Why Custom Tailoring Is More Frugal Than You Think

Trying to find pants that fit is almost every person’s dilemma. For me, the “short” lengths are a little too short, and the “regular” lengths are a few inches too long. So I would usually buy the “regular” length pants and end up tripping on the bottoms when they got stuck under my heels. Too long pants were especially annoying when it rained. They would end up with a “chewed by a small dog” look and I’d be constantly trimming the excess fabric as it started to fray.

I always assumed that “custom tailoring” for clothes was something that very wealthy people did. The prices for alterations at department stores are usually more than I’d want to or could afford to pay. One store’s policy even says that “there will be a charge for alterations due to weight gain/loss.” So, you’re going to charge me $28 to adjust a waistband and then an additional charge for my weight?

Um, what??

When I realized that many dry cleaners do alterations much more cheaply than department stores, I decided to give it a try. My favorite jeans had about 3 inches of chewed-looking fabric at the bottom, but other than that they were in good shape for being almost 10 years old. I couldn’t give them away since the hems were so worn. But I also didn’t like the idea of throwing them in the trash. For $10, they look almost brand new with newly refinished hems, and are now able to be worn again:

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This got me thinking- if someone needs to buy something, it could be cheaper to buy a quality item that is a great deal regardless of its size, and then pay a bit to have it custom tailored at a dry cleaner. Or, instead of giving away clothes that don’t fit right (and then looking to buy new ones that do), shorten that too-long skirt or hem those too-long pants.

In her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth Cline writes of the power of alterations:

“There are so many things that we would wear if they were tweaked or just slightly altered. Dresses or skirts are rarely the perfect length, the color is wrong, shirts often hit us in not quite the right place…clothes aren’t static and unchanging. They can be altered, mended, and even totally rebuilt. Virtually everything in my closet suddenly had some potential to be something I’d get more use out of and maybe even love” (Overdressed, 197-198).

Custom tailoring can save you money on things besides jeans- I found my wedding dress at Goodwill and had it custom tailored, which ended up being cheaper than buying the same dress new (and the custom beading and appliques made it more unique).

What are your favorite ways to get more wear out of your clothes? Please share below!


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