Let's assume you're getting serious about your wardrobe.
You want clothes that look good on you, and make you look your best. If you've looked into it at all, you know the number one most important thing to do is get your clothing tailored.
There's really no substitute for a custom fit.
But how much is it going to cost you?
Here we've broken out the most common adjustments a tailor can make, along with why you'd want them done and about how much you can expect to pay.
Prices here are a general estimate only. They're what you could reasonably hope to pay at a basic tailor's shop where alterations and repairs are the primary business (as opposed to a bespoke tailor who's also making custom garments from scratch).
Expect to see higher prices in major cities, especially fashion-forward ones like New York or Los Angeles, and lower ones in mid-sized towns.
For guys who do absolutely no needle and thread work themselves, tailors are a source of repairs as well as alteration.
If you need minor fixes done — a button sewn on, a zipper replaced, or a splitting seam stitched back up before it gets out of hand — expect to pay around $5-10 per fix.
These are quick, simple, and cheap. Not much to 'em. Get 'em done when you need to.
Trouser Leg and Shirt Sleeve Length
Shortening a trouser leg or shirt sleeve is about the simplest adjustment you can have a tailor do. (Lengthening is also simple so long as there's spare cloth inside the hem.)
Be ready to tell your tailor the length you want, especially with trousers — you'll want to have them pin the legs in place so you can stand in your shoes and see how the “break” looks.
The typical cost for a simple sleeve or hem adjustment is usually around $10-20. Sleeves may be a bit more expensive, since it's harder to keep the buttonhole where it needs to be and the cuff looking proportional than it is to fold fabric under the trouser leg and stitch it in place.
Jacket Sleeve Length
Suit and sports jackets are a little tougher to adjust than shirts and trousers, but not much. An unlined jacket is easier to adjust than a lined one, and one with non-working cuff buttons is similarly easier than one with working buttonholes.
Figure on paying $20-30ish for a jacket sleeve shortening.
Taking in a Trouser Waist
Tightening up the waistband of most trousers is a simple procedure. If you're just having the band itself tightened, you won't be paying more than $20-25 or so.
Some tailors will also want to adjust the seat and crotch to get rid of excess cloth there when they take in the waistband. At that point it'll probably be closer to a $50 job, but you get a better fit out of it.
Tapering a Shirt or Jacket Waist
“Taking in” or tapering the width of a shirt or jacket below the chest is a good way to prevent unsightly billowing around the midsection.
It's often a must-have alteration for off-the-rack clothes, which tend to be cut as loose as possible, so that each size fits the maximum number of customers.
Expanding a shirt or jacket with added darts generally falls into the same price range and skill level as well, though it also requires having the extra material available, which can be a separate cost.
For all these width alterations, expect prices to start at around $20 and go on up as high as $50 or $60 for a lined jacket.
Tapering Trouser Legs
If you've got too much cloth billowing around your calves and ankles, you may need your trouser legs tapered.
This is another reasonably easy one that you can expect to pay between $20 and $50 for.
Just like the legs, if you've got excess cloth hanging under your arms when you wear a shirt or suit, you can have the sleeve tapered for a closer fit.
As with most of these, the suit adjustments are going to be a little pricier than the shirt adjustments. Figure $20-25ish for shirt sleeves, and more like $30-40ish for suit sleeves.
Don't be surprised to be asked “how do you hang?” – it all matters…
Shortening/Lengthening a Jacket
Adjusting the overall length of a jacket is a trickier operation, and it has fairly strict limits. You're not likely to have enough cloth to go more than an inch or so longer than it started, and if you go more than an inch or two shorter it looks disproportionate.
So have limited expectations here, but expect the cost for adjustment to be comparable to other jacket alterations — probably in the $30-40 neighborhood.
Altering the Sleeve Pitch
The sleeve “pitch” is the angle at which the sleeve connects to the jacket. It's an important part of suit construction that a lot of guys are totally oblivious to — and, unfortunately, it's a tough fix.
If you try a suit on and there are spiraled “twist” lines on the sleeve, it's a good sign that the sleeve pitch doesn't line up with your arm/shoulder angle.
Try not to buy suits like that in the first place. But if you get a fantastic deal and you think it's worth paying for the alteration, a skilled tailor can adjust the pitch — just expect it to run you $100 or more for a quality job.
Adjusting the Shoulders
This is another one that's not going to be cheap. Again, try not to buy suits unless the shoulders sit properly — the seam on top of the shoulder should meet the sleeve right where your shoulder meets your arm, so that it's not hanging over onto the bicep or scooted up toward the neck.
Having the shoulders tightened up can be done, but expect it to be a $75-100 job or more. And if the shoulders are too tight there's not much hope at all — loosening them would be a gamble at best, and probably impossible, depending on how much material was available.
Put all this together. What can you realistically expect to spend on, say, a single new suit that needs adjusting?
Here's a ballpark:
- Trousers hemmed (a necessity) – $15
- Trouser waist and seat adjusted (optional, but nice) – $30
- Jacket sleeves adjusted – $15
- Jacket waist tapered – $35
Call it a little over $100 with tax (you don't generally need to tip a tailor, though most won't be offended if you do).
Will every off-the-rack suit need all those adjustments? No. The better the fit in the store, the less you'll be paying at the tailor's. So if you get lucky, you could be looking at as little as $15 to hem up the pants and call it a day.
Just understand that the prices can vary, and that you should be planning on spending at least a little money to have all your nice clothing – shirts, suits, jackets, and trousers – adjusted by a professional tailor.