Video: How much can you alter a suit?

Monday, December 9th 2019
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One of the reasons a bespoke suit can last a long time is that it is easier to adjust, and the tailors that made it are better at doing so.

It's easier to adjust because more cloth is left in the seams, and in more places, than anything made in a factory. And the hand work makes many of those adjustments easier.

Taking it to the tailor that originally made the suit helps too, as they know how it was put together. It's also nice to know that - given the tailor has probably already been around for decades, if not a century - they will likely be there to carry on looking after it over its life.

However, some adjustments are easy (taking in the side seams); some are hard (altering the length); and some are basically impossible (turning a DB into an SB).

In fact more importantly, most extreme alterations involve compromising the suit in some way. Either the pockets will be out of position, or the line of the front edge won't be right. They'll take a lot of work, and produce a substandard garment.

In this video - the latest in our Wool Care series - I talk to Davide Taub of Gieves & Hawkes about alterations.

He runs through all these possibilities, including how much something can be adjusted by, how many times, and why it might not be worth it.

It's worth bearing the point about compromise in mind throughout the film. Just because something can be done, it doesn't mean it should. Which things should be done is more dependent on the garment itself - and will require an honest conversation with the tailor.

 

 

In the video, both Davide and I are wearing examples of his tailoring. You can find details on my green-linen suit from him here.

The film is the latest in a series looking at how to maintain and care for wool clothing. The others in the series are:

And other practical videos we've done recently include:

 

 

 

 

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Nick

Dear Simon,

Thank you very much, I think that’s quite a comprehensive overview of the topic. As a suggestion you could follow up with your own experiences?

Also, I really like the linen suit you are wearing. I was wondering whether the G and H collar is as high as other english tailors? This is a topic that really interests me as I would like to be able to comfortably wear a jacket both with and without a tie, even perhaps with more casual button-down shirts which often have lower collars. Would appreciate any suggestions.

Harry

My favourite post so far. Very helpful Simon. I just think your style of presentation is perfect. In depth and intelligent. I actually learn from your videos. Much appreciated (again).

Anonymous

I like the videos when I watch them! My only trouble is it is less easy media to consume, can’t have a quick read a la BBC Sport

Anonymous

Definitely agree somethings are better in movement, Simon. Maybe you should do some GIFs in the next style series etc. Show a short walk, raising of the arms, turn of a coat etc. Mr Porter do them: https://video.mrporter.com/videos/productPage/1145678_detail.mp4

Also – interesting article from Die Workwear on the world of the review. You got a shout out! Interested to know your thoughts

Robin

Very good idea .
Something similar (short , clean , concise) with every review , particularly with jackets and suits would be invaluable

Fatih

Thank you so much for this great video. Some things are just better to grasp when demonstrated and explained „live“. And your your way of presenting with the viewer in mind anticipating questions that they might have is just great. Also like your kind way of interacting with your guest. Looking forward to the videos to come.

Gonzague

Davide’s coat in this great video has the best shoulder line + sleeve head I have seen in a long time. He is the cutter with the greatest sense of style, in my opinion.

Fatih

By the way, that suit Davide is wearing and how it fits is absolutely stunning. Where do G&H bespoke suits start these days? And does the price differ when Davide himself is taking care of a customer?

Sam

I rather enjoyed the juxtaposition of Davide’s very formal, very traditional clothing, and his earring. A nice personal touch.

JB

Funny how we can see things so differently. I couldn’t stop wondering why his jacket was sightly fitted that the vented flap was semi vertical. I also thought his sleeves looked far too tight. But I assume this is his preference of fit.

JB

Neopolitan? Surely Davide is wearing Gieves?

PR

Do you have any knowledge of the quality of the G&H RTW suits and the where they are manufactured?

Dan Dee

A great report, Simon. …Do you know how much a bespoke jkt. can be altered before the canvas needs interfered with?…..I have an excellent alterations Tailoress who I would allow to take the waist in a bit (although I wouldn’t let her press lapels etc). However, if the proper job is to also aler the canvas..I’ll forgo the convenience and bring it to a proper bespoke Tailor….Thanks again, Dan.

Burt

A very informative video, covering a lot of possible ‘cases’, thank you 😊

Aspetto

In the office, business suits need to be self-cultivation, but this self-cultivation is definitely not as tight as possible, but to have a suitable tightness. Over-fitting suits not only hinder work, but also leave customers with an unrealistic impression. Of course, the suit is definitely not tighter and more fashionable. So how to judge the suit is not too tight,

Oliver

Simon,

What are the limitations in terms of changing a formal English structured jacket to a less formal unstructured jacket (which I presume would involve shortening, taking out internal padding)? Is this something you have ever tried (or are aware of someone else having tried)? I presume there are limitations in terms of the degree of change you can easily make, but I would be interested in any experiences you have or have heard of in this regard.

Arnault

Tried to find a recent piece on suits to post this…

For Christmas I received a read to wear suit, which, to my surprise, did come without sewn on cuff buttons nor button holes. However I found a little envelope with 8 buttons in them, so I suppose the idea is that I would have to find a tailor to get those attached?

To be frank I‘m a bit confused at the idea and also worried that the tailor — I‘m based in central Africa for work — wouldn’t be to sure how to do this properly.

Can you advise?

Rups

This is perhaps verging into a political question albeit related to tailoring Simon) I have a jacket made by quite a well renowned tailor in London but I found their jackets too formal and uncomfortable in cut to wear in my day to day life as well as evolving in my own personal style. I’d like to make some significant changes to the garment, I was thinking of taking in out in the waist and not just taking it out but broadening the shape so its not so extremely tapered. Id also like to have the back recut with more tolerance so it allows more movement. Now if I go and ask for this would the tailor be amenable to make such changes, or would they be unwilling to essentially recut some parts of the jacket? Would they hit me with a big bill (I haven’t ordered anything from them for a while so not sure how much goodwill I have to trade although there is an unwritten code of some adjustments being made for free I believe although Im not sure how this extends to changing the style)? Im afraid probably like others Ive made some tailoring missteps and if possible Id like to correct what is possible. If I dont get satisfaction at the tailor who made it should I take it to another tailor to look at and perhaps pay them to do something with it?

Rups

Yes I would essentially be telling them that their cut is not something I appreciate. Partially its my fault as I was part of the input process without understanding how things would look or wear.

I always thought that adjustments were free on garments made in-house. I hadn’t realised that only applies if you keep ordering. Its not really a clear system as its never clarified by anyone.

Yes starting again is what I intend to do especially now that I have a better idea of what I actually like and don’t like. I also understand what effects changing proportions even by relatively small amounts do to a garment. Therefore in a way the experience has taught me what to do and not to do. Without going through the experience Im not sure how I would have known any other way. However Im left with garments which I dont really wear and Id like to get some use of them if possible now. Moving forward, any ideas on tailors who would be amenable to recutting another tailors garment? It may be that the jackets just need the side seams taken out but in doing so creating a new softer line to the waist (at the moment its got a very nipped waist which together with a tight back creates a straight jacket feel to the coat).

Rups

I will give it a go and ask what can be done) Simon do you think its part of the bespoke journey to make tailoring missteps in the early days and later you naturally change the style you like as tastes evolve? Would be interested in a post about your own ideas around this. I have made quite a drastic change in what I actually like wearing over the last few years. The fact that in bespoke you can kind of get whatever you want lead me to choose some quite odd choices which in hignsight seem to make no rational sense)

Rups

Yes you do mention it but I wanted some added reassurance) I have done exactly what what you say. I didn’t do it with cloth in loud pattern or colour, as I had been warned about this by you! Instead I ordered extremely structured jackets, and made sure every facet was done to taken to the maximum so waist was taken in as much as possible, lapels were cut huge and so on and so forth. The result is garments are idiosyncratic and don’t fit most contexts outside the very formal. They are also not comfortable to walk around and wear during the day. Thats why I want to soften out all these garments somehow. Problem is my tailor likes structured tight garments so asking him to do this is like asking Ronaldo to try playing cricket. Anyway I guess its been a learning process as I didn’t know what I didn’t know back then)

Rups

Simon is it possible to add drape to the chest retrospectively? I think that’s what my garments need. Not Anderson and sheppard amount of drape but just some excess in the chest and around the waist to fill the coats out a bit.

If that’s not possible I have worked our a cheap solution to my dilemma which other readers may find helpful too. Keeping the coat open and trying to affect a whimsical look like a sartorialist subject)

Peter

Dear Simon,
I have a query.
Can the Left-Right balance of a coat be adjusted after it has been finished. My right shoulder has a pronounced drop which I am not sure was taken into account when the cutting was done. This throws the coat off balance, making the collar stand away, the button and buttonwhole not align perfectly, acts as extending the shoulder and makes the drape more pronounced. Essentially it looks as if the coat is going to slide off my right shoulder. At the first, second, third and fourth fitting, the tailor pointed it out and said he would address it, but that was not done, or at least not successfully. Is there anything to be done? Other than that the coat is very flattering, the style great and I have a very good relationship with my tailor. I have this problem on two coats, and am completely adamant I will not order more if this is not ratified. I would really not want to find a new tailor, but I find it frustrating for an obvious mistake to not be addressed 4 times after being promised to be.
Cheers
Peter

Ben V

great video. On the question of length adjustment ‘tolerance’ – bearing in mind shortening is ever so slightly easier, would a reduction in 1 / 1.5cm tend to be feasible do you think Simon? I had an initial discussion with your recommended Pinnas and Needles, and they were confident, saying they do many of this kind of alteration, but I’m still nervous about throwing the proportions of the garment.

Paul bien

You can change a dB into sb you need lots of wrap over I’ve done it many times loads of work but can do it
My suggestion would be put the money towards a new if its very old

Alex

Great video, Simon. I would love to know your thoughts on the following hypothetical: You have a double breasted RTW/vintage etc jacket in both a smaller and larger size.
The smaller needs the sleeves lengthened, let’s say 2cm, and around the chest let out, let’s say another 2-3cm.
The larger, however, is slightly longer in the shoulder, but not unbearably so.. and needs the waist taken in, and a slight hem shortening.
Which of these two would be the lesser of two evils?
I’ll assuming the chest enlargement would come from the center back and side seams, and the waist shrinking would come from the side seams.

Rups

Simon do you think it would be possible to change the structure of a jacket? Make the shoulder pad softer, reduce the wadding around armhole and perhaps take down the chest canvass? The virus situation has meant Im working from home even more these days than usual and realised softer looks would work better generally. If I could adapt some jackets it would be great.

Rups

Thanks for opinion Simon. I think EBay is going to get some good business from me then)

Chuck Moorman

Good to see Davide Taub, my personal tailor for life discussing facets of the bespoke tailoring business. Davide is si articulate and talented. I am writing this burb wearing the mid-gray alternating white and red pin strips Holland & Sherry fabric suit he made for me last year. In a word it is simply smashing!

NickW

Hi Simon,

Wanted to ask if the circumference of the arm sleeves from the shoulder down all the way to the opening can be easily altered and is it a worthwhile adjustment to be pursuing?

Thanks
Nick

JP

Thank you for the fascinating video, Simon.
My personal experience, having lost a significant amount of weight over a few years, was that the trousers appeared to present the greater challenge. Losing the first 10kg was dealt with fairly easily. Both the coats and trousers were taken in and looked fine, but I was left sensing an excess of material in the body of the trousers. This became more pronounced as I lost further weight.  Whilst the coats coped reasonably well (although they did start to display wider shoulders than they had, they remained wearable, as they could pass for presenting a different cut I suppose), the trousers were uncomfortably bunching up a great deal of loose cloth around the nether regions and the legs became noticeably baggy. We then decided to be more aggressive and narrowed the trousers their whole length and took them in as much as was possible, but the positions of the hip pockets (and quite possibly other factors also) has meant we reached the practical limit (as Davide mentioned in the video, hip pockets are in danger of merging into one). The coats took a narrowing of the shoulders well (I think it may have been only 1/2”, but that made a large difference both aesthetically on the shoulder itself, and also in terms of the volume of fabric in the drape) and the pockets do not look oddly positioned. As a point of reference, my measured waist dropped from “about” 35 to 30. In losing weight, as least for me, it would seem the legs lose relatively more bulk that is impactful on clothings than perhaps arms and torso do.

Tim

Dear Simon
My late father’s suits
Your website is a treasure trove of tips and advice. Apologies if you have answered a similar question to the below in the past – please don’t hesitate to link me to some pre-written advice which saves you time.
My Dad recently past away – he had a large collection of RTW, MTM, and bespoke suits. They tend to be Italian brands (e.g. Canali, Brioni, Armani), but they did include some bespoke pieces from Henry Poole and Huntsman. Many of them will be given to friends and go to charities, but for some of them I would like to keep and hopefully have altered.
As tends to be the case, Dad carried a lot more weight than me, but his shoulders were the same size. Jackets of his I have tried on in the past tend to sit decently well on the shoulders but the remainder of the cut is all wrong – much too large around the stomach which then affected the cut around the chest also. Trousers I would imagine will need significant altering around the waist and seat.
Can a tailor help? If so, are there any tailors (based in London) who you can recommend who can complete the alterations? 
I appreciate that there are many quality tailors in London who may fit the bill, but recommendations from more affordable tailors would be appreciated. I don’t think I can afford Anderson & Sheppard to re-engineer potentially up to 10 suits!
Any recommendations or advice you can provide (no matter how short) will be gratefully received.
All the best
Tim

Tim

Hi Simon
Thank you for the recommendation and the link.
I will check them out.
All the best
Tim

Steve

Hi Tim,
Based on Simons recommendations I’ve used Pinnas & Needles several times for alterations from shirts, trousers & jackets ( with the need to alter waist inwards ) & have always been pleased with their work.