Whenever I get something altered at Neiman Marcus or Saks and one of their little seamstresses—they always seem to be compact and always seem to be foreign-born—steps into my fitting room with a mouthful of straight pins, I get a happy little flutter in my stomach that says, “Ooh, this outfit is gonna rock my body!” And usually it does. But for the other stores in which I may also choose to buy off the rack, who don’t have solid-looking women who demand that you “tern erond now puleze,” the struggle has been REAL for getting that same customized look. Until I found a tailor. Now, let’s be clear. I am not talking about the lady at your dry cleaners who takes up your hem as a side hustle to steaming your clothes.  I’m talking about a custom tailor or a flat out designer. But how do you find one that works best for you? I have a few helpful tips:

Tip #1:   You could start by asking that bossy little seamstress in the dressing room if she works from home or on items that aren’t purchased from that department store.

Tip #2:   Or ask your girl who is always nattily attired, who handles her tailoring needs. Or better yet, who designed her outfit.

Tip #3:   Yes, you should consider designers as a serious option. Look, if you’re already shopping at Saks, Neiman’s, Bergdorf’s, or Barney’s, you’re already shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars for your outfits. You might as well use a custom designer and help a small business and get a one-of-a kind (or at least fewer-of-a-kind) customized pieces and avoid seeing another size 10 wearing your same dress at the next dinner party. There are a couple of ladies I keep in my repertoire of designers: Jody Davis Designs out of Baltimore and Barbara Bates out of Chicago.

Jody Davis
Barbara Bates

This is me wearing a Jody Design when I had my meeting at Oprah’s OWN headquarters last spring. Be clear: designers DO NOT DO alterations on someone else’s clothes. So don’t think of designers and tailors as interchangeable. They aren’t. I’m just giving you more options.


Tip #4:   Make sure your tailor is convenient for you. Her location AND her hours. If she’s only open 9-5 weekdays … well, for us busy working women, she might not be worth her reasonable rates.

Tip #5: Is she GREAT? And I mean, GREAT, not good, at what she does? Ask to see something she’s already tailored for someone else. Turn it inside out right while she’s standing there and pay attention to the quality. Are there loose threads? Uneven hemming? If so, smile, and keep it moving right on down your list of referrals.

Tip #6: Do you feel really comfortable with her? Like girlfriend comfortable? Like stripped down to your bra and Spanx comfortable? Because that’s just how you might find yourself in her presence. If you feel at all judged or side-eyed by her, or don’t feel like you can tell her that the last blouse she altered for you came apart at the seams during a business presentation, then find somebody else, Diva. Life’s too short.

Tip#7:    Do you feel like her prices are reasonable? Are you paying luxury department store rates but getting H&M quality? She should provide a rate sheet up front so you’ll know how much standard alterations will run you.

Tip #8: Test her first. Give her an outfit you could live without if she screws it up. But if you love her, then you’re already on your way to ensuring 2018 is the year of you being “bespoken” for!

And because you’re a Diva I know you know the definition of bespoke is “goods, especially clothing made to order.” But if you didn’t, no worries or side eyes here!


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