Unless you’re extremely lucky with the fit of off the rack suit jackets or you get all of them made to measure, chances are you’re going to need some alterations. The good news is that when it comes to getting a suit jacket tailored, a little work goes a long way in terms dialing in fit.
A quick word on terminology: throughout this post I use the term ‘suit jacket.’ In the context of suit jacket alterations, you could also substitute ‘blazer’ or ‘sport coat.’
Here is a list of some of the most common (and necessary) suit jacket alterations.
Suit Jacket Length
A suit jacket’s length can be altered. However, it cannot be made longer – only shorter. It’s a risky alteration because the spacing of the pockets and button holes cannot be changed and if a jacket is shortened too much, you run the risk of compromising the balance of the garment. Anything more than an inch is probably too much.
Worth the money? Maybe.
Bottom line: Only shorten a suit jacket if the amount it needs to be shortened is relatively minor and will not throw off the jacket’s balance.
The sleeves are the one part of the suit jacket you’re definitely going to need altered. Here are some sleeve alterations to consider.
Lengthen/Shorten. How long should a suit jacket’s sleeve be? The correct length is one that allows 1/2″ to 3/4″ of your shirt cuff to show. Keep in mind that there is a limit to the amount a sleeve can be lengthened – this is a case-by-case call based on the amount of fabric under the cuff or at the top of the sleeve.
Slimmed-Down/Widened. You want the width of your jacket sleeves to be slim, but still allow a comfortable range of motion. Slimming the sleeves of my vintage Yves Saint Laurent suit was the key to making it fit me perfectly.
Worth the money? Yes.
Bottom line: A sleeve length or width alteration is money well spent. Keep in mind that there is a significant cost difference depending on whether you have functioning button holes (a.k.a. surgeon’s cuffs) or not. Be sure to check out our suit alterations price guide for a breakdown.
Chest and Stomach
Take In/Let Out. Without a doubt, one of the key alterations when it comes to having a suit jacket that looks like it was made (or tailored) for you. And it often doesn’t take much. Both of my Al Bazar blazers – grey and brown – were taken in just 1cm on each side for a perfect fit. However, like lengthening a jacket sleeve, there is a limit to how much can be let out.
Problem: Lapels don’t lay flat. This is a very common issue and, unfortunately, one that can’t be remedied with tailoring. If you’re having this problem, chances are that you’ve bought a jacket that’s too small. Size up and go from there.
Worth the money? Yes.
Bottom Line: A little goes a long way here when it comes to making a suit jacket look great around your chest, stomach and sides.
Shoulders and Collar
If you’re thinking about shoulder and collar alterations, you’re wading into some very dangerous territory. Not only is it major surgery (and therefore very costly), but there is absolutely no guarantee that they’ll be successful or that the integrity of the jacket will be maintained.
While a suit jacket’s shoulders can technically be extended or reduced, and a collar roll can technically be corrected, it’s expensive and ultimately not worth your tailor’s time (or your possible tears).
Worth the money? Nope.
Bottom Line: If you’re considering alterations that concern the shoulders and collar, the hard truth is that you’ve got the wrong jacket.
Thanks for reading.