Closet Revamp: 5 Tailoring Ideas

We at SF Indie Fashion recently did something shockingly therapeutic. After a weekend marathon of What Not to Wear and Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style courtesy of our DVR queue packed with ever-so-intellectual material, we dove into our rather pint-sized closet and got to sifting.

I ended up taking one pair of slacks, two dress shorts, one blouse, three dresses and a skirt to Nouvelle Tailor & Laundry – my trusted Noe Valley tailor (they also have done a great job cleaning my leather coats). A week later, we picked up what amounted to a major wardrobe infusion for around $150 bucks. Yes, tailoring can cost you, especially when you start really changing garments, but in the end, paying that amount to return eight items to the regular outfit rotation was well worth it. After all, I initially bought each item because I liked most of what I saw. It was the details that kept me from wearing them.

In the spirit of using what you have, consuming conciously and looking the best you possibly can as you jaunt through this life, here are five ideas for easy tailoring jobs that can totally change a garment, yet often cost less than a pair of new socks.

1. Turn a dress into a shirt. I took two long dresses to my tailor and asked him to cut them off at hip level, thus turning them into shirts. The result: two new tops I’ll wear a lot more than I would the dresses, which both fell somewhere into the casual day dress category.

2. Change those sleeves. I pulled a shirt out of my closet that I paid a decent amount for – somewhere in the $150 range. I love it, yet I never wear it. Why? Because it had puffy satin sleeves. They look cute on the shirt, but not so on my rather thick upper arms. Hey, I work out. What can I say? I hustled it over to the tailor, who cut them down and redid the underarm seams. Now I have the shirt I always loved, but with new sleeves I can actually appreciate.

3. Trade a tie-neck halter for a button closure. I had two halter-style tops that tied at the back of the neck. Guess what? Never wore ’em. Why? About an hour after I put either of them on, the fabric digging into my neck skin was pretty close to unbearable. They ended up sitting in my closet, waiting for the perfect 45-minute-or-less occasion. Took them to the tailor, who cut the straps down and added buttons for a more comfortable closure.

4. Dart it up. When you have an item of clothing that leaves you feeling like a sad sack, darts may be all you need to revamp the item. I’ve added front and/or back darts to several shirts and dresses to add shape. It’s an easy fix that you can do at home if you have basic sewing skills. Otherwise, drag the items to the tailor.

5. Replace your lining. The wonderful husz of SF Indie Fashion had a jacket he loved, but his bare-bones fashion sensibilities were appalled at the circa-1983 splatter pattern lining on the otherwise simple black jacket. He wore it diligently, but cringed whenever the wind picked up and the side flapped open to reveal what he considered seriously embarassing lining. So he wouldn’t have to zip his jacket everywhere he went for the rest of eternity, I dragged him to the tailor. A few days later, presto! A black jacket with basic black lining. Simple, just like the resulting garment.