Tailors have it made as fashion-concious refit and redo

By Wendy Donahue

Chicago Tribune

Nothing can refresh a years-old designer skirt or disguise a bargain-bin jacket like a seam ripper and a few new stitches.

"We’re doing a lot of redos, and not a whole lot of new stuff," said Maria Tesseris, owner for 25 years of Golden Needle Tailoring in Chicago. "I’m really busy right now. When the economy is not doing well, ladies dig in their closets and try to update whatever they have — a little shortening, a little tapering."

At that moment, Nancy Coutu entered Tesseris’ shop with a heap of 20 or so winter garments for tailoring.


"I lost a lot of weight, so I’m trying to have everything taken in. I went down three sizes," said Coutu, 55, an investment adviser.

Coutu is buying some new clothes, but she wants to salvage as much as she can of her expensive business wardrobe.

"It’s easy enough to give it away," Coutu said, "but to replace it, it’s thousands of dollars."

Even without a dramatic size change, personal fashion stylist Stacy Wallace-Albert suggests that women try on key pieces from their closet and give themselves a good once-over in the mirror.

"Almost everything can be improved by an alteration," Wallace-Albert said.

Three key tailoring tweaks can upgrade your wardrobe without doubling the cost of the garments:

1. Changing a hemline. Dresses and skirts can shift from frumpy to flattering just by raising the hemline. "Just above the knee or at midknee is an elegant length and never goes out of style," Tesseris said. As for pants, too long is no good, but too short is even worse, Tesseris said. "I have some clients who want to do even just a quarter of an inch up or down, because it makes a difference." Price for hemming varies. Pant hemming starts around $12 at dry cleaners; $20 at tailors.

2. Tapering through the waist and hips. Buy a bargain dress and have it tapered, and suddenly it looks like a Diane von Furstenburg. "The waist is also pretty key on pants," Tesseris said. "If the pant sits up OK there, even if it’s a little loose elsewhere, it looks like it fits." Pricing varies. At Golden Needle, it starts at $30.


3. Shortening sleeves. This is perhaps the most overlooked adjustment for women. Too-long sleeves can downgrade a jacket or coat — even a T-shirt — faster than you can say "dumpy." "Even if the rest of the jacket is a little big, if the sleeves are right, it looks OK," Tesseris said. Sleeve hemming is generally $40 to $45 at Golden Needle, depending on lining and buttons, etc.

A few good tailors

Stylists caution against entrusting high-end items to dry cleaners’ tailors. You might pay more for a good tailor, but it’s worth it for investment pieces or wardrobe staples. Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations. To avoid waiting, call first.

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