The QH Complete Guide To:
The Perfect Suit
Words by Jolyon Bexon, General Manager at No.1 Savile Row Gieves & Hawkes
Photography by Panos Lyris
It’s always good when trying to acquire a well-fitting suit that you start from the top and work your way down. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on the fit of the jacket waist thinking that the slimmer it is here will define whether it is right for you. The shoulders and chest are where the majority of the work in jacket is done. The shoulder padding, canvas and wadding are all in this area, so it is best to make sure this part of the suit fits well and therefore no work has to be done. Your shoulders should fill out the jacket nicely but in no way should you see your arms pushing the cloth outwards. There should be a straight drop from the top of the arm hole down the sleeve.
The chest area should also be comfortable with the lapels of the suit sitting flat against your chest and not breaking unnaturally. Sometimes when gentleman go to the gym and develop large chests there can be issues with this area and there can be a tight feeling under the arms. If this is the case then Private Tailoring or Bespoke is an alternative option to Ready to Wear.
Start at the top
The length of a suit is a common issue seen nowadays with many fashion brands opting for a very short jacket which doesn’t hide your seat. The point where the top or middle button does up should always be at the narrowest point of your waist, the belly button is a good indicator of this. A short jacket works on shorter men but when taller men wear a jacket of this length then the proportions look incorrect. The gentleman’s seat is on show and the lapels don’t lay flat on the chest due to the jacket trying to button up at a wide point of the body.
As a good rule the hem of the jacket should match the position of knuckle of the thumb when your arms are by your side. The sleeves should reach the narrowest part of your wrist and show a glimmer of cuff.
The silhouette of the jacket is very important and helps to compliment the figure of the wearer. It’s always good to invest a little time to get this area just right and the alterations are usually very straight forward. One thing to be aware of is that there will always be some room in the front of the jacket so don’t be alarmed with this, the fit of the jacket is under the arms. You should feel that the garment sits on you rather than hangs off you. If there are any signs of pulling or tension when the jacket is buttoned then this means the fit is too tight.
If the shoulder of the jacket fits but the waist is too tight then it means this particular cut isn’t working for you and you may need to go for a classic option or go for a Private Tailoring or Bespoke service.
The waist of the trousers can be a stumbling block for some gentleman. If the suit is sold with a set size trouser then there is usually a 6 inch drop from the jacket size (38 chest = 32 trouser). Most trousers can be taken in or let out by 2 inches so there is flexibility here, but if this is still too restrictive then opt for a suit that is sold as separates. Most good tailoring brands should have a core selection of suits sold as separates. If so then get two pairs of trousers to the suit lasts you longer.
Finally the length of the hem is a very important part of a suits look and character. If too short or long then it immediately looks like a poorly tailored or cheap suit. Some off the rack suits come with hems already finished and cut straight. A good suit should be unfinished when purchased and then hemmed to the customer’s exact specifications. Ideally with a subtle break at the front and then sloped round to the back of the show, just touching the top of the heel but no lower.