I’ve lost a good amount of weight this past year, and as a result, much of my wardrobe doesn’t quite fit me right. While the temptation to simply discard these items of clothing and buy new clothes is strong, I’ve actually chosen to tailor many of my existing wardrobe pieces. While they don’t quite fit perfectly — I only paid $5 for each item of clothing to be tailored — they do fit a lot better than they did before. Plus, tailoring cost me a lot less than it would have to repurchase all of those items.
But I don’t tailor all of my clothes. The factors I choose to determine whether or not I tailor an item or donate it and replace it are price, the material of the clothing, durability, and fit.
Obviously, if the item cost me a lot of money, I’m going to think twice about repurchasing it. But sometimes, tailoring a piece can also cost a lot. When I find a tailor, I often go to them with the pieces of clothing I wish to have tailored, knowing beforehand how much they cost me to begin with. I then find out how much the tailor will charge for altering those pieces of clothing. If I think I’m getting a bargain, I leave those clothes behind. If I’m not sure, however, I return home with the item of clothing and look up the cost of repurchasing it. Using any coupons, discount codes, or cashback options available to me, if I feel as if the item of clothing will continue to be too expensive to repurchase, I will likely decide to go back to the tailor and ask them to alter the item for me.
But, when I’m faced with an impasse like this, I often turn to other factors beyond cost to make the decision for me. I look at the material of the item, the durability of it, and the fit.
The material of the item matters a lot because some clothes, like a velvet halter top I own, aren’t easy to find again — or maintain. If I’ve already put a lot of effort into maintaining that piece of clothing because of its material, I’m better off tailoring it. I know it’s an item I’ll continue to wear, despite the amount of upkeep.
But this works in reverse too. If the item of clothing is difficult to maintain because of its material (say it’s silk, or it’s white and needs to be washed in a separate load of laundry), it’s likely easier for me to buy an entirely new item of clothing in a material that’s easier to maintain. Of course, the material of the item affects its durability, but maintaining an item of clothing of a finicky material can mean spending more money in the long run. As such, tailoring those pieces may not be worth it — not unless you genuinely love the item — and it’s easier to buy an entirely new item that fits you and is easier to maintain, likely lasting longer as well.
The durability of an item is important, especially if the piece is a designer brand, and you know that you bought it as an investment piece and were hoping it would last at least another 1-2 years. In these situations, I always tailor the item. It’s a shame to discard an item of clothing you’ve saved money for and are unable to wear simply because the fit changes. Moreover, the amount of time it might take to save up that same amount of money to repurchase the item may make it not worth the trouble. If the item is durable and will last a long time, it’s worth it to have it tailored to truly fit your body. Only wear investment pieces that give you confidence — or else you’re not getting your money’s worth.
In these situations, when I know an item is really worth it, I tend to splurge with my tailoring, too. I want this item to fit me so, so well. That way, I wear it often and am able to make it last as long as possible. Other times, like when the material of an item is easy to take care of and I just need the waist of a pair of pants taken in, I’ll opt for a cheaper tailoring job (like $5). But sometimes, it’s really worth it to have a statement piece that you can whip out for any occasion, especially if it’s an item that goes with many other clothes you already own.
Finally, the fit. I know so many people who opt to get *all* their clothes tailored just because the fit is so much better. While fit is important to me, as someone on a budget, it’s not always my top priority. But, there are times when having clothes that really fit well can make a huge difference. I think this is absolutely true for blazers or any other items in an interview uniform. Those are clothing pieces that can make or break your future income trajectory, and spending a little extra so that they fit well can really make a big difference (I work in finance, and believe me, how you dress is so, so important).
Other times, though, if the item isn’t durable or the material is flimsy and difficult to maintain, even improving the fit won’t make that item “worth it.” We all purchase pieces of clothing that we imagine will look a certain way on our bodies. For many of us, they rarely do. In those instances, it can be tempting to splurge on a tailor and have those pieces fit your body well. But a good tailor will tell you whether or not it’s actually worth it. I bought a beautiful jumpsuit for my senior gala when I graduated from college, an item of clothing that just hangs off my body now. If I were to repurchase it, it would cost me close to $100. But my body shape has changed, so even if my tailor were to take in the jumpsuit in the necessary areas, it wouldn’t look quite the same on my body. I’m better off using that money to find another jumpsuit that flatters me instead of trying to make a piece that won’t look as good on me fit.
Tailoring isn’t just for rich people
As someone on a tight budget, I use tailors sparingly. But, they can often be a much cheaper alternative to repurchasing clothes, particularly if you’ve gained or lost a lot of weight and find yourself at a loss when looking through your closet. Hopefully, these tips can help you think about your wardrobe a little differently and consider a tailor before a shopping trip — especially if it’s a money-saving hack you haven’t thought of before.
Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.
Image via Unsplash