After surmising about it to you yet again, I decided to put my money and time where my mouth is and actually explore the practicality of buying and altering a blazer that fits the bust but is too big everywhere else. I found an XL Target Merona blazer at a Salvation Army thrift store for $6 and took it to my new favorite tailor, Elena Priedane of the Tailor Shop in Astoria. I chose to visit Elena instead of Ros Tailoring because she does not make custom clothing, so my experience with her would be more representative of what most women with large busts can expect.

Elena uses three critera for deciding on alterations:

  1. what will make her client look better;
  2. whether she can work with the original design; and
  3. the time and skill involved–in other words, whether the alterations can be made for a price her client can afford.

    (Pockets and lining are a big factor in the price of altering a jacket because they take more time to reverse engineer to construct from scratch.  Also, although Elena has good news for a woman who wears a size 8 skirt and a size 14 top because of bust size–it is possible to alter a jacket so that the waist is very close to a size 8–the need to adjust armholes makes this more challenging (and therefore more expensive) than it is to alter a jacket for a woman with size 14 hips and a size 8 top.)

Pre-Elena on the left; Post-Elena pins on the right.

Using the above criteria, Elena told me that for $120, she would

  • shorten and taper the sleeves of my blazer;
  • narrow the armhole by taking it in under the arm and above the chest; and
  • take it in at the waist.

I think that’s a reasonable price for those changes, but here are the three criteria I used to decide against them:

1. The quality of the original jacket

The fabric didn’t have a nice drape or hand. Although it feels like cotton, it’s actually 61% polyester, 35% rayon, and 4% spandex, and the lining is 100% polyester. It looks rumpled fresh off the hanger. A heavier fabric would look smoother. When a woman wearing something amazing tells me that she bought it at Target, I’m always surprised. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if this jacket came from K-Mart. In the future, I will look for silk and wool blends or an unlined cotton duck.

2. The style of the original jacket

It’s simply too utilitarian. It makes me look like I should be in the trading pit at the New York Stock Exchange. We always think we’ll buy anything we can find that will fasten at the bust, but that’s never the case. It has to be our style, and boxy isn’t my style. You can see  the jacket style I gravitate towards  below (they’re from my Clothing Wish List for D Cups and Up board on Pinterest).

Also, although the color seems practical, in the future I will be combing the thrift store racks for deeper neutrals or more vibrant accent colors.

 3. The effect of the alterations

In this case, the alterations would not make a dramatic enough change. As I learned from Elena, the purpose of alterations are to change the fit, not the style. So if the jacket didn’t originate with princess seams, a tailor can’t add them (unless you want to pay 100X more than the cost of a new jacket). Sadly, it’s the same with peplums. I had visions of Elena creating a peplum over the pockets to turn my jacket into something like this denim Theory jacket or one of the blazers below, but it was not to be.

 Elena was sympathetic to my disappointment. She suggested changing the buttons or using colored thread or adding a brooch to spice things up–all good suggestions worth considering with future jackets.

I’m now on a mission to find a high quality jacket for no more than 30 cents to the dollar of the original price in a style that I love. If I can forego pockets and lining to make the alterations less expensive, so much the better.

Have you found a jacket worth altering?