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Take Your Suits to the Tailor!

Kind of an interesting visual to include with today's post.

A lovely, sunny Saturday in late April here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold, and I finally had the chance to take a Belvest 6/2 double-breasted suit and another, by Samuelsohn, into my tailor today for a few minor alterations after a lengthy delay.  Both are items I picked up for a song on Ebay during May of last year.  Perhaps not the best way to acquire wardrobe additions, especially with items like suits where fit is so important, but the prices were such that I couldn't pass 'em up when I came across them.  Since I remain able to fit things in the 40R or 41R range at the half century mark, purchasing attire like these without the benefit of trying it on first is not too much of a concern

Not me, but a photo I found online, illustrating how my tailor plans to address the fit of one of my suitcoats althoug he limited to pinning to just the rear side seams.

For those things that need some work once they arrive, like these two scores, it's off to the tailor!  Both suits fit reasonably well already, after the obligatory sleeve and inseam shortening last September, and I have worn the Belvest a few times since, but each suit still had some problems that needed to be addressed.  Hence today's visit.  Parenthetically, it is always amazing to me the number of men, of all ages, that I occasionally notice walking around in suits with pants and sleeves that are far too long.  They could look so much better if only they would have a few minor alterations made to the raw off-the-rack items, but there you are I suppose.

Anyway, the Belvest suit coat, while it looked fine from the front, clearly had too much material across the small of my back and between my shoulder blades in the upper back region.  What a pleasant surprise it was when the tailor simply pinned a bit in along the two rear side seams, and the coat instantly looked better all the way around.  The pants still lacked the amount of break I prefer, something between medium and not quite full, so that was very easy for the two of us to work out.  I also opted to abandon the cuffs (turn-ups) and go for a more formal non-cuffed look with a angled hem (called a Guardsman's Slant), which features some break in the front and hangs straight to the top of the shoe heals in the back to create an unbroken line.

Another visual aid that shows how a suit coat should fit when correctly adjusted for one's unique measurements.

The Samuelsohn suit was potentially more complicated, at least where the pants were concerned.  While I no longer enjoy the 31" waist of my twenties, thirties, and early forties, I was a bit distressed when the suit arrived late last spring, and I wasn't even able to button the blasted pants!  The suit had been advertised as a 40R with pants featuring a 34" waist after all.  Grrrrr.  Finding the time for routine exercise has been difficult at best since our son was born in 2009 (my wife and I used to be avid road bicyclists, sometimes managing 200 miles a week in the summers), and then there have also been the increased job commitments since our move to Michigan State University in 2015, but surely my girth has not increased that much over the last seven years!  I was at 33" late last fall when I hit 50, or as I call it, my latest 29th birthday.

Fortunately, my tailor came to the rescue when I asked him if anything could be done.  He informed me, after taking a look inside the waistband, that it and the seat of the pants had been taken in previously by about four inches.  Let both out, he suggested, so yours truly could close and wear the pants of the suit comfortably while preserving his middle-aged vanity?  No problem!  Same thing with the double-breasted coat, which was just a bit tight when my arms were raised.  Likewise, it too had been taken in quite a bit.  The tailor informed me that he could let out the rear side seams slightly to make everything more comfortable and allow the two side vents of the coat to hang straight over my seat and remain closed while preserving the overall shape of the coat including the sightly suppressed waistAll I have to do now is wait about two weeks before everything is ready, and I can try it on before paying the bill and bringing the suits home.  

Here's a tip for average guys who are new to this kind of thing, try everything on BEFORE you pay your bill and leave the shop.  Then, if something is still not quite right, you can have it addressed, although that might involve waiting another week or two before your alterations are completed.  I find that tailor's shops are busy placesTo begin with, there are fewer tailors than once was the case, so they always seem to be swamped with work.  That means, on a related noted, that people tend to find them, the good ones at least, and your new suit might not be the first in line.  Who knows?  You might just have to hurry up and wait as they used to say in the U.S. Army according to my late paratrooper grandfather, who always looked amazing in his suits, Monday through Friday, on Sunday mornings, and for most other special occasion throughout the year.  The last time I saw him in a suit, he was in his 80s and, while a bit stooped in his posture at that point, Granddaddy still cut an impressive figure.  It's all about how you carry yourself, I guess, and he still had it.

But what about the cost of alterations to a suit?  Well, I find that tailors seem to be all over the board with pricing based on my own experience and rates I have seen online from tailoring shops that maintain an internet presence in various major cities around the United States.  I suppose some guys out there might balk at spending a bit more over and above the price of a suit, though, and this explains the overly long sleeves and inseams that I lament in paragraph two above.  However, if you want to look your best when you don that new suit, that means you'll need to spend a bit more -- Yes, yes.  A First World problem. -- to have a few necessary alterations made before you actually wear the item in question.  Let's not be cheap here, fellasThere's no excuse for being a tightwad about things like this when you have already purchased a suit at a substantial savings either on sale, via an online forum like Ebay, or otherwise discountedGot it, Ebeneezer?  Come on.

So, after all of my blather here, what's the moral of the story?  Well, there are three actually.  One, off-the-rack suits look miles better when you have minor alterations -- sleeve length, inseam, and waist suppression at the bare minimum -- made BEFORE you wear them in public.  You'll still end up with some pretty damn good fitting (and looking) attire.  Two, when there are problems with fit, a tailor can make minor adjustments one way, or the other by about an inch or two, depending on the specific issue in question, to address the problem and make your suit look stunning.  Three, watch what you eat and, if at all possible, exercise regularly in some way -- cycling, swimming, martial arts, cross-country skiing, running, etc. -- to burn enough calories and maintain a trim physique.  There is just no getting around the fact that clothing in general fits better, even before alterations, than it might on more generously proportioned figures.

Of course, the best fitting suits are custom made for your precise physical dimensions alone.  Think Saville Row here, although it is possible to have equally good stuff  made elsewhere.  Even online operations, I have read, offer a viable third option in 2017 when it comes to suits made exclusively for your personal measurementsWhile one day I hope to add a bespoke suit to the ol' wardrobe, to be perfectly frank, cost is a consideration right now.  As I say though, a First World problem. 

Now, God bless those internet style personalities (and you know who you are) with household budgets apparently large enough to swing this on a regular basis.  But for others, things like student loan, car loan, and house loan repayments tend to take priority over bespoke clothing.  Sadly.  You know how it is.  Still, quality off-the-rack items that fit pretty well to begin with can be made to fit very well, and thus appear, even better after the careful attentions of an experienced alterations tailor.  I cannot stress that point enough for average guys looking to kick up their everyday style by several notches.  Take your suits to the tailor!

-- Heinz-Ulrich


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