An Alteration Dilemma, How Do You Know if a Garment Can Be Altered?

I received a good question via email today.

It concerns taking in a garment where the customer has lost a lot of weight.

Here is the question I received from a reader:

“I need to alter scrub jackets for a woman who lost 22 pounds after she purchased them. They are embroidered with the dental clinic she works for, so she can’t return them. These jackets have snaps in the front, they aren’t pullover tops. They are too wide in the shoulders, the sleeves are too long and too big around. My concern is is that she is very large busted. They have set in sleeves. So, my question is, should I remove the sleeves, shorten the shoulder seam, reattach the sleeves, cut off the length needed to shorten the sleeves from the bottom of the sleeve (they have ribbing cuffs) and reattach the cuffs, then take in the side seams, making sure to leave room for her to snap them closed when needed? I tried taking one in by just basting in the side seams and sleeve, but there is still too much fabric at the underarm. Would appreciate any help you can give, thank you.”

My answer:

This is a great alteration question because there are a few things to think about when taking on a job like this. First, in order to do all of the things you are thinking of doing, it could cost the customer two or three times what a new scrub jacket would cost (assuming you are charging enough for your work!) If the customer is ok with that, then doing all of those things is possible, but it is difficult to get a great fit if you basically have to remake the top. The reason is that if you’ve done clothing construction, you know that each size is cut differently in the shoulders, bust, waist, hips, etc. That means that if you’re having to remake the garment, it is alot of work and it may not have the results you are looking for. However, it depends on how many sizes the customer is changing to. I have written a post that explains what I’m talking about a little more in detail. It’s called, How to take in a dress that is 5 sizes too big.

So, let’s say she doesn’t want to pay that much to alter each of these scrub tops or that you aren’t able to alter every part of the garment. You want to consider what you can do to get the most bang for her buck. In this case, I would take as much out of the side seams and sleeves as I could, not tampering with the cuffs, as I don’t think it’s necessary for the time involved. And, we are talking about scrubs. If it were a formal jacket, that might be another story. Here is a post that explains How to take in the side seams and facings. It gives a complete overview on what part of the side seams and facings need adjusting.

You may need to take in much more than the diagram on that post shows. Yes, the jackets may be still too large, but they are going to be a lot better than what she started with. It’s up to you and the customer to decide how much work is worth doing for scrub tops. Maybe fit for her is a greater priority than price and she’d like for you to take them apart and put them back together again, but I don’t think they’ll ever fit perfectly. Again, that is because you are altering every part of the garment and the garment was cut for a certain size. So, perhaps alter the sleeves and side seams of one of them and see how she likes it before you do all of them. That will give you a better handle on what your customer wants.

I hope that helps!