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A good tailor will know what to do.
A good tailor will know what to do. / Stockbyte / Getty Images

Tailor talk

Clinton Kelly of TLC’s What Not to Wear (10th season premieres in January) says word of mouth is the way to find a top tailor: “Even the chicest people don’t mind sharing.”

Other advice:

• Be specific. Saying “This jacket needs to be nipped in at the waist and the sleeves shortened” is better than “This jacket doesn’t fit.”

• When hemming skirts or pants, bring the kind of shoes you’ll wear with them. Hemming for a 5-inch heel is very different than for a flat.

• When taking an item down a size, ask the tailor to leave a generous seam allowance so it can be let out again if necessary.


It doesn’t matter how cute a dress looks on the hanger. If it doesn’t fit, you are not going to buy it.

“Size frustration comes down to the fact that some brands think it’s an either-or when it comes to style and fit,” says Ed Gribbin, president of Alvanon, a company that uses body scanning, analysis and 3-D visualization technologies to help brands such as Prada, Levi’s and Target develop clothes that fit better. If you’re frustrated by blouses that pucker and jeans that slip down, have no fear: We’ve tapped fit experts to help you pull your wardrobe together as easily as fastening a hook-and-eye. Their tips:

Commit to a tailor. After a day of trying on clothes, you might come home thinking you need to put yourself on a diet or see a therapist for body-image issues. “In retail, there is something called a ‘sewing tolerance’ where a garment can halve the difference between two sizes. One size 8 can fit like a 6 and the other like a 10, but they will both pass quality control,” Gribbin says. Sasha Charnin Morrison, author of Secrets of Stylists: An Insider’s Guide to Styling the Stars, agrees that sizing discrepancy is widespread. The solution? A good tailor. “For some reason, people are afraid to go to the tailor,” Morrison says. “They are afraid he’ll take in too much or not enough, but a good tailor will know what to do.”

Understand underwear. “Undergarments should fit the way a great Speedo swimsuit fits a swimmer: sleek and streamlined,” Morrison says. She suggests that women eliminate panty lines — which make pants look tight even if they are not — by wearing seamless microfiber panties and opting for nude-colored underwear. When shopping for a bra, she says, pick one that’s truly supportive, meaning it lifts your breasts and helps you stand up straight — a key factor in making clothes look better. And look for lingerie departments that have sales-people who specialize in bra fittings or that host bra-fitting events.

Do size research. There are companies trying to get it right. Alvanon helped launch Levi Curve ID, in which consumers answer a few telling questions online or in stores about how jeans tend to fit and, based on responses and measurements, get a more accurate size of jeans. And almost every major brand and website has specialty sizing for petite, plus and tall. The only thing, Morrison says: “You will still have to try the clothes on.”

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