Men's Suiting Fit Explained!

by Kate Powell in , , ,


This one is for the gents (or, the ladies who buy and/or care about their clothes)! Men's suiting - and by suiting I mean suits, dressy trousers, and blazers - can be a tricky and confusing styling genre. Much has changed in the suiting world in the past ten years. If you are like me, your dad probably wore loose pleated trousers and boxy jackets and probably still does (I actually have no idea why anyone ever thought that was good look but I'm going to guess it had something to do with looking beefier). But somewhere in the 2000's when your dad wasn't looking, pants got slimmer, jackets shorter and more fitted, shirts actually mimicked the shape of the body rather than the shape of a bag of potatoes. Hallelujah! 

But just because I am pretty excited to see the men of New York looking tall and trim, that doesn't mean that everyone is as psyched. I can't tell you how many times I've been standing in front of a dressing room mirror with a male client while he tugs and pulls at his new clothes while making the same face I make when having to take cough syrup and muttering, "ugh, I think this is too small?" It's not too small. Most guys who are transitioning into modern cuts have never felt fabric against their skin and the change is uncomfortable.  

But on the flip side, every single one of my clients who has accepted the change and dared to try a new look has been rewarded with compliments galore, praise from their wives, dates for the single guys, and general you-look-awesome looks from total strangers. Win.

But what does that look like? How do I know if I'm doing it right? Do I look like a 12 year-old hipster? Should I be able to move my arms? Oh god, where are my pleated pants??

Ok, ok, I get it, this is not easy but that's why you have me, your trusty neighborhood stylist to guide you through. Let's talk suiting fit first but check back soon for guides on how to find the right denim, how your shirts should fit, tailoring, suiting construction and so much more! Read on, grasshopper...

The infogram above is something I put together to demonstrate a bunch of styling points...

  1. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE "SKINNY" TO WEAR SLIM CUTS!!!! I consider getting this tattooed across my forehead because it is the thing I hear from both men and women at almost every appointment - "I can't wear that slim cut, I'm not slim" - shut it. Let's take our infogram above as a perfect example of my point. The gentleman in this photo is by no means heavy but his frame is not ultra thin either. However, when his clothes fit his body he looks taller, thinner and way more stylish. A slim cut just means that the item in your size will be cut with less extra fabric.
  2. Lapels and ties: once again, slimmer in the name of the game. Wide ties and lapels draw the eye out toward the shoulder making you look broader and wider. And broad and wide also translates to shorter. It's a weird visual trick but it's true.
  3. Jackets: a jacket will have three elements that you should look at. Firstly, a constructed shoulder should end at your natural shoulder and not extend further than that. Your jacket should be darted in the body - meaning you should have seams on the torso that allow the jacket to fit close to the body rather than wide and boxy through the waist. Lastly, your jacket should be short enough that when you arms are resting at your side, you can lightly cup the bottom edge in your palm without it bunching. A shorter jacket makes the leg line appear longer and therefore you look taller.
  4. Pants: once again there basically three elements you should look for. The first is a flat front pant. Pleats have really fallen by the wayside and look very dated (unless you are so cool that you wear them ironically, in which case, this probably isn't the post for you). Secondly, look for buzz words such as "slim," "modern," or "fitted" when trying pants styles - "skinny" will probabaly be very tight whereas "relaxed," "classic," or "traditional" fit will probably be back in that dangerous dad-pants realm. Lastly, watch the break. The break of your pant is basically how much extra fabric pools at the top of your shoe - the rules are different for casual pants but for suiting and trousers, you want a very small break. If you pulled the back of the pant straight down (and by you, I mean someone else because you need to be wearing the pants ...), it should end about a quarter inch above the ground. Some very modern styles encourage no break at all (see below) but for a more day-to-day/traditional vibe, stick with my rule.
Photo via Black Lapel

Photo via Black Lapel

I look forward to hearing your comments and questions. Now go forth and get hit on you babe, you!