Which parts of a man’s suit jacket or blazer can be altered? What can’t be tailored? How much does it cost?
More In This Series
This guide is part of a series of articles about clothing alterations. Feel free to check out the rest of the series:
Oh, and if you don’t have a go-to tailor, here’s how to find a tailor you can trust.
Here at The Modest Man, we talk a lot about fit and how to dress for your body type.
If you can afford bespoke suits, congratulations! Most guys, however, don’t have enough cash to buy custom clothing (especially young men who are in entry-level positions or even just entering the job market).
Luckily, any off-the-rack suit jacket, blazer or sport coat can be tailored for a better fit.
How Can Suit Jackets Be Tailored?
Suit jackets can be altered in a variety of ways, from basic adjustment that any tailor can handle to full-on reconstructive surgery.
At a minimum, most suits should be altered in three ways:
- The waist should be suppressed
- The pants should be hemmed
- The sleeves should be shortened
These basic adjustments are easy and relatively cheap. Oftentimes, however, you’ll need additional tailoring for that perfect fit.
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:
You might be wondering if a specific alteration is “worth it” or not. Unfortunately, the answer depends on your situation.
How much did the jacket cost? Typically, you don’t want to spend more on alterations than it would cost to buy a new garment unless it has sentimental value.
But only can make this call. To help you decide, here’s a quick rundown on jacket alteration prices.
Suit Jacket Alterations Cost
Keep in mind, pricing varies widely from one city (or country) to the next, so take these estimates with a grain of salt.
Roughly, here’s how much you’ll pay for specific jacket alterations in an average American town:
|Shorten sleeves (working buttons)||$40-60|
|Shorten sleeves (faux buttons)||$20-40|
|Take in sleeves (make them slimmer)||$20-40|
|Take in jacket (make it slimmer)||$20-40|
Let’s look at each alteration in a bit more detail…
Your jacket’s collar can be raised, lowered or reduced to fix any collar gap or bunching, but this is not always a straightforward alteration.
Some tailors will simply take the collar in at the center back, which can result in a better fit but will produce a new seam (something you may or may not care about).
Ideally, you should try to make sure your suit jacket collars fit properly when you try them on.
When you’re buying a suit, sport coat or blazer, the most important thing you have pay attention to is how the shoulders fit.
Shoulder alterations are tricky, at best. They’re often impossible and will only make your suit look worse (and cost you a lot of hard-earned money). Most tailors won’t even attempt to this operation.
If the shoulders are too wide or narrow, don’t buy the jacket.
Jacket length is a relatively easy adjustment to make, but it can throw off the proportions of the garment (e.g., the pockets might be too close to the hem).
So make sure not to buy anything that’s too far off (i.e., more than 2″ too long or too short).
Some jackets can be lengthened if there’s excess fabric available inside the hem, but don’t assume this is the case.
Jacket Sleeve Length
Some suit jackets have a bit of excess fabric for lengthening, but be sure to check (or ask about this) before buying, if you think the sleeves are too long.
Shortening a suit jacket’s sleeves is a common alteration that can be done one of two ways: from the wrist or the shoulder.
Shortening the sleeves from the wrist is easy if your jacket has non-functioning sleeve buttons.
If your jacket has working buttons, it may need to be shortened from the shoulder – a much more difficult and costly alteration.
Jacket Sleeve Width
A blazer’s sleeves can be taken in for a slimmer fit through the biceps and forearms.
This is a fairly common and simple alteration.
Jacket Torso Fit (Slimness)
Getting a suit jacket or sport coat taken in for a slimmer fit is a common alteration that any decent tailor can handle.
Also, many jackets can be let out for a slightly roomier fit, as long as there’s a bit of excess fabric available inside the seams.
This is a cheap and easy alteration that can be done at any tailor and even some dry cleaners. You can also learn how to do this yourself.
Just be sure to save the extra buttons that come with your suits and jackets so you don’t have to hunt down a close match.
Should you go custom?
If you’d rather not deal with alterations, or if you have a non-average body type that makes suit shopping difficult, you might want to consider custom suits and jackets.
You basically have two options: made-to-measure and full bespoke. Here’s the difference between odd-the-rack, MTM and bespoke.
Download the "Tailoring 101" PDF Guide
Get all three clothing alterations infographics - dress shirts, jackets and trousers - in one convenient PDF file. Print it out or keep it on your computer/phone so you can reference it anytime. Oh, and it's totally free!