How to Tailor Your Sweaters


When you are not used to it, wearing a bespoke shirt is surprisingly satisfying. The two things you notice are that the collar fits without having to hang around the chest, and that the cut accentuates your waist without feeling anywhere tight.

Catch a glimpse of yourself and it seems to be both the most flattering and comfortable thing you could wear.

A sweater can easily ruin this. In order to try and cater to all body types, most are heavily elasticated at the hip and balloon around the waist. Even those that are “tailored” or “custom fit” (what useless euphemisms) rarely fit a slim man.

The exceptions are consciously fashionable shops that assume their customers are at least slim, if not downright thin. I would pick out All Saints, American Apparel and perhaps Reiss.

But there is an answer. It is not hard to tailor your own sweaters, taking them in at the side to fit more closely at the waist. I tried it for the first time this weekend, and it is as easy as altering a shirt. There is an extra stage of sewing and for a permanent change you should really use a sewing machine. But the sewing itself is easier and there is less need for precision.

The best explanation of the process is here:

My observations on trying this process are as follows. The basting stitch is worth doing, as it anchors the sweater in a similar way to ironing the fold on a shirt you are about to alter. Simply sew in and out of the line you have pinned, in long stitches, and leave both ends loose. They can then just be pulled through at the end.

The stage where the seams are basted, but the pins are out, is the best time to try the sweater on and make sure you have not taken out too much (or too little).

Try and sew the stitches as close together as you can in the final seam. As I said, ideally this should be done by machine but I sewed it by hand, overlapping to make the stitches even smaller.

My other tip is to keep the extra material created on the seams, at least for a few days. Before you snip off the excess, wear the sweater for a day or two to make sure you are happy with the adjustment. Daily wear and stretching may make you think you need a little extra room.

Also, I felt there was no need to narrow the arms so I just tapered the line into the side seam.

It is curiously satisfying to have a fitted sweater. Curious but it is so rarely experienced. Have fun.


Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at He has too many suits.


  1. Finally, I have been waiting for someone, who had the vision, to post this useful information.. Bravo!

  2. An alternative is to not buy sweaters that do not fit….

  3. Yes, Glenn, by all means let’s make sure dressing well remains beyond the reach of people who aren’t able to buy exactly the right thing every time. Bespoke, preferably.

    Simon, thanks. I have a sweater (too cheap for Glenn) I plan to try this out on.

  4. Glenn,
    It is not just buying sweaters that fit (albeit I do agree,) there are sweaters we inherit that may be of a different sizing, that are of a quality we want. In addition, there may be a vintage item one finds that one could not pass up (it happened to me recently,) but these vintage items are often not an exact fit. I certainly would not turn down rare high-end vintage sweaters just because of being a bit too large (find me a too large vintage Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, or Issey Miyake – and trust me, I am not going to pass,) under such circumstances, alteration is a wise consideration.

  5. Or, if you have more than an 8″ drop from chest to waist like I do, you CAN’T buy sweaters that fit. Step down off the soapbox for a second and realize not everyone has that option. I have already come to grips with the fact that any OTR garment for my upper body that fits in the chest will not fit in the waist.