Why Do I Need to Alter My Clothes?

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Every once in a while I get asked this question: “Why would I buy something that needs to be altered?”

To which I respond, “Lucky you if you can always find clothes that fit you perfectly!”

Of course I realize my viewpoint is a bit skewed. I think EVERYONE needs to have their clothes altered. Sometimes they don’t even realize it. I see people all the time, everywhere I go, who need to have their pants hemmed.


Men are especially guilty of wearing their pants too long, too baggy, cinching them up with a belt. If they would pay a little extra to get them to fit properly, they would look so much better. And they wouldn’t have all that bunching waistband under their belt or a baggy butt!


Jeans especially should fit well and since we keep them for a long time, the alterations ~ in my humble opinion ~ are worth the cost. And with stretch denim, they are just as comfortable fitting properly as they are baggy.

But unfortunately, we live in a throwaway society. There are several generations of people now who are used to buying cheap clothes, wearing them for a season and then discarding them. In that case, yes, why would you want to pay to have them altered? Never mind that you are stepping on the bottom of your jeans or the shoulders are falling off. And never mind that you look sloppy. It’s one thing to run around the house or the local grocery store with baggy sweats, but do you really want to go on a date or a job interview with ill-fitting clothes?

I’m from a generation who likes to buy a few really nice garments every year, alter them properly, and wear them for years. I have clothes in my closet (which still fit me!) that I’ve had for 10 and 20 years. I may only wear them once a year or even every other year in the case of something dressy. I also spend my clothing budget on pants made of good material. I alter them and keep them for years, along with my shoes. They call that “sustainability” now and I plan to address that subject in my next column.

And yes, I do buy “throw-away” clothes sometimes. Clothes that will be out of style in one season. Cheap clothes that can be washed over and over for work. I’m especially hard on tops. I never wear an expensive top or sweater to work because I know it will look totally worn out by the end of the day. Yes, I’m a tailor and I work with clothes all day. How does that wear out your clothes, you ask? Mostly leaning up against my work table. Tailors spend as much time, maybe more so, at the cutting table and the ironing board as they do at the machines. We also move up and down a lot, squatting (in my younger days) to mark hems, now sitting to mark hems, standing up to mark the upper body alterations. Movement wears out your clothes. Unless you can wear performance fabrics to work, that is. And then there are pins, needles, scissors, and razor blades which can ruin a garment with one wrong move.

So my choices are to find certain sturdy fabrics that can withstand the abuse or buy something cheap that I can throw away after a few washings. And since it’s getting more and more difficult to find good quality fabrics, I end up with a lot of cheap tops.

Even if you don’t need/want alterations for your everyday clothes, we all need a better than average fit for special occasions ~ weddings, anniversaries, birthdays. Sometimes we need to wear something extra nice to make us feel special. We may look for a certain color or style, so why wouldn’t we want the fit to be just right as well?

For more information on good fit it, check out anewscafe archives for https://anewscafe.com/2011/10/21/how-fitting-is-your-fit-part-one-pants-fit/ and https://anewscafe.com/2011/11/03/how-fitting-is-your-fit-part-two-pants-fit-continued/. In these two articles, I address pant-fitting. Some of the rules will apply to other garments as well.

If you are still not sure, you can always ask your tailor!

Barbara Stone
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.
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14 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    So true that clothes should fit properly in order to look and feel good.  However, when I see girls and even women wearing expensive jeans that are ripped and worn and tattered – and were purchased that way – I wonder about their dress code.  It seems to be a badge of honor to look like their shopping has been been done in a dumpster.

    • Avatar Barbara Stone says:

      I refuse to spend money on ripped jeans…I don’t get that either. AND I end up repairing a lot of those jeans because (surprise surprise) the rips get worse over time and laundering.

  2. Avatar Susan Seamans says:

    Barbara,   Well stated article and you are so right! Not only do the alterations make the clothes fit better but we feel better about ourselves when we wear clothes that fit.  You have brought many of my garments back to life.

    • Avatar Barbara Stone says:

      Thanks for bringing that up, Susan…yes, when our clothes fit well, we DO feel better about ourselves.

      I’ll share a quick story from my childhood: one of the first dances I went to in high school. I was one of 5 kids so we didn’t have a clothing budget. I went to parochial school my whole life so I was used to wearing uniforms. So this dance comes up and I have to wear ill-fitting pants with a blouse borrowed from my mother (oh, the horror) and a sweater vest. I will never forget that dance, not because I had a good time but because I was so uncomfortable!

      And you always look so polished Susan!

  3. Avatar Grammy says:

    Be nice if the muffin tops would stop wearing to tight shorts/jeans.

    Men wearing pants to long, has been something that has bugged me for awhile.   Ben Affleck is prone to wearing pants like that.  Pants that bunch around the feet just look horrible.  Like “I am determined to wear pants that are the same length as my waist size.  No matter how horriable the look.”  Denial is in all of us.

    • Avatar Barbara Stone says:

      OH, don’t get me started on celebrities and their ill-fitting clothes. You know it’s not because they can’t afford the alterations!

  4. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Excellent article Barbara.

    I always had a sewing machine in my math classroom, and would do repairs, or teach students to repair their own garments.   I sometimes repaired items that were of such poor quality fabric and flimsy construction, that I was surprised they were  even worn once before falling apart.  Recognizing quality fabric, design and construction is a learned ability.  Cheap clothes aren’t always poorly made (my favorite shirt is made of silk and came from Salvation army) and all expensive clothes aren’t necessarily superior garments.  I wonder which stores in Redding carry the sorts of clothes that could be altered, and last for years.

    Thank you for a great perspective,  Barbara.


    • Avatar Barbara Stone says:

      You are so right, Joanne…some of my favorite clothes have come from thrift stores…or my sister’s closet! And it’s difficult to find decent fabrics and construction in town or out of town right now. Hope that changes.

  5. Avatar Rod says:

    It’s a funny reality about my old worn-out Levi 501s.  They sell used for up to $200.  I can’t believe the latest fashion.  I haven’t been able to sell my old tee shirts, even the good ones.


    • Avatar Barbara Stone says:

      One trend is to take your old t-shirts to a quilter and have a quilt made, if they have sentimental value.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        My comment is hardly about t-shirts, but when my beloved aunt died, I inherited her tourmaline mink shrug.  Not a lot of places to wear mink in Fall River; so I “repurposed” it, and now have a darling blond teddy bear that enjoy every day.

        • Avatar Barbara Stone says:

          I have a sewing buddy who creates teddy bears out of all kinds of fabrics: Grandpa’s plaid shirt, wedding gowns, and old furs for instance. She makes beautiful bears!

  6. Avatar Julie Gussenhoven says:

    You always make my clothes fit just right!