If the suit fits, wear it! (The ideal fit of a suit.)

8th September

Do you know how a suit is supposed to fit? If not, this post is written for you. Up ahead I offer pointers to help with that. But first of all, let me say I can understand why the proper fit of a suit might elude you. We have become more and more informal in the office. Tons of men on the west coast, for example, show up to the office in jeans and casual shirts, while women sport a myriad of alternatives to what might be considered a uniform.

At the same time, the suit is still the number one item of dress for success, for courtroom attire and for job interviews. Men who enjoy dressing creatively should also have at least one dark colored suit in their wardrobes. Click here to read a TSBmen post showing a delightful way to wear a suit with a dashiki!

In my opinion, if you are going to wear a suit, it should fit very well. Have you noticed how an ill-fitting suit can “make or break” a person’s look?

IMG_0721 - Version 2

Pants which puddle project a look of slovenliness.

I recently observed a jury trial in which the key witness, an undercover informant, testified in what seemed to be an open and shut case. The defendant was videotaped selling the informant drugs and gave him a business card, complete with name and phone number. I had to suppress an urge to gasp when the informant walked into the courtroom. His flashy suit was at least a size too small; deep horizontal creases stretched across his back and at his crotch, and his sleeves and pants were inches too short!

I cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt that his shady presentation influenced the deliberations, but it certainly could not have helped to keep the jury from unanimously declaring the drug dealer “not guilty“.Jurors mentioned after the trial that they had doubts as to the informant’s character. While we’ve all been told as kids to not judge a book by its cover, it is human nature to do just that. The image we present does make a difference.

We have no way of knowing if the poor presentation of that key witness tipped the scale or not in the trial, but we can be quite certain that ill-fitting clothes make a poor impression. They can look sloppy, unprofessional and unflattering. This is the case, whether a person is swimming in clothes which are too big or if the clothing is so tight that deep horizontal creases are visible in the shoulders, back and/or crotch from the fabric getting pulled tight.

So, what is the solution? First of all, it is important that the garment matches your proportions quite well, and then, it can be a huge improvement to have it tailored.

With a few nips and tucks, you can effect a major transformation on an item of clothing and end up with it suiting you to a T. This is especially helpful if you find it difficult, as I do, to get a great fit with clothing purchased off the rack. If you lose a considerable amount of weight, re-fitted clothing will definitely be more flattering to your new shape. Also, most of us need a little tweaking to make sure sleeves are the right length and the hem is not too long. We may also want to taper the torso and/or pants for a trimmer appearance. When garments truly fit your body, you look more fit/slim, polished and professional.


My colleague Ed demonstrates a flawless fit with a shadow plaid suit (pictured above and below). The “shadow plaid”, by the way, is a modern style of plaid suit with muted tones – both understated and interesting. When I commented on the fit, Ed said, “Yes, there is this really amazing technology out there. It has to do with string and a needle.” Translation: he had it tailored.

I found out he purchased the suit at Nordstrom, and I can just hear in my mind the salesperson recommending free alteration services with their rewards program. If I don’t use those services for my own tailoring, I go to someone highly recommended on yelp or by word of mouth.


So, what exactly are characteristics of an ideal fit? Here are 6 tips regarding the jacket:

1) The shoulder area should lie flat, with a seam equal in length to the shoulder bone underneath it.

2) Sleeves should start at the underarms so that there are no ripples (or divets) at the top of the sleeve when your arms are resting are at your sides. This would mean the shoulder measurement is too small. Neither should there be lumps at the top of the jacket between the collar and sleeve, which would mean the shoulder allowance is too large.

3) If it is too tight in the torso, the jacket will flare out at the bottom and form an “X” shape when you are standing tall.

4) If it is too loose, the lapels will tend to stick out.

5) The jacket sleeves should be 1/4 to 1/2 inches above the end of the shirt to reveal just a hint of the shirt cuff.

6) The hem should hit the top of the curve of the buttocks. Beyond this length, it can look sloppy. Modern suit jackets tend to be more tapered and shorter.


Now here are 4 suggestions regarding the way pants should fit:

1) The seat should not show deep horizontal wrinkles, meaning the pants are too tight.

2) Nor should the seat sag. The inseam ought to fit or be fitted to avoid bagging at the crotch. This can look particularly unprofessional.

3) Tapering at the legs can allow the pants to nicely contour to the body for a neater look and trim silhouette.

4) Perhaps most importantly, it is best to have very little “break” in the pants. We see above that Ed’s hem just brushes the top of his shoes.

This short break is considered to be of “high fashion”, something which coincides with Ed’s fabulous necktie selection. I mean, doesn’t it look as if the tie was made for this suit?

I can’t tell how much this suit was transformed by alterations or if Ed simply selected a suit with a great fit, but I am positive any adjustments were well worth the investment. His presentation – with a precise fit and attention to detail – is both polished and professional, and we know how important impressions can be. This is yet another example of la bella figura in California. Bravo, Ed!



Receive our style, fashion, and beauty updates
straight to your inbox!