Suit Alterations 101: The Jacket

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Who needs to get suit alterations? You do! Seriously, a little tailoring goes a long way. And this is what you might need to get done to your suit jacket.

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

mens suit jacket alterations

| WEARING | Reiss Suit, Al Bazar shirt, Brooks Brothers tie, Watch c/o Uniform Wares | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

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.


mens suit jacket alterations

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

mens suit jacket alterations

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

mens suit jacket alterations

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.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style


Chime In

  • Miguel

    Great insides, I’ve found nice blazers but because of the shoulders won’t fit I don’t bother, I’ve heard from my Tailor that is not worth it, its too much money for the customer he says.

    • Brian Sacawa

      Your tailor is right, Miguel.

  • Alfredo Fabbricatore

    I lost 40lbs in the past 6 months, and now I am facing the tailoring dilemma..

    • Adam Martin

      Congrats on the weight loss @alfredofabbricatore:disqus!

      • Alfredo Fabbricatore

        Thank you. I’m still working hard to shed a few more. Let me tell you, I have no clothes that fit me right..

    • Brian Sacawa

      First things first, Alfredo – BIG CONGRATS on the weight loss! That is something to be proud of. Now the bad news… Most tailored clothing is cut for an allowance of +/- 20 pounds. There may be no hope for some of your garments with the amount of weight you’ve lost.

      Once you level off, it would be a great time to invest in a made to measure piece. It could be a special gift to yourself in celebration of what you’ve achieved with your weight loss. And once you get that killer suit, that could be a great incentive to keep off the weight you’ve worked so hard to shed.

  • Adam Martin

    Great post Brian! Very informative!

    • Brian Sacawa

      Thanks, Adam! More on the way!

  • Tailor and Barber

    Great post! It’s amazing how a little tailoring can drastically improve the fit of a suit.

  • Barry Allen

    what do you say for the armscye? Its a very difficult aspect for myself because I’m a rather small person. Almost all of my jackets, except one that I bought from an Asian company, dont fit in the pit.
    I find my movement terribly restricted and my jackets are at a constant state of readjustment from lift or other positions.
    any suggestions based on alterations because I hear its impossible, but my tailor has done some pretty impossible things before. She’s taken fabric from the bottom of a pair of trousers and used it to extend the waist just for starters.
    any suggestions before I go and offend her with a question.

  • benjaminsaccaggi

    Great article and a good overview I feel. Thanks for encouraging men to get their off the peg suits tailored. Although the mass production industry keeps chipping away at our business, most tailors manage to stay afloat by doing alterations. Which can be fun in their own way. I actually just blogged about it here:
    Thanks again for the great post!

  • derekcreative

    Great article! What brand is the suit in the pictures.


  • ram

    Hello, I have a suit, which is really tight in armpits, is it possible for tailor to fix it? Make it wider?

    • Giacomo Aliprandi

      my tailor say yes. But are you sure? small armpits are very desirable

  • jblack10

    I have a blazer that is a 40, but now I went up 1 size and it is kind of snug. The sleeve length is fine, but the body is a bit snug. Should I see if I can get the jacket let out or just take it as a loss and buy a new jacket?

  • Will De

    Have to disagree about shoulder alteration. Unfortunately many expensive and well constructed suits such as Canali, Corneliani, Isaia sew false button holes on the sleeves. Not all their suits, but some you’d find in Neiman Marcus, Saks, Century 21, etc. The tailor will normally recommend removing the stitching and that’s probably the cheapest, shortest route to altering the length of the sleeve, but it does leave the impression of the button hole. Consequently I’ve had many shoulder alterations on suits. It’s about $50/shoulder and if the tailor is worth their salt, not impossible, and I’ve never had a problem. Also they narrow the shoulder hole at the same time which gives better motion of the arm without lifting the whole jacket.