So, you need to get your clothes altered. Unless you’re a keen seamstress or talented sewer, clothes alterations services might be the best answer. I know they have been a big help when it comes to caring for my clothes!
This summer I’ve lost a little weight (with a combination of juice cleansing, running, and eating a healthier diet), and as a result, a few items in my wardrobe aren’t sitting quite right on my frame any more. Instead of purchasing new items in smaller sizes – which, scarily, I considered at first – I decided to try out altering my clothes here in Brighton for the first time.
Previously, I had popped into the local laundrette and alterations place in London whenever my clothes needed a stitch up, but it was a rare occurrence, and now I found myself looking for three pieces of clothing to be altered in one go. What to do?
Well, it turns out, there’s a few things to do to get the best results when having your clothes altered. I wanted to share my top tips after having my own wardrobe updated, and help you to get perfect clothes alterations in the future!
1. Measure Up – Against Similar Clothing
Ok, before having any garment altered, make sure to measure it at home, and note exactly what you’d like changed. I used to assume I could get measured up in-store for alterations, but as it turns out, it’s only really tailors who provide this service, and often on newly tailored items too.
My best advice would be to measure the clothing laid flat, and measure it against a piece of clothing that fits you well. Measuring yourself with a fabric tape measure might be possible, but it’s often a little tricky and can lead to mis-measurements. Instead, try measuring when the garment is laid flat.
I’ve had two pieces of clothing – a coat, and a dress – altered to take up their hemline, and for both of these I measured them flat. For my pair of jeans, I wanted the waist reduced, so I measured up against a pair of good-fitting jeans, and hey, now they fit like a glove.
2. Plan When You Next Need Your Garment
Next up, let’s talk about timings. The time that clothes alterations take can vary quite a lot. When I spoke with Alma’s Alterations, a popular clothes alterations service in central Brighton, they advised that my garments would take up to a month before they would be worked on. Why? Well, with it being bridal season, and so many brides having delayed their weddings ’til after lockdown, Alma’s had a backlog of very important alterations to make. Ring or email ahead to check, especially if time is of the essence.
In this instance, I left two out-of-season items with Alma’s to alter, and took my trusty jeans to another local clothes alterations establishment who could provide a quicker turn-around time.
3. Consider Going To An Independent Maker
Before heading to your local alterations shop on the high street, consider whether an independent seamstress could be a better option for you. Many independent seamstresses take on private work, and there’s plenty of benefits for working with an individual, as opposed to an over-the-counter service.
For example, you may find you need a garment specialist – perhaps a clothes maker adept at altering saris, or someone who works on stage costumes. Or, you may wish to start a long-term relationship with a tailor who can get to know you, your figure, and your style, and be relied upon to make your wardrobe fit you just right.
If you’re looking for an independent maker, try using a matching service like The Seam, whose maker community is listed by postcode and can be contacted digitally.
4. If You Have A Special Garment, Be Sure To Book In
It’s worth noting that special garments require special attention. For suits, tailoring, and bridal gowns, you will need to book in for clothes alterations. However, for standard repairs, mending, and smaller, one-off alterations, walk-ins should be just fine.
5. Pay (Or Wait) More For A Better Finish
Popularity doesn’t always point to the best things in life, but for clothes alterations, I have to say that the places with plenty of good reviews tend to provide a better service.
As I mentioned above, I went to my local alterations place to have my favourite pair of jeans altered and get them returned to me in under a week. The cost was similar at both establishments, and the end result cost me £15 to have the waistband taken in by 1.5 inches. I have to say, the fit is great. But at the same time, the stitching isn’t great – you have to look closely but it’s not a good job.
What I’m trying to say is: you get what you pay (or wait) for.
6. Enquire About Sustainable Practices
If you’re that way inclined, it may be worth asking how your local clothes alterations place is working to be more sustainable. The clothes alterations industry was touted in the Fixing Fashion Report as a service that more of us should use, and sure, they’re supporting the circular fashion economy, but what else are they doing? Perhaps they use natural dyed threads, or fabric recycling for the odds and ends they are left with after working on garments. It all helps!
It’s also worth asking about the materials they use if you have any particular concerns – when I got the soles on my favourite boots re-heeled, I later found out they used leather, which I wouldn’t have wanted if I had a choice.
7. Consider Altering Vintage Clothes, Too
Finally, as a bonus tip, consider having vintage clothes and heirloom garments altered too. This was actually how I first familiarised myself with clothes alterations services – I had purchased a vintage wool coat, and it was far too long for my 5’6″ frame. It was a steal at just £20, and even with taking up the hem costing me an additional £15, it was worth it. I’ve worn that coat every winter for years now, as opposed to leaving it in the back of my wardrobe, or reselling it. Loved (altered) clothes last!