A reader asks:
I ordered my first suit from Topman a year or so ago and have been wearing it with relative success, EXCEPT: the pant legs aren’t working out for me. I have an extremely short inseam (around 26 inches), and it’s near impossible to find pants that fit without hemming. So, I had a tailor hem the pants, but the problem now is that the line is off. The elegant taper at the bottom of the leg is gone! So my question is: is it reasonable to ask a tailor to taper the leg of an already hemmed pant to make it narrow towards the bottom? What should I tell this tailor? What might such a procedure cost?
So, we reached out to the suit experts to get some solid advice for you. First up, Mary Going and her team from Saint Harridan had this to say:
Excellent question! Tapering the legs can certainly be done by a trusted tailor. The tailor will open the legs of the pants and remove fabric, tapering down to the bottom. You can do this by trusting the tailor to pin and sew, or you can control the process a bit more. I prefer the latter version because it leaves less room for error and misunderstanding.
Put the pants on in your house and have a friend pin them to the taper you want. Once they are pinned, measure your total inseam from the crotch to the bottom. And, then at regular intervals, measure the width you want. For example, let’s say you have a 26″ inseam. Measure the width at the crotch, knee, and bottom (26″). You then have a very precise way to measure the results:
These numbers are for example!!
At the thigh (at the crotch), width should be 25.5
At the knee (about halfway down from the crotch), width should be 18″
At the bottom, width should be 15.25″
(FYI, it’s easier to measure half, then multiply by 2 instead of measuring all the way around.)
Next up, we have advice from Leon Wu and the Sharpe Suiting group:
This request is a completely standard alteration, especially nowadays since slim fit or the ‘tapered’ look is currently in fashion. In fact, many people have been bringing us their favorite slacks for this type of alteration!
I would ask the tailor to ‘taper the pant bottom.’ Make sure to bring in the shoes you like wearing with these pants as the tailor will ask you to try your pants on with the shoes, and it can often make a difference. They’ll ask how far you would like the pant bottom to fall on your shoes, if you want to show the shoe laces, etc. Today’s modern taper is anywhere from 12.5 to 15 inches (which is the total circumference of the pant bottom), if that helps. Tapering the pants should cost no more than $40-45.
For your future pant and slack purchases, a good tailor should include this alteration as part of the initial hemming and should ask your preference for the taper the first time you bring them in. If they don’t ask, just let them know that’s what you’d prefer. They want you to be happy with their work. The hemming and tapering combined should be no more than $60-65 (tapering = $45, hemming at most $20).
And, now for dapperQ’s two cents. Check out our suit chapter in the Style Manual on Autostraddle here. There are some trouser tailoring pointers towards the end of the chapter. You can also see our feature on Peter Manning, which includes a video on their philosophy for designing pants specifically for customers shorter than 5’9″. One of the reasons they focus on customers 5’8″ and under is “many menswear brands start their pant inseams at 30″ and up! Peter Manning / Five Eight does not believe that shortening too-long pants is the answer, because you end up with an opening that is too wide.” Hence, your conundrum. You can certainly get your current trousers tapered; But, for the future, starting off with cuts that are specifically made for shorter customers will yield a higher quality in the end.