Week Four

Fashion Forward

3. Additional Style Tools


"fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well."

—Vivienne Westwood

Alterations & Tailoring

When it comes to your style, one of the most valuable tools to have in your arsenal is a good seamstress. Developing a relationship with a seamstress can open up a lot of possibilities for your clothing. Not only can a seamstress make simple alterations to make your clothes look and fit better, but a good seamstress can also make customizations to your clothing to really make your style your own. If you want to take your clothing to the next level, find yourself a seamstress stat!

Finding the Perfect Fit


The best way to begin the hunt for a seamstress is to simply ask. A referral from someone you trust is invaluable. The second best option is an online search. Look for someone with many many reviews and take time to read about others’ experiences. You want a seamstress with experience working with different garments and fabrics. Even better if they can provide before and after photos. 


Once you’ve found a good match, set up an appointment. You want to ensure your new seamstress has time to focus on you. Maybe you will only need the occasional alteration, or maybe you’re interested in more creative projects. Either way, talk to your seamstress about your needs and be sure that this is something he or she is capable of.


Start with a practice project. When you performed your closet cleanout, was there something you hadn’t worn in a long time but couldn’t let go of? Now is the time to bring that piece out. Think about how that style could be adjusted to be more useful to you. Maybe the style you chose could be shortened or taken in. Come to your appointment with an idea of how you’d like the piece to be changed.


Ask your seamstress for their input. Although you may have an idea of how a piece of clothing could be improved, your seamstress is the professional. Ask how they think the style could be altered to look better. A seamstress with an artistic eye, in addition to technical ability is most valuable. 


Don’t be afraid to over-explain what you want your end result to look like. The more clear you can be, and the more detail that you provide, the more likely you are to get the outcome you are hoping for. 


Determine pricing and timeframe up front. Make sure that your seamstress is able to complete your project in a reasonable amount of time and a cost you are comfortable with. If estimated time frames are weeks or months, you want to make sure that the job is done to perfection. Otherwise it might make sense to look elsewhere. 

Common Alterations

Hem It

Hemming is the shortening of length of a garment. It is the most common alteration, so your seamstress should be a master at it. You can have pants, skirts, dresses, jackets, even shirts hemmed to fit. You can also have pieces shortened to alter the style. For example having a full length trouser hemmed to be ankle length. Or a long sleeve blouse hemmed to be a 3/4 length.

Take It In

Having a garment "taken in" is how your seamstress will refer to making a piece of clothing more narrow. You can have pants, jeans, shirts, sweaters, jackets, coats, and dresses taken in. You can also have just the sleeves or pant legs of a garment taken in. This is usually done by removing fabric and adjusting the side seams of a piece of clothing. It can also be done by adding darts.

Take It Up

This technique is specifically for tops and dresses with necklines that hang just a little to low. "Taking it up" refers to the removal of excess fabric from the shoulder. It works best on sleeveless garments. For styles with sleeves, you will want to ask your seamstress if they are comfortable taking it up. You can also have the straps of camisoles and bras taken up.

Let It Out

If a garment is a bit too small, your seamstress may be able to "let it out." In order to do this a seamstress must have enough fabric in the seam (referred to as a "seam allowance") to shift the seam making the garment bigger.

Replace a Zipper

If the zipper on your garment is broken, prone to sticking, or just looking a little worse for wear, your seamstress can replace it with a new one. In the event the zipper is decorative or unusual in color, you may be required to find your own replacement.

Creative Alterations

Crop It

Remove Sleeves

Replace Buttons

Change the Neckline

Add Embellishments

Travel in Style

With your newly established style and a closet you can easily maneuver, you may be wondering, “How do I take my new look on the road?” The limitations presented when traveling don’t have to derail your style progress. You can be stylish when you travel, without overpacking. Refined’s Packing & Planning Travel Guide is designed to make packing for your next trip as easy as possible. 

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