Tailoring — The Secret to a Perfect Fit and More

I recently purchased a stunning Sarah Pacini linen sweater at a little boutique in New York. When I went to wear it the second time, I noticed two dime-sized holes on the bottom left of the sweater near the hem. I had no idea how they got there, but all the speculation in the world wasn’t going to solve the problem. Taking it back to the shop wasn’t an option, since I live 3,000 miles away. So I did what I always do when my wardrobe needs help: I called my tailor.

Christina Rose is absolutely the best at what she does. She created a seam all the way down the left side of the sweater, completely eliminating the holes. She then added a matching seam on the right side for balance. The result is that the two seams look as if they’re part of the original design, and there’s no sign of the holes. If it weren’t for her skill and creativity, that $300+ sweater would have been unwearable.

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Because it’s impossible to overstress the importance of having a great tailor in your pocket to perfect an item of clothing or make a repair, I’ve opted to post the following excerpt from Real Style: Style Secrets for Real Women with Real Bodies, which I co-wrote with stylist Sam Saboura.

Behind the Seams: TAILORING

Behind every great woman is a great tailor. Learning to select the right clothing for your body type makes you sensible, but getting it to fit properly is an art form. Once you master this important style lesson and develop an eye for the ultimate fit, you’ll unlock your potential to look your absolute best in whatever you wear.

The most stylish women in the world rely on the expertise of highly skilled tailors and seamstresses to customize their wardrobes. Part of having real style is knowing, at a glance, when an item of clothing can go one step further and be that much better. Wearing the “right clothes” is always secondary to having a meticulous fit, because without it, even the most spectacular outfit fades into mediocrity.

Tailoring helps to elevate your wardrobe—both the basics and the special pieces—to the next level. Its purpose is to improve the fit of an item—not completely re-make the basic style or cut.

I’ve talked a lot about proportion and how the right fit can correct almost any issue. Now I’ll show you how to look at your clothing in a strategic way so you begin to see how the slightest change in a hem or seam can affect the big picture. By the end of this chapter, you’ll be able to walk into a tailoring shop and know exactly what needs to be done to each piece of your clothing to make it outstanding. Once you understand the “how to” of altering your clothing correctly, you can work with your tailor to turn your store-bought clothing into couture.

YOU AND YOUR TAILOR

When purchasing a new item of clothing that requires altering, ask your salesperson if tailoring is included. Most of the time, there is a fee to have the work done in-house, but some high-end specialty stores—and even chain stores that you would never suspect—offer free alterations to their clients. A penny saved is a penny you can spend on something else, so always ask.

Based on your budget, you will need to decide the caliber of expert you are looking for. If you want a quick and inexpensive fix, try the tailor at your dry cleaner. I am often surprised and impressed by the speed and quality of the work at these shops.

If you have an item that is more important to you, step up to a mid-range tailor or seamstress. Odds are you will be paying more, so you should also expect more precision and attention to detail.

Lastly, if you have a vry special piece that you’ve spent some serious cash on, head straight to an exceptional tailor.  Hold on to your hat, though, because prices at these shops can be astronomical. I have often turned beet red at the cash register when faced with the total cost of some of my alterations.

Try a little experimenting with the tailors in your area. Start with alterations on just one piece, and check out the results. Over time, you’ll have your own little black book of qualified professionals in a variety of price ranges.

Whether you use the services of a lower-end or top-of-the-line tailor, always ask what the charge will be before you commission him or her to alter something for you. You’re the one who ultimately decides if it’s worth the price, so don’t hesitate to change your mind if the cost seems too high. After all, if it’s going to run you $450 to re-make a three-year-old $500 leather jacket, it makes more sense to buy a new one.

For more, visit amazon.com.

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Body Types–Finding Yours

Another excerpt from Real Style: Style Secrets for Real Women with Real Bodies, a book I co-wrote with stylist extraordinaire Sam Saboura.

How many times have you shopped for hours, only to end up frustrated and discouraged? You think that nothing out there is made for your body. Nothing looks good no matter what the cut or shape. In fact, nothing fits properly at all. Before you know it, a bad shopping day turns into a bad self-esteem day.

You start believing that your hips are too big or your boobs are too small or your butt is too wide or your legs are too short. Your arms are too flabby or your shoulders are too sloped or your belly is too round or your waist is too long. You’re convinced you’ll have to go naked for the rest of your life—or at least go on a diet or go to the gym, because something isn’t right.

Wrong! You’re just not shopping for the right body.

Until you identify your body type, you have no way of knowing what styles are best. To get on track, you have to figure out exactly what kind of body you have. When you do, you’ll have a clear picture of what to wear for the way you’re built and what to avoid at all costs. More important, you’ll stop wasting money on clothes that still have the tags on and are too old to return. Reality check: these are not ”inspiration pieces.” They are just mistakes.

Before we go any further, I want to stress one important thing: no one—I repeat, no one—is one stock body type. Every person is completely unique and made up of a combination of many different types. So don’t worry if you can’t find your exact figure in the following list. Just select the basic shape that seems closest to yours, and use it as a general guide.

I also want you to keep in mind that your body is what it is. Sure, you can lose a few pounds or build some muscle or step up your aerobic exercise, but you can never transform the lush curves of an Oprah into the lean-limbed grace of an Audrey Hepburn. And you don’t have to. When you realize this, shopping will be fun and enjoyable—the way it’s supposed to be.

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The Apple

You have a rounded figure with a fuller bust and midsection, heavier arms, and shapely lower legs. You wonder why you never see your body type addressed in the fashion magazines. After all, the average American woman wears a size 14 or 16—depending on which survey you read—while women in the media are usually no bigger than an 8. Now you can be as dazzling as the slinky girls, because plus-size fashion has evolved beyond the big-and-baggy look.

The Diamond

You have wide shoulders and a large bust, with narrow hips and killer legs. Your pear-shaped friends envy you for your slender bottom half, but they don’t know the other half of it. You, too, struggle with balance—it’s just upside-down—because you carry most of your weight on the upper half of your body.

The Willow

You are tall and slender—the Nicole Kidman of your neighborhood. Your breasts are small, your waist and hips are narrow, and you legs and arms are long and lean. But what only you realize is that your willowy stature makes it difficult to find clothes that fit properly. If a size is small enough for your slim frame, odds are it will be too short in the legs and arms. On particularly bad shopping days, you have to sneak into the men’s department just to find pants that are long enough.

The Hourglass

You have a curvy figure, with a full bust, small waist, and full bottom. Some people accuse you of dressing too sexy when you’re not even trying. You make a magnificent Marilyn Monroe at Halloween, and you have the most sought-after body in history. Embrace those curves! Women spend tens of thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery trying to get a body like yours.

The Rectangle

Do you feel boxy instead of foxy? Feel boyish no matter what you wear? Do you get more compliments when you’re in your boyfriend’s or husband’s clothes than when you’re wearing your favorite dress? You’re a rectangle, with shoulders, waist, and hips that are all about the same width.

The Pear

Your figure is smaller on the top and wider on the bottom. Your shoulders are narrow, your breasts are small to average, your waist is slender, and your hips, thighs, and bottom are full. Your goal is to visually alter the proportional differences between your upper and lower body to create a sense of a balance.

The Half-Pint

You’re actually in a class by yourself. You can have any of the body types addressed above, but the one characteristic that sets you apart is your short stature. You might have a stocky, athletic body or be a petite version of the willow. No matter how you’re built, one thing is certain: if you gain five pounds, it looks like ten.

Petite Dressing–What to Wear and What to Avoid

My friend Kim, who is one of two friends who urged me to blog, asked me if I would write something about style for short people–so, Kim, this one’s for you.

The information comes from the book Real Style: Style Secrets For Real Women with Real Bodies (Clarkson Potter, 2005), which I had the pleasure of co-writing with stylist Sam Saboura. If I could take Sam with me every time I go shopping, I’d be the best-dressed woman on the planet.

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In the book, he breaks down body types into seven categories: the pear, the willow, the hourglass, the apple, the rectangle, the diamond, and the half-pint. The following is reprinted from the section on the half-pint: petite women.

The Half-Pint

You can have any of the body types listed above, but the one characteristic that sets you apart is your short stature. You might have a stocky, athletic body or be petite and slender. No matter how you’re built, one thing is certain: if you gain five pounds, it looks like ten.

To make up for your lack of height, you wear three-inch heels to the grocery store—just because. You struggle with the proper skirt length for your frame, and pants are always too long. Since it’s not likely that you’ll be attending a leg-lengthening seminar in Switzerland anytime soon, you’re anxious to find out what you can do to look longer and more proportional.

You can magically add inches to your height by wearing all one color—called monochromatic dressing. It makes your body look like one long, lean line because there are no other colors to break it up.

Surprisingly, longer pant lengths will create height by visually elongating your leg, and are better still when paired with a medium heel. Keep pants simple and darker in color, with a flat front and a side or back zipper, because they provide an uncluttered line for your lower half. Choose a medium-low to a higher waist, since super-low-waisted pants will make your legs look shorter than they are.

When shopping for both tops and bottoms, look for seaming that adds vertical lines, which will make you appear taller. You’re better off with patterns that are small and delicate—just like you—so avoid wearing prints that overwhelm your short frame.

If you have longer hair, trying wearing it in a cute, messy updo or a high ponytail that can work for day or night. Both will add some height to your frame. If you prefer a shorter hairstyle, that, too, can make you look taller by reflecting the proportions of your petite body.

Keep jewelry and purses simple and in proportion to the rest of your body. Choose small, delicate bracelets and necklaces. If you like long earrings, make sure the length is no more than one inch. Look for a scaled-down handbag, such as a clutch or pochette. The point is to enhance your body, not make it disappear under piles of accessories.

STYLE SOLUTIONS FOR THE HALF-PINT

For the half-pint, proportions are extra important. If an item of clothing is just a few inches too long or too short, it can make or break the big picture. You may want to put your tailor on retainer, because it’s the subtle details—a nip here or a taper there—that can help to finesse your overall style.

Keep things slim on your bottom half. A straight or boot-leg pant with a longer hemline will do wonders. When it comes to dresses and skirts, shorter styles work best as long as you’ve got the legs. If not, stick to styles that stop around the ankle, but no longer. Pair everything with some kind of heel to give you additional height.

On top, fitted works better. Solid colors rule most of the time, so when opting for a pattern or a print, keep it very simple. A vertical stripe works well, because it will help lengthen your torso. Just keep in mind that you don’t have the size to carry off anything too big or bold. Add your own spin and interest to an outfit by finishing it with some funky accessories.