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The Right Fit: Ensuring Your Suit Works for You

The Right Fit

Suits can be tricky: there are a lot of nuances that go into suit construction and fit that can make or break a look. The jacket, the shirt, and the trousers all have a variety of aspects that must work together for the suit to look well-fitted and neat. Today, we’re going to look at the different elements of a suit, and talk about how to determine if your pieces have a proper fit. 

First, when trying on your suit, you want to make sure you are standing in what is called the ‘natural stance’, in which you are standing straight with your feet placed slightly apart and your arms hanging loosely by your sides.

The Jacket

The jacket easily has the most elements that you need to consider when analyzing the fit of your suit. You must consider the space around the button, the collar, the sleeves, and the back panel, which includes the vents and length. The shoulders are typically considered the most important aspect of a jacket’s fit, because they act as the framework for the rest of the jacket and its drape over your body. 

The shoulders should lie flat, with no ripples or lumps – ripples or lumps can both be indicative of shoulders too long or too short, because the lumps can be caused by the edge of the shoulder, where it meets the arm, pulling back over the surface of the shoulder, or they can be caused by an excess gathering of cloth hanging over the edge of the shoulder. As a guide, you want the shoulders to be no narrower than your own, and slightly wider than your own, so there is room for the meeting between the shoulder and the arm to rest over the dress shirt without pulling taut.

Next, look at the buttons. If you’re in your ‘natural stance’, at least one of your buttons should be done. How does the jacket look when it’s stretched around your torso? If the lapels are hanging down, angled off your chest, the fit is too loose. If the button is pulled taut and the bottom, inner corners of the jacket are flared outwards, it is too tight. As with the shoulders, you want no strain, and no wrinkles.

Your collar is somewhat similar. If it’s too loose, it will hang back, and won’t rest flat against your neck. If it’s too tight, there will be bunching around the collar. You want it to rest against your neck and be closely fitted, but not too snug – you should be able to fit one or two fingers in between the collar and your neck itself. A poorly fitting collar could be because the size of the collar isn’t right for your body, but it could also be due to poorly fitted shoulders, or an incorrect size for the back panel.

Speaking of the back, the length should fall just along the curve of the buttocks. From the side view, the bottom hem of the jacket should sit right at the middle of the hand. The vents of the back panel should be sitting flat, they should not be pulled outwards; if they are, the fit is too tight. The sleeves come down to one thing: the amount of shirt cuff that is showing underneath the cuff of the jacket. You want there to be about half an inch of shirt cuff peeking out.

The Shirt

The shirt is not quite as complicated as the jacket, and it obviously contains many of the same elements that the jacket does. Much like the jacket, the collar should be snug, but there should be room for one or two fingers.

The shoulders of the shirt should be an even closer fit than the jacket. You don’t want any over-extension at the point where the shoulder meets the arm, it should be as close a fit as possible without being tight – which would cause the shoulders to bunch up.

The shirt sleeves should end at the break of the wrist, where the large wrist-bone is, with the recommended half-inch of shirt cuff peeking out from underneath the jacket. The shape of the shirt should be slim against your torso with a natural taper near your waist. For shirt length, you want there to be enough extra fabric to easily be able to tuck the shirt in, and enough that if you lift your arms, it won’t untuck on its own. A good guide for the correct amount of extra fabric is you want the extra fabric to reach the v-shape panel at the top of the inseam.

The Trousers

The waist of your trousers should be snug, but not tight. They should stay up on their own without a belt. The seat should rest flat against the underwear, without pulling tight or draping too loosely: if the seat is too tight, there will be lines just under the buttocks where the fabric is stretching. If it is too loose, the extra fabric will drape down over your thighs. 

The fit of the legs should be straight, with a very slight taper as the pant moves down the leg. They definitely should not flair out, but they also shouldn’t end up too tight around the ankle, lest you look like a high school skater dude wearing skinny jeans. You want the legs to taper at a slight inward tilt, but still have room for movement. The ‘break’ – or the point at which the hem of your pant meets the top of your shoe – is likely the most crucial part of a trouser fit. You want it to just rest on the top of your shoe, but that’s about it, resulting in a slight inward dip right above the front of the pant leg, where the two elements meet.

The Elements Combine

When you put all these together, a description of the fit seems a bit redundant, but it’s the truth: you want everything to lie flat, for the majority of the elements. If your pieces are too tight or too loose, it will cause ripples, strains, and lumps that diminish the elegance you hoped to convey by wearing a suit in the first place. Now that we’re tying it all together, these things seem obvious, but we hope that the specific guidelines we’ve put forth here will help you look at all the elements individually, so that you are left with a perfect fit, every time.

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ABOUT

Cait Lambert

Cait Lambert is a barber and freelance writer. In addition to her work in men’s grooming and lifestyle, she has also written numerous fiction pieces: two screenplays and a YA novel. She lives in San Diego, CA, with her dog, Toni. Follow her on Twitter - @caitwrites

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