Altering Your Clothes Without Going to the Tailor


At least fifty percent of my wardrobe has paid a visit to the Tailor – from every type of garment to every type of alteration. Confession: I’ve even paid for a pair of undies to be taken-in! (I had the matching bra, then the undies went on sale. Alas, they didn’t come in my size but I really wanted them…). This gets very expensive. So I’ve learnt to pick and choose which clothing I get altered professionally and what to tackle myself.
The below techniques are certainly no revelation; however, collating them demonstrates just how many ways you can self-modify your current, and future, wardrobe to fit you better. Even if something already fits, it also offers a new way to transform an old favourite. The best part is you don’t need a sewing machine or even know how to sew.
The folded short sleeves and jeans: donned by Greasers in the 1950s – born in America out of a resistance against conformity, and the rise of the working class citizen. Worn today by short people everywhere – out of a resistance against clothing that hangs well beyond the termination of their limbs.
This method can be applied to jeans/pants, long or short sleeved shirts and tees, as well as blazers and even jumpers. How many times you fold, or cuff, is entirely up to you but the aim is for it to remain looking fairly streamlined.
CUFF IT | Before
Trying to look ‘off-the-cuff’. Vintage tee; vintage belt; Viktoria & Woods pants
Have something long-sleeved that you want to shorten but doesn’t look quite right cuffed? Try SCRUNCH IT.

The fastest and easiest of all the methods. Push those sleeves up towards your elbows – simple. If they don’t stay up then scrunch those slippery suckers up past your elbows and use said elbows like body guards – no sleeve makes its way down to your wrists unless they say so! And if they start acting like Frank Lee Morris trying to escape Alcatraz, secure them in place with bracelets or even a sleeve garter (yes, that’s an actual thing). 

With raw hemmed attire fraying its way around the globe, you can easily make your home-job look like it’s fresh off the Marques Almeida runway (well, almost). The most permanent of the self-modifications, you have to be sure the change you are making is one you can live with for the rest of your garment’s life.
Prewash your item of clothing before cutting it, just in case it shrinks (see SHRINK IT, below, as another home-alteration strategy). Double check the material you are cutting before you hack into it – some fabrics will continue to fray away to almost nothing if not hemmed. Fabrics which tend to maintain their integrity once cut include: cotton, spandex, fleece, velvet, leather and vinyl. Generally, the tighter the weave of the fabric the more likely it is to remain in tact. Avoid cutting more delicate fabrics like silk, chiffon and hand-knitted wool. Cutting garments before the seam (like when you turn your tee into a muscle shirt) can also prevent mass ‘frayage’.
‘BEFORE’ (Is it just me or does anyone else think floor-length flared trousers can make you look like Gumby?)
Gorman tencel shirt; Frame Denim jeans; Acne boots. (Please also see: SCRUNCH IT)
Cut It 2
*A-hem* check out my straight lines!
Cinching your clothing has become much easier with the rise in popularity of outerwear corsetry. The humble belt is no longer weighed down with the sole responsibility of making your waist look smaller whilst also working hard to keep your pants from falling down. 
If you’re like me and expand a whole dress-size after a big meal, modern corsets, bodices, and bustiers are much more forgiving of your food baby. There are plenty of options with elasticised sections and without boning, for complete comfort. Even a scarf can be called into battle if applied just right.
Cinching doesn’t just apply to shirts, it also works with dresses by adjusting not only the width but also the length.
Synch It | Before
‘BEFORE’ (FYI: This is actually a nightie)
Synched | After
Of co(u)rset looks better cinched! Equipment dress; Vintage camisole; Reformation lace-up top
This one is risky business and best left for garments that you could live without, or easily replace, in the likely event it all goes pear shaped.
Often all you need to do is simply wash your item at about 30 degrees celsius, rather than cold, for a slightly snugger fit. Be sure to read the washing instructions carefully, to gauge how far you need to go, before attempting anything at home. I tried this with a Helmet Lang mohair sweater: the first time I went easy on it and it came out slightly smaller, which was great. So, greedily, I went back for more and accidentally put the washer on the wrong cycle. My jumper came out looking like a tea cosy! 
But, I’ve had successes too. My 100% cotton Zara skort (see images below, under TWIST IT) was too wide around the waist. After one wash on a warmer setting it fits perfectly. I now only wash it on cold so as to avoid it getting too small.

Natural fibre materials such as silk, wool, linen and cotton generally shrink best (unless they have been pre shrunk).

Tucking in a shirt that is too long, or even too wide, is the easiest way to achieve an outfit that doesn’t look like it’s trying to eat you.

The great thing about a tuck is, giving an inch is often all you need –  you don’t need to stuff a mile of fabric into your pants to make your top fit better. Half tuck, quarter tuck, front tuck, side tuck, back tuck – they all help you to look like you are not sartorially swimming in your upper wear. You can also transform the right dress into a top with a simple tuck.

TUCK IT | Before
‘BEFORE’ (Where are my legs?)
Equipment shirt; Gucci belt; Topshop jeans
Cuff too
Also, please note: CUFF IT
The less formal, more ‘country’, cousin of TUCK IT. Pretty self-explanatory, this mostly applies to tops and shirts that button up at the front (or sometimes even the back). 
Tie It
It’s like a bow for your belly button
Excess material on your top can be twisted from the front, back or side, then tied into a neat little knot. If you are working with less fabric, you can twist then fold it back under your top, making it tighter which should hold it in place. Alternatively you can use a hair tie similar in colour to help keep it from untwisting. You can also shorten a long dress or skirt with a bit of the old twist-n-knot. 
TWIST IT | Before
TWIST IT | After
Honey, I shrunk the skort (just right)! Lisa Brown top; Zara skort
Knot a bad transformation! (Please also note: CUT IT – I chopped the sleeves off before the seam)

How do you modify your clothing to fit you better?