Monday, April 25, 2011

How to Buy Suits off the Rack

A blog post about fully bespoke suits is mildly interesting.  At some point though, it gets a bit dumb... if you are willing to go through the trouble and expense of the bespoke experience, you should not be turning to blogs or bloggers for advice.  You should be turning to the tailor.  Imagine a blog entry providing guidance towards the purchase of a private jet or luxury yacht... obnoxious to say the least. 

For buying a suit from the rack, or even just a jacket, the process is simple.  As long as the neck and shoulders fit, you are in luck.  Put it on, unbutton it, raise your arms all over, twist and move round.  Make sure that the collar of the jacket stays wedded to your shirt collar, and that the shoulder seams are roughly at the top corners of your actual shoulders.  From there, the jacket may need to be adjusted by sleeve length, shortened overall, and most importantly, adjusted amidships.  Even if you have extra segments around your middle, there is still a need to adjust the jacket.  "Taking in" and "letting out" actually mean several things.  A tailor or very good seamster can assist you with making certain allowances or snuggings-in at strategic spots.  Pinned jackets with half-inch adjustments seem a bit too exact, but they can completely alter the shape of your shadow.

Uncut jacket and pants before fitting: baggy and tent-like

The shoulders and collar fit perfectly off the rack, and Frank and son Bill know exactly how adjust them regardless of the customer's shape.  He has a pretty limited selection, but doesn't charge for the tailoring, and the suits are generally at a 40-70% savings.  I ask him to put buttons for suspenders in all of the pants, and add a small loop under the backside of the lapel under the buttonhole to hold the stem of a flower.

Same jacket: fitted and with pants cuffed... sorry, bad photo

If you like your jackets skin-tight (I don't), you'll have to argue with the tailor a bit to get it brought in that much.  If you like to wear you pants in the high-water position and also skin-tight, your tailor should rightfully give you crap about it.  One thing you can tell the tailor or seamster is to "take it in, but leave the fabric".  This lets them know that they will see the jacket again after you've plumped up a bit and become ready to ease the sheets and fall off to a comfortable broad reach of caloric indulgence.

Don't fall victim to some of the advice floating out there concerning the purchasing of suits.  There is nothing wrong with the inexpensive ones, and while they may not be as elegant or as fine as some of the other pricier models, it is all about the wearer.  I see $1000+ suits everyday in Boston, but they are often maladjusted, boring in application, and a dreary waste of fine material.  Even a clearance $100 or $200 or thrift-store suit can be FAR more elegant than the $800 or $2000 when you have it altered to fit you well, so don't be intimidated or scared off by the idea of buying a suit.  Good clothing is often little more than good fit.  If you are not shaken by the more bold patterns, you will have an increased chance of finding a suit at astonishing discount.

One small point though: when you get fitted for a suit or are even just out suit shopping, wear dress shoes and a collared shirt if you want the adjustments to be correct.


  1. All of this is very sound advice; refreshing too.

  2. I found this blog through a link at an affordable wardrobe. I do not usually post on the blogs I read but I had to give credit on this post. So many men's fashion blogs are by guys who can spend hundreds on a tie and just as much for cuff links and then proceed to trash all non bespoke suits. One day I hope to be able to afford a few bespoke suits but good job saying you can get a suit nearly as good off the rack (or from a charity shop where I got mine).

  3. Vir Beatum: Thank you as always. How is Berlin?

    Prowl26: Thank you for that. I too, find the envy-blogs obnoxious. I hope to offer up entertainment, practicality, and possibly an occasional antidote to some of the totally unhelpful self-strokery (when not engaging in it myself, of course). I am honored to know that this resonated, and I sincerely thank you. Your comment's clarity makes me request that you post your opinions more often, as they are worth reading.

  4. Thank you for the reco on a tailor downtown. I used to walk directly from The Basement to Pacifici, but The Basement is gone and Pacifici has apparently (sadly) been sold.

  5. Excellent advice.

    Bespoke is most useful, I think, for unique cloths, weaves, and patterns unattainable in RTW ranges.

  6. Was that a breeze? I seem to detect a freshening of the weather.


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