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With all my wedding festivities over the last few years, including my own wedding, I’ve learned a lot about tailoring.

Tailoring is really a whole different style world that most people only think about when forced to. In the case of bridesmaid dresses, they’re often oddly proportioned and ordered two sizes too big, and the intent is for you to alter them.

But we should also be thinking about tailoring in our everyday lives. I know there have been times when I’ve decided not to purchase something because the fit wasn’t quite right, when it could have easily been altered to fit me perfectly.

If you don’t have any experience with alterations, it can be difficult to tell whether it’s really worth the time and money. Is altering that too-big, 60-percent-off shirt going to cost more than the shirt itself?

I’ve put together a beginner’s guide to alterations, to give you a sense of what’s worth your time and what’s not. And as we know, fit is key to looking like you spent a lot of money on your wardrobe even if you didn’t. So, a lot of times, it will be totally worth it.

Easy fixes

Hem. If I had a nickel for every time I went shopping with a friend who declined to buy a certain pair of jeans because they were too long, I’d have enough money to buy myself a new pair. That is super simple to adjust, and some stores even do it for free or include it in their credit card perks.

Armholes. It’s pretty common for sleeveless tops to gape at the arms, which results in the annoying side-bra problem. If this armhole gaping is the result of the shirt being too big, and said shirt doesn’t have sleeves, it’s pretty easy to take up the shoulders and close that gap.

Waist. Nipping a skirt or dress at the waist is a simple alteration that can make a world of difference. It creates the illusion of an hourglass figure, and more practically, it keeps your skirts from riding up or falling down. Just make sure not to squeeze your waist too tight -- most humans need room for a little weight fluctuation.

More involved tailoring

Bust. For most shirts, altering the fit in the bust also involves work under the arms and at the shoulders. This means cutting a lot of seams, which just results in more hours of work.

The bust is especially difficult to alter on a corset with a lot of boning, because it’s not as simple as cutting a seam. If you’re buying or ordering a dress with a structured top, try to get as close to your size as possible (without going under, of course) to save some money on alterations.

Ruching. Anything with ruched fabric will have a more involved alteration process, just because the ruching will lose its continuity if you just fold a hem under and sew it up. I once needed to hem a dress with diagonal ruching, and the shop did a lovely job, but it was a costly fix because it was so labor-intensive.

Layers. If the item is lined, like a coat, that means cutting and sewing several different seams just for one nip and tuck.

Delicate fabrics and beading. This one speaks for itself, but except in the case of a wedding gown, you want to avoid buying lace or hand-beading that needs to be heavily altered

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