Tailoring Tricks to Update Your Wardrobe On the Cheap

You know that blazer, circa 1995, hiding in the back of your closet that you just don’t have the heart to get rid of? Don’t!

Some of your outdated clothing and accessories can be updated just by making a few small changes. Try these tips to make everything old new again.


The number one way to improve the look of your clothing is to have items tailored. You can purchase the most beautiful designer item, but if it’s ill fitting, it immediately spoils your look.

“Sometimes a little change makes all the difference,” says Tanya Alysheva, assistant manager of alterations at Nordstrom Michigan Avenue. “It can make your look more stylish, professional and pulled-together.”

Alterations are the easiest way to instantly look better in your clothes, yet most people don’t bother having things tailored either because it takes time or seems too costly. Albert Karol is the owner ofRichard Bennett Custom Tailors, which has been in business for more than 85 years. Karol has wardrobed hundreds of North Shore residents in his custom designs, and he recognizes the importance of well-tailored clothing.

“Because we Americans increasingly come in a wide variety of sizes, it is important to have a qualified and experienced tailor properly fit and finish your dress garments—suits, jackets, dresses, skirts, trousers and formal wear—no matter your shape,” Karol says. “Wearing properly fit clothing will not only create a positive impression with others, it will benefit you as well—imbuing you with the confidence of looking great, feeling comfortable and projecting positively in any setting.”

Women’s Jackets

Have an older blazer or jacket with shoulder pads? These are simple to remove. The blazer should still be fitted in the shoulders. A dated blazer style can become so 2014 by having the sleeves tapered and shortened.

Replace the buttons for another inexpensive update. For instance, exchange dark brown buttons for gold ones, and make your blazer look more “schoolboy” and less “business.”

Olivia Moon Three Quarter Sleeve Knit Blazer, $80, Nordstrom

For the Men

“Men’s styles have been changing to a more fitted, modern silhouette,” Karol says. “Jackets are shorter and more narrow at the shoulder, while flat front trousers are trimmer through the leg and slightly shorter in length.”

Karol says modern fitted silhouettes look best on young men and those who are in top shape. Fuller-figured guys may want to stick to more classic cuts.

“Adapt but don’t adopt changing styles to your comfort level—try out a closer fitting garment before you throw your existing suits away,” Karol says. “Older suits with wider shoulders, lapels and pant legs can be re-tailored, but it can be costly and very tricky—only a very well-qualified tailor should be trusted with these kinds of major surgeries,” Karol says.

Dresses, Skirts and Pants

If you’re small-chested, consider adding padded cups at the chest to give you lift and smooth lines. Dress too short or too tight in the hips? Turn it into a fabulous “going out” top by having your seamstress cut the dress to turn it into a top or tunic.

“Making wide-leg pants narrower or an A-line skirt more pencil-shaped are great ways to update them, and changing the length of a skirt can make it more current from season to season,” Alysheva says.


Jeans are typically designed to be longer in length and often women need their denim shortened. When altering jeans, make sure you ask your tailor for the original hem, as the look is much cleaner.

If you have an old pair of jeans sitting around, give them new life. Lost a few pounds and have a pair that’s too baggy on you? Turn them into “boyfriend” jeans. Give them a thick cuff at the bottom. To create the distressed look, use a razor or scissors to create small cuts throughout the jeans at the knees or calf. Then pull on the holes. You can also use 100-grit sandpaper to add some distress. Wear you new boyfriend jeans with a crisp blouse or oversized sweater and booties.

Treasure&Bond Boyfriend Jeans, $88, Nordstrom

Jeans that are frayed and cropped at the ankle are one of the hottest trends for fall. Popular fashion website Who What Wear offers a DIY method to get this look: “Take a pair of skinny or straight-leg jeans and cut the hem so they hit just above the ankle. To avoid error, first try them on. Second, using a pen, make a mark just above your foot. Finally, cut and try them on again. When you’re satisfied with the length, throw them in the wash and they will emerge with the perfect frayed hemline.”


Purses in the ’80s featured longer straps so the purse fell at the hip. Rather than toss this style aside, have the straps shortened by a shoemaker for an easy update.

You may also be storing a handbag that needs a clean up or has holes or scratches. If the bag is designer, most design houses will completely rehab your purse for a reasonable fee. My mother’s 35-year-old, worn Bottega Veneta handbag was recently sent to the manufacturer and came back looking brand new.