How to Find a Tailor

You want your clothes to fit better, but the thought of going to the tailor is intimidating, and you don’t know where to start. This post is for you.

How to find a tailorFit is the most important aspect of style. If you don’t believe this, look at the old photos of me in this post. You can see how I used to dress before I understood the importance of fit.

Wearing clothes that fit will literally make you look taller, thinner and even more athletic. But if you wear clothes that fit poorly, you will look shorter, fatter and less competent that you really are.

The problem is, for us shorter gents, it’s very difficult to find clothes that fit properly. Like almost impossible.

Sure, there are a couple of brands that make clothing for short men, like Peter Manning. And you can always buy custom clothing (if you have the time and money, of course).

Heck, there are even web apps that can help you find clothes that fit.

But at the end of the day, the best way to make sure your clothes fit is to get them tailored.

I’m talking about good old fashioned clothing alterations. Because the reality is, clothes are mass manufactured to fit the average male, who happens to be 5’9″ and slightly overweight.

That’s why men under 5’9″ are pretty much screwed when it comes to clothing. You might say we’ve been short shrifted.

If you’re already getting your clothes tailored, good for you! You’ve taken the most important step toward dressing well everyday.

If you’ve never been to the tailor, it’s okay. I understand. Going to the tailor for the first time can be intimidating. You’re probably wondering:

How do I find a good clothing tailor?

What do I tell them?

Do I have to know my measurements?

What if they mess up my clothes?

Is it going to be expensive?

What if I waste my money?

These are all legitimate concerns, but I promise you have nothing to be worried about. I’m going to teach you how to find a tailor, how to “test” them out and how to build a lasting relationship.

Let’s start at the beginning…

How to Find a Tailor

The best way to find a clothing tailor is to use – you guessed it – the internet. To start, just search Google for “tailor + your town name”. For most cities and towns, there will be plenty of options to choose from.*

How do you pick the best one? Focus on these two criteria:

  • Reviews (check their Google and Yelp reviews)
  • Location (make sure they’re close to your home or workplace)

After you find a tailor with good reviews that’s close to where you live or work, pick up the phone and call them. Make sure they’ll be open when you plan on stopping by, and ask them the following question:

“I want to get a pair of jeans hemmed, and I’d like to keep the original hem. Can you do that?”

If they say “no” or don’t understand the question, find another tailor. This is a great way to filter out inexperienced tailors who don’t really know what they’re doing.

The hem is the extra piece of fabric that’s folded over itself at the leg opening of your jeans. Any clothing tailor who’s worth your time will understand that jeans look much better with their original hem.

Jeans original hem

Left = fake hem, Right = original hem

Chances are, whoever you call will say they can hem your jeans and keep the original hem, no problem. Ask if you need an appointment. If so, make one. If not, let them know when you want to stop in (this first visit won’t take more than 15-20 minutes).

*If you live in a small town or remote location, search for dry cleaners instead of tailors. Most dry cleaners have someone on staff who can handle basic alterations.

Start With Some Pants

Your potential tailor may have passed the initial screening, but that doesn’t mean you should trust them with your entire wardrobe. You’re still feeling them out.

Bring in a pair of jeans and/or a pair of trousers (dress pants) that are too long for you. Wear the shoes that you usually wear with those pants. If you need to bring in two different pairs of shoes – one for the jeans and one for the trousers – that’s totally fine.

You don’t have to know any specific measurements, but you should have an idea about how you want your pants to break.

Look over this pants fit guide from Primer Magazine. You can even print this picture and bring them with you.

Pants break

Image credit: Primer Magazine

Explain which type of break you prefer (I prefer no break for dress pants and a quarter break for jeans). Your tailor will ask you to stand up straight in front of the mirror while they measure you. Make sure to stand naturally.

It’s okay if you feel a little uncomfortable at this point, especially if there are other customers watching. Don’t worry about it. Try to pretend that you’re some rich business mogul who’s being fitted for a bespoke tuxedo in his penthouse office.

Sean Connery suit fittingOr pretend you’re Sean Connery getting fitted for your next Bond flick.

I realize this may be hard. Your tailor probably isn’t an old Italian gentleman, and you’re local dry cleaning facility probably isn’t lined with mahogany shelves full of leatherbound books and decanted whiskey.

But the point is you should try to enjoy it.

The tailor will fold your pants up to what they think is the best length. If you want them shorter, tell them. Don’t be intimidated, and don’t be shy. I’ve found that most tailors are conservative when it comes to length. If you don’t speak up, you may end up with pants that are still a little bit too long for your liking.

They may not agree with your preferences, but they won’t be offended, and they will come to learn and remember what you like. Trust me on this one!

Ask how much it’s going to cost (should be $10-20), and see if you can pay when you pick the pants up. It should only take a few days.

Bring In a Button Up Shirt

Let’s assume the pants turned out great. Now it’s time to up the ante. Find a dress shirt that’s too baggy in the torso and/or sleeves. Go back to the same tailor and tell them you want the shirt “taken in”.

Again, they’ll make you stand on the little platform in front of the mirror while they pin up your shirt. Make sure they do the sleeves too (if they’re baggy).

This will probably cost between $15-25 dollars, depending on where you live. It should also only take a few days to complete.

Nurture the Relationship

Congrats! You now have your very own tailor. If they did a good job with your pants and shirt, you should feel comfortable asking them about more complicated alterations, like shortening sleeves.

If they did a good job with the pants but botched the shirt, you’ll have to continue your search.

Don’t be surprised if you end up with more than one tailor. I have three that I go to regularly. One is quick, convenient and cheap. I go to them for basic stuff like getting pants hemmed or removing belt loops.

Another (VIP Custom Tailor) handles the bulk of my tailoring needs – shortening sleeves, tapering pants, etc.

The third is a master suit maker who I only go to for major surgery on suits and jackets. They’re more expensive (rightfully so), and I wouldn’t bother them with basic alterations.

William, owner of Field English Custom Tailors. Georgetown, DC.

A photo posted by The Modest Man (@modestmanstyle) on

Make sure to build a strong relationship with your tailor(s). Leave them glowing reviews on Yelp and Google, and recommend them to friends and coworkers. After a while, they might even give you discounts or occasional free dry cleaning to say “thanks” for the repeat business and promotion.

Start Today

So I challenge you, right now, to commit to getting a pair of pants hemmed. It might just change your life.

Are you actually going to go to the tailor? Commit to it by leaving a comment below!

Comments

  1. Chandrapaul says:

    Brock this is a great post. I think this will give more people the confidence to go to a tailor. Best investments I’ve ever made! Keep up the awesome posts!

  2. Great advice, and logical process for finding and judging the tailor you need to get the fit. Thanks also for the encouragement NOT to accept the closest fit that off-the-rack clothes provide today.
    I’ve been at that point where the shortest inseam I can get is almost good enough (if I hike up my pants a bit and accept a full “break”). And that’s NOT good enough any more. Thanks, Brock!

  3. Matt Dalton says:

    Excellent article, Brock.

    If I can add to the point about checking Google and Yelp reviews, people should make sure to look for comments related to menswear alterations. One will certainly find excellent reviews of tailors that can work magic on wedding dresses and such, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be good at alterations for guys, too.

    Guys should also be careful to not simply call around for a tailor who can get the work done fastest, unless extenuating circumstances apply. Good tailors will be in some demand and therefore have a backlog. The last work done by my tailor took over two weeks, but I did not mind a bit because I knew the work would be done right the first time. And hopefully being patient when there is no real rush will pay off and get me quick help if I ever have an actual emergency situation.

    Being able to mark/pin things up properly is as important of a skill as the sewing work, so a tailor with a good eye and sense for proper fit is something to look for. Certainly we should be telling the tailor what we want, but if the alteration is to the back of the suit jacket, we need to stand still and trust their professionalism. When trying out a tailor, the confidence and care displayed when marking or pinning is worth our attention.

    If anyone in Seattle is looking for a tailor, I highly recommend John at Northwest Tailor in the 1521 Second Avenue building, between Pike and Pine streets..

  4. Great post very helpful as always. Constantly learning new things thanks to you.

  5. Really useful article, Brock. I have been putting off going to the tailor out of fear of not knowing how to choose the right one and having my clothes messed up. You advice in this article has motivated me to finally go out and find one.

  6. Do you know what is the correct lenght for a trench coat? I’m 5’3 and I saw a beautiful navy blue trench coat but its lenght is 37″ and falls below my kness. Any idea about tailoring this kind of clothes. Cheers from Mexico.

    • Hey Albert,

      I wouldn’t wear any coat that goes past the knees. Mid-thigh is plenty long for short men. You can get coats shortened, but if you’re taking off more than a couple of inches, it’s going to look weird.

      -B

  7. Carter Michaelson says:

    I really struggle when it comes to finding a good suit that fits properly. So many of my coworkers have these amazing suits that look really great and I have never been able to find that. My wife has tried to tailor a few of mine but I never really get the look that I want. I will have to look into finding a tailoring shop to give me a suit that fits me perfectly. I think that how you dress can definitely affect your self esteem and how you are viewed in the business world.

  8. Thanks, man, great post! I bought a new suit this week that I’ll have tailored this weekend. Can’t express how much of a difference it makes to wear well-fit clothing!

  9. Random question about tailoring a Bonobos Banff jacket. I’m unfortunately between large and extra large. The body of the large fits well, but the sleeves and shoulders are a little tight. Wondering if a tailor could take in the body of the extra large. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Hard to say without seeing the jacket in person. This is usually doable, but it could get complicated if the jacket has lining and/or insulation. I would email/call bonobos to ask about that before buying (they’re “ninjas” are very responsive on Twitter… try to get in touch there).

  10. Hello I live in Liverpool Uk so I read all your notes but cannot take up retailers you suggest, if only there was a Brock in the UK!

    • Hey Paul,

      Hopefully the same process for finding a tailor applies to you. Some (but not all) of the retailers I mention ship internationally. Some even do it for free, although most charge extra for that.

      -B

  11. Great post!! My question is what if u want pants made from scratch to fit your particular body type/shape. Sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what your looking for but say for instance u know exactly what u want , maybe a pic of some jeans that the company doesn’t carry in either size or length.. Does this fall under a different category? Having to buy material & wanting it made to fit right from hip to toe! Does that fall under alterations?

  12. I live in London UK and as to prices quoted above for tailoring my only comment is ……in your dreams! But seriously I recognize things are different there. But it IS a major extra barrier here to finding a good tailor. Also, personally for alterations I wouldn’t go near an English dry cleaner with a barge pole.

  13. For anyone on the fence about going to a tailor just do it. I went to a tailor recently. Admittedly, I followed most of the advice here but I took more risk. I took in 1 pair of dress pants, 3 chinos, jeans (hem) and a couple of shirts. One was a dress shirt that was brand new from Banana Republic (Grant fit is a great slim fit). A week later I was excited and a bit nervous too. I was so happy with the results. She slimmed my dress pants down perfectly and I have about 1/4 break that I love because I wear colored socks and they just show a bit here and there.

    I’m 5′ 8″ and always bought a 30 inseam. She measured a pair that she did and they are 28.5″ so it just shows how much extra I was wearing at the bottom.

    Tonight I gave her a nice suit I have that I’m not satisfied and now that I trust her I feel good that in a week I’m going to love this suit and want to wear it all the time.

    I am going to spend about $500 on all the stuff I’m getting done but it is worth it.

  14. Once i know my preferred inseam length, can I just tell the tailor I want all of my pants hemmed to that length or is it necessary to have each measured separately?

    • If it’s the same type of pants (like jeans) you can tell them the length. Just keep in mind what kind of shoes you’ll wear them with, as that can influence your preferred length.

  15. how about googling tailoress…women can tailor too!!!….one important thing I would look for is that they have industry experience and industrial machinery to ensure they will have the same finish…

    • Some of my favorite tailors are women! I use the term “tailor” like “actor” to mean men or women. Thanks for the tip!

  16. Philipp Iarmaltchouk says:

    Very very useful guide. It seems that I will never ever be able to find anything in retail that would fit me according to all the rules. I have been to 3 tailors, but even they don’t seem to get it quite the way I like it. The last tailor I had been to was very good, I am not quite ready to pay £770 for a work suit though. The suit I got from Artefact London was for a wedding. If anyone knows someone a bit more affordable, please spread the word 🙂

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