How To Tailor Your Suit
Even though I’ve been out of the “rag trade” for nearly 18 months now, I’m still contacted by friends and social media followers on a regular basis who are looking for fashion tips/style advice or in some cases, wanting to make a personal shopper appointment. The topic of most interest or concern always seems to be suiting. Most guys would freely admit that they have no idea how to discern a proper fit or how to work with a tailor to ensure a perfect fit. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, until I starting selling suits for a living I really hadn’t much of a clue about these things myself. Few young men ever have the need for a suit before they leave college, and even then, their suits are likely to be €150 student race day specials, with “tailoring” meaning hemming the trousers. Really, the truth is you don’t know how much you don’t know until you know. So, to all those friends and followers who want to know what they’re doing when it comes to getting suiting right, here are the tailoring basics you need to know.
The first piece of advice I give everyone is to shop in actual men’s suiting store. You’d think this would be obvious, but apparently it’s not. While the cheap and cheerful shiny blue three piece will get the job done when you’re a broke student, once you graduate and start adulting, the perception of your suiting game will change very dramatically. Cheap suits are very easy to spot. Elements such as frayed buttonholes, poor stitching, plastic buttons, polyester lining and glued interlining will very quickly reveal the fact that you purchased your suit in the same store that you picked up your skin tight neon pink tank top and ripped skinny jeans. The person interviewing you for your grown up job will see this. So will the people who invited you to the full wedding and paid for a place for you there. Having a ‘zero f**ks given’ attitude doesn’t play as well once you leave college, trust me on this one.
In order to find quality men’s suits, blazers and trousers, you need to start in a quality men’s clothing store. Work with people who know men’s fashion and are educated on how a suit should fit. A good suit salesman should care more about getting the look and fit perfect, than making you part with you hard earned cash. Professionalism and attention to detail leads to happy customers and repeat business. These are the qualities that define a good menswear store.
Fitting & Adjusting Your Suit
The first step in fitting a suit is trying on the jacket and trousers, ideally over a formal shirt (the one you wear to work – not a going out shirt or a polo/tee) and while wearing a pair of dress shoes. If you’re heading to a menswear store to buy a suit, it’s good to wear appropriate clothing that will ensure you end up with a perfect fit. If a dress shirt and shoes aren’t accessible to you then the store will most likely be able to provide them for the purpose of the fitting (while hoping you’ll also buy the shirt and shoes). It does help to bring the shoes you’ll be wearing with the suit so that the pants can be adjusted to the precise length that’s appropriate.
Off the rack suits are measured by the wearer’s chest and come in three different dimensions: short, regular and long. It’s important to understand your basic measurement so that you have a starting point that will require the least amount of tailoring around your frame. If you don’t already know this measurement then ask the salesperson to measure your chest and then try on the jacket that best matches this measurement as well as one size up and one size down to ensure you’re starting with the right fit.
What To Look For
Your first impression will tell a lot when you try on a suit jacket. Is it pulling as you try to button it, indicating it’s too small, or are you swimming in loose fabric? There are limits to how much a suit can be tailored to either let out or take in fabric along the seams, so try to get the jacket as close to the right size as possible. If you’re size isn’t in stock then ask them to order it in. Don’t settle for the wrong size because you like the colour/pattern/brand etc.
The edge of the padding in the shoulders of the jacket should not extend beyond your actual shoulders. If it does, then the jacket is too big.
You shouldn’t feel any restriction of movement across your chest or back or any pulling from armpit to armpit. If you do then the jacket is too small and you need to go a size up. The chest section of the jacket should rest flat across your chest. If there are any balloons of fabric or bulges then the jacket is either too large or needs to be adjusted.
The mirrors in the fitting room will need to assist you here. Look at how the fabric lies from the base of your neck down to your shoulder blades. There shouldn’t be any rolls or bulges of fabric along the base of your neck. If there is, it needs to tailored.
Many off the rack suit jackets will not be tapered around the waist, so if this is something you want then it’ll need to be adjusted by a tailor.
The sleeves should break at the wrist and allow for a little bit of shirt cuff to show. As you get used to suit shopping, you’ll become more familiar with your own tailoring specifics and find it easier to judge what needs to be adjusted. My personal preference is for the jacket to break above the wrist so that you can see my watch and or cufflinks.
The rise of a trouser is the distance between the waistband and the crotch. Different men are proportioned differently, so some will require a low rise and some will need high-waisted trousers. If you usually wear a low-rise trousers and the trousers you’re try on are sitting above the navel, you’re got problems. There’s very little a tailor can do to adjust the rise, so if it’s not right, it’s probably best to pick a different suit.
The waistband should fir comfortably but not tightly. If it’s too tight, it will pull and stretch the fabric below it and look sloppy and ill fitting.
The seat should follow the contours of your own bum. You shouldn’t get a wedgie nor should you look like your wearing an adult diaper. If it droops, get it taken in. If it’s too tight, have it let out.
There are two things to consider when determining how to hem your trousers – length and cuff. Regarding length, my personal preference is for the trousers to break on the top of my shoes - because I like to wear funky socks – but others prefer a full break or no break at all. It’s a personal preference but please make sure that there’s no bunching of fabric over the shoes. Regarding cuffs, if the trousers are pleated, then cuff them, if the trousers have a flat front, then don’t.
Putting on a good suit is transformative. Your shoulders are broadened, your lines look longer and leaner and your waist looks trimmer. The key to all this getting the right suit and having it properly tailored. Some menswear stores will have their own in house tailor and will charge you for the extra work. Some will note the adjustments and send your newly acquired clothing out to a tailor for you. In truth if you really want to get the tailoring absolutely perfect then you should really take the bull by the horns and go to a tailor yourself. I have all my tailoring and alterations done by The Zipyard because they’re excellent and because I know that the person taking the measurements will be looking after the alternations and not trying to work off someone else’s pinning. They also know my measurements and know my preferences as well as I do. If you really want to step your style game up, then he best piece of advice I can give is to make friends with a tailor.