To learn about suits in general visit this page: Suits. On this page however, we will talk about suits for men specifically. First, as discussed on the suits page. In clothing, a suit is a set of garments made from the same cloth, usually consisting of at least a jacket and trousers/pants.
Currently, suits are sold in roughly four ways:
- bespoke, in which the garment is custom-made by a tailor from a pattern created entirely from the customer’s measurements, giving the best fit and free choice of fabric;
- made to measure, in which a pre-made pattern is modified to fit the customer, and a limited selection of options and fabrics is available;
- ready-to-wear or off-the-peg (off-the-rack, in American English), which is sold ready to be tailored or finally as is;
- suit separates where jacket and trousers are sold separately, allowing a customer to choose the size that is best for him and limit the amount of alterations needed.
The two main cuts are 1) double-breasted suits, a conservative design with two columns of buttons, spanned by a large overlap of the left and right sides; and 2) single-breasted suits, in which the sides overlap very slightly, with a single column of buttons.
Good tailoring anywhere in the world is characterised by strongly tapered sides and minimal shoulder, whereas often rack suits are padded to reduce labour. More casual suits are characterised by less construction and tailoring, much like the sack suit is a loose American style.
There are 3 ways to make suits:
Ready made and altered “sizes” or precut shapes; a convenience that often is expressed over time with wrinkles from poor shaping, leading to distortion;
The made-to-measure suit that uses measurements, not shaping, to achieve things like style, lengths and horizontal measurements;
The custom, bespoke or tailoring-designed suit that has interim half-made fittings and is cut from an actual personal pattern.
Suits are made in a variety of fabrics, but most commonly from wool. Although wool has traditionally been associated with warm, bulky clothing meant for warding off cold weather, advances in making finer and finer fibre have made wool suits acceptable for warmer weather, as fabrics have accordingly become lighter and more supple.
Other materials are used sometimes, either alone or blended with wool, such as cashmere. Silk alone or blended with wool is sometimes used. For hot weather, linen is also used, and in (Southern) North America cotton seersucker is worn.
The main four colours for suits worn in business are black, light grey, dark grey, and navy, either with or without patterns.
Inside the jacket of a suit, between the outer fabric and the inner lining, there is a layer of sturdy interfacing fabric to prevent the wool from stretching out of shape; this layer of cloth is called the canvas after the fabric from which it was traditionally made. Expensive jackets have a floating canvas, while cheaply manufactured models have a fused (glued) canvas.
A fused canvas is less soft and, if poorly done, damages the suppleness and durability of the jacket, so many tailors are quick to deride fused canvas as being less durable, particularly since they may tend to permanently pucker along the jacket’s edges after some use or a few dry cleanings.
The jacket’s lapels can be notched (also called “stepped”), peaked (“pointed”), shawl, or “trick” (Mandarin and other unconventional styles). Each lapel style carries different connotations, and is worn with different cuts of suit. Notched lapels are the most common of the three are usually only found on single-breasted jackets and are the most informal style.
For black tie events, only jackets with pointed and shawl lapels should be worn.
The ability to properly cut peak lapels on a single-breasted suit is one of the most challenging tailoring tasks, even for very experienced tailors.
Necktie width usually follows the width of the jacket lapel.
Most jackets have a variety of inner pockets, and two main outer pockets, which are generally either patch pockets, flap pockets, or jetted (“besom”) pockets. A jetted pocket is most formal, with a small strip of fabric taping the top and bottom of the slit for the pocket. This style is most often on seen on formalwear, such as a dinner jacket.
A breast pocket is usually found at the left side, where a pocket square or handkerchief can be displayed.
Suit jackets in all styles typically have three or four buttons on each cuff, which are often purely decorative (the sleeve is usually sewn closed and cannot be unbuttoned to open). s.
The number of buttons is primarily a function of the formality of the suit; a very casual summer sports jacket might traditionally have had only one button, while tweed suits typically have three and city suits four.
Although the sleeve buttons usually cannot be undone, the stitching is such that it appears they could. Functional cuff buttons may be found on high-end or bespoke suits; this feature is called a surgeon’s cuff and “working button holes” (U.S.). Some wearers leave these buttons undone to reveal that they can afford a bespoke suit, although it is proper to leave these buttons done up. Certainty in fitting sleeve length must be achieved, as once working button holes are cut, the sleeve length essentially cannot be altered further.
A vent is a slit in the bottom rear (the “tail”) of the jacket. Today there are three styles of venting: the single-vented style (with one vent at the centre); the ventless style; and the double-vented style (one vent on each side). Dinner jackets traditionally have no vents.
Suit trousers are always made of the same material as the jacket. One variation in the design of trousers is the use or not of pleats. The most classic style of trouser is to have two pleats, usually forward, since this gives more comfort sitting and better hang standing.
The style is still seen as the smartest, featuring on dress trousers with black and white tie. However, at various periods throughout the last century, flat fronted trousers with no pleats have been worn, and the swing in fashions has been marked enough that the more fashion-oriented ready-to-wear brands have not produced both types continuously.
Other changing aspects of the cut include the length, which determines the break, the bunching of fabric just above the shoe when the front seam is marginally longer than height to the shoe’s top. Some parts of the world, such as Europe, traditionally opt for shorter trousers with little or no break, while Americans often choose to wear a slight break.
A final major distinction is made in whether the trousers take a belt or braces (suspenders). While a belt was originally never worn with a suit. Those who prefer braces assert that, because they hang from the shoulders, they always make the trousers fit and hang exactly as they should, while a belt may allow the trouser waist to slip down on the hips or below a protruding midsection, and requires constant repositioning; also, they allow, indeed work best with, a slightly looser waist which gives room for natural expansion when seated.
Suit trousers, also known as dress pants in the US, are a style of trousers intended as formal or semi-formal wear.
Equipped with all this information, you can now make a better choice when getting a suit.
At Sew Bespoke Clothing we specialize in bespoke suits for women, men and boys.
To learn more call us at (212) 686-1630