There are times when you really should just pass on a garment, leave it at the store and keep looking for a better fit. I know I’m picky, but shouldn’t we all be a little picky sometimes? There are times when no amount of alterations will be able to correct the fit without creating more issues on a garment. Today I’m going to show you some garments I’ve left behind at shops because either I couldn’t see a fix or the alteration was going to be more trouble than it was worth, or other reasons in between. I’ll also be giving you some more things to look out for so you save your money on the garments that you can alter. This is not the be all and end all of what to do, but hopefully it’ll be a good beginning.

First of all, if you want a garment altered, you’ll need extra fabric to pinch out and use to make it fit you how you like. This first dress had a chiffon top and a stretch skirt. Very cute. I picked out one size bigger than would fit me and saw that the underarms were too low. Pinching them out showed that I could take this dress in at the side seams and mostly likely achieve a better fit, while closing up the armholes. I did leave it behind because the bodice was lined and I didn’t feel like taking in a lining, too. But it’s completely doable!

The only thing about me in this dress, and another reason why I wouldn’t alter it too much (or bother at all), is the front zippers. I love metal zippers on a dress like this, but as you start to take excess skirt material away, you might run into the zippers. Before you buy a dress or top with zippers, pinch out how much you need to pinch out and look to see how the zippers do with the alteration.

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This next dress has the high/low hem which I know is a thing, but I’m not into it for myself. The dress was a comfortable knit dress but I left it behind. Why? The second picture shows you something that, as a busty woman, you’re very familiar with- the waist tie is right under the bust and it’s not meant to be that high. My bust is pulling the front up which is why I get the tie so high. It’s a high/low already, so it won’t be that noticeable, but if I know I can make the same look starting from scratch and lengthen the front torso, then I, for the most part, will.

The striped dress on the far right shows what the front length was supposed to look like on the high/low dress. I was going to try to prove my point with the stripy dress on the right, but it actually fit! So, now I show you for a frame of reference where the waist is supposed to be on the high/low dress. Really, though, having the waist seam in the front look more empire isn’t the end of the world, but I still left it.

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An obvious reason to leave a garment behind is if it’s too tight. Or even if it fits too well. Case in point is this really cute sweater dress I tried on. It had these really cool belty/buckles at the hip, but the neckline was a bit lower than I’m used to. It’s not awful, but there’s no way I’d be able to alter it. If I wanted to take in the sides to close up the neck, it wouldn’t fit anymore. As hard as it was to do, I left this one behind. If I had found a size or two bigger, I would have checked that the sleeves fit right and then pinched out what I wanted to take out to see if it closed up the neckline and what it did to the placement of the belt buckles–though you could very carefully pick out the stitches of the buckles, do your alterations and sew the buckles back on. Still more work than I would want to do with this dress.

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I took a look at some evening dresses since it’s the season, and I found a really cute red bodice with black overlay dress you can see below. Can you see how beautifully the armholes fit! But I left it behind because the seam join of the bodice and the skirt, although meant to be askew, crossed me at the bust and I don’t like that look. Other than that, it’s a cute dress!

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Here’s another case of cute dress, but the bodice was too short. Now, with this dress below, I might reconsider and go back and get it because it isn’t as noticeable as the red one above. I put my hand at my underbust. You can see it’s about 1.5″ or so lower than the seam. You could lengthen the skirt, but adding to the length of the bodice would probably mean needing to make an entirely new bodice.

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I know it’s cold around parts of the world, but I had to try on a skater dress. Again, a full bust will pull up the front of the dress and, again, while sometimes it doesn’t bother me, sometimes, like this time, it did. It also bothered me that the skirt made me look like I was standing with my pelvis tilted forward- I swear I’m standing up straight. I wasn’t sad to leave this one behind. I would have to lengthen the bodice by means of cutting it off of the skirt, shortening the back of the bodice and then adding a midriff to even out the whole thing.

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I hope this has helped even a little bit, though you’ve probably done exactly what I’ve done here–stood in front of the mirror and wondered, “How could this be fixed?”

In general, dresses with a bodice and a skirt attached at the waist can be a good thing (you can add a midriff) or a bad thing (the bust length could be so short that there’s no good fix for it). Dresses with no waist seam could fit better just because you don’t notice that waist seam hitting you at the underbust. I wouldn’t buy anything in my size if I wanted to alter it. One size bigger than your normal size should do the trick, depending on the garment and how much shaping you’d like to add. If you want more shaping, you’ll need to have more fabric to shape.

What other signs tell you not to buy a garment? What amazing garment have you walked away from because it didn’t fit and you couldn’t alter it? Have you ever taken a picture and had the dress made to your measurements? Or do you overlook fit for a really great dress or top?