Here are a few areas of consideration which are the fruits of many years’ experience in tailoring:
1. The Shoulder
Ideally the fabric of the suit should fit crisply round the shoulder. If the line of your silhouette is disturbed at the shoulder then this can be one element which gives off the immediate impression of a bad fit. Unfortunately, this is something which is so often the case with off the rack suits. This is because these measurements vary greatly between individuals and with it being such a stark angle where two pieces of fabric meet it overstates any lack of precision in the garment. If you notice any crumpling or gathering of the fabric around the shoulder or upper arm, rather than sharp lines, then this is an indication that the suit doesn’t fit. A change in your level of musculature in particular can cause issues with this area of the suit, with stretching or sagging of fabric being conspicuous indications of a poor fit.
A reason why it’s always important not just to try on the suit jacket with it buttoned, but to try it with items in the inside jacket pockets if that’s how you’ll wear it day to day. The fastening can serve to exaggerate any issues with the volume of fabric of the suit jacket, either drooping or tugging depending on the fit. As items in the inside pockets, particularly bulky items such as wallets, can require additional space and will stretch the fabric. As a result, when the suit is fastened and the two halves of the suit pulled together, the shortness of material will lead to a stretched and creased look. This can often also cause the lapels of the jacket to buckle outwards. In short, allow for enough room for items in the inside pockets, if you’re going for a very close and skinny fit this will require extra attention.
This is an area that most suit buyers will have on their checklist before they start. Whist problems of scaling, which we covered in our piece on buying a suit for your body shape earlier in the year, can cause trouble for those buying off the rack, if you have the choice of length of trouser and sleeve length then make the most of the chance to get it just right. Typically we’d recommend that sleeve should fall just at the point of the base of the thumb. We also went into some more detail on suit trousers in last month’s blog, but there are several options for suit trouser length and like so many other facets of tailoring, it depends on your personal preference and stylistic tendencies.
The gap between the bottom of the trouser and the shoe is known as the break. You can have a no break which means no contact between trouser and show, most common in modern slim fit suits. A slight break or half break, with some contact between trouser and shoes, and then the full break which is a full contact between trouser and shoe, meaning a gathering of material at the point of contact. The hardest to get right is the break-less trouser leg. Getting just the right amount of distance to pull off the look without simply looking like a child that’s grown out of their clothes is tricky, but fortunately once you reach adulthood, the lengths of your leg won’t really change so a good fit will last you a long time. If you add a lot of weight to your legs this can mean a greater volume of material is required, as the added mass causes some retreating the length of the trouser length.
This is a ‘last but certainly not least’ consideration. Whilst many look at body shape and measurements when they’re considering their suit, few consider their posture as a relevant factor in whether their suit fits. This might well be one of the factors which is causing your suit to fit poorly without your realising it. A tailor will take into account far more factors than just your body measurements when constructing a suit. They’ll also observe your posture and gait. Those who have shoulders which roll forwards and who tend to stand with their hands in their pockets for example, will require a little more space across the upper back of the suit as the forward position of the shoulders can stretch the fabric on the back of the suit, misshaping the way the jacket falls. Equally, if you have a long stride when walking, you’ll need a more generous allowance in the amount of fabric cut for the trouser leg, to avoid ‘pinching’ of the material and the rising of the trouser leg. Understanding the way that material behaves in relation to the way people stand and move is significant part of a tailor’s role and is a highly influential and often overlooked element of a great fitting suit.