With weddings postponed and offices shut, business was bleak at Woodside Tailor Shop in Queens during the long months of pandemic lockdown. There was no need for party dress alterations, or any pressure for slacks to be hemmed.
But about three months in, things started picking back up in June, with one particular service in sudden demand: People needed a bit more breathing room in their clothing.
Everybody got fat! said Porfirio Arias, 66, a tailor at Woodside. Its not only in New York. Its all over the world that people got fat.
In a city where gyms are still closed, and Netflix and couch the safest evening entertainment, the phenomenon of stay-at-home weight gain playfully called the Quarantine 15 by some has brought an unexpected windfall for some tailors. Some say they have seen business rise by as much as 80 percent, with customers asking for buttons to be moved, waistbands lengthened and jackets made more roomy.
If some people are uncomfortable, they go work out and do whatever, said Michael Shimunoff at La Moda Custom Tailors in Queens. Some people just let out the pants.
The boost in business has been welcome for many tailors, who often operate in storefronts shared with dry cleaners, which have suffered mightily during the pandemic. Dry cleaning businesses at the peak of the pandemic lost an estimated 80 to 90 percent in sales compared to previous years, and are still down about 40 to 50 percent, according to data collected by the North East Fabricare Association.
Smaller tailors who specialize in alterations have suffered more than custom clothing makers, whose clients have postponed receiving wedding dresses and tuxedos, but generally have not canceled their orders, said Alan Rouleau, the president of the Custom Tailors and Designers Association.
You cant do tailoring without being in somebodys face, Mr. Rouleau said. We are in a high-touch business.
Many tailors fear that the industry may not bounce back even as more people return to work, if the traditional workplace culture shifts to the new work-from-home ethos meaning more sweatpants and fewer bespoke suits that need to be cleaned, pressed or altered.
Of course, not all New Yorkers have been able to work from home, and the ability to sequester has largely fallen along socioeconomic lines: Putting on pandemic pounds is a small downside of what is in essence a tremendous privilege.
In Woodside, Mr. Ariass entire extended family his wife, two sons, daughter, brother-in-law and mother-in-law all had their pants let out this month. Or rather, they loaded Mr. Arias with their clothes to take to his shop so he could make the required alterations.
He said New Yorkers should not feel bad about needing a few more inches of room. They cant go out, they dont have a room to make exercise, so they dont have a choice, he said.
Mr. Arias can speak to the challenges firsthand: He said he has had to take needle and thread to his own trousers. I got fat, too!
At T & J Crystal Cleaners in Long Island City, Queens, David Choi said he has been trying to dissuade customers who ask him to loosen their clothes because they gained weight during the lockdown. The process sometimes distorts the original fit of the clothing so it no longer drapes well, he said, and he fears that his clients will not be happy with the result.
The Coronavirus Outbreak
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 23, 2020
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. Californias two largest public school districts Los Angeles and San Diego said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution wont be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nations largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. Theres no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
Is the coronavirus airborne?
- The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. Its unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
- Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
Whats the best material for a mask?
- Scientists around the country have tried to identify everyday materials that do a good job of filtering microscopic particles. In recent tests, HEPA furnace filters scored high, as did vacuum cleaner bags, fabric similar to flannel pajamas and those of 600-count pillowcases. Other materials tested included layered coffee filters and scarves and bandannas. These scored lower, but still captured a small percentage of particles.
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
- So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was very rare, but she later walked back that statement.
Instead, he urges customers to wait it out, reminding them that pandemics and pounds too shall pass.
I dont say, Go try the gym, Mr. Choi said. I cant say that, but I am not happy to make my money with this kind of job. So he said he has tried flattery, telling his customers that the extra pounds added something else besides pure weight. Some ladies still look sexy! he said.
Nicolas Jacquet, a custom suit specialist at Brooklyn Tailors, which crafts bespoke men's wear, said he recently adjusted a few waistlines on the custom suits of grooms whose measurements were taken before the pandemic began. He recommends fabrics with stretch and give to deal with inertia-based weight gain, like wool or blends with elastane.
We will tailor the suits to make the customer feel good about himself, Mr. Jacquet said, adding that with his clients weddings postponed or dramatically contracted, few are focused on their weight. They have a lot more issues to think about, he said.
At Alteration Concept, a basement tailor shop in the West Village in Manhattan, a debate was taking place between Chung Moon, the owner, and a woman who wanted to have the waistline of her jeans expanded.
Mr. Moon gently suggested that the woman might not like the darts that he would have to add to her jeans.
Sourdough is making me feel good right now, she said. Im not going to stop eating bread I need to feel good right now. The customer, as usual, was right: Mr. Moon ended up expanding three pairs.
Elsewhere in his shop, five pairs of Theory slacks and a blazer were awaiting enlargement. Mr. Moon, 49, said he was dubious that lockdown weight gain is solely to blame.
The pants were tight before, but we were so busy, even if pants were a little tight or a little snug, we didnt really feel that, he said. Right now, you have a lot of time, and a lot of thinking going on.