Take Me To My Tailor - Why An Alterations Tailor Is An Essential

With a new tailoring culture emerging of instant delivery and a buy now, wear now attitude, the art of tailoring has subsided in recent years. However, a modern day tailor doesn’t just have to be for the wealthy or celebrity clients.

Fashion Consultant Chris Modoo explores how simple alterations to your jacket or trousers can prove invaluable in terms of fit and therefore making you look your absolute best. 

Within the article, we cover:

  • Why having an alterations tailor is essential to looking your best 
  • How to find a good alterations tailor
  • Types of common jacket and trouser alterations 
  • What alterations should be avoided

Firstly, a Bit of Classic British Movie Style

“Take me to my Tailor”, demands a young Michael Caine in the classic crime caper The Italian Job. Playing the role of Charlie Crocker, who has just been released from a prison sentence, he needs to be assimilated into the free world of swinging ‘sixties London. He is kitted out with stylish new gear in record time.

In a movie filled to the brim with memorable dialogue, this throwaway line does not make it into many lists of classic movie quotes but it resonated with my younger-self. The idea of having a tailor on stand-by to cater for every sartorial need seemed romantic, indulgent and very grown-up. The tailor in the movie conforms to the popular stereotype and is immaculately presented in his three-piece suit with a pandering, if slightly obsequious, manner.


A Tailor vs An Alterations Tailor

Having a personal tailor to make your suits is expensive, particularly if they are situated in the West End of London. It is the sort of thing that only royalty, movie stars, oligarchs or crime bosses have. I have heard more than one Savile Row tailor repeat the observation that they are there to serve “cranks and criminals”.

But all men need a good alterations tailor and you can afford one too. Frankly, you probably can’t afford not to have one. The humble alterations tailor plays a vital role in improving and maintaining your clothing. From hemming trousers to your desired length or taking in the waist of a jacket, to replacing a broken zip or missing button, they make your clothing and therefore you look better, ready to take on the world.

You can find alteration tailors at dry-cleaners and these can be useful if you know exactly what you need but they may not have a fitting-room if you require their skill to pin your garment to your liking. It may be worth asking at your local quality menswear store for a recommendation or try a Google search for someone local.

Trouser Alterations

Once you have found someone, always start with a simple adjustment to build the relationship and judge the quality of their work. If you buy ready-made trousers, they usually come with inside leg increments of 1” to 2”. A tailor will work to an accuracy of ¼” and this is why quality ready-made trousers are often sold unhemmed. How long you like your trousers is a matter of taste and you may be asked about “break”.

This is the amount of excess cloth you like to touch your shoes. Wider legged trousers and taller gentlemen suit a “full break” whilst very slim trousers look better with minimal break where the cloth barely touches the shoes. For this reason, your inside leg measurement will vary depending on the cut of the trousers and another reason why you need an alterations tailor. The weight of cloth also plays a part with very lightweight cloths being better suited to more break.

How the trousers are hemmed should be a conversation and the main two choices are between plain or with a turn-up (cuff in US English). With a plain hem, the tailor should angle the bottoms so that they are slightly longer at the back; whilst there is a conversation to be had about depth of turn-up.

A typical department store will offer 1.5” but a slightly deeper version can look more considered and stylish. If you opt for the deeper version, the tailor may need to narrow the hem to accommodate it or you may elect to taper the hem anyway. Tapering (narrowing trousers) is a simple alteration if you prefer a slimmer profile.

Adjusting the waist on quality tailored trousers is also a relatively simple task and they can be adjusted 1.5” in either direction. As a rule of thumb, it is better to have something taken in than let out. It also means that garments can be let out in the future should they annoyingly shrink in the wardrobe...

With wear, your trousers may need some maintenance and your tailor will be able to replace buttons, zips and strengthen any areas that may be wearing. On softer cloths, you could ask to have heel-tape applied to the hem to prevent wear. This relatively inexpensive alteration will also add weight to lighter cloths and help them to hang better (or “drape” as we say in the trade).

Once you have found a good alteration tailor, and are happy with some simple trouser alterations, you could try some jacket alterations.

Jacket Alterations

The right sleeve length really enhances the overall appearance of the jacket. You should aim to have a good half an inch of shirt showing below your jacket sleeve. A well-made jacket sleeve can be lengthened ½” while you can usually shorten a couple of inches if needs be.

jacket sleeve measurement
jacket sleeve measurement

Always make sure your tailor shortens/lengthens from the cuff and not the crown (where it attaches to the shoulder). There is an opinion that shortening from the top of the sleeve is the superior adjustment but I would not have a sleeve removed unless absolutely necessary. This would be the case if your garment has real buttons that can be unfastened where the tailor cannot move the position and you can only alter a little without removing the sleeve.

When having the sleeve altered, a nice touch is to consider having the sleeve tapered a little. This relatively minor adjustment is worth the effort. If your jacket does not have real cuffs, you could ask your tailor if they could be added. This can be an expensive indulgence but worth doing on an expensive well-tailored piece.

After the sleeve, the most popular jacket alteration is adjusting the waist. “Nipping” in the waist if the jacket is a little too large is flattering and your tailor should pin the garment to illustrate the procedure. Be wary if they pin the central back seam...this adjustment should be achieved through the side seams. Taking in the back seam will alter the way the jacket will hang or the “balance” as it is known in the trade.

When being pinned, always bear in mind what you keep in the jacket pockets and it is worth including these items in the fitting. Your wallet, telephone and diary could require space to accommodate.

Other factors to be aware of are that the jacket should not pull at the front and the lapels should sit flat against your chest. A good tailor will know this but he also needs to know your personal preference so it is important you have good communication.  

Shortening the jacket length is not as simple as you might think. The pockets on the jacket can’t be moved and because of this, anything more than a ½” will make the jacket look quite odd. Lengthening is possible but again is very limited and we would actually avoid this. 

Altering shoulders should only be done when absolutely necessary but a good craftsman will be able to “chip off” up to ½ “ on each shoulder, but be mindful that this will impact on sleeve length. Some alteration tailors will require a fitting before work is finished to inspect how adjustments are affecting overall fit.

A well-fitting collar is desirable and if it sits away from the shirt, it should be altered to fit. It is it sitting away because the garment is too small, there is little to be done but if it down to your posture (we all lean a little more forwards since we spend longer on keyboards) the collar can be drawn in.

Achieving a good fit is not cheap but is worth the effort and make your jacket look significantly more expensive.

What Can Be Altered on a Tailored Jacket?

In Part 1 of our video below Leah is joined by Chris Modoo who authored this article to cover some of the points mentioned.

Tailored Jacketing Collection

Our Tailored Jacketing Collection allows you to choose the sizing in either slim or regular fit along with short, regular and long to ensure a classic fit. To view our tailored jacketing click on the following link: Tailored Jacketing Collection.

How to Measure a Jacket

In the video below Leah shows you how to measure a jacket to get the correct fit when buying online.

Further Reading:


Fit is incredibly important to us and so our tailored jackets are designed to look good across all body shapes, ensuring you always look and feel your best. We offer two fits, slim and regular, as well as allowing you to choose the perfect length to suit your torso and arms. We recommend you take a look at our comprehensive size guide which gives a full overview of the sizing should you wish to check against another jacket here: Jacket Size Guide.

As well as being constructed from fabric supplied by the world renowned Scabal of Savile Row, what makes our jackets truly exceptional is the ability to select your choice of lining (included in the total price). Your lining is not about being extravagant, but ensuring you have something personal to you. We have a large selection of jacket linings, but also offer a bespoke service should you want a truly one-of-a-kind jacket.

Once you have purchased your jacket, one of our team will follow up with you to double check the details and answer any further questions. Your satisfaction is absolutely guaranteed, so you can be sure that you will be delivered a jacket that exceeds your expectations. Don’t take our word for it, see some of our Trustpilot reviews below.

Product Reviews

Menswear Blogger - Linus Norrbom - Sweden

"From a person that feels naked without a pocket square in the chest pocket of my jacket, I can honestly say that Rampley & Co. have change the way I look upon pocket squares.

Rampley & Co. is well renowned for their beautiful and unique pocket squares, but have more recently widened their range of quality men’s accessories, such as e.g. ties in lovely Scabal fabrics but also braces, umbrellas and socks.

In terms of the pocket squares, it is truly a great joy wear a piece of art in your pocket. They feature carefully selected artwork motifs, beautifully printed on high-quality silk and well handcrafted with nice hand-rolled edges etc. I find that the size of 42×42 cm of the Rampley & Co. pocket squares works really well, it sits well in the pocket and allows various folds. The different folds, combined with a lot of colours in the motif, makes the pocket square really versatile in terms of complementing an outfit..." Click to read full review.

Linus Norrbom Menswear Blogger


The Grey Fox - David Evans - United Kingdom

"I've used Rampley & Co pocket squares, socks and ties for a few years now. All are well-made and stylish. I believe in buying few and buying well - it's the only sustainable way to avoid piles of stuff going into landfill.

The pocket squares are exceptional; in fact I'd collect them all if I could. Those based on old paintings and prints have the advantage that you can fold them in infinite ways, effectively giving you scores of squares in one.

The ties are the ideal width and length and their quality enables me to tie a full knot - always important. It's always worth keeping an eye on their website as the best designs come and go quickly..." Click to read full review.

David Evans The Grey Fox
5 stars: Excellent Jesse - United States

"I was elated when I received the most elegant and exquisite pocket square I had ordered from Rampley & Co! It is absolutely gorgeous. The color and clarity of the scene depicted, and the quality of this accessory are truly exceptional." Read more reviews... 

5 stars: Excellent Tom - United Kingdom

"Very impressed by both the quality of the product and the customer service. The team fulfilled a last-minute request and got a beautiful pocket square to me via international shipping nearly instantaneously." Read more reviews... 

5 stars: Excellent Thorvaldur - Iceland

"I recently purchased a scarf for my wife´s Birthday and a pocket square for myself. We could not be more pleased. The items arrived promptly, beautifully presented and I received a surprise with my pocket square." Read more reviews...