A talent for tailoring

A talent for tailoring

Q. How do I find a decent tailor; can I just look/ask online, and/or should I “test” the one people recommend? I have $250 trousers and a $1000+ suit that need work and I think I better know what qualities a tailor should show before I hand them over?

A.To help me answer your question, I spoke with a long-established tailor, who said it is a common concern. He said, “That’s something I hear often. Unfortunately, there are no more tailors. People ask me, ‘Are you good?’ His response “I’m here 35 years; I must know what I’m doing.” He went on to repeat, “There are no more tailors. They are retired and they die out. Most of the new ones are like seamstresses. They can just do simple alterations, small things, like hems and taking in the waist. That doesn’t mean they can do real tailoring. They are not qualified to call themselves tailors. I must be good to survive all these years.”

Still, unless you choose this specific tailor, he had not answered my (or your) question. So, I posed this idea to him. “Would you say that, if you don’t know how long a person who calls himself a tailor has been in business or how qualified he is, it’s important to know whether he actually makes clothes from scratch?” His answer was an unqualified, “yes.” He agreed that a true tailor needs the knowledge and the skill to be able to create clothes. Apparently, a seamstress “alters”; a true tailor “makes.”

Today, unfortunately, finding a tailor is not easy.

My first advice would be to ask someone whose clothing style and taste you admire if he knows a good tailor.
If you don’t have someone to ask, or are not comfortable asking, another method is to check out a tailor who refers to his work as “custom” or “bespoke.” Those terms pretty much mean the same thing: clothing that is made specifically for you, using your measurements and incorporating your requirements, and not merely tweaking something that is already made. I am not saying that you will necessarily need this sort of skilled service, but a true tailor is one who is capable of providing it and is skilled enough to make the alterations/repairs you are looking for. You might follow up by asking if he could make you a sports jacket. Even if you have no real intention of following through, the answer could help you decide whether to use him.
Those who do “made-to-measure” tailoring are a step short of custom tailors. That said, unless your needs are rather complicated, such a qualifier is often good enough.
Don’t just go to your local dry cleaner.
And your hesitation with your expensive clothing is valid. It would be wise to test your possible new relationship by first giving him a relatively simple alteration to do on something that is neither a favorite of yours nor a large investment. Perhaps a pair of pants that needs to have the seat altered (not the simplest repair, but one that gives you a clue about his skill). Even so, these may not totally answer whether he is up to a major job and a perfect fit.
Finally, if you are a loyal customer who has been shopping in a quality clothing store for several years, you might consult them. While the average men’s clothing salesperson does not have the knowledge to point you in the right direction, yours may know a tailor to recommend. Obviously, if you make a purchase in a fine store, their tailor will make any necessary alterations. But what if you inherit something from Dad or Grandpa, or discover something you like in a thrift shop, what do you do? Because finding a good tailor is a wide-spread problem for many men, some better clothing shops actually offer (and charge for) “in-house tailoring.”
One aspect that may, or may not, be a factor is price. Tailoring is not the place to look for a bargain. Anyone whose advertising says that you can get a custom suit from his establishment for $199, is not being honest. Custom tailoring is not cheap.
I wish I had a more definitive answer. You may have a very hard time finding a good tailor. These days, they are hard to come by.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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