Not all custom suits are made equal. Here are nine factors that can make or break a tailored suit:
1) A Great Tailor
Don’t cheap out. Whether you’re going custom, or simply tweaking your off-the-rack suit, it’s always worth your time and money to visit a good tailor who knows how to handle a suit.
Do some research. Ask around to find out which tailors in your community specialize in custom garments or are known for their superior work with suits. Once you’ve discovered a few established names, go check them out to experience–first-hand–the type of work they’re doing and if it matches your personal style. Remember to ask if your clothes are going to be tailored/made in-house, or whether they’re going to be shipped from another location. Also, don’t be afraid to ask if your clothes are going to be stitched by hand or by machine. A good tailor won’t be afraid to answer any important question and should be willing to work one-on-one with you to achieve the best look.
Tip: Take a look at the suit your tailor is wearing. If it’s similar to the type of suit you see yourself in, he’s probably the right fit for you.
2) The Right Fit
Be honest with yourself. Don’t invest in a suit that’s too tight or too loose. There are a bunch of rules in the handbook when it comes to proper fit, but it’s best to just consult with your tailor what the best fit is for your body shape when actually wearing the suit. If you’re still unsure if your suit fits you properly, check out this simple guide from Esquire.
Tip: Try and avoid trends when it comes to the fit of the suit. Invest in something that’s classic and fits you properly, instead of something that will look ridiculous a year from when you purchased it.
3) The Perfect Colour
You can buy any type of suit and tweak it a number of ways until it fits you (almost) perfectly. These days, guys are setting themselves apart by selecting the perfect colour for their suits – something that highlights their personal features.
Chances are, your tailor has a variety of fabric swatches for you to look through and choose from. A good tailor will have knowledge of the perfect fabric options for your skin tone and daily routine. An even better tailor will know the dress code of your respective industry and help you pick the best cloth to make you look the part. If you have an idea of the look you’re going for, bring a picture of the suit with you when you visit your tailor and then consult with him/her on how you can achieve a look that works for you.
Tip: If you’re investing in one of your first custom suits, avoid fabrics in trending colours (i.e. forest greens, electric blues, oxbloods). Navy, Grey and Black will probably be your best options as they are the most wearable.
4) The Right Hemlines
This is where a lot of guys get it wrong. Often times, you’ll see a guy wearing a killer suit with his trousers gathering at the bottom because his hemlines are too long. In other cases, his sleeves are too long, making his jacket look too big for him. These are easy fixes that are also fairly cheap – just be sure not to go too short! If you’re unsure on where to make the cut, refer to GQ’s The Style Guy here and here.
Tip: Recent trends in men’s fashion call for shorter hemlines in the trouser (the cropped look) and can end up looking ridiculous. Stick to classic hemlines that work.
5) High-quality Stitching
Stitching comes down to handmade vs. factory made. Handmade garments will be of better quality, but will cost more. Factory made garments might cost less (depending on the brand), but the stitching will start to unravel with wear and care, and, ultimately, won’t last as long.
Tip: If you’re taking the bespoke route, make sure that your suit is being locally handmade by your tailor. If not, then the suit might not fall under the category of bespoke.
6) Good Lining
Suit linings are meant to cover up the bones of your suit, but also add comfort and a bit of structure. Usually, the options range from natural (silk) to synthetic (polyester, acetate, etc.), each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Consult with your tailor what materials are going to be used inside your jacket, and how much of your jacket is actually going to be lined! Read Antonio Centeno’s guide to good suit lining here.
Tip: Here’s where you can have a little fun – whether you have a dress code or not! Don’t be afraid to experiment with colours and patterns when it comes to the lining of your suit.
7) Extra Material
Bespoke and made-to-measure options will have extra “hidden” cloth within the trousers and the jacket for you to make use of in the instance that your body fluctuates in weight. Ask your tailor about these options and how they will be incorporated into your custom garment.
8) Quality fabric/cloth
Suits range in price depending on the quality of the fabric. The thread count is what differentiates the feeling and fineness of a cloth; the higher the thread count, the higher the price. If you wear suits on a daily basis and have some extra money to spend, then go for a higher thread count (300’s). If you’re wearing your suit occasionally, then opt for a lower count (100-200’s). Ask your tailor about the difference between fabrics with varying counts and decide which one will be the best investment for you.
Tip: Different fabrics go hand-in-hand with different seasons. Ask your tailor which fabric will work best for you, depending on where and when you’ll be wearing your suit.
9) Small Details
Lapels, gorge lines, pockets, buttons and other little features of your suit are just as important as picking the fabric. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments and test different options/proportions to find the best possible look for your individual frame – a good tailor will be happy to help you through this process.
Tip: When designing a suit with your tailor, ask if they have a house style and how this will reflect in the details of your suit. If you don’t like their style, change it to fit your preferences, or move on to another tailor.