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Accomplishing the Impossible

Quite often I’m asked if a certain alteration is possible. I have been altering clothing for over 30 years and I’ve been through a variety of fashion cycles, many fabric and construction changes, and my clients have gone through the inevitable body changes.  I’ve never come across an article of clothing that couldn’t be altered. So the short answer is “yes“, but it depends on how particular you are about fit and how much money you want to spend.

Altering clothing after weight loss is something I deal with often and there are some general rules to remember. Each ten-pound loss is equal to approximately one size. Most clothing can be altered rather easily for 1-2 sizes. Any more than that is still possible but the work is more involved and more costly. If the garment is something you really love and the fabric is a good quality and in good condition, then it may be worth at least talking to a tailor about it. They will tell you what can be done, what the limitations are, and how much it will cost. Then you can make the decision.

What do I mean by limitations? Let’s say you want to have a man’s suit cut down three sizes. We can certainly take in the shoulders and the side seams and adjust the lengths. One thing that can’t be adjusted is the depth of the armhole. We can take in the armhole but it will still be too long, limiting your motion as well as looking odd to a discerning eye.

Why do clothes get too long after weight loss? If we don’t have as much girth taking up the garment, the length will drop as well. That’s why sometimes you will need a pair of pants hemmed when taking in the waist and sides. In a blouse or jacket, the armhole will be bigger because you won’t have as much girth taking up the fabric.

Another alteration I’m often asked about is shortening sleeves on a jacket with cut buttonholes. The sleeve can be shortened at the shoulder but  it’s much more expensive to re-cut the sleeve cap than it is to shorten the sleeve at the wrist. So you will need to decide if the cost is worth it.

What about making clothes bigger? Here’s where men are luckier than women because suits are made to be tailored. Men’s dress pants always have extra fabric around the waist and usually in the inseam to give more room through the derriere.  Women’s pants are not easily let out. The fabrics don’t generally lend themselves to being let out and manufacturers are very stingy with seam allowances.

Wedding gowns, on the other hand, almost always have a generous seam allowance and can sometimes be let out several inches. When it comes to wedding gowns and evening dresses, I have had some very creative projects over the years, making them bigger, restyling them, adding sleeves, and changing necklines. The main roadblock to adding fabric is finding matching fabric. White satin, lace, and chiffon are easy…other colors can be tricky.

If you know you will have to add fabric to a dress you are ordering, whether it’s a wedding gown, a bridesmaid dress, or a prom gown, be sure to ask the salon if you can order extra fabric along with the dress. This ensures the fabric will be of the same dye lot and will match your dress exactly.

Do you have something in your closet that you are not wearing and wonder if it can be re-fit or re-styled? Ask a professional tailor like me!

Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or bstonedesigns@sbcglobal.net.