Over the years, I have done many alterations on suits for clients of all ages. Most of the time, the suits would fit them very poorly and this is not because they are off-the-rack suits. The biggest problem is that they are buying the wrong sizes. For good reason, most people don’t have any idea what to look for when buying a suit. Usually, the only help they get is from the salesperson at the store who are unfortunately not properly trained.
Before you go shopping for a suit, you need to know at least 4 things, your height, jacket size, waist measurement and your inseam. Keep in mind that this applies to buying off-the-rack suits only. For Jacket size, measure the circumference of your chest. If your chest size is 40 and your 6’ tall, your jacket size is going to be 40R. The letter “R” (Regular) after the number 40 is very critical when choosing the right size. Whether you are short (S), regular(R), long (L) or extra long (XL) is determined by your height. If you are under 5’ 9” and under, typically, you want to choose Short. If you’re between 5’ 10” and 6’ 1”, you want to choose Regular (R). If you’re between 6’ 2” and 6’ 5”, you would choose Long (L) and anybody taller than 6” 5 would choose Extra Long (XL). Now there are always exceptions to this rule. For example, if you’re 5’ 9” and tend to be long-waisted, then you might have to go with regular versus short. It’s always a good idea to try on the suit before purchasing versus ordering something online.
Next, take your waist measurement. Someone with the chest size of 40”, waist size would typically be 6” drop which means the waist size would most likely be 34”. Now, measure your inseam. This would be measurement from your crotch area down to the bottom of your leg. This will determine the length of the pants. Now that you have your measurements, you can go shopping and try on some suits.
Keep in mind that just because your jacket size is 40R, it doesn’t mean you can only buy a suit that size. It’s a good idea to try on a size smaller or bigger depending on your built and the style of the suit you want. If you have broad shoulders and tend to be smaller in the waist, then you would definitely need to go for a slimmer cut versus modern or traditional fit. A lot of my clients who think they are not slim tend to shy away from trying on slim cuts thinking that slim cut suits are only for a thin person. Generally, that is not the case. Slim cuts come in many different sizes, typically from 34 – 50. So, even if you are not a slim person but have a smaller waist compared to your chest, then you want to opt for a slimmer cut. Otherwise, you will end up with a suit that is going to be too big in the stomach area. Now, if you are a person who’s bigger in the stomach area and tend to have a bigger waist measurement proportional to your chest size, then you want to go with a modern or traditional fit to accommodate the bigger waist area. So, generally, the suit style will depend more on your body proportion than your body size.
Another reason why choosing the right size as in S, R, L and XL is critical is because, these will determine how long the jacket and sleeves are going to be. Sleeves on a jacket can be altered but when the buttons are functional, it can create a problem and can cost a significant amount of money to a make the adjustment.
Adjusting the length of the jacket can be even more of a problem. Typically, you want the length of the jacket to end at the end of your seat but when a jacket is too short, it’s not possible to lengthen since there is no extra fabric left on the jacket. When the jacket is too long, it can be altered to make it shorter but when shortening more than an inch, it is typically not recommended. Even though the length can be shortened, the pockets on the jackets, can not be relocated to accommodate the shortening of the length. In this case, the whole jacket is going to look out of proportion which can ruin the look of the jacket.
Now, what is wrong with the jacket being too short or long? Well, when the jacket is too short, it makes you look like you’re wearing someone else’s clothes. Trust me, it does not look good. On the other hand, when the jacket is too long, it makes you look like you have a longer torso and shorter legs along with having longer sleeves. The goal is to have a look that is going to make you look taller and slimmer by elongating your legs.
Now, even if you’re not into a slim fit, you can still look great as long as you wear a suit that fits you properly. Now, if you’re used to wearing loose-fitting clothes all your life, like shirts and jeans, then wearing a proper fitting clothes like a suit might feel a little restricted at first but once you get used to it, trust me, it’s hard to go back to wearing baggy clothes. Wearing the right fitting clothes is not just about looking good but more importantly, it’s about how you feel about yourself and the confidence that comes along with it. Let’s face it, in our society, first impression means a lot whether you’re going on a date or to a job interview.
Now, once you get to the store, try on different brands. Even if they might be the same size, they’re all going to fit differently so it’s important to try at least 2 or 3 different brands and styles. When choosing a size, try on the size that you think you are and then, if you prefer the slimmer fit, try on the smaller size. It’s my experience over the years that whenever I shop for my clients, I find that one size down often seems to fit better. Be sure to put an emphasis on the shoulders. This is the most important part of the suit that needs to fit properly. It’s very expensive to fix the shoulders if it’s too big and not fixable at all if it’s too small. Try to get a suit that will fit you the closest to save money on alterations. No matter how expensive your suits is, if it doesn’t fit properly, it’s not going to look good.
As far as the pants, make sure you try them on. A lot of times, the sizing on the pants are not very accurate. The labels might say they’re 40” but in reality, they might be 1” – 3” bigger! If you don’t believe me, try measuring a pair of pants you currently have. You’ll be surprised.
When choosing the right size pants, go down a size. For example, if your actual waist size is 34”, choose a dress pants that is 32” in waist. Usually, they fit much better. Most men’s dress pants almost always have extra fabric in the back so you’re able to have them let out if they’re too tight in the waist.
Another reason why you should buy a smaller size is because the leg openings on the pants get bigger as the waist size increases. This means that if you buy a bigger waist size, you’ll end up with a pants that’s going to be looser in the legs as well. If your goal is to look slimmer and taller (and who doesn’t), then it’s a good idea to buy pants that are more tapered in the legs. It’s way more cost effective to let the waist out than trying to taper the legs. So, the key is to find a suit that’s going to fit you the closest and then having it altered for the minimal amount of cost.