Alterations: The Secret to Getting Clothes that Fit

We’ve all heard of the classic body types: rectangle, hourglass, inverted triangle, pear, and apple. While they may be a helpful starting point for finding clothes that flatter your figure, the truth is that our bodies are all as unique as we are. There’s so much more to finding pieces that fit us well than simply identifying our category. We may need alterations done to get the perfect fit.

As a personal stylist, I can attest to the fact that everybody is different, and we shouldn’t rely solely on these categories to guide our fashion choices. However, I think they can be useful when approaching personal style and finding what looks good on you. It’s important to remember that finding clothes that fit well and make you feel confident is a process of discovery and experimentation that will be unique to you.

Understanding the nuances of a client’s body shape is crucial for finding clothes that flatter and fit them well. For example, if I know my client has an hourglass figure, I can’t recommend boxy or overly billowy tops that drown out their waistline. Instead, I need details like their broad shoulders, larger busts, and wider thighs and butts to ensure that I can find pieces that are perfect for their body type.

While identifying body type can be helpful, it’s not the only solution to clothing fit issues. As someone who has struggled with finding clothes that fit off the rack, I’ve learned the value of tailoring. Alterations can make all the difference in achieving a customized fit, regardless of body type or shape.
Most male clients require a few tailoring fixes to sleeve length, shirt hems, or the fit of certain areas. On the other hand, women may require clothing alterations to fit certain parts of their bodies better. This can include anything from shortening sleeves or hemlines to tweaking waistlines and pant legs. (you can find it in TCE Insiders in the Men’s section for on-demand videos)

Investing in a good tailor can open up a world of clothing options and provide the necessary adjustments for clothing to fit your body shape perfectly. So, whether you struggle with finding pieces that flatter your curves or need custom fitting due to specific body features, alterations are your solution.

Identifying body type is a great starting point, but it’s important to understand the details of your body beyond a general category. And if you struggle with clothing fit, alterations can be the best investment in creating a well-fitting wardrobe.

Small Boobs // Fixing dresses and shirts with too much fabric

Women with smaller busts often struggle with clothes that have too much fabric in the chest area. This problem can be frustrating, but it’s not impossible to fix. With alterations, you can adjust the fit of your dress or shirt to flatter your body shape perfectly.

One such example is my wedding dress. It was too large and gaping in the chest area but fit my waist and torso just right. A skilled tailor pinned down the excess fabric, creating a tailored look that appeared custom-made for me.

If you encounter a top or dress that doesn’t seem to fit your chest area, consider taking it for alterations. They can fix the issue and tailor the piece to your body shape.


I purchased a gorgeous $228 Lovers and Friends dress in size small. It was too tight on my waist and ribcage. In contrast, a size medium was too long on my torso, too big on my bust, and too wide on my hips. A few alterations were necessary to make it fit perfectly. I pinned the dress closed on the chest area, lifted the waistline, and made necessary adjustments to the pleats to fit my hips. In the photo below, it’s all pinned up.

Larger Busts // Fixing opening shirts and revealing dresses

Clients with larger busts often struggle with clothing that feels too revealing or uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up wearing your favorite outfits or go up in size. There are several ways to fix openings in a shirt or dress without compromising the overall fit or style.

One common issue is tops opening too much or showing too much cleavage, making them uncomfortable to wear. Consider inserting a hook and eye closure to give the top extra support and keep it in place. This simple adjustment can transform a previously unwearable shirt into your favorite go-to outfit.

Another helpful tip is to ask a tailor to insert a sheer panel if a dress is too revealing. This is a popular option among my clients and involves adding a slightly opaque or sheer layer of mesh to the cleavage area, keeping the dress modest yet stylish. If the dress is dark, you can use black mesh, while nude mesh works well if the dress is light blue or coral. These subtle adjustments can make a massive difference in how you feel and look in your favorite dresses.

Broad Shoulders // Fixing issues with ‘Boxy Jackets’

As women, we come in numerous shapes and sizes, and finding clothes to flatter our bodies can be quite challenging. If you have broad shoulders, you may struggle with finding a jacket that fits your upper body but feels too boxy around your torso. Fortunately, a skilled tailor can bring in the seam on the sides to provide a more tailored and flattering fit. When purchasing a jacket, prioritize finding the size that fits your shoulders correctly and then rely on your tailor to bring in the rest for a perfect fit.

Small Waist and larger hips // Fixing Gaping pants + big tops

Finding perfectly fitting pants or skirts can also be challenging for women with small waists and larger hips. You may notice gaping around the waist area of your pants or too much fabric around the torso of your tops. Bring in the waist of your pants or skirt, providing a more fitted look and comfortable wear. Choose a size that comfortably fits your thighs and hips, and bring in the waist for a more flattering fit.

Some women find that the garments fit around the bust and shoulders but feel like there is excess fabric around the sides. In such cases, a tailored fit would be perfect. Bring in the shirt or blouse’s sides, providing a more fitted and polished look that accentuates your body’s contours.

Length of pants + Skirts // Fixing pieces that are too long

The length of pants and skirts can be a make-or-break factor when it comes to creating your ideal outfit. There are several ways to fix pieces that are too long, regardless of your height.

If you find yourself wanting to change a skirt’s length, don’t worry – this is a simple task for a tailor. Your tailor can bring up a skirt or dress to your desired length. This tailored approach is particularly useful since many dresses and skirts available today tend to be on the longer side.

When it comes to pant length, some women find themselves struggling with trouser pants. To ensure a perfectly tailored fit, consider getting your pants hemmed to the shoe height you’ll be wearing with them. Hem the length to create a seamless look that highlights your shoe choice.

It’s important to note that different shoe options require different pant lengths, so choose the length that complements the shoes you’ll be wearing with the pants. When purchasing casual trousers to wear with sneakers, tailor them to suit your sneakers’ height, not your heels.

Short Torso // Fixing the straps to tops and dresses

If you have a shorter torso, you may encounter dresses and tops with wide sleeveless straps that don’t fit where you need them to. Fortunately, you can adjust the straps to fit you more closely, where your bra and chest are more noticeable. By shortening the straps of your pieces, you can transform how you look and feel in them.

Don’t let clothing that’s “almost” perfect stop you from exploring fashion possibilities for yourself. There’s no need to settle for ill-fitting pieces when you can have them tailored to your exact measurements and preferences.

By adjusting your clothing to fit you perfectly, you’ll expand your wardrobe options and create a personalized style that complements your body type. Don’t be afraid to ask your tailor any questions along the way. Their expertise can help bring your vision to life in ways you never imagined. With the right tailor on your team, you’ll be able to embrace fashion possibilities that you never dreamed were possible and look and feel your best every day.

Your Stylist,

tannya bernadette
  1. Kelsey says:

    Hi Tannya, do you have any recommendations for finding a tailor in Seattle? Either what to look for or ones that you go to?

    • Tannya Bernadette says:

      Hey Kelsey! I don’t neccessarily have a tailor in Seattle, the one I use for intricate things is in Kirkland. But if you are tailoring minor, things like hem of pants, hem of sleeves, bringing in the waist, you can look for dry cleaners near you that have good reviews. Always read the reviews! For more intricate like fixing a dresses, changing the style to something you purchased, etc, I would search for a true tailor.

      Great question!

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