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How much can tailoring do? or what size coat to buy

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  • How much can tailoring do? or what size coat to buy

    I'm looking for a new show coat, and I'm thinking that the best thing to do is to buy something a size or two up and have it tailored.

    I currently have an RJ Eventer in a size 6, but the sleeves are too short and I could use a bit more room in the shoulders. I'm afraid that if I buy the same thing, or similar, just in "long" style, it still won't be long enough. I'm 5'11" with long legs, long arms, and a long torso.

    There's a nice Pikeur on eBay that I'm eyeing, but it is size US 14. Is that going to be way too big to cut down to about an 8? Anyone tall and gangly like me have suggestions for coats?

    My measurements are: chest 36, arms 23, waist 30, shoulder to shoulder across the back 21. I would love to hear suggestions! Thanks!
    Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

    My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.

  • #2
    It is my experience that the shoulders of the jacket must fit -- everything else can be tailored.

    I often buy designer clothes at clearance prices in a size different than I wear, and then tailor the snot out of them (sometimes spending more on the tailoring than the garment). But, I learned that the shoulders need to fit.

    Interestingly, it was a size 14 Pikeur coat that I tried to reduce the shoulder in, that taught me this lesson. While it turned out "ok" and it fits, something was lost in translation. I also didn't feel like Pikeur coat sizes matched "regular sizes" so I wouldn't buy one without trying it on. I am much shorter than you (at 5'5) and wear a size 6 in regular clothing.

    You can also tailor things that are too small (including lengthening sleeves) if there is enough fabric in the seam allowances or hems. Obviously, you can look at the hem, but you can also "feel" how much fabric is left in the seams. Generally speaking, the better the garment, the more fabric will be in the seam allowance.

    You might be able to have your existing jacket let out enough to fit better (you can let out the armholes for more room without touching the actual shoulder line to feel "roomier").


    • #3
      Originally posted by SevenDogs View Post
      But, I learned that the shoulders need to fit.
      I'm guessing it's because of how many curves meet -- curve of neck, curve of shoulder, curve of back. The rest of the jacket has to, more or less "drop," rather than follow the curvatures closely.

      Not that I know a thing about it.


      • #4
        What I've been told when asking this question in the past, was that for the jacket to still look 'right', you really shouldn't go more than a size or so up. Obviously this would depend on what areas you're taking in, but things like pockets and chest darts obviously can't be moved over.

        Maybe try a size up AND in a long? A lot of jacket fit is personal preference, I'm a bit long in the waist as well and there's a very small window for jacket length that I feel like really suits me.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks, all! This is really helpful.

          If I could I'd get the sleeves let out of my RJ, but there's not much fabric there, and since I'm not crazy about the shoulders and general fit, I'm ready to try somehitng new. My problem is that I'm hardly ever in a place where I can just try on coats. But I'm going to a HT next weekend; I'll see what they have at the tack trailers.
          Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

          My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.


          • #6
            Originally posted by cllane1 View Post
            Thanks, all! This is really helpful.

            If I could I'd get the sleeves let out of my RJ, but there's not much fabric there, and since I'm not crazy about the shoulders and general fit, I'm ready to try somehitng new. My problem is that I'm hardly ever in a place where I can just try on coats. But I'm going to a HT next weekend; I'll see what they have at the tack trailers.
            Letting seams out is, as a general rule (in tailoring in general, not equestrian specific,) the LAST resort you want to turn to, unless you're talking about something like possibly just letting down a hem a little on trousers or something of that nature.

            The reason for this is that with many fabrics it's VERY difficult to get rid of the creases and needle holes from the original seam line, so it tends to be obvious that it was let out. (This does vary depending on fabric, obviously, but most modern fabrics in particular are pretty bad for 'recovering' from being in a seam. If the adjustment is minor, it's probably worth asking someone to open up a seam a bit and test and see, but I wouldn't bet on it.)

            The other issue is seam allowances - that is, the amount of fabric used in the seam itself. Many many garments, even high end, are sewn with sergers instead of a normal sewing machine, in part because this means the seam is 'finished' on the inside in the same step as sewing the seam itself (so the fabric won't fray) but the problem is the seam allowance left by sergers tends to be quite small, so you have very little room to move the seam and still have enough seam allowance that the seam isn't just going to pull out under stress. (You can sometimes squeak by with a 1/8" seam allowance, but for any seams in equestrian clothing that were likely to be subject to a lot of stress, I'd want more than that for security, if I was paying to have the thing tailored anyway.)

            As someone else said, the best bet is to fit your shoulders - that's the area with the most complicated tailoring involved (and, depending on the maker, sometimes multiple layers of interfacing so that the collar rolls just so, etc.) so if you're at the point of messing with that, you're really at a point where you're asking the tailor or seamstress to do so much work you might as well skip the middleman and get something custom tailored from the start.

            (If you have a jacket that fits except for certain problem areas, btw, a good tailor or seamstress who has experience doing more than just hems and taking in waists will be able to use that jacket to make a pattern as a starting point, and then add length or whatever you need before making up the new jacket in the final fabric. If you go this route, for something where fit is as key as equestrian clothing that you need to be able to move in, I HIGHLY recommend having what's called a 'muslin' made - a mock up of the final garment in cheaper fabric, generally not as nicely finished, with big seam allowances, for the express purpose of having something you can try on and make adjustments to BEFORE cutting into the actual 'fashion' fabric for the final garment. It might be a little extra cost, but if you're going custom, it becomes rather silly to skimp on something that will help make the final product fit perfectly.)

            While pockets/etc. can be adjusted some, if you're buying KNOWING you're going to have to have it taken in, look for simpler styles. The less they have to fuss with pockets and piping and things of that nature, the less it will end up costing you. I would, personally, probably also avoid anything with a plaid/windowpane type pattern to the fabric, as again, that can add complexity to the tailoring process if they have to fiddle around trying to get it to, if not match up, at least meet at the seams in a way that doesn't look odd. Solids, of course, wouldn't have this problem, and I probably wouldn't worry too much about something like pinstripes, either. It's mostly just stuff with horizontal lines that can be tricky, since it looks REALLY weird sometimes if the horizontal lines aren't lined up at all, but not in a way that looks like an intentional design element. (Like if you had a plaid, and then the side panels of the jacket the plaid was rotated 45 degrees so it looked like diamonds rather than squares, while it may or may not look suitable for the equestrian arena, it at least would be clearly a fashion choice rather than poor workmanship. )

            ... Okay, I will stop being a sewing geek now. (I once read a book about haute couture tailoring techniques for fun. I am weird, I accept this. )


            • #7
              kdow, will you come shopping with me?
              They're small hearts.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Trixie View Post
                kdow, will you come shopping with me?
                Maybe I should rent myself out as a consultant.

                Though it is pretty simple once you understand a little about the construction - take a coat you already own (even a suit jacket, if you don't have a riding coat) and turn it inside out and look at it. If you can, peek under the lining, or at least feel around through the lining to see where there's extra stiffness, look at how many seams are coming together and how they're coming together, that sort of thing. It'll help a lot in understanding where the 'easy' areas are to make adjustments and where the difficult areas are.

                One thing about shoulders - there's at least one T shaped seam - the seam from the front and back meeting the seam of the sleeve, and often two, if the front is actually in two pieces which is common in women's jackets because it allows for more shaping to allow for curves. T seam areas = a pain to alter, as a general rule, because it's not just the one seam that needs to be opened up and adjusted. On the other hand, taking something in at the waist - often you don't even have to open up the WHOLE length of the seam or seams, just a bit above and below the waist, then sew your new seam, tapering it out to the original seam line. Doing it nicely takes a bit of precision, but not a lot of fuss.

                Oh, that reminds me. If you do need something taken in at the waist (or in that general area) significantly - a style that has the front princess seams (and often I think hunt coats have them in the back, also, where the vents are) will be much easier for someone to alter so that the basic 'shape' of the garment doesn't change that much, because they can divide the amount they need to take out of the waist by all those seams and do a little at each one rather than having to do half at one side seam and half at the other.

                I shall provide some pictures, via Dover. Nothing about this particular brand except they were the first jackets in the catalog that illustrate what I'm talking about.

                Good: Animo Lira Jacket - http://www.doversaddlery.com/product...&ids=670388561

                Lots of seams that go the full length of the coat, so plenty of options for where to open up the seam and take it in a bit. Nothing too fiddly going on in the waist area of any/most of those seams, so likely no moving pockets or anything would be necessary. (I can't quite tell exactly what's going on with the seams under the arm, but it looks high enough up that it probably wouldn't be a major issue if you were mainly looking to adjust the waist.)

                Bad: Animo Lena Jacket - http://www.doversaddlery.com/product...&ids=670388561

                The seams on the front don't go all the way down to the hem, so if you wanted to take it in at those seams, you'd risk making the 'skirt' flare out or pucker, plus you'd need to mess with the pockets and whatever those light patches are (pockets? Just inserts? I can't decide.) It does have three seams at the back that look like they don't do anything exciting, so if you only needed it taken in a little bit, you could probably get away with it, but anything major would probably get pretty costly because you can only take so much out of the back before it fits oddly. (They don't show the side seams, so I don't know how much is possible there.)

                Actually, one thing you could do (particularly if you have a helper) when you're trying on jackets if you know you're likely to need to take them in is take some clothespins with you. (The spring clip kind.) Put jacket on, pinch out the amount you need it taken in, apply clothespin to hold it like that. It won't be perfect, of course, since you'll have clothespins hanging off you and folds instead of nice smooth seam lines, but it will let you experiment and see how taking all of the excess out of, say, the central back seam, changes the way the jacket hangs versus taking the excess out over more seams.

                (I say clothespins instead of safety pins because some fabrics, the safety pin holes will stay visible unless the garment is washed or steamed, which will make the seller unhappy. Plus, clothespins are much easier to move around if you're experimenting, where safety pins can be a bit fiddly.)

                All of that said, if anyone in the Pgh area needs a shopping buddy, I wouldn't mind meeting more horsey people in the area anyway, so as long as I can just comment on the fit and what is probably possible tailoring-wise, and am not expected to comment on Hunter ring fashion trends, I am happy to help.


                • #9
                  I believe that Pikeur, like Cavallo, are sized much smaller than American street clothes. Such that US 14 might be more like a 10?

                  I wear a 6-8 in non-designer suit jackets/blazers (like, the stuff you find at TJ Maxx), but my dressage coat is a Cavallo 12.