Alan writes to ask:I bought a nice vintage suit on eBay a little while ago. The jacket fits nicely (although the sleeves could be taken down a smidgen) but the vest is a little snug. The pants are also quite tight and although this is the fashion for most people in my age group, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to dressing; your clothes should actually fit. Is it possible for a tailor to loosen the vest and the pants so that they would fit?
Let’s unpack this.
First of all, pants fashion should be (and largely is) about cut, not size. Some pants are designed to be fuller in the hips or legs, some to be slimmer. If they don’t fit at the waist, no pant will be attractive, be it slim or large and drapey. So perhaps your anger is misplaced?
As far as what a tailor can and cannot do: the main thing a tailor cannot do is create cloth where there is none. Which is why it’s always easier for them to make something smaller than make something bigger.
Typically, pants will have a little bit of cloth inside what tailors call “the buttzone.” If there’s an inch or two there, your tailor can probably take out the waist by an inch or two. This is often the case for jacket sleeves as well – you can use your fingers to feel how far back that fabric goes and get a sense of how much you might be able to extend the sleeves.
The vest, however, will be trickier. There may be some cloth reserved for expansions, but it strikes me as unlikely. Bring it to your tailor and ask. You can also replace the silk back piece and liner with one slightly larger, but that’s no small job.