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:

https://sewfordough.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/taking-in-a-dress-thats-5-sizes-too-big/

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:

https://sewfordough.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/taking-in-side-seams-and-facings/

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!

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