If Not, Run (Don’t Walk) to Your Favorite Seamstress
When it comes to your wardrobe, fit not only flatters, it matters. Much more than you think.
Last week, I shared the best and brightest 2015 Fashion Trends. They’re fun, they’re formal, they’re funky and they’re fabulous. And whether your favorite trend manifests as an accessory or an entire outfit, it can be easily woven into your current wardrobe. Especially if it fits and flatters.
Armed with 2015 trending info, you’ll no doubt be visiting your favorite clothing store or boutique to try on the latest fashions. That means standing in front of fitting room mirrors that seem to fairly shout at you your perceived imperfections. “Body shame” kicks in, and suddenly you feel like sobbing over your body hang-ups.
But don’t. It’s not your body. It’s not even the clothes. It’s the fit.
Few women look perfect in off-the-rack clothing. According to Clinton Kelly of “What Not To Wear” fame, “Everything you see on a celebrity’s body, including the outfits the paparazzo “just happen” to photograph them in, has been tailored to fit, right down to their tees and cammies.”
Celebrities do it. Media personalities do it. Why can’t you do it?
Fit is the No. 1 secret in the fashion world. According to designer Zac Posen, “Alterations are the game changer when it comes to the perfect fit…the right tailoring can make any garment work for any body.”
But alterations weren’t always required for women’s wardrobes. Several generations ago, women either sewed their own clothing or had seamstresses sew them to custom fit their figures. The notion of going to a store, picking out a piece of clothing, taking it home and wearing it “as is” should not be in the current fashion lexicon.
Today, unless you’re a one-percenter and can afford bespoke, ready-to-wear fashion is the name of the game. All the more reason to make sure your wardrobe fits and flatters.
How to do that? Find the best tailor or seamstress you can afford, and go for it.
Here are some hints on how to tailor your wardrobe to your taste–and your figure.
1. Size doesn’t matter.
It’s just a number. Designers once used fairly standard measurements from design house to design house. A size 12 was a size 12. Not true today. Sizes vary between companies, countries–even the same article of clothing.
The U.S. government has tried to remedy this size situation since the ’40s. However, the situation has actually worsened with the advent of “vanity sizing, which allows larger garments to be tagged with smaller size numbers to entice customers.
The result? “Tag phobia,” which encourages women to purchase the wrong size clothing, pieces that neither fit nor flatter.
Instead,when shopping try on the same item in several sizes. Don’t even look at the tag size. Choose the piece that fits you the best. If it’s a larger size than you like, simply snip out the label when you get home.
2. Shop for your largest feature.
Always purchase an item to fit the widest part of your body, then have the item nipped and tucked by a tailor. If you have broad shoulders, shop for a blouse or blazer that fits your shoulder width, then have a seamstress take in the waist. Or vice versa.
If you’re pear shaped, buy a skirt, dress or trouser to fit your bum, then have it taken in elsewhere. If you have a muscular build, the largest part of your figure is most likely your arms and shoulders, so buy a larger top and take in the body of the garment.
Height can dictate the size items you select. If you’re tall, it’s usually difficult to wear off-the-rack clothing. If pants are long enough they tend to be much too big. If they fit at the waist, they may be too short. Instead, buy the length pant that fits, and have a tailor adjust the part that doesn’t.
If you’re short, you need to steer clear of midi skirts that may underscore your height. If you like the item, simply have the hem taken up above the knee.
3. Say “I do” to the alter-ationist
For all this important nipping and tucking, find the best tailor you can afford. If you don’t know one, ask someone you trust at your favorite boutique, department store or dry cleaners who they would recommend.
A talented tailor and wardrobe illusionist can help you create the ideal shape and size clothing to flatter your figure. They can make an item smaller by taking in a seam by as much as four inches (any more than that will change the look of the garment). A seamstress can also make your clothing larger by letting out a seam near a zipper or side seam. They can cut a vent in, even add an extra panel to, the sides of a top or dress.
As to trousers, I side with the late actor Katherine Hepburn: I love ’em. Because of today’s varying heel heights, however, try to buy two pairs of the same trouser and hem them to the appropriate length, one for heels and one for flats. If that’s not possible, simply purchase one pair and have them hemmed to the appropriate length for the heel height you wear most often.
To create a streamlined silhouette, ask your seamstress to add a hook-and-eye enclosure between gaping buttons on a shirt or add darts to create a more form-fitting blazer or dress. Because you want to de-emphasize your waist or hipline, ask to have your pants pockets sewn shut for balance of form.
4. Consider bespoke
If you have a difficult-to-fit figure, consider hiring a tailor to make you custom-made, or bespoke, clothing. Although more expensive than off-the-rack pieces, bespoke items can often be more economical when amortized over time because you’re likely to wear them more often. That’s why they call it investment dressing.
So the next time you find yourself in a fitting room having fits because you don’t look “perfect,” remember: You don’t need altering. Your clothes do. So go for it and look fit, fashionable and fabulous-with the illusion of that coveted hourglass figure. It may be an illusion. But it works.