While it might seem odd to buy clothing to have altered, it’s a good idea. People who have perfectly fitting clothing do not necessarily have perfect bodies. They have competent tailors. I have most of my pants altered at the waist because it’s virtually impossible to get a waistband to fit when you have a slight sway back. Some alterations are absolutely worth the expense while others are not. Before you purchase a garment that doesn’t fit perfectly, be sure to weigh up the cost of the alteration against the price of the garment itself. Of course, prices will vary. But here are ball park estimates for common alteration jobs based on my experience in the United States:

  • Seam repair $3 – $5
  • Hems on pants, skirts and sleeves $12 – $15
  • Hems on jeans $15 – $20
  • Hems on pants with cuffs $15 – $18
  • Hems on dresses $15 – $18
  • Waist on pants $15 – $25
  • Waist on un-lined jackets, blouses, shirts and tops $12 – $30
  • Zipper replacement $12 – $15
  • General tapering of garments at the side seams and sleeves and dress-strap adjustments $10 – $18

Alterations get expensive when lining is involved. Any adjustments in the shoulder line and armhole are achievable, but will cost a pretty penny because they are labour intensive. In my experience, this type of alteration on a women’s garment is not worth the expense. If the item doesn’t fit you properly on your shoulder line – don’t buy it. Men’s suiting is the exception because it’s standard to have a men’s suit altered for free when you make the purchase. Note that American stores like Banana Republic, Nordstrom and J. Crew will offer to hem regular priced merchandise for free. Most stores in Hong Kong are happy to do any alteration for free. It’s worth every penny if alterations are minor and affordable (like hem, sleeve and waist adjustments), because perfect fit is a crucial component of dressing well. When garments don’t fit perfectly straight off the rack, remember that it’s never our body type that’s the problem… it’s the clothing. Altering them is often the best way to go. In your experience, how does pricing compare with my estimates above?