Any man will attest to the fact that switching barbers after using the same guy for a long time can feel like going through a break up after being in a long term relationship. Same could be said for switching tailors. As I have learnt, a good tailor that knows you and understands fit in relation to your specific style and body shape can be invaluable and the difference between good and great.
Like finding a good mate, finding a good tailor can be quite difficult. You also want someone who has no problem telling you when you're going too far, especially when it comes to what can and can't be altered. So let's talk about that, shall we?
How To Find One...
Needless to say, tailoring is not exactly what you would call a growth industry, so I've found that most of the tailors I've come across are older gentlemen (no sexism intended here, just is what it is.) The fact that they are older tends to be an advantage because they typically have been doing it for quite a while so if they are good, they're really GOOD. They also tend to be grounded in classic style, so again, if you're looking to fashionably taper your pants down to a peg, you'll probably get a grunt and shake of the head before they throw you out of their unbelievably messy shop.
Moving on. How I found mine. Referral from a colleague. As with most services, being referred to potential customers tends to be a good indicator of how good a job someone does, so if you know someone whose style you admire, ask them who their tailor is. Another solid way to source a good tailor is to find a high-end menswear retailer or boutique and find out who they use for their work. Then you have the old-fashioned way of searching; Google and the Yellow Pages for one that's convenient as long as you're looking for a tailor.
When you do identify a tailor that you would like to give a try, start small and simple. Then when it comes time for some major work, such as shortening or lengthening sleeves on a jacket, go with something you don't mind sacrificing. This will be the test of how good he...or she is. Feel free to ask basic questions such as their thoughts on altering shoulders on a jacket or adding/removing vents. If the response is any form of "yes", run.
Everytime I come across an item while thrifting or at a significant discount that is too big or just a bit too small, the first question that crosses my mind is just that..."can it be altered?" Unfortunately not everything can be altered and definitely not at a reasonable cost.
- Shoulders. No. If the jacket doesn't fit in the shoulders, then the whole thing won't work, so might as well as move on. - Around the waist, a jacket can usually be brought in or out anywhere from one to two inches. - The sleeves of a jacket can easily be taken up or down depending whether or not the sleeve buttons are functional. With functional buttons or "surgeon's cuffs", this process is more difficult as the sleeves would have to be taken up from the shoulders which can be quite costly. Taking down requires that there be extra fabric up the sleeves which may or may not be the case. - Jacket length and lapels can also be altered to a certain extent but the cost tends to outweigh any benefits.
- Shortening pants is a fairly easy process. You may need to get the leg tapered to maintain fit. Adding length on the other hand depends on how much fabric you have available folded into the hem or sewn into the cuff. You can easily check this by turning the pant leg inside out to see how much fabric there is. - When tapering, pants can be slimmed starting from where the pockets end from the either the outside or inside seams or even both. - The waistline is another common alteration when it comes to pants. Looking inside the waistband will give you an idea of how much you can take in or let out a pair of pants which is usually about two to three inches.
- You find a shirt that you really like. They've got it in your sleeve length but the collar is a bit too big or too small. The top button on a shirt collar can be moved. Just a bit. Otherwise the proportions of the shirt get thrown off. - The sleeves of a shirt and the torso can also be slimmed by a good tailor. The collar can also be replaced on a shirt. - The sleeves on a shirt can also be shortened as necessary, but lengthening can be challenging depending on how much fabric is available.