How Should a Suit Fit? Tips on Getting the Perfect Fit
Between weddings, job interviews, and date nights, a good suit should be the staple of every man's wardrobe. But how should a suit fit? Maybe you're used to buying things off the rack and can't figure out why you don't look as dapper as the magazine spreads. Maybe you've been holding off purchasing one because it seems like nothing fits quite right. In either case, we collected some men's fashion tips from a couple of experts to explain what you should keep in mind when trying to find the perfect fit.
So . . . How Should a Suit Fit?
To get the answer, we talked to Albert Karoll the owner of Richard Bennett Custom Tailors & Shirtmakers in Chicago's Loop neighborhood. Here are the basic tenets to keep in mind when trying on a suit:
Your jacket's shoulder seam should rest along the 90-degree angle formed by the end of your shoulder. No padding or roping, which is a puff along the seam that's common on military jackets.
Your buttons should button without pulling any fabric. You should also be able to place three fingers perpendicularly between your stomach and jacket. Aim for a lapel that's 2¼" wide.
Stay away from pleats. Instead, gravitate toward pants with slimmer legs that just touch the top of your shoe. You want to avoid "breaking" which is when the pant leg creases at the ankle.
You should be able to fit two fingers between your shirt collar and skin. But be mindful that shirts shrink. Plus, a shorter collar works with the narrower lapels, shoulders, and ties that are also in vogue.
Roughly ¼" of shirt cuff should emerge from your jacket sleeve. Your jacket sleeve should stop roughly 4½"
How Should a Suit Fit Your Specific Body Type?
Albert's guidelines above are great general rules, but as we all know, rules won't necessarily apply to every body, especially if you have something you're self-conscious about. To beef up our tips and better prep you for your next suit fitting, we also talked to Nicholas Hansen of Nicholas Joseph Custom Tailors. We ran through a few common questions and concerns the average guy might have about the fit of his suit.
What if I'm portly or I have a beer gut?
Nicholas advises portly men that are self-conscious about their size to avoid wearing loud patterns or suits with thin pinstripes, both which can draw more attention to their build. And though skinny ties may be in style, he recommends avoiding excessively thin neckties.
For men with a larger belly, Nicholas suggests raising the positioning of the notch on the jacket lapel, which is that triangular indentation on the lapel somewhere between the chest and neck. "[A higher notch] broadens the chest," he says. "It draws the eyes upward, bringing the focus more to the upper part of their body." He also suggests pants with a single pleat that falls in line with the crease, thereby allowing for more room in the legs without appearing too wide.
What if I'm skinny or lanky and I want to look more built?
According to Nicholas, one way to compensate for a skinny frame is to design a more structured shoulder by adding more padding. This creates the appearance of not only a fuller build but also a well-defined chest. He also says slender men should avoid wide pinstripes on their suits, which would only emphasize their thin frames.
What if I want to look taller? What if I'm really tall?
"What we can do is change the length of a jacket," Nicholas says. "For a man with shorter legs, a shorter jacket will make his legs appear longer." Conversely, he recommends a three-button jacket for clients who are very tall—meaning 6'6" and up. This won't necessarily make the man look shorter, but it will help align his height with the rest of the suit.
What if I have a round face? Or a narrow face?
You can't change the shape of your face, but you can alter what's around it—the shirt collar. There are three customizable features in a shirt collar: collar height, point length, and spread distance.
Collar height is pretty self-explanatory. The "points," meanwhile, are what angle out on either side of the neck break. Thus the point length and spread distance are how long the points are and how much space there is between them, respectively.
"If someone has a longer, narrow[er] face, we'll recommend a collar with a slight spread and moderate point length," he says. For a wider, rounder face, he suggests avoiding a wide cutaway collar. Something with a moderate spread and point length would help to proportion the appearance of a round face.
How Can I Improve My Suit Style on a Budget?
1. Concentrate on fit. "Cut is the most important [part of a suit]," Nicholas says, adding that the shoulders are the most important part of the cut. "If you're going to shop off rack," he says, "find something that fits in the shoulders, [and] you can go from there."
2. Accessorize for less by buying items such as ties, pocket squares, and belts from less expensive stores, since they're less essential to your appearance than the suit itself.
3. Stick to a charcoal suit, if you can only purchase one suit, since it "is more appropriate for just about everything." And it's okay to wear the same suit over and over—just play around with ties, pocket squares, and other accessories to create some stylistic variation.
4. Go with a white or a blue shirt. "Eighty percent of most guys' shirts are white or blue," he says, reasoning that they're easy to match and moderately conservative for work or other events.
This article was originally published in 2013 by Scott Hirsch. It has since been updated.
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