machine from a friend and have now invested in some actual sewing classes. I figure a one-time class for $65 to learn how to tailor things the right way will pay dividends for years to come.

  • Reply Kari July 14, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Where did you find that lovely, cloth tape measure?

  • Reply Julia Runyon July 14, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    Yes, tailoring is so important and so much more approachable than people think! I think the key is finding a tailor who will talk through the alterations with you (and be real about things that won't work). I'm very fortunate that my dry cleaner has really affordable tailoring, and they'll have me try it on and talk me through what they'll be doing. We'll usually decide to take something in a little bit at first, then have me try it on again and see if it needs more. It can make such a difference and turn an item into something you wear again and again because it fits so perfectly. For me it's always my skirts, I buy big so they'll fit my lady hips and then have it taken in on the waist.

  • Reply Archana July 14, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    In India, we had tailoring shops around the corner, everywhere ! And it was really affordable. The category of clothes that you walked into the store and purchased were called 'ready-made'. I survived without buying anything ready made for 21 years. And got everything stitched with fabric and design of my choice most of my life.

    After I moved, i sort of gawk when they quote the prices to do little things. I am looking into getting a sorta of 101 class when I next visit India.

    I wish tailoring would make a comeback and be more common practice again. They are artists in their own right.

    • Reply Anonymous July 15, 2015 at 2:03 am

      How right you are!

  • Reply Molly B July 15, 2015 at 1:08 am

    Amazing advice! Can you link us to a good tutorial or website with tailor tips? I'm a little needle shy!

    • Reply Erin July 15, 2015 at 12:02 pm

      If I find one, I definitely will!

    • Reply admin July 15, 2015 at 12:02 pm

      If I find one, I definitely will!

  • Reply Andrea July 15, 2015 at 4:30 am

    Great tips! I am working on cultivating my own lean closet, and I have found for now, limiting myself to three items per season is a great starting point.

  • Reply Susan Clark July 17, 2015 at 3:03 am

    Growing up, my mom taught me how to sew first simple handsewing, and then I graduated to a machine. I don't tailor all of my clothes, but I do to many of them, and the ones that fit me perfectly are the ones I always come back to. I use the shoulder trick often as well as nipping in the waist at my actual waist rather than where the manufacturer has it. It makes me look and feel slim, and thats a win!

  • Reply Emily July 17, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    I'd love to get some tips on developing a lean closet for those of us who have to dress more formally for work. I am a lawyer and often have to wear suits to work. I am often frustrated by the number of clothes I have to keep in my closet to satisfy both work and non-work life. Thoughts?

    • Reply Erin July 17, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      Working on it (for what it's worth!)!

    • Reply admin July 17, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      Working on it (for what it's worth!)!

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