How Should a Suit Fit: Proportions Guide

by | Jul 24, 2016 | Foundations

Suits are one of those things that if you don’t know how to fit you can’t get away with it. A bad fitting suit is easy to notice and will ruin your appearance. It can do you more harm than good. On top of that there are so many suit sizes and cut variations that you can easily get lost without some basic knowledge. This is especially true if you want to buy your first suit.

The good news is that achieving a proper suit fit is not hard once you learn and apply a couple of rules that we’re going to cover in this article. So let’s begin, shall we?

Looking For The Perfect Suit Fit

First, when you go out shopping have in mind that it’s rare for a man to step into a ready-made suit and find it fits him correctly. That’s not only because manufacturer standards vary from one to another, but there are no two men with the same body proportions.

What this means is that you will need some patience, but it’s better to take your time than to be sorry. You can take a suit to a tailor for some fixes after buying, but if it’s not proportioned for your physique in the first place, no amount of tailoring can make it right. That’s why its cut and shape should be a primary consideration.

Now what’s the proper suit fit? The suit should have a trim line that follows the lines of your body. It shouldn’t be too loose or too tight and restricting your movements. You should have enough space to be able to move freely.

The major interactions to focus on are between the neck, shoulder, wrist, waist and ankle. They contain a network of lines and curves that have to be properly connected to one another in order to enhance the overall aesthetic. Let’s go into more depth and start with the upper part of a suit – the suit jacket.

The Suit Jacket – The Most Noticeable Thing in Your Outfit

When you put on a jacket assume a standing position that feels comfortable and natural. If you’re not in your natural position later the result may be distortion of the lines of the jacket when you stand at ease. The critical areas to focus on are the shoulders and chest, the armhole, and the length. They are the most important for a good jacket fit and also harder to fix later on.

The Shoulders Fit

A good suit starts with the shoulders. The seam of the shoulder must be at the point where your arm meets the shoulder. If it doesn’t fit well it will create a ripple effect on your shoulder line or down the arm. This usually signals that the jacket is too large in the shoulders area.

The line from the top edge of the shoulder down the arm must fall straight without any bulges. If there’s twisting on the side of the shoulder this means that the sleeve wasn’t attached at an angle that fits your body posture. If so just move on and try another jacket.

Note: Sharply angled jacket shoulders look artificial and should be avoided.

Chest and Waist

The jacket should be broad enough around the chest so that you feel comfortable when buttoned. To test it try sitting down with the jacket buttoned and see if it’s comfortable, if not return it and try another.

When buttoned the suit jacket should pull smoothly across your back without any strain. If it creates wrinkles around the button its too tight, just leave it and try another. A slight opening bellow the button is fine, but not so much that it creates a large triangle above your trousers.

Note: On a single breasted jacket button only the upper button. If it has three buttons button only the middle one, sometimes the upper one, never the lower one.

The waist should be slightly tapered, responding to the natural thinning of the body. This should happen without exaggerating the silhouette or creating discomfort.

The Right Length

The jacket must be just long enough to cover the curvature of the buttocks. If you’re very tall it should be slightly longer or it can make you look out of balance (cut in half). Look yourself in the mirror and see if the length feels right, just keep it covering your rear.

A second approach is to see if the jacket’s bottom is in line with your thumb’s end, but the drawback here is that the arm’s length varies from man to man.

If you go to a tailor for a fix don’t try to change the jacket length more than inch or two  or the pocket height will be thrown out of balance.

Note: It’s normal for a jacket to be slightly longer in the front in order to hang properly.


The Sleeves

The armhole of the jacket should be cut so that the lower part fits comfortably up into the armpit without being actually felt. This will allow you arm movement without the jacket being pulled out of place and gives a cleaner look.

The sleeve should taper down from the shoulder to the wrist and must never have enough space to flap around the wrist. It should end just where the wrist meets the hand when the arm hangs down naturally. Wearing longer sleeves can make your arms look smaller.

If you wear a shirt with the correct cuff and sleeve length it can help you when picking a jacket. The sleeve length should be enough to show a standard one-half inch (1.3 centimetres) of the shirt cuff but not more.

Don’t Forget The Collar

The jacket collar should curve smoothly around the back of your neck, resting on the collar of your shirt without leaving empty space, nor creating wrinkles. This is important, because a bad fitting collar can correspond to more serious problems like bad jacket construction or the jacket not being tailored to fit your posture. If you wear a shirt its collar should appear one-half inch (1.3 centimetres) above the collar of the jacket. The lapels should lie flat on your chest.

That’s all for the main proportions of the suit jacket. It wasn’t that hard, right? Now let’s get down to the trousers.

The Well Fit Trousers Can Greatly Complement the Overall LooK

The first rule here is that the trousers should extend the length of your jacket. Fitted jackets require slim fitting trousers while full-chested jackets require fuller-cut trousers. While this might not be a concern since usually you buy them together, it’s worth mentioning.

The Waist – Where Your Trousers Should Be

You should wear the trousers on your natural waist in order to create straight line down that extends the line of the jacket. This will also make the waist appear smaller. Your natural waist is just above the point where your hip bones end.

Always wear your trousers with a belt, or suspenders, it’s up to your taste. Never let them just hold on your hips, because it can create an unpleasant look around the waist, especially if you’re wearing a vest. Make sure the trousers are wide enough across the hips so that there is no pulling across the front pockets.

The seat should fit comfortably, without creating horizontal wrinkles under the buttocks or sags on the back of the tight. The crotch of the trousers should fit as high as is comfortable, without sacrificing freedom of movement. Some lesser fixes can be made by a tailor, but too much fixing can lead to displacement of the pockets and is to be avoided.

The Line

The line of the trousers should taper slowly from hip to ankle, following the natural contours of the body. The width of the trouser bottoms should harmonize with the scale of your shoes. If there’s too much difference between them your feet can seem either too big or too small. Big shoes worn with narrow bottom trouser will make the feet look ever bigger.

Make sure your trousers are long enough to make contact with the shoe and create a slight wrinkle like break, but not more than that. The back end can be slightly longer while staying above your heel. You can wear cuffed trousers to emphasize the line and add more weight and pull. If so, the cuffs should never be so exaggerated that they call attention to themselves and must be hammed on a slant so the back falls slightly lower.

Choose Your Cut

The two forms of cut you’ll encounter on trousers are pleated front and plain front. The pleated cut’s purpose is to enable the trousers to respond when a man sits and his hips naturally widen. While created for comfort this cut helps to break up the front width of the trousers. Which one of the two cuts you’ll pick is mainly up to preference.

Note: When fitting pleated trousers the pleat should not pull open when you’re standing.

Time to Wrap it Up

There it is, now you know how to fit a suit! Keep in mind that manufacturer standards as well as body proportions vary, so the chances are you may not find a perfect fit in the first shop you enter. You may not find it even in the first few shops you check, but don’t get discouraged. Knowing what exactly to look for you’ll eventually find it.

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  1. Job Interview Dress Code for Men - How to Dress to Get the Job - […] should always look for a good fit. It will be best to go for a bespoke or made-to-measure suit,…

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