Not everyone can afford bespoke or even made to measure suit. You can also look good in your off the rack suit. When shopping for a suit you have to think about a few things. Will the desired suit fit my shoulders, my chest and is the rise of the pants OK. All other things can be altered pretty easily and your tailor should have no problems with them.
Some better shops can alter the suit for you but if you have your own tailor I would prefer to take the suit to him. It is always better to have a dependable tailor then to let this service be done by someone you don’t know and don’t trust.
If you do not have your own tailor you will have to do the alterations in the shop, if they offer this service. I am not saying it is a bad option but having your own tailor is the better one.
The perfect fit
When buying a suit, bring your dress shirt so you can try the suit and see how will it fit with the shirt. Wear some dress shoes also. When you find the right suit try the jacket on. The first thing that has to fit is shoulders. If they do not fit, dump the suit. Find another one. The jacket has to fit the shoulders perfectly.
The shoulder of the jacket has to follow the end of your shoulders. This is the most important thing. If it’s pulling over your shoulders than the jacket is too small. If there is a gap between shoulder ending of the jacket and your shoulder than it is too big.
Chest is also important although they can be altered. Button down your jacket and see if the X sign appears due to pulling of a material across the chest. If it does, go for a bigger size. If the jacket is a bit bigger in the chest, this can be altered.
Then you should try pants. The most important thing here is the rise. Since it is hard to alter, it must fit. If they fit right, buy the suit and visit your tailor. If it is not right, try another one.
Your tailor can do all other alterations. He can shorten the sleeves on the jacket, he can tailor the pants, shorten them if necessary, he can suppress your waist and make other alterations.
Lapels of your jacket should fit your shirt collar. Lapels should touch your collar and there should be no space between them as you move. When you sit, lapels should lie flat on your collar, when you stand up, it should be the same. What ever you do, lapels should not leave your shirt collar.
Sleeves are rarely right in off the rack suits but they can be altered easily. They should end at your wrist bone, just leaving 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch (1 – 1.5 cm) of your shirt sleeve to show. This is the easiest thing to do and is the first thing that is noticeable about your suit. If it is too long you will look bad and everyone will see it.
Most of the rack suits are box shaped and they need to be suppressed. This is big alteration but your experienced tailor should be able to do it. You will need to take in the jacket at the waist by adding darts. This will give you V-shaped looking torso which will look better than boxy one. This is more Italian styled but if you prefer straight waist you don’t need to suppress the jacket that much, which will look more traditional and British styled.
Today the shorter jackets are more popular. But since we do not follow the fashion you should go with the regular length and this length is measured by placing your hand down and the root of your thumb should be aligned with the end of the jacket. If it’s not, alter it. If it’s off for an inch or so you don’t need to sweat about it that much. It is not a big thing if your jacket is not of a perfect length
The waist should fit comfortably but not too tight. If you are buying pleated pants you should wear them on your waist. If the pants are flat front you should wear them at the hips. Try them out without the belt. If they stand still at your hips than they fit you perfectly.
Some prefer no break at the pants, some prefer quarter break, some like half break and some go for full break. No break is when the bottom of the pants just touches the top of the shoes, so there is no break in them. Quarter break is my choice. It breaks in front just a bit to cover the top of the shoe and first lace row and at the back trousers are flat and cover just the top of the heel. Half break is when the bottom of the pants cover first two rows of laces and touch the first third of the shoes heel. Full break, in my opinion, should be avoided cause it looks sloppy. Full break is when the bottom of the pants touches almost the bottom of the heel.
You should go for quarter break, which is more stylish, or half break, more traditional but also looks great. If you wear no break your socks will be visible almost always and you will have to wear some great socks. It is important to mention that if you go for quarter break or no break than your trousers should be narrower at the bottom to avoid flapping.
If you are wearing pleated pants than you should cuff your pants. If your pants are flat front, cuffs are not needed. Only time when you should cuff your flat front pants is if those pants are made out of winter, heavyweight fabric.
Always wear your dress shoes when altering the length of the pants.
This whole process is something that needs to be done since you will never find off the rack suit that will fit you perfectly. There will always be some alterations necessary, so find yourself a good tailor and stick with him. Now you will know what changes you want and your communication with him will be much easier.
If you have some questions that were not covered in this article, feel free to post them in the comments section and I will be glad to answer.