An Alteration Dilemma

I received a good question via email today.

It concerns taking in a garment where the customer has lost a lot of weight.

How much work is too much? Long story short: it’s whatever the customer is willing to pay for.

Here is the question I received:

“I need to alter scrub jackets for a woman who lost 22 pounds after she purchased them. They are embroidered with the dental clinic she works for, so she can’t return them. These jackets have snaps in the front, they aren’t pullover tops. They are too wide in the shoulders, the sleeves are too long and too big around. My concern is is that she is very large busted. They have set in sleeves. So, my question is, should I remove the sleeves, shorten the shoulder seam, reattach the sleeves, cut off the length needed to shorten the sleeves from the bottom of the sleeve (they have ribbing cuffs) and reattach the cuffs, then take in the side seams, making sure to leave room for her to snap them closed when needed? I tried taking one in by just basting in the side seams and sleeve, but there is still too much fabric at the underarm. Would appreciate any help you can give, thank you.”

My answer:

This is a great alteration question because there are a few things to think about when taking on a job like this. First, in order to do all of the things you are thinking of doing, it could cost the customer two or three times what a new scrub jacket would cost (assuming you are charging enough for your work!) If the customer is ok with that, then doing all of those things is possible, but it is difficult to get a great fit if you basically have to remake the top. This post explains what I’m talking about a little more in detail:

So, let’s say she doesn’t want to pay that much to alter each of these scrub tops. You also want to consider what you can do to get the most bang for her buck. In this case, I would take as much out of the side seams and sleeves as I could, not tampering with the cuffs, as I don’t think it’s necessary. Once you’ve taken out what you can, maybe let the rest go. This post shows a hand drawn diagram that outlines what part of the sleeve and side seams need to be taken in:

You may need to take in much more than the diagram shows. Yes, the jackets may be still too large, but they are going to be a lot better than what she started with. It’s up to you and the customer to decide how much work is worth doing for scrub tops. Maybe fit for her is a greater priority than price and she’d like for you to take them apart and put them back together again, but I don’t think they’ll ever fit perfectly. She’d do better to buy new ones. So, perhaps alter the sleeves and side seams of one of them and see how she likes it before you do all of them. That will give you a better handle on what your customer wants.

I hope that helps!


11 Responses

  1. Yes it does help, thank you very much. So glad I found your blog!!

  2. I do alterations and have had this very problem. She lost a lot of weight and did not want to buy new. In your instance I would help her find new tops and cut out the embroidery and sew it on new tops. There are alot of places selling very inexpensive tops

    • I also considered cutting out the logo and then sewing it on new tops, but then frugal me said, “Why ruin perfectly good tops that she might be able to donate to Goodwill, sell on Ebay or donate to someone”. If the logos are sewn on patches then I would remove them and place them on new scrubs like you said. I then commented below that possibly making a dart or even a pleated tuck in the center of the shoulder seam (front and back) would bring up the sleeves to sit properly on the shoulders. Doing this would then make the sleeve length rise up and more than likely fit the arm length properly without having to shorten the sleeves by removing the cuffs. By my figuring I feel these tops are only about 2 sizes too big and the side seams and underarm/sleeve can be taken in enough to fit nicely. I do not believe this would be a difficult alteration or one that would be too costly. When you take in the side seam you must not just taper the sides into the hem, but pick open the hem and bring the stitch line all the way down to the bottom and trim off the excess fabric, serge edges and machine stitch the hem back in place.

      • Yes, the diagram shows that the side seams should be taken in all the way to the hem (not just tapered to a place above the hem) and the hem redone. 😊

  3. I do alterations and I think the suggestions are the way to go. Could it be possible to take some darts or a tuck on the front and back of the shoulder seam to bring the raise the sleeve so it sits properly?

  4. I like your suggestions. It is always a fine line when a large amount needs to be altered, especially on a garmen that is not expensive to start with.

  5. I agree with just taking in the sides seams and sleeves. Most of the time that’s all they want done…their item just made smaller. If money is not problem then I’ll do a more in-depth alteration, but that is usually not the case. Hope it all goes well!

  6. I also do alterations and have had this scenario numerous times. When a customer is willing to pay for it, I take off the sleeves and reset at the correct shoulder distance. Then I take in the sides and down the sleeve length, and usually must shorten the sleeves and jacket/shirt length.

    At some point (like when they’ve lost 100 pounds), it just doesn’t work to take it in because all proper proportions are lost. That’s when I tell them to buy new. 🙂

  7. How about a straight seam right up the middle of the back. May need to take some out of the underarms too. Quick, easy, cheap & it usually works!

  8. I vote remove the logo to sew onto new tops…. MUCH cheaper. I will also add this FACT….. MANY women who LOSE weight.. GAIN IT BACK within ONE YEAR..PLUS MORE POUNDAGE 😦 These tops might fit her PERFECTLY in a year or two 😦 Sad but TRUE 😦 MY labor charge would be approximately $60-$90 to do these alterations….If there is a seamstress out there who is still charging $10 an hour for her labor..we must chat 😦

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