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Alterations on used suits

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I have been hunting around on ebay for some time now, but have yet to take the plunge on buying a used suit.  One of my concerns is with how a used suit will handle alterations.  I'm not talking about major alterations, just altering the length of the pants and/or sleeves. On a used suit, how easy is this to do?  I realize that if there is enough material it's possible, but my concern is more with the post-alterations appearance. Is there a permanent crease or a noticeable line of wear or fading where the bottom of the cuff used to be? If anyone has good or bad experiences with altering ebay suits, I'd love to hear them.
post #2 of 7
There's no definitive answer - it all depends on previous alterations, age, previous owner's care, and fabric. I've purchased 2 used suits on ebay: A Tom James black/white birdseye and a Canali brown w/ blue windowpane. The Tom James' measurements were very close to mine, so I just had to have the suit's sleeves shortened ($25 or so, if I remember correctly). The fabric has a lot of texture, so I doubt alteration marks (old hems, etc.) would be obvious. The Canali was a longshot, but I took the risk and got lucky. The jacket sleeves and trouser length needed significant lengthening (about an inch for the sleeves, over an inch for the pants). I was concerned, because the sleeves were very short and there wasn't a whole lot of fabric - this is the key, and you can't really judge without feeling the sleeve (I'd assume many ebay sellers won't know what you mean). The tailor grafted an additional piece of lining in the sleeve, and it looks perfect. Total alterations ran about $40. With pants, there's obviously a lot more leeway if there's a cuff, but if it's an old suit, was dry cleaned a lot, or has delicate fabric, the old cuff crease will likely show after alterations. You also have to take into account whether or not the trousers are appropriate without a cuff (I always go cuff w/pleats, no cuff with flat-front)... Quick synopsis - it's difficult to tell if A) there's enough fabric to extend any measurements or B) if alterations will show, from a picture. Shortening/taking in is usually possible, but having to extend can be risky... My suits were $90 and $45, respectively, so I was willing to risk it. For a few hundred, I'd be less so...
post #3 of 7
Is there a permanent crease or a noticeable line of wear or fading where the bottom of the cuff used to be?
Often, yes. The inside of the pants hem especially will often have a shoe polish mark on the inside which is pretty much permanent. You are better off by far buying a suit with longer dimensions than you will need and having it shortened than by risking lengthening sleeves or pants legs. Generally, the harder finished fabrics will more likely show a crease, while the softer fabrics will more likely have a wear spot at the end of the cuff, in my experience. I have successfully lengthened cuffed pants (dark gray flannel) with no trace, but in many cases it would not work out.
post #4 of 7
A good tailor or suitmaker can do miracles. Honestly. I followed the advice of a member here and took my eBay-won Oxxford and HF suit to Mario Bosco and they came out flawless. Sleeves brought out on one, and an inch taken in at the back on both. They fit like a glove. Before I had anything done, though, I asked Mario if they would 'work'. Meaning I wanted to pay for something that could realistically be done, not theoretically (as I have ONCE before). Just remember you do take a gamble. Destroyed and abused for some can mean "slightly used" on eBay to others. People play with words and you might end up getting something you don't want.
post #5 of 7
You can almost always get creases out of wool with enough steam and the right kind of attention from an iron. Creases in linen and cotton are always going to show a "line" where they used to be, however.
post #6 of 7
I've had good luck with the several suits I've purchased from ebay and had altered. On one of the suits, the sleeve measurement was short by about an inch, so I e-mailed the seller to check if there would be enough fabric to lengthen the sleeves. Based on his response, I bought, and my tailor was able to give me the proper length. I've bought 7 suits in the last 4 months with labels from Brooks Bros. to Oxxford, and the alterations have made them fit better than suits I've purchased new. Best of all, I haven't run into any of the problems that could occur. (Knock on wood, now.) Only one suit was a problem--it was an older Hickey Freeman with a high waist and low gorge--so I haven't bothered to have it altered (it was only $49, so I'm not feeling too bad about it).
post #7 of 7
I'm with mrpr on this one. I've bought lots and lots of suits, jackets, slacks, etc. on EBay and have had much of it altered after purchase. About half the items I'd say have been Oxxford. I have never had the problems you describe. In every case, the item looks great and appears to have been made for me originally. I agree though it's best to err on the side of a little too big than a little too small. CAVEAT -- I do not buy used cotton clothes, as cotton invariably shows a crease/line if you need to lengthen slacks or sleeves.
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