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.
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.
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