The Approach to Tailoring
I’m about to say something that may come across the wrong way but it needs to be said because it’s true: Tailors are for people with a sense of style and self awareness so if that’s not you than don’t bother with them.
Now that it’s out let me explain. A skilled and professional tailor is not someone you use exclusively just to get a hem on a pant leg. You’re wasting your money and time if the only thing you care about is the length of a cuff. The little stuff like that is better taken care of by the seamstress at your local cleaners or by a friend with some sewing skills.
A tailor however is something more. They are the equivalent of medical professionals and plastic surgeons for your closet. They transform your clothing to match with the aesthetic you have in mind for yourself.
I recently lost a great deal of weight through exercise, diet and a lot of willpower. Though I feel great their’s a lot of clothing that looked awful afterward. And some of that was clothing I absolutely loved and can’t replace. These clothes were dying and they needed the attention of a professional to save them. That’s what Tailors do.
For me, I like clothes that fit well. I hate loose cloth, I hate irregular crinkles and folds and like just a little break in my pants. I like my jackets to show a some cuff and I like seeing the right amount of collar pop up over the neck of the suit jacket. The arms of my jackets need to be right, not too big. I want my pockets functional and boutonnières holes and loops available just in case I feel like using them. I want the body of the jacket to taper to my waist rather than hang straight. When this all comes together with a garment there aren’t words to describe hw good it looks. I’ll talk about fit at some point down the road but for the purpose of this article I want to focus on this: my tailor knows what I want done with my clothes without me even having to tell her.
She knows my style. Think about that. How many people know what your style truly is? Not just what colors you like and whether you like to be in suits or jeans more often. I mean, how many people truly understand the foundation of the way you want to look every day?
My tailor does.
I walked in with a new sport coat today and immediately she asked me to get up on the box by the mirror and she went to work with her pins and chalk. A few minutes later I was looking at what would be the perfect jacket.
A good tailor is hard to find. The best advice I can give is to look at the people who’s style you admire or at least who’s clothes you think look good and ask them if they use a tailor. If they do, try them out. That’s how I found mine. I asked one of the gentlemen that I trust at one of the stores I shop at. He always looks good and the fit on his clothes is dead on. You can’t get the kind of fit that he has without tailoring. Nothing off the rack fits YOU perfectly. Just a fact. Trust me. At best, it comes close.
Once you find a tailor treat your first few visits the same way you treat a trip to a new stylist or barber. Communicate. If you have trouble conveying your feelings and preferences in conversation with strangers either skip going to the tailor or take someone who can communicate for you. If you’re not open, vocal and clear when you are explaining what you like you’ll end up with something that doesn’t fit you. And unlike with your hair, your clothes don’t grow back for a second try. I suggest starting with a disposable garment, something you can live without. Maybe just a simple dress shirt. If you like what they do, go from there. If not, keep shopping.
Also, don’t be surprised. Tailoring from skilled professionals is not cheap. For example; I once had a pair of pants hemmed by someone that charged me only six dollars. They were close to my house and cheap. What I got was a hem that wasn’t completely sealed. So every time I put my foot into the pant leg my toes would catch on the hem. It eventually ripped and ruined the work and the pant leg. My tailor charges twenty five base (negotiable if offering cash rather than credit) for a cuff. Expensive, sure. Is there ever a problem? Never.
But for all the expenses of tailoring it can actually save you money too. I buy a lot of clothes on final sale and usually those sizes are a little large. But the price is right on. I bought a jacket that retails for about 250 today and it was on sale for only 89. But the sizes left were too large. I bought the closest fit i could find to cut down on too much alteration. I took it in to my tailor. After a few minutes of conversation and discussion about price she ended up charging me 80 dollars for what I needed. What i needed was work done on three seams, the cuff and the neck/upper back. So I end up with a jacket that is even more perfect than a jacket off the rack and for far less than the retail price. That, gentlemen, is a very good thing. A jacket made for ME and cheaper than the original asking price without paying custom construction prices.
But that’s my approach to tailoring. What’s yours?
and if you’re in the market for a tailor I’m currently using Brookdale Tailoring in Naperville. They’re located at 1904 Brookdale Road.
Thanks so much. My hope is that people use their tailor for the right reasons. It’s an expensive thing but its absolutely worth the price if you know how to ask for what you want.
I totally agree, and I think it’s important for people to realize the difference between off the rack clothing and tailored clothing so that they can appreciate when and where for each type of clothing is necessary. I also think it’s important that more people remember the skills of sewing, just basically so that, like you wrote, they can make simple alterations themselves like hems and sleeve cuffs or even buttons. I’m always amazed at how people won’t buy or fix something because they don’t want to or will get someone else to do it if they can easily do it themselves. I think having those skills are not only very helpful but helps people to further realize when/why they’d need a tailor and be better able to translate their thoughts/wishes to the professional. Seamstresses are also a gift, really they are awesome and make transitions like weight loss/gain so much easier and can recommend good tailors too.
Additionally it’s quite interesting to note differences in cultures that use seamstresses and tailors as a common part of their wardrobe and those that mainly buy off the rack. For example, a lot of South Asian and Middle Eastern communities will pretty much always have their clothes altered as standard and the difference in how off the rack clothing is viewed is quite interesting.