Waistcoat Tailoring & Alterations Definitive Guide [Including Estimated Difficulty & Prices]

Waistcoat Tailoring & Alterations Definitive Guide [Including Estimated Difficulty & Prices]2016-12-08T19:36:55+00:00

Double Breasted Waistcoat With Albert ChainThe waistcoat is an under utilized garment in the man’s clothing arsenal.

It makes up the three piece suit for a formal look, can be easily mixed & matched for an “odd” look, and can even be worn to smarten up a casual look with jeans.

With that being said, a waistcoat should be tailored to fit your body in both girth and length. This is especially important when wearing a waistcoat without a jacket. (See our guide on how to find a good tailor.)

Below our graphical guide details what can and can’t be done, with full descriptions and estimated prices given further down the page.

What Can Be Tailored On A Waistcoat

Waistcoat and Vest Tailoring Guide - Bespoke Unit

Many more men should consider wearing waistcoats, but if they do attention must be paid to fit. Read our comprehensive tailoring guide. Click To Tweet

Unlike jackets, shirts, or even trousers, waistcoats (“vests” in American English) are very straightforward in their construction and there isn’t a whole lot that can be done in terms of alterations. It is, however, good to differentiate between the two different types of waistcoats:

  • Waistcoats with lining back
  • Waistcoats with “self” back

Most waistcoats have a back panel that’s simply a lining made of silk or a synthetic version thereof. Some, however, are made of the same material all around, meaning that the back panels are identical to the front, fabric-wise. This will generally not affect the alterations that can be performed, but this traditionally signifies a higher quality garment (as fabric is typically much more expensive then the silk backing).

Easy Waistcoat Tailoring Alterations Graphic

Easy Tailoring Fixes

1 – Take In Sides

No matter how your waistcoat was made, you can always take in the sides. There are two vertical seams (one on each side) that a tailor can take in when you need a closer fit.

Estimated Cost: $30

2 – Lower Neckline

If the vest is riding up a bit high, it’s possible for your tailor to lower it for you. This is an “easy fix” only for a really good tailor, so be choosy about who does the work.

Estimated Cost: $30

Tough Waistcoat Tailoring Alterations Graphic

Tougher But Feasible Alterations

1  – Shorten Waistcoat

A tailor who would attempt this is hopefully as skilled as he is daring. This is an incredibly uncommon alteration and would only be worth trying if the garment were of significant sentimental value to you. Even then, there’s a chance that even a technically sound job would result in a waistcoat whose proportions were completely off and is thus unwearable (think pocket placement, etc…).

Estimated Cost: $100

Difficult Waistcoat Tailoring Alterations Graphic

Difficult, Impossible, & Last Resort

1 – Lengthen Panels

While a good tailor can sometimes seem like a miracle worker, he is, in fact, not. He can’t make material appear out of nowhere.

This is one of our biggest suiting gripes / faux pas we see here at Bespoke Unit. Far too often we see a “shirt band” appear between the waistcoat and trousers.

There are one of two possibilities here:

  1. Your trousers keep slipping down, in such a case get some braces / suspenders (See our suspenders / braces guide here)
  2. Your waistcoat is just too short, so just look to get something different

Estimated Cost: N/A (impossible)

Tailoring chalk and ruler2 – Let Out Sides

Unlike a jacket, the vast majority of waistcoats are not made with extra material built into their insides (and if they do it shall only be a small amount). As such, there is no way to let out a waistcoat that fits too snugly. Move on the the next size up, or if it was MTM or custom, insist that your tailor re-make the garment.

Estimated Cost: N/A (impossible)

What About That Strap In The Back?

Great question. The lion’s share of waistcoats are made with an adjustable strap in the back to allow the wearer to add more shape. While it’s always best to take the sides in, if using the strap will result in a sloppy look in the back, a tiny bit of fabric bunching is fine on a waistcoat. With that said, if you can achieve the look you want without a huge mess in the back, save yourself the alterations cost and cinch up.

A Final Word On Waistcoats

Like shirts, waistcoats offer fewer opportunities for a tailor to work his or her magic. Make sure that the fit is as on point as possible before purchasing.


  1. Hugo April 5, 2018 at 2:25 am - Reply

    What are some well know names of V neckline cuts that can we asked for when looking to lower ones neckline on waist coasts. I find that all my waist coat necklines are extremely high and leave a very uptight/stiff look.

    • Charles-Philippe April 5, 2018 at 4:07 am - Reply

      Hi Hugo,

      I understand your problem. As far as I’m aware, there aren’t any names for the different v-neck heights. However, when shopping you can always ask what the options are for a lower v-neck or see whether fewer buttons are available.

      Best of luck in your search!


  2. Jayson Jordan April 21, 2018 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Dear Sir,

    I have a particular question concerning waistcoats, that I do not believe was covered in your preceding article. I have a few waistcoats that instead of having a seam right down the middle of the back, have a partial, centrally placed seam with a strip of fabric across the top of the back panel. It is perhaps challenging to explain what I mean and could provide photos if need be. Is there anyway that this can be altered? Cannot a seam be made to separate this piece into two sections? Are there any other options? Thank you in advance.

    Cordially yours,

    • Charles-Philippe April 25, 2018 at 6:17 am - Reply

      Hi Jayson,

      I think I know what you mean. I think that this type of partial seam may be a dart, which tapers the overall shape. However, that shouldn’t stop you from making alterations. Nevertheless, the best bet would be taking it to a professional who can have a closer look.

      Best of luck!


  3. Dean November 1, 2018 at 12:13 am - Reply

    Hi, I inherited my grandfathers kilt waistcoats and would love to wear them but they are too small. Could I get the entire back panel replaced rather than let out?

    • Charles-Philippe November 2, 2018 at 5:51 am - Reply

      Hi Dean,

      That sounds like a potentially big job but I’d check have a proper tailor take a look at this and see if it’s possible.



Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.