Most people are not average sized and shaped, but most clothing is. This is because creating a large amount of clothing for a select clientele is not good business sense, but unfortunately means that many people have a hard time finding clothing that fits.
For unusually tall, short, thin or stocky people, a second hand store or specialty store is often a great option. This is because clothing at these stores is not supplied by a distributor, but by the people of the community. So, unusually sized clothing is probably more likely than not to be donated, but will not be bought as fast as the averaged sized items. Often, you’ll find a vintage coat or other treasure that was custom-made for a person of unusual dimensions – yours.
But the real benefit of vintage clothing is that because it is often less expensive, it can be altered to fit you exactly, with the result being tailored-to-fit clothing at the same or lower prices as ill-fitting things from a department store.
But, before you buy a piece of vintage clothing, it’s important to know what can be altered or tailored, and what changes are generally easier or cheaper than others.
Some of the easier changes involve taking in fabric. So, shorter or thinner people often have more luck when looking for clothing that will be altered. One of the most common alterations of pants involve either hemming up pant legs or taking in the waist. If you’re shorter than average for the waist size, the former will be appropriate, and if you’re tall, the latter will work. However, remember that changing the waist size means moving the rear pockets in relation to each other – taking in too much fabric will place them too close to the center line. Shirt sleeves can often be shortened by removing some fabric of the cuff. Suit jackets and other coats are actually more easily altered in this way, and can even be lengthened to some degree. It’s also a simple matter to take in fabric around the waist area of a dress shirt or polo shirt, since the shirt already has darts or seams that can be split.
Alterations that require more time and effort include changing anything about the shoulders on a shirt or jacket. Because these are a more three dimensionally fitted area, changing the width is almost as involved as reconstructing the garment from scratch. It’s usually best to get a shirt or jacket that fits well in the shoulders and alter it elsewhere.