3 Common Alterations for Clothing

After working with successful men and women all over the world, I’ve learned that there are 3 common alterations for clothing- no matter your body type, location, profession.

These common clothing alterations can immediately take your look to the next-level instantly and are very common for tailors to complete.

In this article I’m going to be sharing with you the 3 most common clothing alterations that my clients need.

woman getting pants hemmed, man getting sleeve hemmed, woman getting blazer taken in


Why you need alterations

I believe that you can create a system for your style to make it more fun, approachable and easy to manage. In my  3 step system, FIT is one of the components to concentrate on and invest in.

So why do you need to focus on getting the right fit?

By investing in getting the perfect fit, you’ll instantly take your look from boring to wow.

man dressed in baggy clothes. man dressed very well.


You’ll be able to instantly look more put together, in shape and confident. Your style will support your message- NOT distract from it.

Why it’s very common to get alterations

Many people are under the impression that clothing should fit them off the rack. 

This is not true!

Let me explain why. 

First, the measurements used for say, a size medium, have changed over time. This is called vanity sizing– where the same size becomes bigger overtime. 

For example, a size 8 in 1967, is actually a size 00 in today’s standards.

Twiggy vanity sizing

(Image by Time)


Second, it’s impossible to create unique garments for every individual’s body type that may possibly shop/purchase from them.

So what retailers do is use fit models as an ‘average’ of what their typical shopper is to fit the most body types.

Now, every retailer has their own fit model that they use. That’s why when you buy something from brand 1, you may not be the same size in brand 2. 

Typically, American Brands fit ‘bigger’ than European brands. 

I myself have been an XS in an American Brand but a bigger size in European brands- this is because of fit models and the retailer’s average customer body type.

woman wearing three different sizes


Now, let’s dive into the 3 most common alterations that my clients need.

ALTERATION 1. Pant Length

Getting the pant length tailored for men and women’s trousers is very common.

When deciding what pant length is best for you, there are many options. (Click here to read more about jean length).

man getting pants hemmed


For my male clients, I always recommend doing a pant length which is a no break or quarter break (depending on the pant).

This reads modern, looks put together and sharp. 

For my female clients, I recommend the same.

Depending on if you wear heels or flats, a no break or quarter break can give you the versatility to alternate between shoes. 

woman wearing tapered pants


I personally wear a no break and even opt for an ankle crop for most of my trousers and jeans.

 I could just as easily opt for a longer pant length, so this just comes down to personal preference and style. You’ll have to decide the same for yourself (or have a stylist decide for you).

If you’re unsure of what length is best for you, remember to start longer. 

You can always get another alteration from there if you want to go shorter but you can’t go back once it’s hemmed shorter.

ALTERATION 2. Sleeve Length

baggy sleeve vs hemmed sleeves


The Sleeve length is one that is common for any top- including button down shirts (long or short sleeve), women’s blouses, blazers, jackets and coats.

With the sleeve length, you’ll want to make sure that you get the alteration while you’re trying it on, don’t guess what the sleeve length should be.

man getting sleeve hemmed


Typically, a 1-3 inch sleeve reduction is good. 

You’ll want it to hit right at your wrist bone so use that as your guide. If you are getting a top that has buttons, the tailor may need to remove or move up the buttons, which is normal.

ALTERATION 3. Taking in a top

dart in back of blazer


Another common alteration for my clients is to get a top taken in because it’s too big on them. This usually happens if the brand runs too big and we want the top to be more fitted to their body.

This alteration can take place on a button down dress shirt (long or short sleeve), women’s blouses, blazers, jackets and coats.

woman getting darts in back of blazer


When you have on your top, your tailor will usually put 1-2 darts in the back.

A dart is when there are folds (or tucks coming to a point), which are sewn into a garment to give shape to the garment and flatter the wearer’s body.

Next Level Wardrobe offers image consulting and personal styling for men and women. Read more about our men’s image consulting and women’s image consulting, or contact us to start your styling journey.

Picture of Cassandra Sethi

Cassandra Sethi is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. After working over 15 years in the Fashion Industry, most recently as a Senior Buyer for Equinox, she created business Next Level Wardrobe – a luxury personal shopping service for successful professionals. Cassandra’s been featured in Greatist, Livestrong and NY Mag.

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