[H1]The (easy) guide to a perfectly fitted suit[H1]
So you’ve decided to buy a new suit. Perhaps you’re stepping up in your career? Maybe you’re determined to make the right impression at a special occasion? Or could it simply be time to upgrade that much-loved but tired outfit?
Whatever the occasion, you’ll have a spectacular variety of colours, styles, designs and pattern to choose from. Yet despite the incredible choice (check out this detailed guide on how to pick a suit), all good men’s suits share one thing in common: they won’t look right if they’re not fitted properly.
So how do you get the perfect suit fit?
Fear not. You’re about to find out everything you need to know about perfect suit fitting.
Measuring yourself for a men’s suit
Do you know your suit jacket size? You’re not alone if you don’t. In fact, you’ll be surprised to know that most men don’t actually know their suit size, even as they’re stepping out the door for their new suit.
Fortunately, measuring yourself for a men’s suit is easy once you know what you’re doing.
Start by establishing your chest size. Run a tape measure under your arms and across your chest (a spouse or friend is always handy here) and where the ends meet will be your chest size. So, if the measurement is 34 inches across your chest that means you’re a 34 suit jacket.
Simple, right? Next, find a mirror and stand straight. You’re about to do the most important part.
How can you tell if a suit jacket looks right?
Regardless of the pattern, colour, material and style, conventional men’s suits share common characteristics. So if you want to know how should a man’s suit fit, just look out for these easy signs. It’s a fact that anyone who spends their day professionally fitting new suits instinctively looks for these.
Front of jacket
The first and most obvious thing to look for when fitting a new suit jacket is the form. A perfectly fitted new suit jacket will form a silhouette, with the curvature ‘tapering’ in slightly from the shoulders and then back out over the pockets.
If you look at yourself square in the mirror and find that the front of the jacket forms a rumpled X shape below your shoulder line then your new suit jacket is probably fitted too tightly, whereas one that’s too large will appear box-like and square.
Another way to check that the suit jacket sits right is to hook your fingers, just over where the top button joins. If there’s a half inch (1.2cm) of space to accommodate your fingers, it’s sitting right.
If the suit jacket pulls against the top button then it’s fitted too tightly, while more than half an inch of space means it’s probably too large.
Collar and lapelsJacket lapels should sit flat and compliment the fitted suit jacket’s curvature. If fitted right, they sit flat and seamlessly with the rest of the jacket. Visible ‘bowing’ of the lapels, however, means it’s probably too large.
The same holds true for the collar. A properly fitted suit jacket collar sits smoothly around your neck, forming a continuous contour around the shirt collar.
Too tight, and the suit collar will pinch outward behind your neck, revealing a gap behind the shirt collar. Too big, and the material just below the collar on your back will start to crumple up into a lumpy form.
Suit jacket shoulder pads should extend no more than a quarter inch (0.7cm) out from where the shoulders end. The arm will drops down in a straight, smooth form. Correctly fitted, the shoulder seam sits straight and true on your shoulder.
If the suit jacket is fitted too tight, the shoulder collapses inward, just below the shoulder pad. If the suit jacket is fitted too big, the shoulders look rumpled and blown out.
Suit jacket sleeve length
Everything good so far? Good. Now look at your cuffs. On a correctly fitted suit jacket they should sit at the point where your hands join your wrists.
The best way to accurately check that the suit jacket sleeve length is correct is to use the “rule of thumb” (yes, really). Still standing in front of the mirror, simply drop your arm and extend your thumb downward. If the tip of your thumb sits where the bottom of the jacket ends, the suit jacket is fitted correctly. If jacket line is too high or too low it likely means the suit jacket is the wrong size.
Having said that, not two men are built quite the same. If you’re still unsure about the suit jacket length, turn to your side and, still looking in the mirror, see where the back of the jacket ends.
The perfectly fitted suit jacket finishes where your bum ends and your leg (i.e. the back of your thigh) starts.
Measuring suit pants
Now that you’re looking at a properly fitted suit jacket it’s time to get matching trousers. Don’t neglect this part — properly fitted trousers will make a good suit look awesome.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true when fitting suit trousers. If they’re too small or too large they will look rumpled or stretched — and in a pretty obvious way, too.
As with fitting a suit jacket, you can follow some simple steps to ensure you end up with perfectly fitted suit trousers.
The six-inch drop
The best fitted suit jacket will, quite simply, not look right if the suit pants are not fitted right. The obvious place to start then is with your measurements, which in this case is your waist.
Professional suit fitters commonly use what is known as the “six-inch drop” when establishing your waist size. It’s a simple and accurate rule that works for most men: take off six inches from your suit jacket size to get your suit trouser waist size. For example, a 34 jacket means with a six-inch drop means a 28 waist size.
How to work out your suit pant waist size
Having established your trouser waist size, there are several things you can do to check that everything is sitting right when you try on a new pair of fitted suit trousers.
Ideally, there will be a half inch (1.2cm) of ‘excess’ space in your waist. A quick way to check is to hook three fingers inside the waist line. You’ll notice that correctly fitted suit pants sit steady even with three fingers in place.
If you can’t move your fingers then that means your suit pants are too tight, while suit pants that are too big start to fall down of their own accord — hopefully not while you’re in public!
If possible, put on a belt and, still standing straight and in front of a mirror, adjust the height of the beltline so that it sits comfortably on your hips. If for some reason the waist measure is too small, the seat of your pants can start pinch in from behind. Too large, and the back of your trousers feels (and look) loose.
What is the proper suit trouser length?
Once you’re happy with the waist size, check that you also have the right suit trouser length. Again, as with every aspect to suit fitting, there are some simple tricks to ensure your suit trousers are fitted to the ideal height.
To get the correct suit trouser height, allow for a single break in the fabric just as the material sits on the bridge of your shoes. On the back of the trousers, the fabric should sit just on the top of the heel.
Suit trousers that are too short will prominently reveal your socks — and no one wants that — while trousers that are too long will crumple onto your shoes and probably drag on the floor.
Suit trousers that are too long can almost certainly be taken up. Maybe that spouse or friend with a tape measure is also handy with a sewing machine?
Suit trousers that are too short, however, cannot be lengthened. If that’s the case, you probably need to get a new pair of fitted suit trousers.
And that’s it. You now know how to choose a perfectly fitted suit.
Of course, picking the perfectly fitted suit is merely one of many tricks in the superbly well-dressed gentleman’s repertoire. Other things you should give serious consideration consider to might include…
- How to pick the best shirt for a new suit.
- How to perfectly match a tie with a shirt.
- Picking the right shoes for a new suit.