Alterations 101: Men’s Suit Jackets and Blazers

What Parts of a Man's Suit Jacket or Blazer Can Be Altered, and How Much Does It Cost?

Here on The Modest Man, we talk a lot about fit and how to dress for your body type (specifically, the shorter body type). Fit is important with all clothes, from jeans and tee shirts to shoes and accessories. It is especially important when it comes to formal wear, such as suits.

If you can afford bespoke suits, congratulations. You are part of an elite group of men who are exceedingly well dressed. A lot of guys, however, do not have enough cash to buy custom clothing. Especially young men who are in entry-level positions or even just entering the job market.

Luckily, off the rack suits can be altered for a better fit. At a minimum, every suit should be altered in three ways:

  1. The waist should be suppressed
  2. The pants should be hemmed
  3. The sleeves should be shortened
These basic adjustments are easy and relatively cheap. Often times, however, you will need additional alterations. This graphic will give you an idea of which parts of a suit jacket or blazer can be changed and how much it will cost you (click for full-size):


Men's Suit Jacket and Blazer Alterations

When you're buying a suit or any formal jacket, the most important thing you have pay attention to is how the shoulders fit. As the graphic states, shoulder alterations are tricky at best. They are often impossible and will only make your suit look worse.

Similarly, jacket length is not an easy adjustment, so make sure not to buy anything that is too far off. If you keep these points in mind when shopping for a new suit, you will do well. Just be picky and don't settle for anything that doesn't look and feel great.

More in this series:

Alterations 101: Pants & Trousers

Alterations 101: Suit Jackets and Blazers

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  1. Brock, this is crazy man!

    How long did that diagram take you. I feel like it would take me 10 years to learn all that knowledge and another 8 to develop the diagram. Wow. Seriously awesome man.

    I have always strayed away from suit jackets and blazers in any type of casual wear because I see so many dudes try to pull it off and look like for lack of a better word douche bags. So preferring to not enter that realm I have stayed away.

    I will say I think it looks awesome when done correctly. I’m just not there yet. I feel like this is an advanced technique that I can build up to.

  2. Thanks, Izzy. I hear ya on the sport coat with jeans thing. I think you just need the right coat. Something without lining, not too fancy, and that fits very well. Even then, it’s not a look for everyone (although most guys look great with sport coats if worn right).

    I’m actually doing these diagrams with PowerPoint. I have the Adobe apps, but I became somewhat of a PowerPoint ninja in my last job, and you can actually make good looking graphics with it if you spend a little time tweaking!


    • Amanda Lee says:

      Thanks—four years later. As I get older and more mature and vested in my career, I now understand the importance of good clothes.

  3. Hmm.. this suit looks familiar… probably because I wore it today. An extra tip, which I indulged, is if you want an ultra-sleek modern look, get the jacket without pocket flaps. It removes bulk from the lower part of the jacket and is a great way to maintain the lines of your fitted jacket.

    • I was actually considering that detail (or lack thereof) for my next suit. Seems like it would streamline the silhouette even more.


  4. I just recently took my new suit to the lady that does my alterations. Macy’s has a group of suits called Bar III that have a more modern fit in slim and extra slim. Extra slim almost fit me perfectly, but being a little more on the athletic build side, the upper arm area was a bit tight, and I haven’t gone to the gym in a while so I needed a little room to grow when I do hit the gym again. So, I had to go to the slim fit.

    Pants: Hem Pants, take in legs, take in waist.

    Jacket: Take in waist, shorten arm length, take in arms, shorten jacket.

    Price: $122 plus tax!

    I have to shop for cheaper suits knowing I have get a lot things altered and pay so much.

    • Ian,

      What was the total cost of this suit with alterations? Might want to consider going custom if it was over $500. Also, if you’re getting this many alterations done, definitely buy a cheaper suit. If you’re spending serious money, it should fit better than it did. That’s a lot of tailoring for a new suit!


      • $375 will be the total. Suit at $250 with sale + around $125 for alterations. Who can you go to that would custom tailor a suit for less than $2,000? I’ve been wanting to try the online custom tailor,, but even with that you take the risk of needing to get alterations done when you get it back.

    • I personally always buy cheaper suits or sport jackets because I know I will most likely have to get them tailored to liking,and its been working for me for years,BUY CHEAP LOOK VERY EXPENSIVE,TRUST ME,people will notice and will be asking you,”how can I look like that”…

  5. I can recommend to you from blazers -“Our legacy” they have a very good fit, especially in the arms. They are quite inexpensive, but the quality of tailoring remains high.

  6. If your on a budget,or you just don’t have a lot of money and just don’t like to waste your money,this might not be popular to some and I really don’t know why but heres a few great places to get great bargains at rock bottom prices,#1 THRIFT STORES,#2 GOOD WILL STORES #3 SALVATION ARMY STORES and #4 GARAGE SALES…Don’t look down on those places,you will be AMAZED,I KNOW I WAS AND THOSE PLACES STILL AMAZE ME….It’s not necessarily where you shop,its all about how much money can you save buying quality merchandise at these places and still look really really good.Even if a suit or sport jacket is a little big or the sleeves are a little short but it looks GREAT and the price is GREAT,just get it tailored to your liking and you’ll look GREAT.Just always make sure you have a perfect fit in your shoulders when buying a suit or a sport jacket because the cost to tailor shoulders can cost $100 or more.GOOD LUCK…

  7. Brock – I know you mention that shoulder work is very expensive, but does it work when executed? My body size has me in a weird position where I fit into a 50 R but the shoulders feel tight, but a 52 is just way too big on me and the shoulders hang off my by quite a bit.

    Am I better off with a 50R and getting work done on the shoulders or going to a 52R and having what would likely be even more alteration work done?

    • Hi Joshua,

      it has been a long time you posted however I have an advice for you on this.

      It is better of getting a bigger suit and tailoring it in instead of considering of getting the shoulders expanded. When the tailor do the work and expand the shoulders, there are few things at risk that could ruin your jacket:

      – The lining in the middle back of your jacket will need to be opened and expanded. There is a risk of getting the stewing marks on the back of your jacket when the fabric is expanded.
      – There might not be enough fabric to expand in the back. Even 1cm is risky because there should always be some fabric left inside the back lining to not damage the jacket structure.

      Consider buying the 52 and getting other parts shortened. Shortening is always easier. The shoulders are the hardest bit of getting fixed.

      I have the same issue and unfortunately, when I buy expensive suits, when the 50 doesn’t fit, I go for the bigger size (52) and I consider the other suit alterations. Usually they are: waist, chest, sleeves and sometimes arms (this is usually are not necessary unless you are a bit of perfectionist like I am).

      Remember that expensive suits are not always about fitting perfectly, but about patented materials and structure (shoulders) that can last.


  8. Bill in London says:

    That jacket doesn’t fit!
    Difficult to tell, but it seems as if the shoulder seams are well off the shoulder.
    The front button draws the cloth in and ‘bunches’ it upward. No-no.
    – Classically, the button should “touch & fall away”, but if it is buttoned, should not pull.
    But the lenght is atrocious, far too short. The lower edge of most styles of jacket should be approximately at the knuckles of one’s relaxed, clenched hand.
    This guy would look very funny trying to get his hands into his pockets, which are somewhere up near his rib-cage! (Maybe I exaggerate.) OK for the birdie dance, though.

    • Billy Brandon says:

      Now here’s someone who knows his jackets! It’s not quite Pee Wee Herman’s but is too short and too tight in the middle.

  9. So I have this sports jacket. It used to belong to my granpa. Its sick material nad has this nice grey finish. I tried it on. and it feels weird. The shoulders are just a bit tight but they arent the problem. I have a bit of broad back. if i can get 1 inch in the back itll be fine. Also the sleeves are like an inch shorter than they should. The length is perfect. And so is the buttons. I could bring them in closer for bit more space.

    Can I make it work. Is it possible to get that extra inch of the back? and the extra inch for the sleeves? Is it possible to widen the sleeves somehow?

    I am only doin this painstakingly to preserve that heritage sports jacket.

  10. This post is fantastic and I just pulled a jacket from my closet that I’m going to give away immediately. It’s a 38 R and I should wear a 38 S. It is about 3 inches too long based on this picture.

    My question is where should that button fall in relation to your belly button? I really like the look of that one.

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