The Guy's Guide to Shopping for a Custom Suit
How to tackle made to measure suiting
Suit shopping is often one of men’s biggest style challenges. Shopping off the rack is budget-friendly but can be hard to find a perfect fit. And once you’ve taken your pick to a tailor, the alterations needed often blow your wardrobe budget altogether.
That’s why many guys turn to custom suiting. In recent years, more and more affordable options are popping up, with companies like Indochino, J.Hilburn, and Alton Lane offering made-to-measure suits at a fraction of what it used to cost to get a suit made just for you. Even if you suit up only a couple times a year, it’s worth investing in a suit..and yourself.
A few things to consider when getting your first custom suit:
1. Wear snug fitting clothing to your appointment.
For measurements as accurate as possible, tight fitting clothing is key. If you have things in your pockets, remove them before the measuring tape comes out.
2. Skip the functioning button hole option on the sleeves.
Even though functioning button holes scream style, it’s not wise to have your first MTM suit created with them. Why? Because it is a very costly alteration, and with your first custom suit, you’ll still probably need some tweaks to get everything just right. Lengthening or shortening sleeves on non-functioning button sleeves is quite quick and inexpensive to have done. So save this feature for your second MTM suit (making sure whoever created your first one accounts for the alterations in the second one). Once your measurements are locked in, you can customize to your heart’s desire.
3. It’s better to be too big than too small.
If you’re measuring yourself (with the help of a friend, of course), ensure the tape measure is not held too closely to the body, and if you’re in between numbers, round up rather than down. Remember: It is always easier to take things in than to let things out.
4. Go for a versatile, season-agnostic style.
While you may be presented with a seemingly endless supply of swatches to choose from, stay simple with your first suit. You are going to want to wear this bad boy as much as possible, so choose a fabric and color that are classic and versatile. I’d recommend navy blue or dark grey in a medium weight fabric.
5. Know the difference between half canvassed, fully canvassed and fused suits.
Most of the time when you’re having your suit made, you’ll have the option of having it canvassed or fused. The main difference here is going to be how long the suit lasts and how it lays on your body. Although more expensive, a canvassed suit is going to lay nicer on your body, allow for more movement, and will last longer as the fabrics are not fused (glued) together, and are less likely to deteriorate with dry cleaning or bubble when wet.
6. Do your research!
Finding a maker who has good reviews is important. Another thing to look for is a company that will reimburse you for some or all alteration costs is key (many do up to a certain amount). It is quite likely that a few adjustments will have to be made to the suit once you receive it, some of which might be costly. For example, if the shoulders and/or the body needs to be taken it, it will be more expensive than if the sleeves, waist or pant hem need to be adjusted.
7. Keep track of all adjustments made to the suit.
If you intend on ordering another, it is wise to make note of anything you changed on the first so that your second has a higher chance of coming back perfect!
8. Manage your expectations.
For the most part, a custom suit is going to fit you better than an off-the-rack-suit when you first try it on, simply because it was made for you. Do expect to have to have minor alterations made, however. Simple pant or sleeve length adjustments are common, and if the suit company’s idea of ‘slim fit’ does not align with yours, you may have to have the pants tapered.
Have you purchased a custom suit? If so, share your experience in the comments below!
Lauren Larsen is a Canada-based personal stylist who has been helping guyshere.