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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I felt the need to write this based on a recent post detailing a members disappointment with local alternations tailors and his desire to alter his own clothes. While many here use respected tailors who you have a long personal relationship with and need no advice. There are also those who are just starting out and don't have a relationship with a good tailor. Here are my tips for how to spot a poor quality alterations tailor.

1. If you ask to have a shirt slimmed down and the tailor want to put darts in the shirt this is not a good sign. Darts, regardless of how you feel about them for shirts, are the fastest and easiest way to take in a shirt. If the tailor is keen on darting the shirt it is probably a sign of either inexperience or laziness. In that they either don't know or don't want to take the time to properly take the shirt in at the side seams. Taking in the side seams is neither complicated nor time consuming for someone with any experience doing it.

2. If you ask to have the sleeves shortened and the tailor wants to detach the cuff and cut the sleeve placket and all, run. Especially since unlike darts it is irreversible save having a new placket made and it looks quite odd having a placket a half inch or more shorter than it should be. This again is a hallmark of someone who either does not have the experience or is trying to cut corners. The proper way to shorten a sleeve is to detach the cuff, remove the placket, cut the sleeve, reattach the placket, and reattach the cuff. While it is more complicated and work then the first method. It is neither complicated or time consuming for anyone who knows what they are doing and as far as alterations go it is not that difficult.

3. This tip is less about the actual alternation and more about the tailors attitude and knowledge of how to fit people. People are asymmetrical creatures so it is quite possible that your legs are not the same length. This means that if you don't know your inseam for that pair of pants you will need to have both legs measured. If the tailor says that measuring both legs is unnecessary or seams put off by having to do more work that is not a good sign.

On a similar vein different material and weight will drape differently and more importantly different leg opening widths will break at different times. So if you bring in a pair of slim linen pants without cuffs and a pair of boot cut winter flannels with cuffs they will have different inseams. If the tailor is getting annoyed at all this measuring or does not see the need for it, that is probably someone you do not want to do business with. While they could be having a bad day it also could be that they don't know how clothes should fit and don't treat their clients well.

Those are my general tips on how to spot a poor quality tailor. As an aside denim is a bit tricky due to its weight. One needs special needles and preferably thread. It also helps to have a heavy duty sewing machine. So make sure the person altering your clothes is aware of the requirements for sewing denim.
 

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I like what you just wrote, but I've got a quibble with the shirt tightening alteration. You say that side-seam alteration is neither complicated nor time consuming; it can be both, particularly if you're duplicating a lap seam and when you transition to the arm hole which often has to be incidentally altered, perhaps the sleeve top as well. As for darts -- and here I'll give to you subjective rah rah --- wow, do they ever look custom, much like the darts on the rear of military jackets and some half and full Norfolks. I'm a big fan of customization, hot-rodding if you will, and like it to show. Solid points on the rest though. And thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
How I learned to take in the side seam is to use mock flat felled seaming. Basically you pin how much you want to take in the shirt, tapering into the sleeve and then sew along the pin line. Next cut and press the seam then sew two lines of top stitching along the seam. Trying to duplicate the original flat felled seam.
That isn't complicated or time consuming compared to taking in the shoulders which is an absolute nightmare to try and pin the shoulder and sleeve back together. I still have a shirt without any sleeves from when I tried that.
Thank you for the compliment.
 

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There's nothing wrong with adding darts to the back of a shirt, if that's what the fit needs. They can achieve more waist-suppression than the side seams alone if placed near the side seams (like my bespoke shirtmaker does), or they can be placed further in to take in the shirt in the small of the back. Side seams alone can only achieve so much waist suppression before the shape of the shirt is distorted, and they cannot do anything about too much fullness in the small of the back.

But you are also right that darts are often used as a shortcut. They should only be used if the shirt already fits fairly well because they can only have a small effect on the fit.

As for shortening the sleeve gauntlet, sometimes it can be done without sacrificing the design of the shirt. Some of the better shirtmakers make their gauntlets a little longer than usual to account for shortening the sleeve a small amount.

Some things I have heard of bad alterations tailors doing is taking in the centre back seam of a jacket for waist suppression, which is a bad idea in most cases. A tailor who says he needs to close vents to make an alteration is also a bad tailor.

I once had a tailor sew the the back of the waistband together at an angle to take in the waist of trousers without taking in the seat. My seat was exceptionally large for the size of my waist, and this was the only way to make the trousers work for my body. Unfortunately, the trousers had belt loops, and because of the angle of the waistband the belt wouldn't play nice with the trousers. Thus, I could not wear the trousers. The tailor should have told me that it was not possible to make the trousers fit me. I took advice from here to size up in trousers to fit my seat and take in the waist, but unfortunately it didn't work. I needed trousers cut for a more pronounced seat.
 

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There's nothing wrong with adding darts to the back of a shirt, if that's what the fit needs. They can achieve more waist-suppression than the side seams alone if placed near the side seams (like my bespoke shirtmaker does), or they can be placed further in to take in the shirt in the small of the back. Side seams alone can only achieve so much waist suppression before the shape of the shirt is distorted, and they cannot do anything about too much fullness in the small of the back.

But you are also right that darts are often used as a shortcut. They should only be used if the shirt already fits fairly well because they can only have a small effect on the fit.
I agree with this - darts can be useful - they shouldn't be a replacement for taking in the side seams but can be helpful in the correct circumstance.
 
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