Attitudes are the hardest thing to tailor

I used to love shopping. It was a big pastime for my family, and many of my best memories as a kid are centered on the shopping mall.

But even when I loved shopping for clothes, there was always that really terrible moment in the dressing room that would stick with me for months after the incident. That moment when, after trying on many cute-looking things on the rack, none of them looked good on my body. None.

If I couldn’t find clothes that looked good, that fit my body appropriately, I knew what the problem was immediately. It was me.

If only I lost a little weight, if only my belly shrunk some, THEN I would be a perfect size whatever and everything I ever tried on would look awesome and I could find so much great clothing.

It’s really hard to believe that I actually thought this was true until very recently. It took 27 years for me to realize that actually, what might be easier and more realistic would be to change the clothes, rather than my body.

Right. Clothes are easier to tailor than bodies.

But even though I know that this is true, that message almost always creeps in when I go shopping (which is rare these days). Somehow, I’ll be in that dressing room, trying on another pair of pants that are too tight at the waist, or a shirt that doesn’t fit, and I’ll say to myself: you really just need to lose some weight, and the next size down will fit perfectly.

These days because I wear mostly men’s clothing, the assignments are even more absurd: if only my feet could grow one more size. If only I was a few inches taller. Once again, I always turn to changing myself before I think about changing the clothes.

My friend Emily G. has been a tailoring evangelist for a while. I’ve tried to listen to her, I swear. I’ve always felt like I didn’t want to spend extra money on getting clothing fixed after I bought it. I wanted to buy things that fit right the first time.

But still, instead of just investing in making clothing fit me right, I spend months trying to change a body that just doesn’t want to be a perfect size whatever. I’d probably be better off spending the extra money on tailoring, and saving myself the grief. No matter what I do, my feet aren’t going to get any bigger, and my body probably won’t get smaller either. And the truth is, even if I do lose weight, the clothing probably still won’t fit me perfectly–because it wasn’t designed for me. It was designed for some model, based on some math about average sizing, that has no relationship to my body.

Emily posted this article yesterday on facebook. It points out the same thing I’ve come to realize here, but with an added dose of information. Even celebrities, beautiful people with beautiful bodies–get their clothes tailored to fit them.

Join the Conversation

  • Lacy

    So glad that I’m reading this post a few hours before I head out in search of some new clothes. I was kind of looking forward to it, but dreading it at the same time (if that’s even possible).

    A few years ago I started buying clothing from thrift stores and (attempting) to tailor them myself. It works out well when I succeed, but for some reason it had never dawned on me that people do this with brand new clothing. I suppose I just thought that if I was shopping for brand new clothes and had a variety of sizes to choose from, that one of them SHOULD fit me. As you pointed out, this is not the case.

    Thanks for the post, I’m actually kind of excited for my shopping trip today now :-)

  • Badseed1980

    Losing weight actually made it HARDER for me to find clothes that fit. I lost a significant amount of weight at my waist and hips, but the boobs didn’t get any smaller. Now, I find myself paying far more than I ever thought I’d pay to get shirts made by small companies who design specifically for bustier-than-average women, so I can get stuff that actually fits. Most of the fashion world may not believe that real people are shaped like I am, but it’s good to know there are a few designers out there who know we exist. Knowing that it’s the CLOTHES that need to be different–not ME–is a good feeling.

    • Caroline Narby

      Who are these specialized companies? Are they online? I feel like I’m at a disadvantage in the job market because I can’t find professional clothes that fit me. I already have to buy pants online or get them hemmed (I’m rather short, but I wear men’s pants) but my breasts make it absolutely impossible to wear button-down shirts or blazers.

      • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

        I’d also like to know!

        My husband is fairly good at tailoring and mending clothing in some respect, but we still do run into this problem when I try on thrift store dresses quite a bit.

      • Badseed1980

        Yes, they’re online! I highly recommend Carissa Rose for beautiful blouses. One of the other companies I’ve bought from (Eris Apparel) has since gone out of business, alas! Campbell & Kate currently has only one shirt available (they’re just starting off, and selling their first production run), but it’s a classic. Others I haven’t yet tried are A.J. Rumina, and Pepperberry, which is UK-based. (Note: I did buy a shirt from them when they were still just Bravissimo’s clothing line, but I didn’t like the look of it. Fit fine, just didn’t look good on me. Haven’t tried anything else, or anything since they became Pepperberry.)

  • nazza

    I find it difficult to get pants that fit because there aren’t any standardized sizes, though I’m told it’s worse for women’s clothing.

    A size 40 according to one company may be a 38 or a 42 or even a 36. I have no patience for clothes shopping, but I have to do it. This just drives me slightly insane.

  • Angie Shyrigh

    Thanks for writing this! It’s an issue I’ve struggled with since adolescence and I’m probably in the majority. From top to bottom, I’m just not built within the parameters of off-the-rack clothing manufacturers. I try to tailor my own clothes, but even the alteration tutorials in the sewing books I read place the fault on the body, not the clothing i.e. bust too flat, waist too big, shoulders too narrow.

    Something I’ve found encouraging are all the clothing makers and sewists in the online, handmade marketplaces. Many are willing to make clothing per the buyer’s measurements at no to minimal extra charge. Business attire still presents a challenge to me though as does professional grade, rugged workwear.

  • Cinnamon Coope

    I would suggest finding a clothier on There are a number of very creative designers who have clothes in a wide range of styles, sizes, and price ranges. There are actually several who cater to curvy or plus-sized gals that I’ve loved. I’ve also adored the shirts made by Kate Baggiano, a Chicago designer who places her buttons closer together in strategic ways to avoid the boobage gaps that can happen even when your shirt does fit well.

  • Julia

    Who can’t relate to this? It hurts. I’m generally a size 12-14, but what does that mean? I was at Target recently trying to find work-appropriate shorts, and I tried on, I believe, at least 8 different styles? And they all had some issue. Same with TJ Maxx, probably 5+ different brands/shorts and 1 fit, but is a little snug. Recently I’ve been shopping for a new job, and I’ll try on, no joke, 20+ clothing items, and walk out with two. It makes me feel like a disgusting blob who, if I could just control myself, needs to lose weight to fit into “my” size.

  • Ruth Leavitt

    My main problem is: B-cup chest – broad shoulders – long arms. Apparently you can’t be long and lanky without also being equally busty or cuddle-sized (I only have cleavage because of a dent in my sternum). Which makes positively no sense whatsoever. At least women’s pants allow for hips (which will drive me nuts if I ever try to buy mens pants like I want to…)
    But shoulders? Tapering down to a waist that then goes out to hips? What the Hell do you call -that- shape? The hourglass is supposed to be your boobs fault, obviously!
    Fortunately I was raised by a wonderful mother who hid all her body issues until I was older and was comfortable in my own skin, so I don’t blame me at all. Mass-market clothes are just ridiculous. Trying to fit everybody usually fits nobody.

  • toongrrl

    The only reason that clothes are easier to tailor than bodies is because bodies cant take pins and needles being stuck them! Mass market clothes suck and mannequins suck even more.

  • AMM

    It seems to me that the essential stupidity here is summed up in the idea of a single size number.

    I’ve made some clothes from scratch (no pattern), with varying success, and I realize that in order to make clothes that fit, you need a lot more measurements than are usually used.

    Men’s pants need at least 4 measurements to get right, plus some way to express the “roominess” of the legs. (Women’s pants are customarily more fitted, and so would need more measurements.) Skirts and kilts need 5 or 6, and I estimated that a woman’s fitted shirt would need at least 10 (I’ve never made one — if I did, I’d probably find I needed more.)

    A single size measurement can’t possibly contain the necessesary information, no matter who makes the garment. The most you can hope for is to find some manufacturer, somewhere, who, for some size number, happens to make clothes that get all the measurements right — for you. But they probably won’t fit your sister (unless she’s your identical twin.)