Instructables

How can I alter a suit after extreme weight loss?

I had breast cancer, and a double mastectomy. Lost 50 lbs in all, and now none of my clothes fit! I have several nice blouses and jackets, as well as pants, that are way too big for me now. My insurance canceled on me, so I can't go to a tailor or buy new - will have to live to 200 to pay all the medical bills! I can take up sleeves and hems, but my jackets and blouses are way too wide across the shoulders/back, and my pants? Well, I look like Bozo the clown. Can anyone assist in how to best take in for a good fit? All help appreciated! All I can wear right now are sweats... :-\

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seandogue4 years ago
Go to a tailor. Tailoring is much less expensive than most people realize, and even if the clothes already "fit", it's surpirising how mmuch better they fit when a tailor tweaks them for you.
Anodean5 years ago
Hello fiberarts. Losing lots of weight may be the "problem everyone wants to have," but I completely sympathize with your clothing problem - bozo the clown indeed. You look just as big as you ever were in them, and sloppy to boot. But thank goodness you're in view of a cure for your illness! Now. While these good people have given you some reasonable advice about cutting down your wardrobe and re-making it, there really is very little short of literally ripping apart your old clothes to use as material to make new clothes that could ever turn them into anything worthwhile - and I'll freely admit that I am no such good a tailor. Having said that, I'll point out that few people are, and there's no reason to assume that you're any different. In fact, I've had advice from excellent tailors in just this sort of pickle, and frankly, they won't even try to "take in" clothing after such an extreme change of size - it's just not worthwhile and the results are rarely satisfactory. Particularly jackets. Why not think about selling your old clothes, if they're nice, and buying some used clothes in your new size? Go check out the consignment stores - and the thrifts! I'm not ashamed to tell you that I've had some of my very nicest stuff from a good old-fashioned charity thrift store, for *beans*. At less than $5 a pop, you can hardly go wrong at a thrift. You could burn up more money than that just paying for sewing notions - and there might be a large lady out there who could really use your old stuff.
gramynini5 years ago
hope you stay in remission and totally win that battle. When you "remake" your clothes, make sure your pieces stay "true on grain". Remember to divide the differences in circumference by 4 and try first to alter the side seams. If you must change (take up) the shoulders note that that will change your neck line and you must recut the collar, and the top of your sleeve cap will have to be altered as well. On your pants take the waist band off and try to alter at the side seams first. If that is not enough, there are alterations to the front and back seams (see multisize pattern) but they must be let out. Alter your waist band at the current seams or if it is one piece put in a center back seam. You shouldn't have too much alteration in length, except in the shoulders. These are the type alterations I have to make on my daughter's clothes. Good Luck,
rachel5 years ago
Hi fiberarts, glad to hear you're in remission! Sounds like you are managing the alteration process well, but I do have some comments in case they are helpful. A smaller size of the same basic pattern can nearly always be made from a larger size by simply cutting the smaller pieces out of the existing garment and sewing the new garment together from scratch. Generally one wants to minimize the amount of cutting and sewing though. A larger body of the same height is not the same proportions as a smaller body so the shapes of the garment pieces are different, and a large amount of the difference is at the armscye so it will definitely need adjusting if the garment is at all fitted. For shirts, if the size difference is not too big you can sometimes get away with stitching the underarm seams smaller from wrist to waist. For jackets this is usually not suitable; the best plan is to take the sleeves off and recut the armscye and sides of the jacket body. If the size differential is significant, though, this may not be possible since the smaller armscye may need fabric in an area where the original armscye has cut it off. This is hard to explain but if you lay a smaller pattern out on a larger, matching the shoulders, you can get an idea of what I mean. If the jacket is collarless you can investigate leaving the armscye area alone and taking the garment in down the center front & back, redoing the collar area. For collared jackets this won't work if only because the fold of the collar will be in the wrong place and this is generally not something that can be steamed out and re-pressed successfully. For pants and skirts you'll always need to take off the waistband. If the closure is a hook & eye or has a buttonhole or other detail that makes turning it inside out impossible, you can often leave just the ends attached, and take in the excess at the point opposite. For the body of the pant or skirt, try if you can add gathering or pleats (or increasing the depth of existing pleats), instead of recutting & restitching the whole side. It's less work that way, but whether it is suitable and hangs well depends on the individual garment. Be as creative as you can. Add princess seams. Remove collars, or add collars in contrasting fabric. Cover problem areas with a decorative pocket... Baste and pin and try on as much as possible before cutting, to see if what you plan will work. Best of luck with it! If you run into any specific issues and can post a picture, I'd be glad to try and help with it. For reference, while I currently program the Instructables site, I have in the past been a professional seamstress and I've got over 25 years of experience sewing and altering clothes.
fiberarts (author) 5 years ago
Thank you for that! Yes, I am in remission, thank goodness. I pulled apart my favorite outfit (now THAT was scary!) and it is on my cutting table waiting for me to get up the nerve to start cutting on it. Have a pattern for a simple top I am going to measure off of to cut the jacket down. The skirt is a long swirly one so I just opened the waistband, cut down and sewed the elastic, and that part is done. Woo Hoo! Will let you know how it goes! :-)
jtp1395 years ago
First of all, my goodness, I'm very sorry to hear about your battle with cancer. Hopefully you meant that it's now gone since referring to it in past tense. If it is gone then congratulations! When you take pants in you`do it in the center seam on the butt. I'm not sure about taking in a shirt. You'd probably have to disassemble it and redo it properly. Look on craiglist or your local freecycle group for free clothes I'm sure someone out there is willing to donate some clothing to you.