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tailoring-allowances-by-jeffery-diduch-jefferyd

Words and Illustrations by Jeffery Diduch

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Alterations are a fact of life when buying tailored clothing. No two bodies are alike and so allowances are given so that a garment can be altered to fit better. Likewise, bespoke garments will also have allowances built in to allow for changes in weight over the life of a garment. The types of allowances, or inlays, will vary whether the garment was ready-made or tailor-made and so the types of alterations possible will also vary. We will look in-depth at the allowances given for garment alterations. The illustrations show typical seam and inlay allowances- where bespoke differs from ready-made, the extra is shown shaded in grey; exact amounts vary from cutter to cutter so no detail has been given. Keep in mind that the minimum seam allowance recommended is ¼” so when looking at an allowance of 1”, for example, you have ¾” left to let out. Also keep in mind that were are discussing one half of the garment so allowances should be doubled in most cases i.e. if we can let the waist out 1/2” at a certain place, it gives a total circumference of 1” to let out.



Coat back.

Manufacturers vary slightly on the allowances on the neck, center back and side seam.

Neck-
there may be only 3/8”, but better makers will have 5/8” allowing the collar to be raised up to 3/8”.

Shoulder-

There is no allowance for changes to the shoulder width- it can be narrowed but not widened. Bespoke will generally have an allowance for widening here. The shoulder can be sloped or squared (squaring will shorten the garment slightly).


Center back-
between 5/8” and 7/8” is typical- bespoke cutters may leave more here.
Total to let out- ¾” to 1 ¼”

Side seam-
between 5/8” and 7/8” (bespoke may have less here)
Total to let out here- ¾” to 1 ¼”

Hem-
Generally 1 1/8” to 1 ¼”. Bespoke may have more. We will see that in most cases this does not allow the garment to be lengthened, but does give us some wiggle room for passing up the back for a stooped figure.
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Side body

Armhole-
Ready-made has only a small allowance for changes at the side seam. Bespoke generally has a generous allowance to either increase or decrease the width of the armhole. The armhole CAN NOT be raised without altering the length of the jacket and the position of the gorge and the pockets. While not strictly impossible, raising the armhole should not be attempted on a finished garment.

Side seam-
Between 5/8” and 7/8”. Bespoke will have considerably more.
Total to let out here- ¾” to 1 ¼”

Front seam-
Generally 5/16” or 3/8”- no room to let out here. The pocket will intersect this seam so in most cases it must be dismantled and remade in order to take in this seam here- this is difficult and costly.

Hem-
Generally 1 1/8” to 1 ¼”. Bespoke may have more.

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Front

Neck-
There may be only 3/8”, but better makers will have 5/8” allowing the collar to be raised up to 3/8”.

Shoulder-
There is no allowance for altering the shoulder in ready-made garments, other than to narrow it, slope it, and, to a small extent, to square it. Bespoke generally has an allowance to drop the front (for a longer front balance) and to widen the shoulder. Crookening and straightening the shoulder (to a small extent) is also possible in bespoke garments.

Side seam-
Generally 5/16” or 3/8”- no room to let out here. The pocket will intersect this seam so in most cases it must be dismantled and remade in order to take in this seam here- this is difficult and costly.

Hem-
Generally 1 1/8” to 1 ¼”. Notice how the front edge is cut off where the curved edge meets the hem- this prevents lengthening the garment in a consistent, back-to-front manner, impossible.

Lapel and front edge-
It is sometimes possible, though costly, to narrow the lapel- the buttonhole creates certain restrictions. It is not possible to widen it. In some cases a peak can be converted to a notch, though never the reverse. The lower part of the front edge can be cut away more beneath the lowest buttonhole.
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Top sleeve


Hem
Generally 2” to 2 ¼” given to lengthen the sleeve from the cuff- no allowance is given to lengthen from the top, but the sleeve can be shortened from the top.

Inseam, elbow seam
The sleeve can be narrowed (should really be done at the elbow seam) but no allowance is given to widen the top sleeve- extra width would be necessary to correct most sleeve “divot” problems so it is best not to attempt to have those altered.

Vent

Some ready-made garments have a narrow vent, others have a wider vent. Making functional buttonholes on a narrow vent is impossible without either narrowing the sleeve or piecing in more cloth.
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Undersleeve

Hem-
Generally 2” to 2 ¼” given to lengthen the sleeve from the cuff- no allowance is given to lengthen from the top, but the sleeve can be shortened from the top.

Inseam
No allowance for changes given here.

Elbow seam-
No allowance is given in ready-made (Oxxford is the only manufacturer that I am aware of who do give an allowance here) but bespoke will generally have an allowance for widening or narrowing the armhole, as well as widening the bicep and elbow. The cuff can be narrowed.
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Trouser front

No allowances for enlarging the trouser front are given in ready-made, bespoke often has an allowance to lengthen the rise from the waist. The leg can be narrowed easily, narrowing at the hip requires recrafting the pocket.
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Trouser back

Waist-
Generally, 1 ½” given to let out the waist.
Total to be let out 2 ½”.

Outseam-

Ready-made has no allowance to let out the outseam, most bespoke does.

Inseam-
Generally 1 1/8” to let out the back thigh, bespoke may have more. In most cases this allowance is tapered to nothing at the knee, though some manufacturers extend it all the way down to the hem.

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Comments (1)

Thanks! This is very informative.

I've got a jacket that fits well through the shoulders and arms, hugs the back of my neck and whose lapels sit reasonably well given that it just buttons up on me. It is a RTW piece that hasn't been altered, and I'm debating whether to let it out as much as possible through the side seams or just sell it and move on. Is letting out a jacket by the maximum amount detrimental to its overall integrity?
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