We all have those "old reliables" in our closets we turn to on our fat days, our "don't have anything to wear" days and our "can't be arsed but want to feel presentable" days.

They're rarely the most expensive items in your closet, nor the most on trend. But they fit like a glove, and highlight our assets while minimising our ... "crap-sets".

But finding those pieces in the shops is as rare as a Donald Trump good hair day.

So we try spending big on labels we hope will transform us, only to tug self-consciously at clothes that don't fit. If only we could grow/lose three centimetres "here, here and here", we'd finally have that style thing sorted.


The truth is, looking great in clothes has little to do with size - it's all about the fit.

"Whether you're a size 6 or a 16, you should always have your clothes tailored to your body," Mindy Kaling's costume designer Salvador Perez told The Huffington Post.

Ever wondered why even the schleppiest TV characters look fab? Every stitch is altered to their measurements. "Shows like Mad Men [are set] in an era where people tailored their clothes and now people want to walk into a store and buy it. But nothing off the rack fits that beautifully.

Christina Hendricks' outfits in Mad Men fit like a glove because they've been tailored to her figure. Photo / Getty
Christina Hendricks' outfits in Mad Men fit like a glove because they've been tailored to her figure. Photo / Getty

"By just taking in the back of a sleeve and a little bit at the waist, you can look so much better."

Yet most of us baulk at tailoring: "It sounds expensive," "I don't know where to go," "Too much effort."
It may take initial legwork, but once you've found someone who knows your shape you may be able to work in a discount for multiple pieces.

1. Find someone you like and stick to them

Google tailors and alterations in your area. Ask for recommendations, and read online reviews. And don't overlook the franchise alterations services. The quality of the individual tailor may vary from outlet to outlet, so find one you like and stick to them.

Get your tailor's feedback on the proposed alterations and agree on what's possible.

Bringing a photo can help. "And it's always a good idea to bring the shoes and undergarments you would wear with the item so we can it work with the outfit," says

Santha King, a tailor at the Alter It franchise.

"I have regular clients who drop off a handful of garments they've had for years, then feel like they've got a new wardrobe," says Aggie Marrama of Melbourne tailor My Perfect Fit.

"But make sure the person who does the fitting is the person who does the work. And agree on what will happen if you're not happy."

2. Invest in everyday basics

"We're used to engaging a tailor for special occasions like a wedding day but it's becoming much more common to invest in the clothes you wear more regularly," says King.

"Once customers see what's possible, they're surprised at what a drastic change it can make."

On pure "cost per wear" terms, it's worth tweaking the everyday pants, shirts, dresses and work blazers you have on highest rotation.

3. Learn what works for your shape

Nigella Lawson looks stunning in her most basic signature cardigans because she gets them all tailored to her shape, which for her means nipped at the waist and fitted at the bust.

"When women know which shapes suit their body, it's empowering - it's less about getting yourself to the perfect size," says Marrama. (If you're not sure what suits your shape, start here.)

Consider getting favourite pieces copied in multiple colours and fabrics. Once your tailor makes a pattern from the original, it's relatively straightforward (and more cost effective) to run up multiple copies.

4. Where to spend, what to save

There's no point investing in an alteration if the fabric loses its shape after the first wash. Instead, scour the op-shop for pieces in good quality fabrics.

"Once clients see how much better they look when something fits well as opposed to being a label, they often buy clothes cheaply in op-shops then invest the leftover money in getting them tailored to their body," says Marrama.

And buy big. "It's generally easier and cheaper to take things in than to let things out," says King. "Making bigger into smaller is easier that making smaller into bigger."

5. What to pay

Shop around but respect their profession. The term "tailor" covers drycleaners who'll hem something cheaply, to bridal dressmakers who charge bridal prices. A basic mid-range tailor won't cost the earth, but remember you're paying for labour and they'll need to assess the piece to give you an accurate fee.

Remember, if you buy fewer pieces but investing in what you do have, you'll spend less overall but looking amazing every time.

- news.com.au