Custom Suiting – A Beginners Guide

I was talking to a friend the other day and he alluded to the fact that when he wears a suit that he feels like a million bucks (I also believe this is true of many men). However, he followed that up with the fact that some of his suits need to altered, because – to paraphrase my friend - 'If you are wearing a suit, it is best to look as good as possible – and that means it fits.'

Nothing ruins a beautiful suit like a poor fit. I have seen some lovely suits that have amazing fabric, great construction and stunning details that looked like crap on the wearer. These suits would have cost the wearer well over $1500, but they did not spend the extra $100 to have it nipped and tucked. While many men will be able to wear off the rack suits with little need for major alterations, some of us have a hard time fitting in to that mould. I myself, as I sit here in my favourite navy chalk stripe double breasted flannel, have a difficult time fitting in to many off-the-rack choices. I have an 8” drop, narrower shoulders, and a full chest. Many suits where the jacket fits well and only needs minor alterations, will have trousers that are 2-4” to large at the waist and a seat that is not flattering on my small physique. Suit jackets will sometimes be cut with impossibly high armholes that restrict the fit and can make the suits quite uncomfortable on me. Or the complete reverse, a mid section that needs to come in 4-6”. Some of these alterations can be done, but can really effect the look of the jacket, possibly throwing off its carefully calculated balance. Many other things can come up, but those are my main complaints. It made it hard for me to find something that would fit me and flatter my frame. It made me eschew wearing suits and opt instead for a sport jacket and a pair of odd trousers. This all came to an end when I discovered that I could have them made!

Fit is one of the biggest advantages of “Made-To-Measure” or custom made suiting. It allows for those minor variations that come with the human body to be fixed and smoothed over, while taking advantage of the wearers strengths. You will also be exposed to the seemingly endless collection of fabrics and details. This is really where custom clothing comes in to its own. Due to the decline of tailored menswear, as many men have turned in their suits and sport jackets for more comfortable attire, manufacturers cut their offerings in favour of safer bets. This has begun to change, but it is still the norm....unfortunately. Having your clothes made for you allows you to partake in a wider array of fabrics and details. Anything from a double breasted flannel for those blustery winter months or perhaps an all patch pocketed, half-lined linen, silk & wool for summer? Within reason, your choices are endless. It can be a slippery slope, so watch it. Once you go custom, you will not go back.

Now, the internet has given us many a great thing, and one of these has been the online suit shop. I have dealt with them, and friends I know have used them too. While the pricing and ease may seem convenient to many, the product that you get will be based on your ability to take and transmit accurate measurements. There has been many horror stories that can be read from doing a basic search for 'XYZ Online Suit Co.' Too tight, too loose, not even remotely close to your body shape, not what you ordered, etc. Most will allow you to return the suit if it is unacceptable, but this adds lots of time and expense to your transaction. These add up quickly. If you are not a clothes looney like myself, the process can be daunting and the end product unacceptable. One of my other beefs with this process is you do not get to touch and feel the fabric before you buy, nor the construction of the garment or the findings used. You can discern some of this information from blog posts or other reviews on the internet, but these at times do not suffice. Caveat Emptor basically.

Do not underestimate the value of a knowledgeable person taking your measurements and walking you through the process of building and purchasing a custom garment. Remember, this is something (if of good quality) that you will have for a while. It is imperative that it is something that you are happy with and that fits you perfectly. And in case you haven't figured out where this is going, we just happen to have some gentleman on premises that have that requisite skill set ;) Also, for the next two weeks, we will be extending to customers 20% off any Coppley or S. Cohen Custom garment that they purchase. Maybe it is time you try custom. - you will not regret it.

Jason Byron Reynolds

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