Without question the most important piece of advice that could be given to any gentleman in regard to all of men’s fashion is this; how it fits you is more important than EVERYTHING else! Don’t get me wrong things like colours, trends and dress codes are important too (and we will get to that), but for our first lesson, I want to explain the dos and don’ts of fit starting at its most complex, suits.

Every suit serves 2 equally important purposes; the first is obvious. A suit sets a level of formality and class that no other part of the male wardrobe can match. Job interviews, weddings and for millions of others everyday work life demands this level of formality. The second purpose is to help hide or at least minimise any imperfections that can come with body shape, while at the same time accentuating and complementing the strengths of a man’s physique. This second purpose can only be achieved if the suit is fitted and adjusted correctly.

It’s always a good idea to do your suit shopping somewhere where you can gain assistance from someone that knows about fit (and not someone who will just lie to make the sale!). But if you must shop where proper assistance seems unlikely, here are the top 4 things you need to assess and just how you should assess them.

#1 Shoulder.

The first thing to analyse is the fit of the jackets shoulder. The reason this is the first thing we look at is because it’s one of the hardest parts of a suit for a tailor to adjust. So should the jacket shoulder be incorrect a change in size is most likely required.

*Note: Always try a jacket on with a business shirt to get the most accurate fit. Jumpers, polos, and T-shirts can affect a jacket’s shape and appearance.

Step one is to put the jacket on. Ensure you have done this correctly by lightly pulling lapels downward to bring back of the jackets collar to the back of your shirt collar, preventing it from being twisted or uneven.

What to look for:

shoulder

  • The distance from your neck (underneath lapel) to the point of the shoulder should be a crisp smooth line. Any obvious creasing across this distance will indicate that the jacket is too big or too small.
  • Modern styles include a slightly more rounded shoulder rather that a peaked one, however, all shoulders are still padded slightly.
  • From the point of the shoulder and heading down the sleeve it is important to note that the outermost point of your shoulder should be only slightly visible. If it sticks out too far the jacket is likely too small if it’s not visible at all the jacket is probably too big.
  • At the back of the jacket between the shoulder blades, there shouldn’t be any tension or pulling. If there is try a bigger one.

#2 The Jacket Closure

After we have ensured that the shoulder is appropriate our eyes now turn to the jacket’s front button. Just to keep things simple at this stage it is important to note that I am going to be speaking solely about what is currently the most common style of suit jacket, two button and single breasted.

Step one is to do up the top button of the jacket. Always ONLY the top, as the bottom button of a jacket is PURLEY DECORATIVE. The reason for this is so that the jackets tightest point is in line with the top button before skirting back out slightly over the hips.

What to look for:

closure

  • Standing front onto the mirror with arms relaxed by your side, the jackets tightest point should reveal slight curves from the underarm to the hip. The sleeve of the jacket should not touch the innermost point of these curves. This is a crucial part of fit as it compliments all body shapes to some degree. These curves are easily the most flattering part of a suit so it’s important they are correct.
  • If the jacket is too tight, when done up it will show creasing in an “X” shape outward from the button. This problem can only be resolved by increasing the jackets size or finding a cut less slim fit.
  • If the jacket is too big the curves under the arms of the will not be visible at all. This creates a “boxy” or “rectangular” appearance that is always incredibly unflattering. This is most often adjustable as a tailor can slim a jacket from the 3 seams at the back. Alternatively, a slimmer cut will also resolve this problem.
  • Finally, undo the jacket button and return to a relaxed stance. Normally the button will sit in line with the button hole. Sometimes however (due to shoulders not being perfectly symmetrical in height) it may sit slightly higher or lower than the hole. This is not the fault of the jacket but the body and it is surprisingly common. If the variance is only slight, I recommend ignoring the problem. But if the difference is obvious, a tailor can add a thicker shoulder pad to whichever side is lacking to help assist in creating a perfectly symmetrical appearance.

#3 Jacket Length

Now that we have our size, there is one more component of a suit jacket that needs our attention. As height can vary so much from one person to another, suits sizes have to accommodate to this fact by offering short, regular or long lengths. So to decide which of these is best suited to us, we need to look at the length of both the sleeve and the jackets body.

  What to look for:

sleeve

  • The modern standard for a jackets body length suggests that it be just long enough to cover your seat (right on where you would consider your upper thigh to end). Style today may be shorter than it was 10years ago but be careful not to get swept up by a jacket that is too short for you, there are few things that look worse than a jacket sitting too high on a man’s bottom.
  • If a jacket’s body is too long start by trying a shorter fit. In the instance that a shorter fit is not available most tailors are capable of shortening jackets. HOWEVER this is an alteration can only ever be done in moderation. Though it is possible (assuming you have a good tailor) shortening more than 2-3cm can make a jacket look disproportionate, putting its front pockets to close to the base of the jacket.
  • On a relaxed arm, the jacket sleeve should sit a little over an inch higher than your thumbs top knuckle and the cuff of your shirt should be visible by no more than 1 cm (as pictured). Showing some shirt cuff is an important touch for any educated suit wearer, but having sleeves that are too long is the most commonly made mistake
  • Sleeve length is an easily adjustable part of any suit. Shortening can be done to whatever extent is necessary, and lengthening can often be done by up to 2-3cm (any more and you most likely need a longer fit).

#Trousers

Our jacket is now sized, our alterations noted, now there is only one piece left to the puzzle and it might not be as simple as it seems. Most suit manufacturers sell suits as one complete garment; this means that every jacket size is matched with a trouser where the waist measurement has been pre-determined. Almost always this sizing is correct or at least very close to correct. However some exceptions to the standard body shape do exist and for this reason, any decent store will be able to offer a range of suits where jackets and trousers can be sold separately. Don’t ever sacrifice the size of the jacket just so the trousers fit, find an alternative.

What to look for:

trouser

  • The waist of a trouser should be firm enough to sit comfortably on the hips without a belt. Though a belt will always be worn with a suit, it should be an accessory, not a necessity.
  • Trousers are easily taken in and most can be let out too. Again it’s important to use a tailor you trust.
  • The seat and thigh of the trouser should be firm but not tight. Too tight and they can become impractical. It’s important you are able to sit, stand and walk comfortably.
  • Always try sitting down in them as your waist can expand as you sit.
  • The slimness of your trouser should be comparable to the slimness of the jacket. A slim Trouser will look strange if your jacket is wider and vice versa.
  • Though the current fashion suggests a slimmer leg, this style is not suited to all body shapes. Always better to wear what fits rather then what is trending.
  • The length of trouser is something that is adjusted 98% of the time and is a simple alteration for almost any tailor. The easiest way to determine if the length is correct is to stand side on to the mirror with shoes off. Without moving your body turn your head to the mirror using the reflection to see where the trouser is sitting at your heal. Ideally, what you want is for the trouser to be sitting just off the floor, this way with any shoe the break at the front of the trouser will be slight and appropriate.
  • An exceptionally slim trouser should sit 1-2cm shorter than the standard to prevent the shoe causing too much break. This will cause a trouser to look too long.

If you take this advice you are highly likely to find the suit that fits you best. Some body shapes can get more complicated and for those few, this basic advice may not be enough. In these instances, the importance of seeing a consultant like myself is vital to finding an appropriate fit.

Best of luck to you all on your search.

Mitchell Burgess – Fashion Consultant

CAVALIER MENSWEAR