Despite what you might think, learning how to tailor and alter your own shirts is actually INCREDIBLY easy, and it’s something you can learn how to do in a weekend. I got sick of watching videos made by old women that were 20 minutes long when they could have been 3.
I started out because I had to start dressing nicer for a new job, so I filled my closet with dress shirts. Loved the colors and patterns and everything about them, except the fact that I had dress shirt muffin top. They fit great in my shoulders and my chest, but terribly in my waist. I started getting them tailored, but it was expensive.
I paid attention to what the woman was doing when she was pinning it up, and I realized that she was just following along the line. Not to downplay her skills or anything, but surely I could do that, and so can you. But as a heads up, you’re gonna mess up your first few shirts, so practice on a cheap one (or 3).
These are the basic settings you need to learn in order to alter a basic t shirt or a dress shirt, and it takes 5 minutes to learn. Sewing machines can do A TON of things, but when you just wanna look better in your clothes you can ignore about 90% of the settings. You only need to know a handful of settings, and any machine made in the last 100 years will get the job done.
The only difference between a sewing machine you can pick up on Amazon and one that they used back during WWII is…well..nothing at all actually. I tell people all the time to go check an estate sale or a garage sale before they pick one up on Amazon, because you can most likely find one for $30 or less. I use one that was my mom’s, and to be honest I probably always will.
What’s funny about measuring is it’s the hardest part of the entire process, only because it can be time consuming. What’s even funnier is once you get one style of shirt, you can go back and get the same one only in a different color and already have the measurements of how you’re going to alter it. For measuring the two things you need are a measuring tape and some pins to try on your shirt and see if you like the fit.
There’s two ways about going about it too, you can measure it, pin it, and try it on with the pins in (yes, you will probably stab yourself) and if you like it take it off and sew it up. The second way is time consuming but you pin it, try it on, and if you like it take the pins out so you don’t stab yourself, and then put them back in before you sew. I use both methods, depending on how lazy I’m feeling hah.
This is the easier part. and once you get it down you will just fly through your shirts. You put the garment under the machine, and just sew. You remember when you were a kid and you had to cut out a dotted line shape? It’s exactly like that, so saying that you can’t tailor your own clothes is like saying kids can do something that you can’t…
This is one of two stitches that you need to learn, and it’s easy. Remember, a sewing machine can do a lot of different things, but for tailoring our own clothes all we care about are two stitches.
The straight stitch is what’s going to create a new seam on our garment, and yes, it’s going to be just as strong as the original. What I will usually do is sew in a hour glass shape so that it’s more athletic fitting.
This is the second stitch that you need to learn, and it’s just as easy as the first. What the zigzag stitch does it locks in our new seam and prevents it from fraying in the washing machine. You can skip this step on some garments like technical fibers, but cotton ones are a no no. Definitely do this stitch so that it doesn’t leave little fibers all over on the inside of your washing machine.
And that’s it, that’s literally it. You can do t shirts, dress shirts, chinos, dress pants, everything. My go to is to let everyone get caught up in trends and styles, while I tell people to wear whatever they want and tailor it to fit them like a glove. I shop at Target and…that’s about it. I buy $9 shirts and make them look fantastic.
A few things, those two videos for measuring and for sewing were done using t-shirts, but you can ABSOLUTELY use them for button down shirts, all you do is keep measuring and sewing down the sleeve instead of stopping at the armpits. I measure the sleeve separate from the body too because it’s easier to try on and see if I like it. Tailoring sleeves is an awesome way to look more muscular and get rid of that baggy armpit that a lot of dress shirts have.
I don’t have any experience with pockets, only because I HATE dress shirt pockets so I take them off. All you need is a $3 seam ripper and about 10 minutes of your time. You will see the holes immediately after taking it off but don’t panic! After washing the shirt they completely vanish (might take two washes). If it’s a solid color shirt that you’ve worn before there might be a color difference from fading but that goes away too. Here’s a tutorial on that.
A few of you wanted a before and after of how my shirts turn out, and I made a video altering a dress shirt (and changing the ugly buttons lol) where you can see the difference. Changing the buttons on a dress shirt isn’t only easy as hell but completely changes the look of the shirt.
I don’t know about you, but I HATE white buttons on a dark shirt. They look so tacky. So I bought some black ones and make my shirt look a million times better. You can get a pack at a craft store or even Walmart for a less than $3 for like 40 of them, I even got a pack of wood ones for a white shirt. Do you know how many compliments I get on that shirt?! And that shirt was like a $12 dollar dress shirt from Target. Take a seam ripper, cut the other ones off, and hand sew the new ones on, done in about a half hour MAX. Here’s the shirt I was talking about.
You can get a pack at a craft store or even Walmart for a less than $3 for like 40 of them, I even got a pack of wood ones for a white shirt. Do you know how many compliments I get on that shirt?! And that shirt was like a $12 dollar dress shirt from Target. Take a seam ripper, cut the other ones off, and hand sew the new ones on, done in about a half hour MAX. Here’s the shirt I was talking about.
I have to warn you though, it’s addicting, and you can’t unsee it. You won’t be able to unsee the number of guys wearing ill-fitting boxy shirts that look like garbage bags. Or guys wearing jeans that look like MC Hammer pants. It’s so frustrating. Now you have a competitive advantage over the guys paying $40 for their oversized shirts with huge logos on them!
Here’s a few videos specifically for dress shirts.
Credit to user StylishDad on Reddit for this post above.