The Little Black Book of seamstresses and tailors in Toronto we can't believe we're giving up
Where to go for top-notch clothing alterations
As a fashion stylist and writer, one of my first priorities after moving back to Toronto from New York City several years ago was to find a great seamstress who could help me alter off-the-rack finds to properly fit my very petite frame. The shockingly cheap tailor shop inside Bathurst subway station works well enough for hemming cotton jeans, but it was trickier to find someone I could trust to do more complicated alterations. In the end, I turned to a talented friend and former co-worker — who, unfortunately, is not taking on any new clients — to fit my down-filled coat and wool blazers.
Unless you happen to fit off-the-rack clothing perfectly (and how many of us can claim that distinction?), having a great seamstress or tailor that you can trust for important alterations — whether minor, extensive or custom — is crucial for looking your best and making the most out of your wardrobe. Some retail stores actually offer free alterations, and you can always try your luck at a local dry cleaners (many also offer alteration services); however, for detailed designer pieces or more complex changes, it's worth doing the groundwork to find someone that's knowledgeable about fabrics, trends and standard fit to do the work for you. You may have to pay a premium for that expertise, but an experienced tailor can provide invaluable advice regarding the feasibility and suitability of your requested changes, and can reliably handle challenges like fussy hardware and asymmetrical designs.
If you are looking for the best tailors and seamstresses in Toronto (and don't happen to have a tailor-friend available), here are seven whose work comes highly recommended by some of the most discerning eyes in the city: fashion industry pros.
Queen Dry Cleaners, 157 John Street
Recommended by: Pratha Samyrajah, fashion and portrait photographer
The review: "I've had several higher-end coats altered there: sleeves shortened on a heavy wool Acne Studios coat with a complicated cuff and on a Commes De Garçons puffer. They also rescued my favourite pair of old Levi's — the crotch had completely worn out over 15+ years of wear so that they basically looked like chaps! The inside of my jeans are almost architectural now, but the outside looks perfect!"
The insider tip: For work on particularly complicated pieces, Samyrajah notes that it may be necessary to check that the finishing work is as-desired; it may take more than one try to get to what you're looking for, but the team at Queen Dry Cleaners is very accommodating.
Philip Sparks Tailored Goods, 130 Cawthra Avenue, Unit 107
Recommended by: Anita Clarke, engineering storyteller and style blogger
The review: "Philip Sparks is meticulous in his work. I have two incredible winter coats that were customized to my exact needs with the help of his extensive knowledge of tailoring and access to the finest of French fabrics. He's a sartorial dream-maker."
The insider tip: Sparks offers both bespoke and custom tailoring services, and you can get anything from men's suits to made-to-measure jeans made at his shop.
Julie Gomes at email@example.com
Recommended by: Talia Brown, celebrity stylist
The review: "Julie's attention to detail is crazy and she really gets fabric. She fixed a dress that didn't fit just right just by taking out two stitches; I was sure I would have to make it a skirt. It was magical."
The insider tip: In particular, Brown recommends seeing Gomes for vintage garments and styles made with delicate fabrics.
Elie's Alterations, 2449 Yonge Street, 2nd Floor, Suite 1
Recommended by: Jacquelyn Wint, advertising project manager and fashion magazine alum
The review: "I was impressed with an experience a friend had at this place. She needed to get a red vintage Mugler skirt suit altered and was told by another tailor that it would be too complicated; Elie's Alterations was able handle the work, and did it in 24 hours."
The insider tip: This family-run business specializes in bridal and eveningwear alterations.
Shoppe and Tailor, 428 Ossington Avenue, Basement Suite
Recommended by: Lisa Mesbur, writer and editor, and Erinn Stewart, style editor and content creator
The review: "Shoppe and Tailor at College and Ossington are wonderful, woman-owned and excellent," says Mesbur. "They understand how to tailor vintage properly and I trust them completely."
The insider tip: The company's website offers a detailed list of base prices for common alterations, and gift cards are available if you're looking for a unique gift idea for a fashion lover in your life.
Dove Cleaners, 1560 Yonge Street
Recommended by: Vanessa Taylor, style expert, and Tara MacInnis, fashion and beauty writer and editor
The review: "I bought a few pricey dresses early on in my pregnancy but truly had no idea what size I would be 3 months down the road," says Taylor. "Natalya helped add darts, nip in the waist — generally made the dresses fit well. Post pregnancy she expertly took in the extra fabric that fit my tummy with a few clever tweaks. She was recommended to me by a friend who needed a serious last minute overhaul on a bad bridesmaid dress."
The insider tip: Get recommendations. Don't just go to anyone who claims to do alterations.
Pearl Dry Cleaners, 4750 Yonge Street
Recommended by: J.T., fashion art director
The review: "I haven't exactly been loyal to any one tailor; I tend to choose them based on proximity to my home or work. But Pearl Dry Cleaners in North York is my current life saver. They've altered a lot of my clothing, shortening and tapering countless trouser legs and taking in the shoulders of my woolen coat. The owners are lovely and pay attention to your needs and preferences."
The insider tip: Sometimes, it's worth seeing what your neighbourhood tailor can do. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.