Off the Rack - A Perfect Fit .. Rarely

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Cautious may be the operative word to describe our revised consumer habits, but this month clothing stores tempt with bold signs announcing "Final Sale!" and "New Arrivals." Summer bargains compete with fresh, fall looks for our fashion dollars. This is an irresistible combination.

With all this shopping going on, it's time to raise a pet peeve of mine. Why do so many people overlook the importance of properly fitted clothing? Admittedly, women are the worse offenders, as many men routinely have alterations on big-ticket items - suits, blazers, even trousers.

But given the well-priced or often no-charge alterations offered by men's retailers, why are there so many professional business men walking around in clothes that don't fit? My sense is that the infamous Comfort-Factor comes into play; loose and easy translates into; "This must be my size."

Women, on the other hand rely on mirrors. Doesn't fit? Off it comes.  And yet for all the time and effort women put into their appearance, many overlook the importance of a few simple alterations. A nip here and a tuck there will make almost any garment more flattering.

Off the rack or ready-to-wear clothing is made to a set of standardized measurements that designate a size, but manufacturers' interpretations of these guidelines vary.  Simply put, it's a small miracle when a purchased garment doesn't require any adjustments.

Impeccably fitted clothing does come at a price. Not exorbitant, and well within reach, alterations do mean both an additional cost for the actual work and a time investment to find a tailor.

A few simple tricks can refresh an old favourite or add polish to a new wardrobe addition. Too tight and too short usually mean "too small." But let's examine the opposite end of the spectrum - when clothing is too loose, too long and too large.

Here are a few simple tailoring tips.


  • There should be a space between the jacket sleeves and waist when arms are extended down beside the body. No separation means the sleeves are too wide.
  • If the sleeves reach the knuckles, they're too long

sleeves dos and donts



sleeves john mccain



  • Only the toe of the shoe should be visible. Pants should cover the rest of the shoe.
  • When pants are too long they create a shorter and heavier silhouette. Avoid having fabric "puddle" on the floor.
  • Your left leg may be slightly longer than your right, or vice versa. Before pants are hemmed, ask the tailor to measure your legs separately. 

pants length donts


  • Look taller and slimmer by tapering pants that are too wide. Take in the in-seams - pants will fall more gracefully.

pants tapered and wide


  • A tight belt doesn't eliminate a baggy seat. The back seam and waist should be taken in.

pants too big



  • Create longer, slimmer-looking arms by shortening and tapering sleeves. Extra fabric at the wrist creates width at the hipline; eliminating the bulk narrows the hips.

tops do's and don'ts



  • Show off a waistline and look slimmer and trimmer by raising the armholes and taking in side seams. Sometimes, adding darts can take off pounds.




Men's shirts

  • The perfect fit!

mens shirts do's and don'ts



  • Create a flattering silhouette with darts or a nip at the waist.




  • A slight flare adds grace. Extra-full skirts add pounds even to the slimmest figures.


Glamour Do's and Don'ts

Eva Longora makes neutrals her best friend as she heads to a charity event in a First Lady inspired outfit. Her beige shift dress is paired with matching beige court shoes and a cream snakeskin clutch.

Enjoying the benefits of living in sunny California, Anne Hathaway is shows off her summer wardrobe.  A bright red dress is accessorized with gold thong sandals, a black and white zigzag striped tote, beige trilby hat and sunglasses.


Before proceeding with any alterations, ensure that you have a firm price and that it makes sense to spend. Sometimes, the cost of alterations simply isn't worthwhile. Know when to say no - and when to walk away from an old favourite that doesn't fit. For help finding a tailor or alterationist in your area check Yelp.

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