How to talk to a tailor - The ultimate alteration & tailor glossary

We all seek the expert advice of a tailor for varying reasons. Some seek a beautifully crafted garment, others seek guidance from a familiar and friendly face, and some aspire to have a one-off piece unlike anything else available in the marketplace. Sometimes it can sound as though a tailor is speaking a different language to the untrained ear, so we’ve made it easy for you to understand with your very own tailor glossary.


When in the fitter's studio, 'drape' is the word one hears bandied about with abandon. Drape refers to the way the fabric sits on the body, how it flows across the frame and how the fabric will appear perfectly unrumpled. Fabrics reveal their quality through the suppleness of the drape. Poor-quality cloths appear stiff, supreme fabrics hang with dexterity.


A simple term, the balance refers to the ultimate fit of a suit. It takes into account the person's height, build, and natural features, such as sloping shoulders or longer arms.


This plays directly into the proportions of the suit and its construction. The interplay of the suit's various attributes should have a visual harmony, which equates to a well-fitted suit. If the suit wearer looks good, then the suit is considered balanced.

Shoulder Height

The shoulder height is an important attribute of a tailored suit. Measured from the top of the shoulder to the top of the armpit, it designates where the armhole sits and thus, the shape of the jacket. Too snug and the jacket will seem too small, too loose and it can look boxy.


You might wonder what are suit proportions; these are the way certain features of the suit relate to the body. For example, lapels alter the visual perception of the suit. Wider lapels make the shoulders look broader, narrow lapels elongate the shape of the frame.



This is one you might hear when having your first consultation with your tailor. Finishings refer to anything that refines the suit and makes it individual in the final stages of its construction. For example, button selection will make a jacket individual, pick stitching around the lapels gives the impression of tailor-made to those who know a good suit.

You needn't a dictionary or an overwhelming knowledge of tailoring in order to own a great suit. Oscar Hunt's tailors will guide you through the process and teach you the finer details along the way.