Ask A Tailor: Suit Styles, Fabrics, Terms and More

The right suit can change your perspective; it can instill confidence and help you tackle the most harrowing parts of the daily grind, from high-pressure presentations to important dates. In order to achieve this level of fit and style though, you need a trusted confidant who can help you lock down all the important details: a professional tailor. Whether you’re getting fitted for a made-to-measure suit or just looking for the right man to help you dial in the fit of your latest purchase, the right tailor is a critical person to have in your corner.

 

In addition to helping you look your best, the right tailor can guide you with a wealth of important information, and knowing exactly what to ask your tailor can mean the difference between a good suit and a great one. So, we enlisted the help of one of our favorite tailors, Manny, a master of his craft. Manny’s got 40+ years of experience and is ready to be your new tailoring yoda. With that, let’s meet Manny and field some questions, shall we? Welcome to Ask A Tailor.

Q: What style of suit should I ask for?
A: In short, it’s all about you, really. The answer to this one should stem from a combination of independent research and personal preference. Since there are so many variables that can go into your ideal suit, it’s best to get the clearest idea possible of your style quotient and overall comfort zone. What are your needs? Is this a week-to-week workhorse or a special occasion suit? Are you looking to push the limits in terms of style or just go with something simple and timeless?

A good way to break the ice with any tailor is by providing a photo or two of what you’re looking for most in a suit. Perhaps you liked an Italian-cut with wide lapels you saw in a magazine, or an American-cut, two-button on your favorite television show. Any visual examples will help go a long way in carving out a suit that works best for you. From there, don’t be afraid to solicit my advice. I’ve seen a thing or two in my day and know what works and what doesn’t.

Q: What's the difference between tailored, bespoke and made to measure?
A: Simply put, it’s a matter of varying degrees of personalization and customization. With tailored clothing, it’s usually a ready-to-wear or off-the-rack suit, that’s then taken to a tailor or alteration shop, to have minor changes done like adding cuffs, shortening hems, or taking in the waist. No matter how good that suit looks on you off the rack, I can always make it look its absolute best with a few affordable tweaks. You and the suit deserve the best.

As you move up the line, made-to-measure suits start with an existing pattern that is then altered to fit your body type and shape, based on measurements. From there, you can choose which fabrics and details you want. Most suit makers also use a combination of hand and machine sewing during the process. Whether you’re a tough off the rack fit or just looking for an exceptional pattern you can’t easily find, every man should experience the joy of a made-to-measure suit.

The highest level, bespoke, is like being able to customize a Ferrari. Every detail can be carefully mulled over to create a truly custom suit. Measurements are taken and full, custom patterns are created from scratch, specifically based on your measurements. A much pricier option, bespoke suits require far more fittings, a long timeline, and, typically, thousands and thousands of dollars (up to 10k or more) and are completely hand sewn.

Q: Is the type of fabric really that important?
A: Short answer: yes. The weight and type of fabric you choose can greatly affect when and where you’ll be able to wear it. A general rule of thumb is that the heavier the weight, the warmer the suit will be. Fabrics like wool (which can create flannel and tweeds) and similar blends are best used for fall and winter suiting, while lighter types like cotton, linen and seersucker, are best reserved for the spring and summer months. If you’re looking for something for year-round wear, a midweight or “tropical” wool is a great option. From there, consider your different weave options. Special weaves like birdseye, herringbone, hopsack, and others can give your suit some visual depth and interest (in addition to a great texture) that can turn a conservative, solid colored suit into something extra special.

Have a question for Manny? He's here to help. Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.