How Your Suit Should Fit You
Assessing the ‘proper’ fit of one’s suit can sometimes come across as complicated, rule-bound, and overly traditional — especially to those not as versed or experienced in wearing tailoring. And for that reason, we’re big advocates of personal expression, contemporary styles, and modern interpretations of the classic suit.
However, we also know that there are a few universal truths of how one’s suit or tailored garment should fit that never really go out of fashion. These truths are in place to optimize a suit’s comfortability while also creating the most flattering silhouettes for the suit’s owner, which are two facets of fit that will always be in style.
To help you determine whether you’re on the right track to finding your perfectly-fitting suit, here are a few useful tips and tricks.
Finding Your Shoulder Line
Ideally, you want your jacket’s shoulder — where the armhole meets the top of the sleeve — to sit right at your body’s natural shoulder line.
If your jacket’s shoulder is too large, it will appear like it’s falling off your shoulder. One quick trick to check if that’s the case is the ‘wall test.’ Stand side-on to a tall, flat wall (that’s 90° either side) and slowly lean into it shoulder-first. If the first thing that collides with the wall is your jacket’s shoulder piece then your jacket is likely too large on the shoulder. Ideally, you want your jacket’s shoulder and the meatier part of your deltoid to collide into the wall at about the same time.
If your jacket’s shoulder is too small, the fabric will bunch up along the top of your trapezius muscles and feature a telltale dimple right at the top of your deltoids where the suit’s shoulder seams meet. It’s pretty simple to tell if this is the case, just look out for overly bunched-up fabric collecting in this area that prevents your jacket from sitting evenly and elegantly across your shoulder — not to mention feeling quite restrictive and uncomfortable.
Preventing ‘Collar Gap’
Another subtlety of how your suit fits concerns how (or if) your shirt collar tucks underneath your jacket’s lapels, which includes some easy-to-miss details that not everyone picks up on. That’s why this particular element often separates the pretenders from the professionals when it comes to wearing tailoring.
This detail is mainly dictated by two things — how your lapels lay against your chest and the shape and size of your shirt collar underneath your lapels.
One dead giveaway of an ill-fitting suit is a ‘puckering’ or ‘levitating,’ lapel line — essentially two tailoring terms for when a jacket’s lapel bends, folds, or stands off its owner’s chest. Usually this is a byproduct of a jacket fitting too small or when the interior canvassing and construction of the jacket isn’t well suited to the wearer’s build. Puckering of the lapels are made especially noticeable when jackets are buttoned up as the two lapels are then pulled even tighter across the wearer’s body.
Of course, sometimes it’s not the jacket’s lapels that are at fault for failing to cover the ends of a shirt collar either. Sometimes this ‘collar gap,’ as it’s commonly referred to, is simply caused by the shirt collars not being cut long enough to slide underneath the top of a jacket’s lapels. While most shirt collars tend to fall underneath a jacket’s lapels when worn open, the real test to help identify any collar gap issues is when a shirt is fully buttoned up and worn with a tie.
Optimizing Button Stance
Your ‘button stance’ is another fancy tailoring term for where your jacket buttons up. Here it’s important to remember that different cuts of jacket — I.e., single breasted, double breasted, 3-2 rolls, etc. — will have different recommendations for which buttons look best done up.
However, the common rule of thumb is that the button(s) you do button up should come together at your natural waistline. This is, generally speaking, located around your navel, where the slimmest part of your torso is.
Once buttoned, your jacket should fit as closely as comfortable around this section of your torso without showcasing any noticeable ‘pulling’ of the jacket. ‘Pulling’ refers to when fabric is stressed around the button stance when fastened together, causing the jacket’s surrounding fabric to bunch up and look as though it’s being ‘pulled’ together by force. This typically occurs when a jacket is cut too tightly around its owner's stomach.
Avoid this and your jacket should look neat and tidy though comfortably snug around your midsection while buttoned. Try to create a flattering window of negative space between the waistline and sleeves of your jacket, as this will create a stronger, more athletic looking V-shaped silhouette on your upper body.
Strengthening Silhouettes with Jacket Length
One tell-tale sign that a gent’s got his sartorial proportions out of alignment is that his jacket’s hemline (read: bottom) doesn’t quite fall at the right height.
When wearing tailoring, a jacket’s length is one of the most important aspects to get right from the get-go. It’s not only inadvisable to alter, but it also has a significant impact on your perceived proportions.
Finding the correct cut-off point at the bottom of a jacket works to create a visually pleasing harmony between the top and bottom shapes of your silhouette. If your jacket looks too short, it will cause your silhouette to appear more pear-shaped. If your jacket looks too long, then your silhouette will make you appear much shorter than you actually are.
The happy medium lies somewhere near the bottom of the crotch of your trousers — when jackets are cut around this length, give or take a few centimetres up or down, you’ll have visually equal proportions between your upper and lower halves. When this happy medium is achieved, it works to create a perfect symmetry between your upper body and lower body, and in-turn, visually elongates your leg lines to help you appear taller.