Tailors are the unsung heroes of fashion, who, behind the scenes, perform their magic to make us look our best in the clothes we choose to wear.  Their skillful craftsmanship transforms clothing from the ridiculous to the exquisite through custom alterations that result in perfectly fitted attire.  However, tailors aren’t just limited to nips and tucks.

Try a tailor on for size to experience the ultimate luxury of a custom-made suit, sport jacket, slacks, or dress shirt.  A tailor is the “go-to” professional who has the ability to make outer garments fit and look as though they’re specially designed for the wearer, even if they’re not.

Chances are, if you use the services of a tailor, you already know that a good tailor is a guy’s best friend.  Sure, there are other professionals who know their way around a sewing machine, but few rival the skill level of a first-rate tailor.  I’m not opposed to using the services of a dry cleaner or general seamstress for simple alterations like a pant hem, but when it comes to the necessary precision men’s bodies require for a perfect fit… well, let’s just say I use no one other than a tailor.

Like every other profession, not all tailors have the same skill and ability levels.  Unfortunately, tailors range from poor to fabulous, and too often, we’re the victims of their mishaps, which is why I strongly suggest using a tailor who comes highly recommended by someone whose clothing you admire.  Save yourself a lot of time, aggravation, and money by asking the locals for referrals.  You can also look online for nearby tailors, but that’s not a guarantee you’ll choose a qualified one.  Word of mouth has always been and still is the safest, most reliable way to find a great tailor.

Still, I wouldn’t stop there.  No matter how highly regarded a tailor is, it’s smart to drop in and evaluate his work.  Don’t be afraid to walk in and request to see samples of finished work; preferably the same type work you need to have done.  Inspect it and trust your judgment – the workmanship is usually obvious.  Notice details like symmetry, straight seams, zippers and button placement.  It’s not as scary as it sounds, since we all know how clothing should look – so trust your gut.

You may also want to inquire about the length of time he’s been a tailor.  I appreciate that everyone has to start somewhere, but I’ve learned not to gamble with my clothes by only choosing tailors who have years of experience under their belts.  That’s not to say a newbie can’t do excellent work.  It simply says I’m not willing to put some of my finest and most expensive clothes at risk.  Can you tell this advice comes from experience?!

What about cost?  Tailors don’t come cheap, and depending on your location and part of the world, a tailor, even the bad ones, charge good money for their expertise.  If money concerns are a factor, find out what the prices are before hiring him to do the job.  The cost should be weighted against the cost of buying new clothing that fits from the start.  Alterations rarely cost more than new garments, but it can happen, so decide if it’s more practical to forgo the needle and buy new.

Turnaround time is a big consideration, too.  If you need the suit made or altered by a certain date, make sure he can meet your deadline, and if not, go elsewhere.  I once had a pair of pants hemmed for a dinner party I attended.  Unfortunately, I forgot to tell the tailor when I needed them and he didn’t ask, so needless to say, I ended up wearing a different pair of slacks to the party.  It wasn’t a big problem, but the situation has that potential, so talk with your tailor about your time frame in advance.

Simple alterations, such as hemming, having buttons moved, or replacing zippers don’t require much input on your part, but whenever clothing is being custom-made, show the tailor pictures of what you want to avoid confusion.  In addition to style, discuss fabric choices and their care before committing to any fabric, since you’ll have to pay for the finished product whether you like it or not.  These steps are very important, so speak with your tailor as much as necessary, in order to ensure you’ll get what you want… which leads me to my final point.

Hiring a tailor is business.  It’s not about how much you like him, or the fact you went to school with his son.  It is, however, about feeling confident in his work and comfortable dealing with him.  Like a hairstylist, you need to have him listen to what you want, and give you what you pay for.  If he seems dismissive or disinterested in what you have to say, thank him for his time and move on.  Remember, he works for you and should always give excellent customer service.

Finding a tailor whose hands are golden isn’t difficult.  It does require some effort on your part to find one you’ll be truly satisfied with, though.  So, do your homework before handing over your new Gucci suit, and enjoy your new found partner in fashion!

by Aaron Marino
Modern Tailor, The Prefect Tailor Every Time