Finding the perfect cocktail dress that hugs in all the right places and falls to just the right length is harder than finding a polar bear in a snowstorm. But with the magic of a good tailor, anything is possible. Well, almost anything. Here, six next-level alterations any tailor worth her salt can do, and a few things even the pros can’t fix.

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They Can Rework a Neckline
If you’re worried about showing a little too much décolletage, or not enough, a tailor can help adjust a neckline by adding fabric, removing collars or turning a basic V-neck into a plunge worth carrying around a roll of double-sided tape for. (If that’s your sort of thing.)

They Can Add or Move a Zipper
If you avoid wearing a particular dress just because it’s a pain to pull over your head, you might want to consider adding a zipper instead of tossing it in the donation pile. This alteration does require enough fabric to accommodate the zipper, so it isn’t realistic for a dress that’s already pretty tight. Alternately, if you hate struggling to get into a dress that zips up the back, a tailor can remove that zipper and add one under the arm instead.

They Can’t Take Something in More Than Four Inches
If you’re talking about pants, the cutoff is closer to two inches. After the four-inch mark, the original proportions of the item will be thrown off and start to look wonky in a whole new way. A good rule of thumb when making things smaller is that you shouldn’t try to reduce something by more than one size.

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They Can Fix That Gap in the Waistband of Your Jeans
You finally found a pair of jeans that make your bum look Kardashian-level amazing. Only problem: The waistband is gapping in the back in a way no belt will fix. Have no fear, this is actually a super-simple problem to fix. If your tailor isn’t too busy, he or she might even have it done in time for your dinner date the very same night.

They Can Add a Lining to Simple Silhouettes
Adding a nude-colored lining to a slightly sheer summer dress means you’ll get infinitely more use out of it (and infinitely more compliments). A-line skirts, shift dresses and straight-leg pants are all good contenders for adding a lining, but be aware that not everything is easy to line. Anything too tight or too complicated is going to pose more problems for your tailor than it’s worth. 

They Can’t Adjust the Shoulders Much
Think you can just remove the shoulder pads from that ’80s power suit and wear it proud through the rest of 2017? Think again. Adjusting shoulders is a risky move that rarely pays off. Removing shoulder pads often leaves excess fabric that’s difficult to sort out, and attempting to narrow the shoulders of a too-wide top often requires deconstructing and rebuilding the entire thing.

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They Can Dye Natural Fabrics Darker
Fabrics like denim, cotton, linen and muslin are easy to dye a few shades darker or even make black. So instead of tossing those red-wine-stained white jeans, give them new life as a pair of sleek black skinnies.

They Can’t Dye Manmade Fabrics or Lighten Anything
On the flipside, there are certain fabrics that don’t accept dye very well, and few fabrics at all can be lightened more than one or two shades. Polyester and acetate can’t be dyed without factory-grade machinery. Leather is also very difficult to alter. So if you’ve been itching to turn your leather skirt pink (like you’ve seen on all the street-style stars), maybe consider just finding one off the rack.

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They Can Alter a Heavily Sequined or Beaded Item
Take this one with a grain of salt. It is possible to shorten or take in the waist of a fully sequined pencil skirt, but it should be done only by someone who has experience working with sequins. If you’re unsure of a tailor’s abilities, ask to see examples of his or her previous work. Many—especially those with a high skill level—keep portfolios at the ready in order to entice new clients.

They Can’t Alter a Corset
Corsets by nature are supposed to fit your body like a glove and are actually easier to build from scratch than they are to alter because of all the pattern pieces and boning required to make one. If you really have your heart set on a corset dress or piece of lingerie that isn’t fitting quite right in the store, take lots of photos and bring them to a specialist who can recreate your dream piece so that it fits you (and your girls) perfectly.

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