Unless you find yourself with an off-the-rack suit that fits perfectly, tailoring will likely be required. But what are the perfect suit alterations?
A tailor can take in a seam and let out a seam. However, reshaping the shoulders of a jacket isn’t possible. This is because they are built to withstand the pressure of a body’s weight.
Take in the Waist
When a suit is too big, it creates a balloon effect around your waist. The good news is that tailors can easily take this area of the suit in to reduce its bulk. This is generally easier than taking a suit in at the hips or shoulders, but it depends on the amount of fabric that was allowed under the seams and hems when the garment was initially made. Some more expensive or bespoke suits will have a lot of extra material to work with, while ready-to-wear and cheaper suits may have very little.
A few other common alterations include lengthening jacket sleeves and reducing the height of the lapels. These changes can make a jacket look slimmer and more modern, but be careful when attempting to shorten the sleeves of a wool suit – too much shrinkage will cause them to rip easily. If you’re short on time, look for a suit at a store that has a professional alteration specialist on-site, and have them tweak your fit there and then.
It’s worth noting that there are some alterations that can’t be made, such as adjusting the rise of trousers. Unless you’re a guy who prefers his pants to be a bit high-waisted, it’s probably best to skip this alteration and find another pair of trousers that better match your style. The same goes for attempting to taper the leg shape of trousers, although doing this essentially means rebuilding the pants and is often not worth the effort. The same is true for taking the thighs of a pair of trousers in – this type of change is usually best left to new trouser purchases or tailor-made bespoke pants.
Take in the Hips
Not much shatters the pristine lines of a suit, like a pair of pants that don’t drape evenly down the leg. This is a simple problem that can be easily fixed by a skilled tailor.
If your suit is too big through the hips, it can cinch around your legs too much and look unstructured and baggy. A good alterations tailor can take in the hips without disturbing the jacket’s fabric or structure, so it will still fit your waist and chest.
Likewise, if your jacket sleeves are too long, you can easily have them shortened so they finish at about a quarter-of-an-inch above the bottom of your shirt cuff, showing just a bit of fabric over the top button of your suit. This will prevent the sleeves from looking too long and sloppy, which can be hard to avoid in some off-the-rack suits.
The shoulders are arguably the most important part of a suit, so it’s essential that they fit properly. Unfortunately, many off-the-rack jackets fall short in the shoulder area, especially for people with broad shoulders. It’s easy for a tailor to make your jacket’s shoulders larger by unstitching the existing seams and re-sewing them closer together. This alteration requires some experience, so you should try to find a tailor with a good reputation for this type of work.
If you’re on the heavier side, you might also want to consider having your jacket’s shoulders taken in – which is called ‘chipping’. It is more advanced and time-consuming than taking a jacket in at the sides or waist, but it can make it look more fitting. There are limits to this, however, as a jacket is a complex garment with a lot of seams that can be hard to unpick and re-sew.
Take in the Chest
A good suit should lay flat across your chest and button comfortably without any pull or wrinkles. This can often require a few different alterations, including adjusting the sleeves, reshaping the sleeve head (where the shoulder and sleeve meet), and possibly reworking the lapel to make it narrower or wider. The best way to avoid these major alterations is to opt for a size up rather than down, as building patterns for specific garments in specific sizes can be tricky, and the fabric allowances may have been used up already.
Taking in the chest requires unstitching and re-sewing the seams closer together, which can cause the suit to lose its shape. As such, taking in the chest should be left to the professionals, and it is always a good idea to get a quote beforehand. Pricing varies widely, but a basic sleeve length adjustment or slimming down the shoulders should start at around $20.
While alterations aren’t always necessary with a well-fitting suit, they can be essential for ensuring it looks its best. Even a quality off-the-rack suit will usually require some tailoring to ensure it fits properly. Getting the perfect fit from a custom-made suit is obviously best, but it also comes with a significant price tag that can be prohibitive for many men.
Fortunately, most modern retail and online suiting hubs now offer on-site tailoring services that can save you some time and money. If you’re in a rush, it’s worth checking whether your local tailor offers express alterations, which can reduce the turnaround time to a few hours. However, you should still allow a week or more for most alterations, as peak season tailoring times can mean long waits.
Take in the Sleeves
The fit of the sleeves of a suit is often overlooked. However, the sleeves can have a huge impact on the overall fit of your suit.
Taking in the sleeves of your jacket involves unsewing seams and re-sewing them closer to the fabric’s edge. Unlike taking in the body of your suit, it can be difficult to determine how much material can be let out until you unstitch some of the seams and see what is available. Typically, your tailor will be able to pin the jacket to show you what the end result will look like before making any changes.
Shortening a suit’s sleeve is also possible, but again, it can be challenging. This is because the jacket has been designed with specific proportions in mind, and many factors must be considered (including where the pockets, buttonholes, etc. are placed).
In addition, a tailored sleeve should sit at a specific angle against your arm. The tailor may need to rotate the cuff to reduce the sleeve length. This is a more complex alteration, and finding an experienced tailor for this work is important.
There are limits to how much of a jacket can be removed, so if your suit is swimming in excess fabric, it may be time to look for another option. It is also worth remembering that sizing down a garment can be a difficult process, and there is a point at which a suit may no longer be able to be altered without significant expense or compromise. This is especially true when you are trying to alter the collar size, which requires re-cutting the pattern of the jacket.
Take in the Cuffs
A lot of attention is paid to suit fit and tailoring when it comes to menswear. And rightly so, as most off-the-rack suits simply don’t fit most men well without some form of alterations. But what about the other details that can also make or break a polished look? Take a look at the pants and jackets of some of the most stylish men in the world, and you’ll find a few key alterations that make all the difference.
One of the most important alterations that can be done to your suit is taking in the sleeves. When your suit sleeves are too long, they can give you a juvenile and childlike appearance that takes away from your polish. But when you have your cuffs properly tailored, you will look like a mature gentleman with an elegant sense of style.
Cuffs can also be a great way to add some sprezzatura to your outfit. Having a cuff button undone can encourage a slight breeze to go up the sleeve, which is appropriate for warmer weather and adds some flair to your look.
Taking in the shoulder seams is another common alteration that can improve your fit and prevent the jacket from riding up when you’re moving your arms. However, this is a change that even expert tailors are often hesitant to make because it can be easy to mess up and ruin the structure of your suit.
Changing the pitch of your jacket sleeve (the angle at which it sits on your arm) isn’t as common as some other alterations, but it can be a great way to make your suit feel more personal and unique. It can be an especially effective way to change the fit of a jacket you’ve already purchased but isn’t fitting properly.