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When to Find a Tailor versus a Dry Cleaner

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Some alterations to your Suits, Sport Coats and Trousers, will always be necessary, unless by sheer luck you happen to be the exact size of our fit model. And though it’s painful to admit, your waistline does tend to expand and contract (hey, at least it occasionally contracts).

So having someone on hand to do your alterations is necessary to feel comfortable (pants neither too loose nor too tight) and look your best. And since you already have a neighborhood dry cleaner who probably does alterations as well, it’s tempting to use them as a one-stop shop.

But we’re here to advise against it. If at all possible, bite the bullet and have your alterations done by a real tailor — as in someone who knows how to make a man’s suit from scratch — not an everyday button-sewer and rip-fixer. You’ll pay a bit more, but the experience will probably be pleasant rather than headache-inducing. Here are some things to keep in mind.

* Tailoring is a dying art, but there’s probably a competent one in your nearest major city. Like a good mechanic, finding a good tailor will take some searching. Ask your finest local menswear shop whom they recommend; they probably have a house tailor willing to take outside garments anyway. But caveat emptor, as this person could be no different from the alterations person at your dry cleaner.

* If you find a bespoke tailor willing to do alterations, what you’re paying for is judgment, taste and expertise. Dry cleaners cater to the average person, not men of style, and their taste cannot be trusted on even the most rudimentary matters of dressing. I’ve had these types want to hem my pants so that they’re practically dragging on the ground, and insist that my jacket sleeve should be an inch longer than my shirt sleeve. Specific requests to do otherwise are often met with resistance.

* Which leads us to this: A real tailor is supposed to give you what you want — with informed suggestions, of course — whereas dry cleaners use the same cookie-cutter approach on everyone.

We all know you get what you pay for, yet for some reason we all have trouble accepting this. Trust us: Don’t skimp on your tailoring. You’ll look better, but even more important you’ll feel better. And that’s an adjustment worth every penny.
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