Jump To Section
6 Tips for Tailoring Your Own Clothes
Whether you want to hem pants, take in side seams, or customize the perfect dress, here are some tips to help you achieve a perfect fit.
- Know your measurements. The numbers that retailers use to size their clothing vary from brand to brand. Rather than reference clothing sizes, keep a list of your measurements (neck, bust, arms, waist, hips, and inseam) on hand when you shop. When shopping online, look for the sizing chart on the item page; when shopping in person, bring a measuring tape or pay attention to how a garment fits in the dressing room. Then, when you’re ready to tailor, you’ll know the precise areas you need to address.
- Buy clothes that fit your widest measurement. Aim to buy clothing that fits your widest measurement—for example, if your hips are your widest part, buy jeans that fit your hips, rather than jeans that fit properly in the waist but are too tight in the hips. When you buy clothing that fits your widest measurement, you can then use your sewing machine to take in other areas that are too loose.
- Experiment on old clothes first. Practice is an essential part of becoming a skilled tailor. With experience, you’ll become more comfortable with using your sewing machine to alter garments to your preference. Try out techniques on an old shirt or distressed pair of pants, or pick up a garment at a local thrift store. Avoid practicing alterations on a new or expensive article of clothing.
- Test before you cut. Before altering your clothes, measure and preview the fit. You can preview your alterations by sketching your stitches onto the garment in tailor’s chalk and pinning the garment where you’re going to sew, or by sewing the new seam (you can always unstitch the seam if it’s not quite right). Try the garment on again before cutting away the excess fabric to ensure the alterations are correct.
- Use the right thread. When sewing alterations, use thread that blends into the fabric—for instance, use black thread to alter a black blouse. Choosing the appropriate color thread makes your alteration more discrete, and you won’t need to worry about stitching a perfectly straight line.
- Lock in your stitches. Once you begin sewing, ensure that your stitches will last by locking them in (also called “backstitching”) at the beginning and end of each seam. To backstitch, sew a few straight stitches forward and then press the button on your machine to sew in reverse (or use the “lock stitch” button, if your machine has one), doubling up on the first few stitches before releasing the reverse button and sewing forward again.
Want to Learn More About Unleashing Your Inner Fashionista?
Get a MasterClass Annual Membershipand let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.