What Alterations Can be Done

Recently a client brought in his father’s old Brioni suits hoping that we could refit them to his body.  His father was about 3” taller and the suits were from the 1980’s.   I advised him not to throw good money after bad and that we should do the minimum work necessary to make the suits presentable and leave it at that.

He seemed grateful for this straightforward advice and bought three new custom suits from us. It occurred to me that consumers have a very poor idea of what alterations make sense to do and which ones don’t.  Before I get into a list,  here’s the most general guidelines for not trying to alter an existing garment:

  • If you’ve gained or lost two or more sizes.
  • You want to change the style of the garment into something else.

It’s not that our tailors aren’t talented.  They are. It’s just that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  No tailor can turn a Brooks Brothers suit into an Armani suit.  No tailor can turn a suit that fits Liam Neeson into one for Al Pacino. Unfortunately, there are tailors out there who make their living from performing major alterations and they want to make money from these situations. The result is generally butchery, followed by an argument.

So here’s my list of alteration do’s and don’ts:


  1. Take in or let out the waist of a jacket or a pant up to 2”
  2. Pad one shoulder when one is lower than the other
  3. Reduce the chest or blades when they are ½” too big
  4. Narrow the leg or bottom of a trouser
  5. Shorten or lengthen jacket sleeves
  6. Shorten a coat up to 1”
  7. Narrow the shoulders up to ½’ each side
  8. Narrow sleeve.


  1. Trouser rise is too short (front or back)
  2. Collar stands away from neck
  3. Clothing is two sizes too big or small
  4. Lines of coat are straight and you want to give it shaping
  5. Coat is too short
  6. Coat breaks in center of back because of straight posture
  7. Lower collar more than ½”
  8. Coat is too big in front

Hope this has been helpful.

Kozinn+Sons Merchant Tailors
22 West 32nd Street, 5th Floor
New York NY 10001

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Kozinn+Sons Merchant Tailors
22 West 32 Street, 5th floor
New York, NY 10001
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