Tweed jacket with floral pocket squareYou’re going to need to have your jackets altered, hopefully by a tailor you can trust.

Jackets are complicated animals, but there are various alterations that can be done to make them look the way that they should.

In this regard, it’s important to know not just what can be done, but what should be done, and ultimately, what can’t / shouldn’t be done.

Below we’ve compiled a detailed list of: easy, tough and last resort alterations. Further down the page we comment on each alteration in fine detail with estimated prices.

What Can Be Tailored On A Suit Jacket
Suit Jacket Tailoring Guide

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What follows is a comprehensive list of common jacket alterations and their average prices in the Philadelphia market, organized by the ease of the completion.


Easy Tailoring Fixes

These are fixes that you should consider par for the course. When buying off the rack you should expect to need the odd alteration here and there to make your body type.

1 – Lower / Raise Collar (a.k.a. Square Back)

Sometimes a suit jacket will get a little fold in the fabric right below the collar in the back and/or won’t show enough shirt collar. This is referred to as a roll in the collar, and it must be lowered. This is not so much because it’s unsightly –though it is– but rather because it can decrease the lifespan of your jacket. Because you won’t be able to see this without a three-way mirror, make sure you ask your tailor if there’s a roll in your collar.

If your jacket is showing too much shirt collar and / or standing away from it (this means that the jacket collar isn’t making contact with the shirt collar when being worn normally), it must be raised.

Estimated Cost: $20-30

2 – Take In / Let Out Side Seams

Most jackets will need this done. If you’re slim, taking in the side seams will be necessary to give you the hourglass shape that a good jacket should have. If you’re a little bigger, letting them out will be necessary to give your lungs room to fill up with air. Many tailors, even the good ones, will be conservative with this alteration, so if they’re pinning you up and you’d prefer more tapering, let him or her know.

Estimated Cost: $30-40

3 – Take In / Let Out Center Seam

An American cut suit will generally have a seam that runs down the center of your jacket. If that area of the jacket is too loose or too tight, it can be taken in or let out relatively easily.

For a British cut suit (one with side vents) there shall be two seams at the sides of the back.

Estimated Cost: $15-20

4 – Move Buttons

This is a neat, inexpensive tailoring trick if you only need a tiny bit of shape in the jacket waist. The tailor will remove the buttons and move them over slightly so that the jacket fits more snugly.

Estimated Cost: $10

5 – Shorten / Lengthen Sleeves From Hem

Ready to wear (RTW) coats are generally made with a longer sleeve to accommodate most long-armed customers. If the sleeves need to be shortened (as is always the case with this T-Rex-armed author), they can typically be done so quite easily.

Lengthening them is also easy, as any RTW jacket worth buying will have extra material built into the sleeve’s hem.

Some jackets, however, will have surgeon’s cuffs (functional sleeve buttons), which can mess up the works a bit. Please see the next section for a fuller explanation.

Estimated Cost: $30

6 – Close Vent(s)

If you’re in love with a particular jacket but for some reason want it to be vent-less (sometimes referred to as an Italian style jacket), your tailor can close your vent (or vents) for you.

This is generally an aesthetic decision that has little to do with fit. Because vents are created from overlapping material, a ventless jacket cannot be given vents. Attempting to do so will result in an unsightly upside-down “V” around your rear end.

While this is an easy alteration, it can be time-consuming and is often not worth the money.

Estimated Cost: $35-40


Tougher But Feasible Alterations

These kinds of alterations are not considered optimal if a different jacket is available for purchase.  If however, you’re in a time jam or just in love with the particular style / fabric then these are not total deal breakers.

1 – Shorten Sleeves From Shoulder / Lengthen With Buttonhole

Note on surgeon’s cuffs: Most RTW jackets do not have surgeon’s cuffs and as such can be shortened or lengthened with ease by a competent tailor. With that said, there are more and more brands that are offering surgeon’s cuffs on RTW jackets, which can mess up the works a bit. The alterations can go one of a couple of ways:

Shorten Sleeves

A tailor will generally give the option to shorten from the hem and lose the buttonhole functionality (an easier, less expensive option) or to maintain that functionality and shorten from the shoulder (a more time-consuming and therefore more expensive option). If having surgeon’s cuffs is important to you then go with the latter option, but only if you know your tailor to be quite competent. Shortening sleeves in this way will also affect how the armscye feels on your underarm, so keep that in mind as well.

Lengthen Sleeves

The only option for lengthening the sleeves is to do so from the hem. You’ll generally only have about a half an inch or so of wiggle room before the distance between the hem and the last button starts to look odd, so even if there’s enough extra material, it might not be an option unless the tailor has a buttonhole machine and can make an extra buttonhole to take up the space.

Estimated Cost: $50-90 per sleeve

2 – Shorten Collar

A common way to address a collar that stands away from the shirt you’re wearing. This is major surgery so this should only occur if you can’t find anything else that’s better right off of the hanger.

Estimated Cost: $70-80

3 – Pad Shoulders

Chances are you have one shoulder that rests higher than the other.

This is totally normal, but it can result in jacket shoulders that are uneven. A fix for this is to add a shoulder pad to the lower shoulder, thus bringing it “in line” with the other shoulder. Not tough for a good tailor to do, but if you ask Joe Shmoe Dry Cleaner to do it, you might not be happy with the outcome.

Estimated Cost: $30-50

4 – Reduce Chest

Like taking in side seams, but on the front of the jacket. Not a terrible job to do, but it involves opening up the chest and potentially messing around with the canvas therein, so this is not one you should give to a tailor who hasn’t yet earned your trust.

Estimated Cost: $90


Difficult, Impossible & Last Resort

These are the types of fixes that come in three main categories:

  1. You should have not purchased the garment in the first place!
  2. Straight up impossible, so go custom or keep looking….
  3. It’s a sentimental item, such as an inherited piece from your grandfather. In which case price / convenience is not at the top of your priority list.

Many men that are not your “average” height and build shall run into these required alterations and the ones aforementioned in the “tough” section above. If this is the case it may be worth exploring custom made options.

The upfront cost shall be higher, but you’ll have no back end alteration costs and an overall better level of service and fit. Furthermore, once you go custom you have the flexibility to choose all the elements of your garment, making it a truly one-of-a-kind cation for you.

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1 – Reduce Shoulder Points

If the shoulders of your jacket are wider than your own, the shoulder points will have to be reduced so you don’t look like you’re a linebacker in full protective gear. This is major surgery and is not recommended unless you have exhausted all other avenues for getting a better-fitting suit.

Estimated Cost: $90-100

2 – Rotate Sleeves

Jacket sleeves have a thing called “pitch” which refers to where the sleeve rests in relation to the front panels of the jacket.

This often differs from the “pitch” of our arms, but when the difference is great, you will see drastic rippling on the sleeves and possibly chest too.

This means that the sleeves need to be rotated to accommodate your arms and smooth everything out. The tailor will have to take the sleeves off, re-position them, and then reattach them. Again, this is a difficult job you should only have done as a last resort.

Estimated Cost: $90-100

Jacket lapels3 – Alter Lapels

Sometimes you just want to have a different look. We get that, but sometimes you can’t make something from nothing. There are three main lapel styles: peak, notch and shawl.

We would only ever say that a peak can be made into a notch lapel, but again it’s not something you would want to do unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Further, we hear from some of our readers about the desire to make their lapels “skinnier”. We’re glad to report that this happens less now as the pencil width lapel is falling out of favor. Again it’s “possible” however not advisable, as can alter the jacket beyond repair and ultimately look funky.

Estimated Cost: $100 / Impossible

4 – Change / Remove Pockets

We’re all for the ticket pocket, so adding one is okay, especially if it’s a besom pocket (a slit style). But is $100 worth the added style?

If, however, you’re looking for removal of a patch pocket, it would leave the jacket “naked”, and not break up its front.

Lastly, some guys don’t like flap pockets so ask to get them removed to become besom pockets. We say just tuck them in, and move on / buy the “right” jacket in the first place.

Estimated Cost: $100 / Impossible

5 – Shorten Jacket

When the jacket itself is too long and there are no other options, you can shorten it. We don’t recommend this, however, as it will often make the pockets look too close to the bottom of the jacket’s panels and thus throw the proportions off.

Estimated Cost: $90-100

Final Jacket Tailoring Reminder

You will most likely never be able to buy a non-custom jacket off the rack without having some alteration work done to it. The trick is to make a smart purchase in the first place so as to minimize the work that needs to be done, thus managing your spend and decreasing the amount of time between purchase and first wear. God speed.

Other Tailoring Guides In The Series

Or visit our main suit homepage for many more pages and free resources.