I'm sure many of us have tried on a garment that is "ok," but would be much better if it fit perfectly. To alter or not to alter? When faced with such a decision, I try follow this 3-step thought process:
Step 2. When assessing worth, look at garment quality, and again at how much you love it. If you will love a Forever21 dress to pieces after it's taken in, and would've paid XYZ for something like that to begin with, then go for it.
Alteration costs vary a lot from tailor to tailor, but here are some prices that I've paid, for reference:
Hem: $10 no lining - $25 w/ lining
Shorten sleeves: $15 no lining - $25+ w/ lining
Take-in waist: 15+ no lining - $25+ w/ lining
Take-in shoulders: $40+
Take-in sides: $15 for shirts - $40+ lined items
Step 3. Risk level is a function of both the complexity of alterations and your tailor's experience. I have had so many (even basic) alterations come out messed up.
Higher-risk (even w/ a good tailor): fancy dresses, suiting, taking-in shoulders, changing the design of a garment, or changing a garment more than 2 numerical sizes.
Example: Last month I found myself at the Ann Taylor outlet, clutching onto a suit in a beautiful lavender and cream tweed. Unfortunately, the smallest size it came in was regular 0, and I was swimming in it. The length of both pieces fit me fine though (must've been a shorter style), which was key, because blazer length probably can't be altered.
Step 1. I was instantly drawn to the color and texture, and needed a Spring suit. I saw vast potential in the suit as a set, and also as versatile separates. Nothing similar is available in smaller sizing.
Step 2. Alterations would be very costly (guesses, anyone?) but the suit was 75% off. I probably would've paid the total cost for a tweed suit that fit great right off the rack.
Step 3. Alterations needed: Sides slimmed, sleeves slimmed/shortened, skirt taken-in, and shoulders narrowed (pretty risky) + tailors who do a good job 90% of the time = somewhat risky.
But I really loved the material and overall Chanel-inspired look, so I went for it. Stay tuned for the results.
Readers - what criteria do you consider before dropping $ on alterations, or buying something that requires alterations?
For tips on how to identify or find a good tailor, visit my vintage post, Signs of a Good Tailor, and Kelly's post - 10 Tips for Finding Your Perfect Tailor.
PS - I'm very sorry if some readers came across pop-up/floating surveys (they're surveys and not ads or spam, worry not) while on this blog. I became aware of them today and am trying to remove them.