When a man shops for suits he has a process: Man picks a style from a few variations. Three-button or two? Pinstripe or solid? Flat-front or pleats? Man tries on his size. Man buys suit. Cue in-store tailor to make adjustments — a hem to the pants, a little off the sleeves, the shoulders, the waist, and so on. Man returns days later to pick up suit tailored just for him.
When a woman shops for a suit, it’s a different story.
Woman wades through an endless sea of styles and patterns. Woman selects suit and tries on her size. Woman buys suit and wears it to work the following day. The pants may need a little hem, but that’s the extent of our tailoring.
It’s a damn shame. We’ve all got a suit that doesn’t fit. The jacket’s too tight in the chest or shoulders, or the sleeves are too long. The pants are too short or narrow, the waist is too tight, the skirt too revealing. You get the point. We are all such different shapes and sizes — much more than our male counterparts — why would we ever expect to walk in, pull a size off the rack and be ready to go?
Worse still, while a men’s suit is designed to carefully hide his flaws, the woman’s suit does just the opposite. Our suits don’t hide anything, but rather emphasize our waist, hips, legs and boobs. If it’s not a proper fit, any flaw is there for the entire world to see.
And so, ladies, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of caring about fit. Of course, without an in-store tailor ready to wait on you, the whole process can be a bit of a pain.
But trust me, it’s worth it.
Finding a tailor is the hardest part, but do not be deterred. Start by asking the nice people at the store where you purchased your suit who they recommend (I was surprised to learn that my local BCBG refers its customers to the Stitch-It in the mall). Or ask a tailor at a reputable men’s store for a recommendation. The staff at Harry Rosen were happy to make suggestions when I inquired.
Now I’m not suggesting you take your $89 Suzy Shier suit to a tailor. Alterations can be pricey. If you are getting the works, expect to pay $60 to $100 or more, depending on where you go and what you need. That said, having flattering clothes that look as if they were made for you is surely worth the investment.
Hemming and hawing
Pants/Skirts ($30 to $50)
Think beyond the hem. If the seat is sagging, it can be taken in along the middle seam. If it gapes at the waist, have it taken in instead of pulling it tight with a belt.
Sleeves ($25 to $40)
If you’re wearing a long-sleeved blouse underneath, your jacket sleeves should end about a half-inch above the point where your hands meet your wrist. Otherwise the sleeve can go to the base of the thumb.
Getting the jacket altered to suit your frame will ensure you don’t have linebacker shoulders.
Style & Error is written by Precedent’s resident Fashionista — a Toronto lawyer who wants her colleagues to look and dress their best.