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Taking a suit to the tailor's


Mar 19, 2003
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A quick question for you guys. A friend mentioned that he had picked up a few suits at great prices, and though some of them were not his size (with regards to the chest), he simply took them to the tailor's and got it taken care of. I was wondering about this. How much larger (I am a 38R) could one have the jacket, and still be able to take it to the tailor's? (I realize that wasn't very eloquent.) Or is buying a suit that is too big to have it tailored simply a mistake, and if so, why is that?


Distinguished Member
Dubiously Honored
Mar 23, 2002
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In theory you might be able to do a lot alteration-wise, in practice you are restrained by considerations of price and whether the end result is worth the effort. As a general rule, a jacket should fit you well across the chest and shoulders. If the waist is too loose, that can be taken in. But all alterations involving chest and shoulders are major surgery: they will be costly and, unless you're a tailor, you won't be able to decide what can and what cannot be achieved.

Err on the side of caution, unless you want the alteration to cost almost as much as a brand new made-to-measure coat.


Current Events Moderator
Mar 19, 2002
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As a 38R, I wouldn't recommend buying any suits larger than a 40 (or 41R at the outside) and that is only with the caveat that the suit really needs to fit well across the shoulders when you try it on in the store.

I wear a 41-42L, and am slender so I have taken several of my suits to the tailor to have the jackets cut tighter, but I have always been told that it is near impossible to mess with the shoulders.

In addition too big a suit will probably mean too much material in the back and that may mean that a tailor would have to redo the whole neckline and collar. Again, like Bengal-Stripe said, the price can get out of hand.

The other problem you run into is the drop to the pant waist size. The larger the suit jacket, the larger the pant waist and although it can be taken in, anymore than an inch or so tends to get pretty weird looking, i.e. back pockets practically touching and back belt loops too close together (although some tailors may move the belt loops).

All in all, tailoring seems to work best when you "Tailor" the suit to fit your individual body - not rebuild the whole thing.



Senior Member
Feb 27, 2003
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Firstly, know your tailor: know how good he is, and secondly,  at price he charges for his work.  If you are not even happy with his "easier work" like cuffing your pants or shortening sleeves, then you might not want to consult him for such a big project.  

Things that can be done:
1)\tTaking in chest, (~$15 and up)
2)\tTaking in upper and lower waist (~$15 and up)
3)\tMoving closure buttons in or out within 1/8"  (~$10)
4)\tShortening skirt of jacket to maintain proportion, front or back (~$20 and up)
5)\tShortening sleeve length (~$20 to $30)
6)\tTapering cuff width (~$20 to $25)
7)\tAdjusting cuff angle (horizon) (~$15 to $20)
8)\tOpening sleeve button holes (~$10 to 15 per button)
9)\tTucking in excess fabric at back-of-neck under the collar (~$15 and up)
10)\tTaking in pants waist within 1" (~$10 to $20)
11)\tShortening (or lengthening, if material available) of pants length (no more than $15)
12)\tTapering pants leg ($15 to no more than $25)
13)\tTapering pants cuffs (~$10 to $15)
14)\tShortening shirt sleeves ($30 --- kind of a market price)
15)\tMoving neck button on shirt to expand neck size 1/2" ($10)

Prices are quoted based on tailors in New York who do excellent alterations (for example, hand sewn button holes), assuming the construction on your suit is fairly good.  If you bring them to local alteration tailors at dry cleaners, take 25% off those prices.

(To other members: feel free to add what I have forgotten.)

Altering the shoulder width can be done, but depends on the construction of the suit.  The better the suit, the more likely it can be done without ruining the look of it.  If your suit has thick shoulder padding (shoulders that rise up to your ears every time you move your arms up) but not fused, take the padding out, adjust the shoulder width, then put a new pad into it; however, expect about $50 to $80 for this job, and no guarantee that it will work as you wish, as it takes a combination of a dozen elements to make it work.

Every off-the-rack suit needs some work.  It will be lying to yourself if an off-the-rack suit is perfect.  There are always the little things that can be refined, like the cuffs, button position, etc..  However, it is a matter whether you are willing to pay for only a half-inch alteration.  My philosophy of late is that I would rather invest into refining my current wardrobe than heavily purchasing new ones.  Half of them are already done, down to the smallest detail that I can think of.  Every time when a jacket comes back from my tailor, it feels like a new jacket again.

Hope this helps.

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