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Everything You Need to Know Before You Visit a Tailor

Before you book your appointment, learn what you can and cannot take to one, how much you should expect to pay and how long you should be willing to wait.

tailor talking to customer
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Tailors are unsung sartorial heroes. They turn ill-fitting, unflattering clothing into made-to-order masterpieces. And they're relatively easy to find, but there are a few keys to finding a good tailor. For one, try a tailor with their own standalone shop; dry cleaners often tailor garments, too, but shops that don't do dry cleaning are often better. Instead of diversifying their offerings to make more money, they're betting on what they do best: tailoring.

But finding one is half the battle. Sure, if you simply need your pants hemmed then almost any shop would suffice, but if you're trying to completely change the shape or size of a suit, jacket or a pair of jeans, you'll need an expert at the craft (and the necessary knowledge to ask for these alterations). It's important to educate yourself on the proper etiquette as well — like, how long you should wait before following up about your garment and whether or not you should tip.

For this information, we spoke with SuitShop, a retailer for affordable suits and tuxedos, co-founder Jeanne Foley, who oversees every step of the suit- and tuxedo-making process — from design and marketing to sales and tailoring. She's an expert on everything there is to know about tailoring and answered some of the most-asked pre-appointment questions.

Our Expert: SuitShop co-founder Jeanne Foley

  • Launched SuitShop in 2016
  • Has serviced over 100,000 customers
  • 13 years of fabric and fit expertise
  • Former Technical Design Manager at Abercrombie & Fitch and Under Armour

    What is a tailor? What does a tailor do?

    "A tailor is someone skilled at constructing garments to fit specific measurements, altering existing garments to new specifications and repairing or modifying previously-constructed garments to fit a customer’s request or desired look.

    Tailors are typically formally trained and have the knowledge of sewing by hand and machine. Their skill level can range based on both experience and talent. No garments are truly off limits, you just need to find the right tailor with the right skill set and expertise to help with your unique request. Tailoring requests can range from creating a full custom or bespoke suit to a simple hem or seam repair."

    Do you tip tailors?

    "It’s not expected to tip a tailor, since tailors are usually paid hourly or for the specific job they are asked to do, but it’s definitely not off-limits. Anytime any service-based talent does a great job or goes above and beyond for a customer, tipping is appreciated and is an acceptable way to show thanks."

    How much does tailoring cost?

    "Tailoring costs can range anywhere from $10 dollars to hundreds, even thousands. It really depends on the specific job. Tailors do a wide variety of tasks and employ a wide variety of fixes and skills. This ranges from constructing a garment from scratch—often referred to as 'custom' or 'bespoke,' these are garments made to fit a specific persons measurements—to implementing small alterations like hemming a pair of pants or repairing a small hole or tear in an existing garment.

    On average, for a smaller adjustment or repair, you should expect to pay $10-30. For a larger alteration or for one on a more complicated garment including those with layers or lining, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50-100. Alterations that adjust apparel significantly can ring in at or over $100+, and the cost is really based on the amount of time it will take the tailor to complete the request. Tailors who create custom or bespoke garments made to a person’s specific measurements and altered at various stages to fit perfectly can charge thousands of dollars."

    How long does it take to get a suit tailored?

    "A tailor can typically alter a suit in a day, but most tailors will quote days or weeks depending on their existing workload."

    How much does a tailored suit cost?

    Instead of visiting with a suit you already own, you can also approach certain tailors for a fully custom suit.

    "There are a lot of factors that go into the final cost of a tailored suit. The one that tends to lower or increase the price most dramatically is the material cost. Suits can be made from a range of different materials including wool, silk, linen, polyester, cotton, rayon, and so many more. There are also different blends of fabrics both natural and man-made that can be used. There are layers of components like shoulder pads, interlining and lining. Trims like buttons, zippers and thread that can all dramatically change the cost of a tailored suit as they come in a variety of options that range in price.

    Tailors have their own pricing based on their time and effort. A very experienced tailor may be very fast with a custom suit but charge more since they are accounting for their high level of skill and talent. Some tailors will charge less for the opportunity to work with specific clientele. On average a true custom-tailored suit will range $1,500-$3,000 and depends on materials, talent and time."

    Can a tailor take in jeans and T-shirts?

    "Yes, a tailor can adjust jeans and T-shirts, it’s always just a matter of finding the right tailor to ask for a specific task. You would not visit a bespoke tailor that makes custom suits and ask them to hem your jeans, and vice versa, you would not visit your local dry cleaner and ask them to make you a bespoke suit. Most tailors will have their specialty and focus. Typically, your local dry cleaner will be able to help with off-the-rack apparel alterations."

    Can a tailor make pants or clothing bigger?

    "Some clothing can be altered to be bigger; this will depend on the garment itself and the amount of seam allowance (extra material on the inside of the garment seams) it has. If a garment has a wide seam allowance, it can be comfortably adjusted to be bigger—or let out—without risk of the seam developing a hole or tearing.

    This also depends on the material, as alterations and sewing on some fabrics will leave a mark along the seam. Even if a garment like this has enough allowance, if it is let out to be bigger, you might be able to see where the stitch used to be, which can significantly impact the apparent quality and make the garment look bad. A tailor will usually advise whether a garment can be let out or not. In most cases, it is best to avoid attempts to make a garment bigger since it can compromise the quality."

    What else can a tailor do? Can they remove logos and add logos or monograms?

    "I always say, 'just ask!' With the wide variety in specialties and skill sets of tailors out there, some may say no to a request, and some will find a way. Tailors also typically feel very strongly one way or another about what is and is not possible based on their formal training and their own skill level. Tailoring is a technical skill but is also an art, and a lot of it has to do with the personality, areas of experience and artistic process."

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