No matter how many messages I leave, Giorgio (Armani, that is) still hasn't come 'round to measure me for a custom wardrobe.  Nor has Ralph (Lauren), or Nannette (Lepore), or Tommy (Hilfiger), Karl (Lagerfeld, Chanel), Carolina (Herrera) or any other of the many designers I like.  You either?  Didn't think so. 

Until they do, we're going to have to employ that tried and true method of having our clothes tailored.  Altered to fit our own unique bodies.  And it's always a shock to me when women tell me they've NEVER had anything tailored.  Have you ever bought a suit with your husband or pair of dress pants?  Notice how it wasn’t even a question that the pants and jacket would be tailored to fit him?  And how the hem of the pants probably wasn’t even finished?!  I wish women's clothing worked the same way.  Women have more curves so how is it we don’t naturally tailor things to fit those curves?!  

Why to Tailor and When!
  • The bottom line?  Off-the-rack clothing that we buy every year is made for averages.  And while there are special options for petite, tall and plus sized women they can hardly be expected to fit every one of us like custom made.  You and I may wear the same size but how we fill those clothes and end up looking in them is completely different. 
  • A few alterations can make a $30 dress look like a $300 dress. A lot of the frustration of style and shopping is the never ending search for the pieces that make us look great.  Many times those pieces are NEVER going to be found without a little help.  They're probably hanging in your closet right now, just needing a little tweaking here and there to reveal their true perfection.
  • Tailoring is truly being budget conscious.  The clothes you own will fit you better – thus you’ll feel and look better in them – ergo you’ll spend less money shopping because you’ll already have items in your closet that are wonderful.  AND you’ll take better care of them (wouldn’t want to ruin those perfect pants that make you look so great!) – ergo you’ll need to replace them less often.  Get the picture?
  • Don't waste money tailoring everything.  You should still shop in appropriate sections (plus, petite, regular, etc.) and look for things that generally fit well.  Then just rely on a tailor to tweak it into perfection as needed.
  • Some things aren’t worth the money to tailor.  Poorly made clothes in cheap fabrics will likely not be worth the expense.  Put the money instead toward a better overall item.
  • Tailoring can still add up so spread out the cost.  Start with items you aren’t totally in love with until you find a tailor you trust.  Then alter the ones you wear (or WANT to wear) the most and every few months have something else tailored until your wardrobe truly fits and flatters you.
  • Clothes can be taken in up to 2 sizes.  If you've recently lost weight, enjoy buying those new "skinny jeans" but also take your best existing pieces to a tailor.  You'll get more years out of your clothes and have more options in your wardrobe.
I had started this post a while ago but ended up working on others instead.  I knew I had to finish it when my copy of InStyle's fall Makeover issue arrived and there was a great article about tailoring.  Here were some of their tips:
Dresses  & Blouses -
  • Cinch the waist.  If it twirls loosely at the waist when it's on, it will look better taken in.
  • Bring in the bust.  Always wear the right bra to your fitting so that you get the proper alteration.  That means, if you always plan to wear your padded "add-a-cup" bra with the dress or shirt, wear it when you go to the tailor!
  • Shorten the hem.  Many hems that fall below the knee (mid-calf frumpers!) will look better AT or just below the knee.
  • Rein in the arms.  Add structure to a loose, floppy sleeve by giving it a bubble hem.  Simply tighten the elastic until it looks right.  I did this last year with a Banana Republic dress I bought for a wedding and upcoming parties.  The sleeves had elasticized cuffs but hung loosely around my arm.  I quickly unpicked the little seam, shortened the elastic, and closed up the seam.  They looked so much better!
  • Trim the waist.  Even a flouncy blouse needs shape.  Bring in the sides slightly for a slimmer, more flattering fit.  I would also add - raise the hem as necessary.  Most tops shouldn't hit below the top of the thigh.  It adds visual pounds and shortens your legs.  
Pants -
  • Tighten the seat!  Even loose-fitting trousers should have shape.  Take in the seat of the pants so the fabric doesn't bunch together.
  • Narrow the inseams (on baggy pants).  With slimmer inseams the pants will fall gracefully from the hips without heavy breaks in the fabric.
  • Raise the hem. (where necessary) Bring the shoes you intend to wear most with your pants to the fitting.  Have each pant leg pinned separately since your limbs aren't always the same length.
Blazer - For years I have employed these same tips for tailoring a blazer.  Suit jackets and blazers look INFINITELY better after a little tailoring.  And I've only ever found one jacket that fit so well it didn't need it.  All the rest did and it was totally worth it.
  • Slim the sleeves.  For a more streamlined, feminine look, taper boxy sleeves so there is added separation between your arms and waist.
  • Nip it at the waist.  Give your blazer instant shape by having the sides brought in.
  • Watch your wrists.  Too-long sleeves are an immediate giveaway of an ill-fitting jacket.  They should hit at your wrist.
Choosing A Tailor
Don't live in Thailand?  Me either.  It's a veritable hive of fine tailoring.  Superb skill at fractions of US prices.  Would be nice to just jet over there as needed.  But excellent craftsmen are to be found on our home turf.  I've never once had a Nordstrom tailor return anything but perfection.  And they've even altered clothing I didn't purchase at Nordstrom.
Asking around is your best option.  You'll probably get advice on who to visit as well as who to stay away from.  If that doesn't yield any results, check out online resources, such as the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals, Craigslist, etc.

So whipstich! that wardrobe into shape!  And smile in your closet a little more often.