Spend Money to Save Money?

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“Sometimes you need to spend money to make money.”

We have heard this when it comes to renovating our homes for a sell, or starting a business. Well this rule holds true for fashion. Sometimes you need to spend money to make (or save) money.

Quality clothing is usually more durable and classically-styled than its cheaper counterparts, resulting in less money on the wardrobe and more for the wallet. However, there is another way that spending money can support your bank account in the long run.

Your New Best Friend – The Tailor
soyer raphael seamstressHeels were hip, but now flats are where it’s at. You finally got rid of that baby weight and back into a size eight. You’re 5’1” in a 5’6” world. There are many reasons why the clothing you either own or hope to own isn’t quite right and could use a bit of sewing modification. A good tailor can help you out to take your current wardrobe and make it fit the current trends AND your current figure. Instead of settling for garments that “sorta” work on your petite/curvy/lanky or otherwise non-mannequin frame, take them to a tailor so they can have a custom fit.

The price for tailoring is far less than you’d expect; in Washington DC you can get a pair of jeans shortened and the original hem replaced for an original look from $20 or sleeves of a trench shortened from $7. In Boston, a dress can be altered to fit recent weight loss for as low as $15. When you factor the price of replacing these garments, these rates for alterations can be quite the investment.

Ask neighbors and colleagues for tailor recommendations; websites like Checkbook and CitySearch often have detailed reviews for local businesses that provide alterations and be sure to ask your local boutique bridal or dress shop – they usually have a certain seamstress or tailor they work exclusively with for custom orders.

Once you have found a tailor, start small with a hem of pants or a dress to see if you like their quality, pricing and turnaround. If they do a great job, then you can advance with more complicated alterations. Be sure to come with the foundation garments and shoes you plan to wear with the garment to ensure a perfect fit. There’s no need to replace an entire wardrobe or shop high-priced specialty boutiques for your figure when you have a reliable and reasonably-priced tailor down the street!

The Return of the Cobbler
Cobbler 28ws 29Asking many friends, it seems they never have used a cobbler and think of the trade as one used back in the day to keep a person’s one pair of shoes from falling apart. A heel breaks, a boot’s sole wears thin and shoes in this millennium head for the local Goodwill or landfill. As with a tailor, it is far cheaper in the long run to repair that which you already own than to replace it.

My friend has a great pair of knee-high boots; she got them for a song in an end-of-season sale a decade ago, yet these boots still look new and garner many compliments. How does she keep them looking so fresh? Each fall she takes these boots to her local cobbler to be reheeled and resoled. When she lost weight, she had the cobbler make the boot shaft narrower, and when she got a job that required her to be on her feet more often, she consulted the cobbler and invested in new insoles and a more flexible sole. These boots have more than paid for themselves over the years, and the small repairs she makes yearly to them is far cheaper than purchasing a new pair.

To find a great cobbler ask around and search the internet for reviews. Also check with your local higher-end department store; they occasionally have a cobbler onsite that will work on items both purchased at the store and not (shoes not bought at the store usually cost more to be repaired but the prices are competitive with other local vendors). Working with one of these cobblers ensures you receive the good of quality department stores demand.

Cobblers can do more than replace the sole of your shoe; they can shorten a heel height, replace zippers and buckles, add a strap, change the shape of the vamp and add girth or narrow the shaft of a boot. In Seattle, a zipper replacement or sole repair is less than $10; in Cleveland a yearly repair, zipper replacement and polishing can be found for as little as $15.

When you visit the cobbler, go at a time when you have time. Be able to explain in detail what you want, put on the shoes if it is a matter of changing heel height or shape of the shoe. And trust the cobbler’s opinion – if he says he cannot do what you ask, do not force him. Get a second opinion at a different shop if you do not believe his response, but forcing a cobbler to do work he is not familiar or comfortable with could cause your shoe to be ruined.

If you are savvy with your original purchases and keep them in style and in shape with alterations and repairs, a well-made quality wardrobe can give you many years of wear and style.

“The Seamstress” by Raphael Soyer; “The cobbler at work” by Daniel Fermor-Smith.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Yep; a cobbler can assess the situation, possibly stretch the leather for that little it of room you need, or add an elastic gusset. It’s worth it to check it out! 🙂

  2. Is it really possible for a cobbler to add girth to the shaft of a boot? I just bought these great boots but they don’t zip up!..i think they are about an inch too snug.

  3. I agree 100% on these suggestions! I have a cobbler that I use to have my boots re-heeled every year (in fact, I just picked up my favorite boots from the cobbler yesterday!). I also have had good results from a tailor in terms of hemming jeans for my 14 year old daughter who is short (and no jeans ever seem to fit her). I may take some of my clothes there now. Great post, Allie!

  4. Back in college I had these fab shoes from Nine West with a platform sole and leopard print faux-horsehair on vinyl straps. Went running in wet grass and broke them. A cobbler was able to repair them for me. Worth at least a visit to see if it is salvageable!

  5. i almost forgot:

    i know cobblers can work wonders with shoes that are made of natural materials, but is it recommended to bring shoes with man-made uppers and soles? i’ve had shoes that i LOVED but didn’t bring to a cobbler becuase i didn’t think anything could be done for them because they were made from man-made materials.

  6. when i was younger, i learned how to sew from my mom just because i was curious. now i use these skills to hem my own pants, take clothing in, let out clothing, etc. I still go to a tailor to alter more complicated garments, but i do see a big difference when i make little adjustments on clothes i bought off of a rack. i also found really big bargains when i find an items that’s been drastically discounted because they didn’t seem to fit anyone’s body.

  7. I recently brought a pair of boots to a cobbler, to have them redyed, as polish was not restoring the color. He conditioned the leather and made it a rich brown. It looks better than when it was new!

    Besides going to tailor shops, one option is finding a college student who is experienced in sewing. College drama teams may be able to direct you to a seamstress – aka costume director or assistant – who does excellent work at a reasonable rate.

  8. Amen, Allie! I’ve been using a tailor for years and a cobbler as well when the need arises. Many gals feel badly that clothes don’t fit perfectly off the rack, but to expect that is nonsense, if you stop and think about it. Celebrities use tailors to look their best, and I’m not sure why more women don’t take advantage of this…maybe because it seems like a hassle or an embarrassment? Because I’ve gone up and down in size, I have my tailor leave as much fabric as possible when he takes things in, so there’s room to let them out later…same goes for hems. My tailor has been my biggest cheerleader when I’ve lost weight, and if I gain, he cleverly helps disguise it with great fit — and he doesn’t tell a soul!

  9. You know, I too am looking for one as that my old one is closer to Baltimore and the hike is too far with this new job. I figured I’d Google around and ask coworkers… if I hear of a good one or experience a great one I’ll put a comment here with the contact info.

  10. Allie, I’m 5’1 and have to get most pants altered and usually have my mom alter them for me but she is getting tired of me and my shopping obsession.I live in the Washington, DC area. Can you recommend any tailors?

  11. I have a tailor that I use all the time as well as a cobbler. I’m very tiny (size 0-2 depending on where I shop) so most pants fit very big on me. I have to get all my bottoms tailored. I take my shoes in twice a year to have the heels repaired and recovered. Great post!

  12. I recently discovered the importance of tailoring and after being so satisfied with a wardrobe that finally fits (I am 5’3″) I am ready to find a cobbler!

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