Alterations: Simple changes? Not really

Posted: Sunday, January 11, 2004

AMARILLO, Texas Who can resist a bargain even if it doesn't exactly fit?

A nip here, a tuck there, and the hard-to-resist item would be perfect. Right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Perhaps a Christmas gift isn't exactly the right fit and needs some adjustments.

"Of home sewing, altering is the most difficult thing," said Sue Church of the Texas Cooperative Extension-Potter County.

Getting a garment to fit like it is supposed to can mean the difference between something appearing homemade or not, she said.

"Sometimes people go to discount places, and, even though it doesn't fit, they say they can alter it," Church said. "Think of the value of your time. 'Should I get something that doesn't fit me or get it right from the beginning?' "

People who do alterations must be knowledgeable. People commonly get into making alterations, only to find it too difficult to handle, she said. So they put the garment aside, and it never gets worn.

"Before you get into alterations, make sure you know what you're doing or find someone else who can do it," Church said. "It may cost more to have someone else do it, but you will be far more satisfied."

And consider alteration fees before buying bargains that don't fit, said Irma Disalvio, owner of Irma's Alterations in Amarillo.

"Clothes are too expensive when you first buy them," Disalvio said. "Then attach $20 to $25 more, when they could have looked for something else that worked for them."

To avoid problems, Disalvio recommends that people always try on items before buying, even if they are the "right" size. Most people don't try on clothing, she said.

At this time of year, alterations departments in stores and specialty shops keep busy adjusting holiday gifts.

Hemming pants and skirts or adjusting the sleeve length in jackets are common changes in new clothing, Disalvio said.

In jackets, people should make sure they can move comfortably through the shoulders and make sure that the sleeve length is correct, said Vicki Shankle, owner of Riley Blue in Amarillo. She likes sleeves to come to about 11/2 inches above the top joint on the thumb.

Small alterations can make a difference in a jacket's appearance. Right now, jackets are more fitted than boxy, Shankle said. People should be able to discern body shape from a side profile.

"You want it to fit through the waist in the back as well as in the front," Shankle said. "Sometimes it just needs to be altered under the bust in the front or taken in the back."

Even people who want to camouflage their body shape would be better off with a more fitted jacket. If people have a midriff problem, a jacket that discerns body shape will make them look slimmer.

Some people seek alterations because they've lost or gained weight, Disalvio said. But waistline alterations aren't as simple as moving over a button.

"I do not advise that because they usually overlap or look gappy," Disalvio said. "And if you wanted to make them bigger and move the button over, you can't do that. They pull. You have to do the right thing. You either have to let them out or take them in."

She can alter garments for people who have lost 20 pounds, but it means remaking the garment, which is expensive.

"If you are going to put in $30 on a suit, spend another $20 and you have a brand new suit," Disalvio said.

In today's fashion world, separates are more popular than matching, two-piece suits, which can expand wardrobes, Shankle said. But the basic rule to follow in the mix-and-match game is short over long or long over short.

"Mixing long jackets with long skirt can look either 'Mary Poppinsish' or just frumpy," Shankle said.

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