You’ve finally found the perfect dress (or suit, or pants), but there’s one problem: it doesn’t quite fit right. What do you do? The first step is understanding the difference between alterations and tailoring so you can decide which service is, ahem, SUIT-able (we couldn’t resist) for your needs.

Even an Armani will fail to impress if it doesn’t fit the wearer correctly; alternatively, a custom-fitted, inexpensive suit will always turn heads!

When it comes to looking your best, the right clothing fit is everything. A perfect fit makes you feel confident and ready for anything your day can throw at you! Unlike off-the-rack clothing, no two bodies are identical, and most of us require some adjustments to our clothes now and then to get a fit that makes us look and feel amazing.

Cue tailoring and alterations. Although you’ll hear the terms used interchangeably, they are actually two very different things. Read on to learn the differences and how you can achieve a fit that stuns.

What Does Tailoring Mean?

Tailoring clothes is a centuries-old art form that requires precision, experience, expert sewing skills, and advanced knowledge of fabrics and how they interact. Tailors typically work with suits, dresses, and other formal wear. A good tailor creates perfectly designed and painstakingly fitted garments to flatter the person who wears them, no matter their body type, from scratch.

What Does Alterations Mean?

An alteration is a change made to a garment after purchase. These adjustments can be less comprehensive than the services tailors offer but are still a great way to get that custom-fitted look. Alteration services include limited changes to garments like adjusting the hem or waistline of a dress, fixing a broken zipper, or adjusting the waistline, seat, taper, or hem of pants. Buying a suit and having it altered to fit you is considerably less expensive than having one custom tailored, but either option will serve you better than just buying a suit off the rack and wearing it as is.

Can a Tailor Perform Alterations?

Absolutely! Besides creating bespoke suits from scratch, many tailors offer other services. Tailors can perform standard alterations or make even more comprehensive changes to your garments. For example, tailors can make structural modifications to suits and jackets, including padding, underlining, and interfacing changes. They can also add buttons, pockets or alter collar and lapel shapes.

Standard Alteration Services and Costs

The services below require varying skill levels, some of them are only available from experienced tailors. Remember, it’s always easier to make garments smaller rather than larger. When sizing up, alteration professionals can’t go beyond the allowances left by the original manufacturer. So, if you’re buying a garment to have it altered, always start with an oversized fit. Keep in mind that these are estimates and prices will vary widely depending on where you live, the specific construction of a garment, and the level of experience and skill of the person performing the alteration. It’s best to consult with your local tailor on pricing.

Jacket Alterations

  • Take in or let out back seam: $50-$80
  • Take in or let out side seams: $50-$80
  • Adjust jacket length: $60-$90
  • Shorten jacket sleeves: $30-$60 (more if the jacket
  • features buttons at cuffs)
  • Shoulder reduction: $150-$180
  • Jacket reline: $200-$250
  • Pocket reline: $30-55
  • Replace or tighten button: $5-$10

Suit Pant Alterations

  • Hem with cuff: $20-$25
  • Hem: $15-$20
  • Leg taper (four-seam): $60-$80
  • Leg taper (two-seam): $30-$50
  • Waist and seat adjustment: $30-$50
  • Replace Zipper: $30-$50

Shirt Alterations

  • Dart addition: $20-$25
  • Taper Sides (Serged): $30-$40
  • Taper Sides (French Seams): $50-$75
  • Shorten Sleeves: $30-$40
  • Shorten Shirt Tails: $30-$40
  • Move Collar Button: $10-$15

Dress Alterations

  • Hem or let out dress or skirt: $15-$20 (more if lined)
  • Take in a sheath dress: $50-$75
  • Move a button: $5-10
  • Restitch a fraying seam: $15-$20
  • Replace buttons: $2-$5
  • Add a hook and eye: $1-$3 per set

Wedding Dress Alterations

  • Hemming: $70-$280
  • Full Alterations: $150-$700 (most brides spend about $450)

No matter how you approach getting the perfect fit, custom-fitted clothing is a valuable asset that should be well cared for by a professional dry cleaner. Wondering how often to clean your formal wear? Check out our definitive guide here!

At ZIPS Cleaners, we’re proud to help you put your best foot forward, and we treat every garment with the care and respect it deserves to keep it looking stellar for years to come. Find a location near you today!