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Forum > Men Who Sew > Alterations of RTW and all the posibilities ( Moderated by Deepika, Jacqui315)

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Alterations of RTW and all the posibilities
Member since 9/28/12
Posts: 23
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Date: 10/3/12 9:33 PM


I'm new to sewing and I would like learn how to alter my clothes from shirts to jackets to jeans to everything and beyond.
I have some questions about alterations.

1. Can I make alterations on clothes that are a few sizes bigger? (I'm small, What if I buy a medium or a large?) or just clothes that are my size but don't fit properly?
I'm asking this question because I was thinking of pants if I reduce the size of them what happens to the pockets? If I slim the sleeves of a shirt what happens with the part that goes under the arm (armpit?). etc.

2. How much can I alter when it comes to men's clothes? (seams, sleeves, etc?????)

3. I found this book called "Altering Men's Ready To Wear" by Mary Roehr. Has anyone read it? Any Reviews?

4. Do you know any other resources like books, dvd's, classes, etc I could use?

Thank you so much for you input and help, I really need it.

tinflutterby  Friend of PR
California USA
Member since 8/9/11
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Date: 10/4/12 2:00 AM

Men's RTW pants are designed to alter about 2" at the back waist. That is a 1"seam allowance So you could take a 38 up to nearly a 40 waist or down to a 36 but as you mentioned the pockets get strange after that and it doesn't address the front which is much harder to alter. Suit coats need to fit across the shoulders as do dress shirts. It's just to much work to have to reset the sleeves. You might as well start from scratch.
Member since 11/29/11
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In reply to davidxy887
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Date: 10/4/12 5:31 AM

I have heard rave reviews about the book you mention--I have the Altering Womens Ready to Wear "on layaway"at Amazon, since I read such good reviews on it. I thought that it would be an excellent resource for home sewers such as myself. Not cheap, but you would make your money spent on it back quickly, i think. Good call on your mens book.
Tarrbaby  Friend of PR
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Date: 10/4/12 8:04 AM

Make friends with the alterations person at your local dry cleaner or alterations shops. Most of them are more than willing to share tips. (I work for a bridal shop and we will step people through an alteration verbally). And we're glad to do so.

Dawn T.

minggiddylooloo  Friend of PR
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Date: 10/4/12 1:16 PM

Here's a cheaper source for both of the men and women's alteration books:

Cleaner's Supply

While you're browsing their site you can also stock up on all sorts of notions for your sewing projects. NAYY, just an extremely satisfied customer.

I'm finally a blogger!

New York USA
Member since 4/12/04
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Date: 10/27/12 9:31 PM

I learned to alter RTW long before it became a recent fad called Refashioning or Reconstructing. When I was a teen, a designer factory outlet opened near my home which had designer clothing at incredible prices. Most of the overstock that goes to factory outlets are the off sizes, usually too large, or clothing with some type of fit pr quality issues, called 'irregulars.' So I would buy many of those and alter them to fit.

It really helps if you learn to sew off of a couple easy patterns so you know the basics in how to construct a garment from scratch, thus how to alter and RE-construct a garment. There are several 'Make it tonight, wear it tomorrow,' patterns just to learn the basics. I personally love to alter ready to wear as the item is already in the perfect fabric, drape, and pattern for the style. All that matching and guesswork is gone. You get to try it on and see if it even will reasonably look good on you and if you like it, instead of trying to imagine from scratch. There is a whole other thread here that talks about the pitfalls of sewing from scratch and ending up with very 'homemade' amateurish looking garments.

Buying a item already premade in the right style & fabric saves a lot of trial & error guesswork, on matching material to patterns, even if one has to do a lot of reconstructing.

Once you know the basics of constructing a garment, try on the RTW garments in the store's fitting room and take an inventory of how much the item needs to be altered and if it is possible. Be realistic on how much work you are willing to do and are capable of. (You can also do part and have a tailor do the more advanced work, saving you money from having them do the whole thing.)

The less structured a garment is, the easier it is to alter the sizes down. Many only need the sides sewn in, or hemmed up. Some others my require adding a back seam to a garment that doesn't already have one, to take up excess fabric. This will work on a jacket, as many jacket styles have a back seam. It won't work on a knit sweater, as mens sweaters never have back seams and it would look totally out of place.

A little more advanced is sewing the shoulder lines in, or taking the top shoulder line up a bit, and resewing the sleeve in. Jackets usually have a lining that also needs to have the exact same alterations made to match.

As you said, some things, like front curved pockets on pants are nearly impossible to move upward. Slit pockets can never be moved and may end up in the wrong place. Darts on women's blouses can sometimes be taken in, but can not be moved sideways. Buttonholes in the wrong places can't be moved - like an inch too low on a blazer, so it closes in the wrong place. Crotch fittings are harder to do and in some pants, if the material down there is gone, it can't be replaced.

Some RTW items, especially higher end clothing tend to have more detailing, like topstitching along seams, which you will need to learn to copy the proper stitch length and exact thread color and put back on, so your altered sections will match the the existing details seamlessly.

There are many websites now dedicated to 'refashioning' or 'upscaling' or 'reconstructing' RTW garments. Do a Google search for those words. While some are major changes, many will show just simple alterations, which is what you are interested in, and how much can be done.

Here is one of the simplest alterations on taking a shirt and underarms in, IF the shoulder seams fall pretty much in the right places:
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