If only all off-the-rack clothing fit, we wouldn't need to worry about clothing alterations, but sadly that's not the case. Ready-to-wear clothing is made for the mass market, which means that it's unlikely to fit perfectly. Clothing alterations can often make a garment fit better, and when clothing fits well, it looks much better than ill-fitting clothing. For petites, who have smaller frames, fit becomes even more crucial. A garment that fits well helps petites look slimmer and taller too.
1. Adjusting Shoulder Straps or Seams
Because many petites have a short back waist length
, regular clothing often is too long between the shoulder and the waist. If the garment fits properly in the bust and waist, but shoulder straps are too long, it's an easy fix to shorten shoulder straps. In some cases, the shoulder seam may be re-sewn to make the garment shorter.
2. Dealing with Sleeve Cuffs, Hems, or PlacketsThe bottom of the sleeve area is a source of concern for a lot of us because frequently sleeves are too long. Any time I buy a long-sleeved garment in the regular department, the sleeves are always too long. Even when I buy a petite long-sleeved garment, often the sleeves are still too long. Shortened a plain sleeve should be the least costly because it can be done with a simple hem although if it's a jacket, the lining will also have to be hemmed. Cuffs can be removed, a sleeve shortened, and then the cuff re-attached. If the bottom of the sleeve has an elaborate placket or buttons and buttonholes, the sleeve should be shortened from the top, rather than hemmed at the bottom. Expect this type of alteration to be more costly.
3. Narrowing SleevesFor a neater appearance and better fit, petites often can benefit from having sleeves narrowed, especially jacket sleeves. A sleeker sleeve makes the wearer look sleeker too. This is normally a simple alteration involving taking in one seam; however, if the sleeve has a more complex design with more than one seam, the tailor or whoever is doing the alteration should keep the sleeve in the original proportion by taking it in at all seams.
4. Taking in SeamsDresses, tops, pants, and skirts often look better on petites with some tailoring that involves taking in side seams. When purchasing clothing, always but garments to fit your widest part because current commercial clothing construction methods leave little room for making anything bigger, so letting out a garment in the bust or hips is seldom possible. Taking in seams is another matter. It's a fairly simple alteration, which should be done equally on both sides. Pants altered by only taking in the outside seams will not drape properly, so all side seams need to be taken into consideration. Narrowing a tailored jacket, especially through the midriff area, will give its wearer a shapelier appearance.
5. Shortening Tops, Pants, or DressesWithout a doubt, hemming is the most common alteration needed for petites. Often we're able to find a garment that fits except for the length. Most hemming alterations are simple, and home sewers can do a professional looking job with straightforward hemming. There are a few exceptions, which become more complicated. Bridal gowns with lace at the hem and garments with motifs or special edging, such as scallops at the bottom that are integral to the design, require special treatment, and in some cases, cannot be shortened. If there's a waist seam, this type of garment can be detached from the bodice at the waist, shortened at the top of the skirt, and then re-attached at the waistline so that the skirt's original design may be preserved.
6. Eliminating PocketsPockets in side seams are mostly an unnecessary nuisance for petites because they create a little bit of extra bulk, which is a good thing to get ride of. This is another easy alteration involving removing the pocket and stitching up the side seam where the pocket was originally. This type of clothing alteration will not disrupt the original design of the garment at all. I'm not fond of patch pockets either, but removing patch pockets may not be advisable because the original stitching marks may show, depending on the type of fabric.
7. Adding or Eliminating Shoulder PadsWhether or not strong shoulders are in style, for petites who have a triangle shaped figure, shoulder pads can help balance hips, and so they're a good thing as long as they're not overdone to the point of looking freakish. On the other hand, petites who have inverted triangle shaped figures and broad shoulders may not need any shoulder pads at all and may wish to have them removed. It's difficult to add shoulder pads that are significantly bigger than the shoulder pads the garment had originally because extra fabric may be needed. Completely eliminating large shoulder pads may also involve narrowing some seams so that the garment will drape properly.