The act of purchasing a bespoke suit is considered a rite of passage for many a dapper gentleman. However, bespoke does, ultimately mean, that your suit has been created specifically for you, and so fit is of critical importance. The question of how should a suit fit should therefore be at the forefront of your purchasing decision. In this detailed guide, we cover how a suit should fit at key, critical areas, so that you can walk away confidently knowing that you have made a great investment in your wardrobe.
So you’ve made the plunge. You’ve indulged in buying a bespoke suit – the epitome of style, masculinity and class. Heck, you’ve even done your research on finding the perfect tailor. Fabrics have been chosen down to a T. You know exactly what you want. A Super 150. You know the style of suit. You’ve researched your options between American, Italian and English Cuts. You know what vents you want. You know how you want your pants to look. Flat Fronts. Pleats are out and flat fronts are in. Way in.
Yet there is one fundamental tenet of buying a bespoke suit that you are struggling with. What determines the perfect fit? How do you know you are getting something that fits you like a glove. After all, if it doesn’t pass the eye test, the rest of the details don’t matter nearly as much. You want to look like James Bond and Don Draper had a love child. A love child that knows everything about style, and then some.
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Well, with that said, here is our guide to finding the perfect fit, so you never approach a bespoke suit appointment with hesitation ever again. And for those of you looking to buy off the rack, knowing what to look for in a well fitted suit can help with the adjustments one needs to make.
In this article, we’ll go into the key areas of a suit fit, along with tailoring suggestions for those of you purchasing off the rack.
It all starts with the shoulder. The foundation of suit fit begins with your shoulders (collars technically, but not as important) and works its way down from there. If your suit is too loose or too tight at the shoulders, it’s going to be reflected in the rest of your jacket, and subsequently look. The jacket of your bespoke suit should fit smoothly across your shoulder line and should not be bumpy. There should be sufficient material over the shoulder blade to allow for fabric to extend from under the armhole, thereby providing flexibility.
As a rule of thumb, the shoulder seam that connects the jacket torso to the sleeve should run across the top of your shoulder. This sounds like a no-brainer, but too long or too short, and you will have definitive problems with your suit jacket. If its too long, you will look like you are wearing an oversized coat (aka NBA players from the 90’s and early 2000’s!), and if its too short, it will result in a strained jacket that will look like you bought it when you were two sizes smaller. Simply put your suit will look highly unprofessional, which is about as antithetical as you can come to the paradigm of a well fitted, bespoke suit (or off the rack, for that matter).
If you have more rounded shoulders, the shoulder seam should still end at the same place. However, you would need extra padding in the shoulders to make them appear less rounded.
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TDK Summary: When standing straight, ensure that your shoulder seams lay flat against your shoulder and connects the jacket torso to the sleeve at the edge of your shoulders. Please note that the shoulders of a suit can never be altered properly, so please ensure that this is the part of the fit that you get right!
A common misconception with shoulder fit, and one that needs to be alluded to in this guide, is the incidence of a shoulder divot. A shoulder divot refers to a dimple in your sleeve right below the shoulder, creating a dent in the silhouette of your ensemble. The common misconception is that this is caused by jacket shoulders that have been cut too wide. However, upon closer examination, it is caused by a mismatch of your ratio of arm hole width to your sleeve length.
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Your suit jacket collar should lay flat against your shirt collar, which in turn should sit well against your neck. All of these should touch lightly against each other, without creating any significant gaps. If gaps exist, it is an indication that the fit is too loose. If there is bunching up just under the jacket collar, it is indication that it is too tight.
If there are creases in the shirt collar, it is an indication that the shirt collar should be lowered. Your jacket collar should ideally expose approximately half an inch of shirt collar. This can be corrected by having your jacket collar lowered on raised in order to expose more or less shirt collar.
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The armhole of your jacket should be cut high, but not high enough that its cutting into your armpit and causing severe discomfort and distress throughout the day! The key aspect of the armhole is functionality. Does it allow you to move somewhat freely with your jacket on. At the same time, you do not want it cut so loose with excess fabric hanging around the area, so that you stretch like you would in gym clothes.
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TDK Tailoring Tip: If buying from a bespoke tailor or altering an off the rack suit, you want to take functional requirements into consideration. If you are highly engaged in public speaking, for example, and gesticulate to engage your crowd, a lower armhole will be needed, giving you freedom of movement with your suit jacket. The point is to still have it look dapper, while preserving functionality. That’s the tricky tradeoff that only a master tailor will be able to accomplish.
Ah yes, finally! The reason you bought your suit in the first place, to ornament your torso! Your suit jacket should flatter the natural curvature of your torso by caving in towards your lower back. Horizontal creases across the back of your jacket indicate that the jacket is too tight, while vertical creases are an indication of a jacket that is too loose. Furthermore, diagonal creases across your jacket indicate that it is too tight.
With your top button fastened, your jacket should comfortable hug your midsection without feeling and looking constricting. Your suit jacket shouldn’t be pulling at the button, creating an ‘X’. The ‘X’ in your jacket means that its too tight. Please note that when you are standing straight, there shouldn’t be a significant ‘X’. One may develop as you are moving and walking around, which is understandable. The key is to not have a jacket closure so tight that you are struggling to breathe!
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If your suit jacket is not tapered enough around your midsection, you can have your tailor take in the sides of the jacket to a closer body taper, giving you that lean, clean silhouette all suit lovers are striving for!
Your suit jacket lapels should be sitting closely to your chest and not be gaping open. Ideally, you want to see if the two sides of your jacket meet cleanly once it has been buttoned up. The lapels shouldn’t be hanging too loosely over your body, nor should the suit jacket be flaring up (too tight). As a general rule of thumb, your flat hands should be able to slip into your suit under your lapels, with your top button or middle button fastened. If you put your fist in, this should pull at the button (understandably so!).
TDK Summary / Tailoring Tip: You want your jacket closure to not feel constricting, nor do you want it to create an ‘X' while standing up. If your jacket is not adequately tapered to your body and is too loose, you will want to request your tailor to bring in the sides, so that you get that ideal, streamlined silhouette!
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Your suit jacket’s second button from the bottom should sit just above your belly button, never below. As a general rule of thumb, your second button should be no more than an inch above your belly button, and never below. Else, the suit jacket will throw your body’s perceived proportions out of whack, and you’ll look out of place.
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Sleeves & Sleeve Length
Your Jacket Sleeves should hang straight, with no visible horizontal creases forming on them. Horizontal creases are a clear indication that your jacket sleeve is not aligned with the wearer’s arm.
Your Jacket Sleeve Length should be long enough, where it reaches the bottom of your palm, but at the same time exposes approximately ¼ to ½ an inch of your shirt cuff. A clear way to discern this is – with your arms extended by your sides, bend your wrist backwards so that your palm faces the ground. Your jacket sleeve should rest approximately ¼ to ½ an inch above your wrist bone.
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TDK Tailoring Tip: If your jacket sleeves are too long, this is an adjustment that a tailor can easily make. Therefore, err on the side of buying a longer jacket sleeve if you are unsure. If your jacket sleeve is short in excess of 1.5 inches, I would forego the jacket for a new purchase, as there won’t be enough fabric to let it out much further.
Your Suit Jacket length is of paramount importance, as it will set perceived body proportions of your torso to your lower body. Too long or too short, and your body proportions are going to look out of whack. Where a suit’s jacket length stands in relation to your palms when your arms are fully extended by your sides is a good test of appropriate jacket length. The hem of the jacket should sit approximately around the middle of your palm or just past where the fingers meet your palm.
Ideally, your jacket should end around your mid-crotch area if you are under 5’9. Any taller than that, and your jacket should rest in your mid to lower crotch region.
Looked at from a different perspective (literally!), a well made suit jacket should fall past the waist and drape over the top of the curve formed by one’s rear side. An ideal fit would end at the point where the man’s rear side starts to curve back inwards.
If the hem of the jacket is sitting on the top of your backside, with a small flare in the back, it is clearly too short. Conversely, if the jacket length is longer than your arms, then it is definitively too long! In such cases, the hem of your jacket will need to be taken in.
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TDK Tailoring Tip: If your jacket length is too long, the hem can be adjusted upwards without too much fuss. However, don’t take it in so much that your trouser front pockets start to look out of proportion! Therefore, in general, an adjustment of an inch or two should suffice.
Extra Suit Jacket Details
Vents should hang in a straight line perpendicular to the floor. If your suit jacket vent is slanted, this is an indication that it has been worn too tight.
Your jacket pockets should lie flat and smoothly against your suit jacket.
Dress Trousers are constructed to sit at the waist, which can range anywhere from your natural waistline to just above your navel. You want to ensure that your trousers have enough room when standing up, sitting down or cross legged (unless you are French!). If horizontal creases persist in your pants, this is an indication that your pants are too tight.
In general, a slim fit pair of trousers looks best with a suit, with a skinny fit reserved for a more alternative look. For a classic but well fitted look, you want your trousers to fit close enough so that you can pinch just an inch of fabric around them when worn.
Regarding the length of your suit trousers, they should brush against the top of your shoes, subtly exposing them. Trouser break refers to the material that creases where your pants meet your dress shoes. Too much break, such as a half or a full break, and you’ll ruin the silhouette of your ensemble. No break, and you’ll look like your trying to hard. A quarter break or somewhere around there is enough to show that there is an element of imperfection in your suit – if ever so slight, that makes you paradoxically look more dapper, and certainly more relatable!
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The Seat refers to the backside, more commonly known as the ‘butt’. In bespoke parlance, the term ‘seat’ is used, as an anatomical euphemism. Classy heh? Employing common sense here, one would obviously not want their seat area to be excessively saggy or super tight.
Given that there really is nothing a tailor can do to adjust the backside of your pants, you should ensure that your off the rack suits fits your backside as snugly as possible. With the bespoke option, you want to emphasize the importance of the fit on your rear side with your tailor (though any respectable tailor would know the importance of this!).
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Instead of providing a typical summary and re-hashing everything that has been eloquently written above, I thought it would be best to focus on top mistakes men make when discerning the fit of a suit. Often, it’s better to not what to not look for than what to look for:
1. Suit Jacket chest breaks / gapes – The chest of the coat should always follow the shape of the wearer’s chest! A gaping chest is not an ideal look, caused when the chest of the jacket is either too tight or the shoulders don’t fit right. If this is a problem when trying an off the rack suit, you should either switch to another retailer or consider the option of going bespoke.
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2. Suit Jacket Too Short or Too Long – An inappropriate suit jacket length will either have your suit looking like an evening gown or showing too much seat and crotch. In general, you want your jacket to end at mid crotch if you’re 5’9 or under, or mid to low crotch if you are any taller than that, to ensure that your perceived body proportions are not out of whack!
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3. Jacket Sleeves Are Covering Your Knuckles – Your Jacket Sleeve should rest roughly at the base of your wrist, with a ¼ to ½ inch allowance above the wrist. If your jacket sleeves are tailored properly, along with your dress shirts, you will always reveal the proper, exquisite amount of shirt cuff!
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4. Dreaded Collar Gap – One of the cardinal sins of bespoke tailoring, a collar gap (between your jacket collar and shirt collar) is a clear indication that you are wearing an ill fitted suit. The suit jacket collar should always lay flat and clean against your shirt collar.
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5. Pant Pockets Provide Unsightly Popping – Your suit pant pockets should not be popping in an ungodly fashion. The pockets on a trouser should lay flat and clean against the side of a man’s hip. If your pant pockets are popping your pants will not fit like they should.
Popping pockets occur when the seat is too tight or the thigh area doesn’t offer enough room. Hence, the tighter the fit, the bigger the pop on the pants. This is an important consideration to pay attention to, as it is not something that can be easily rectified by your local tailor. Therefore, it is extremely important that your pockets lay flat when purchasing off the rack, and should definitely be the case if you have opted for the bespoke route.
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6. Pant breaks demonstrative of a 90’s banker – No matter how well your suit is fitting, excessive break on your pants will result in a less than streamlined look, to say the least. Your trousers should fit clean through the thigh and somewhat narrow at the bottom - relative to your build. They should also fall clean against your shoe, with minimal break present. Moreover, your pants should never break at the back of your shoes.
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And that’s a wrap for this one! I hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it!
If you are looking to get the ultimate bespoke suiting experience, I highly recommend trying out our favorite tailors, The Signature Collection! With trunk shows made 3 times a year with a range of fabric swatches available, you will not be disappointed!