Capitol Hill Style: The Sharper Staffer: Tailoring is Key

Thursday, January 20, 2011 by Belle

The Sharper Staffer: Tailoring is Key

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When I was a little girl, I would sit in a tall wing-backed chairs in Nordstrom’s Men’s Department and watch the tailor fit my Father for his suits.  I was always so jealous that I had to buy my clothes off the rack, but my Father could have his custom fit.  Of course, now, I know the difference between bespoke and basic tailoring, but part of me is still jealous of how easy it is for men to find clothes that fit.

While women’s sizes vary widely, men have got it made with standardized sizes.  Stores who cater to men’s suiting have tailors on site, we don’t even have retailers who cater solely to women’s suiting.  And yet, despite these advantages, some men are still walking around the Capitol in suits that look like they came right off of the rack and went straight into their closets.  

Whether the cause is no tailoring or poor tailoring, it’s equally sickening.  So here are some quick and essential tailoring tips for the masses.

Hemmed Tight.  The easiest alteration that your suit will need is that the pants will need to be hemmed.  When hemming suit pants there are a couple of facts to consider:

1) How tall are you?  If you’re shorter than 5’10″, I don’t recommend cuffed pants.  If for some reason, you must have cuffs, make sure that the height of the cuff is proportional to your height.  

Why are cuffs bad?  Well, if you’re not very tall, having cuffs on your pants is like wearing a measuring stick on your leg.  It creates a scale which just accentuates your lack of vertical appeal.

2) As a general rule, the front of your trousers should touch the upper part of your shoe and the back of your trouser should not touch the ground.  Where you go from there is up to you.  I (like many women) prefer a generous break in the pants.  I think that like a wide lapel, it looks a bit more luxe.  Though if you prefer something less substantial that’s fine too, as long as it touches the top of your shoe.  (This isn’t negotiable.  Please stop walking around in pants that are too short.  You look like a schmuck.)

Flat and Buttoned.  Perhaps, the most egregious of all tailoring issues is when a jacket doesn’t fit through the shoulders.  When a man is standing with his arms relaxed at his sides, his lapels should lay flat against his chest.  If they lift away from the body, that means his tailor need to find a new profession.  

As for the buttons, those should also rest slightly against the body or hang just slightly away depending on your preference.  Oh, and if you’re wearing a three-button suit, remember that the rule is sometimes fasten the top button, always fasten the middle button, never fasten the bottom button.  If you’re wearing a four button jacket (why would you?), the rule is sometimes, always, sometimes, never.  Fastening the buttons this way allows for a looser feel (which is more modern) and more movement in the hips (which is more comfortable).

Hidden Up My Sleeve.  Lastly, let’s talk about sleeve length.  When standing with the shoulder relaxed and arms at your side, your suit sleeve should touch the base of your thumb.  Not the middle of your forearm, not the top of your wrist, the base of your thumb

In addition, your dress shirt should hang lower than your sleeve by 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch.  Nothing says, “My tailor learned his craft from Sweeney Todd,” like having jacket sleeves that are longer than your shirt sleeves.

Is this an exhaustive list?  Of course not.  There’s also pocket location, button placement, lapel width, fabric content and shoulder seaming to discuss, but that’s another show.  Today, I just want to fix the four or five worst offenses.  I can conquer the rest in another post.

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