Truth be told, the greatest factor to killing it in a suit isn’t how much you spent on it, where you got it, or even how you decide to style it. Looking great in a suit boils down to how well that suit fits. More importantly though, the key to getting that exceptional fit is getting it properly tailored. That's right, buying a well-fitting suit is only step one and a little tailoring will not only take your suit to the next level but really maximize that suit’s potential to make you look awesome. Yes, it is important to buy your suit in the correct size, but it should also always be tailored specifically for your body in a number of different areas. A little bit of time and yes, a little bit of extra money spent on customizing the suit to your body will make the difference between you appearing like a man in a suit vs. a stylish man in a suit. Here are the basic alterations that you should make before rocking that new suit.
It doesn’t matter if you paid $200 or $2,000 for your suit if you don’t have the fit dialed in on your jacket you’re really missing out. Before you get to tailoring, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the proper size and the fit on the shoulders is appropriate for your frame. No matter how good your tailor is, short of completely reconstructing the jacket (don’t do it), minor shoulder alterations are a myth and no amount of tailoring can fix a poor shoulder fit. From there, you want to focus on creating a good shape by bringing in or letting out the sides of the jacket. You will want the jacket to fit trim in the chest and stomach area with a slight bit of tension at the top button. Proper jacket tailoring and a little waist suppression will take your jacket a long way and give you that nice v-shape (even if you're not V-shaped).
While your jacket may fit you like a glove in the shoulders, it’s highly possible that your sleeves will be too long. It’s an important step to have the sleeve length altered to the appropriate length. A sleeve that’s too long is just going to make your suit look sloppy and oversized. Your sleeves should hit just above your wrist and you should tell your tailor you'd like to show between ¼” and ½” of sleeve cuff. Don't forget to bring your favorite dress shirt with you to the tailor just to make sure.
Waist and Seat Adjustments
Let’s face it, 98% of people aren’t a bang-on fit right off the rack, that's why these adjustments are so important. This is why the waist and seat should always need a few adjustments. The tailor can always bring in or let out the waist and seat slightly but you don’t want to be planning on anything more than ½” - 1”. Both the waist and seat should fit snugly but not so tight you’re going to feel uncomfortable sitting at your desk all day.
Pant Width and Taper
If you’re thinking no one will notice that extra fabric in your pants then think again, so it’s important to make sure pants are tapered if they need some shape. Whether you're rocking thunder thighs or marathoner's sticks, tapering your pants will give you that clean and pulled-together look that you are aspiring to. The proportions of a properly tapered pant are also going to give you the most flattering look, regardless of how tall you are. Consider that you do want a little bit of room to move and you’ll likely be sitting down and standing up a lot most days. Ultimately you want the fit trim and in proportion to the fit of the jacket, it should look like one cohesive piece.
Don’t be surprised when you find that your new suit just arrived with unfinished hems, it’s very common in the suiting world. It’s key because it allows you to get the exact right hem length for your height. Make sure to consider the right hem too. Typically a ¼ to ½ break is ideal, any longer and you risk looking like your pants are too long and baggy. Here’s a handy visual guide to pant breaks. Along with your favorite dress shirt, you’ll want to make sure you bring your go-to dress shoes and have the tailor measure the hem off of those.
A few final notes on finding and building a great relationship with a tailor. Yup, we said relationship because that’s what it is. Ideally, it’s a positive working one with the goal of helping you look your best. A trusted tailor is one of the most important friends a stylish man can have.
Research - Spend some time checking out a few different options (Yelp can help here too). Ask questions about his or her’s level of comfort with men’s clothing and suits specifically. A the end of the day, they’re your clothes and it’s your money you’re investing, and it should be done so wisely.
Trust - Do trust the tailor’s experience, he should know a thing or two about what will look right. Don’t forget to be reasonable too, he’s not a magician.
Communication - Be clear and straightforward about what you want and how you want things to fit. Provided you’re being reasonable with your requests you should be firm and he or she should work with you comfortably.