Thursday, June 11, 2015

Off-The-Rack Options

Last week a client asked me if it was possible to 'fix-up' his off-the-rack suit so that it would look and feel like the custom tailored suit we made for him. While we could have made alterations, the results would have been average (at best) and the cost would have been significant. Unfortunately, the shoulders of his off-the-rack suit were too big for his frame. (Altering shoulders is very expensive and can be difficult to reconstruct if it needs to be drastically taken in or let out.) I learned, however, that he used to be larger man, which is why the shoulders were so big, so I guess it's not an entirely 'unfortunate' situation.

I do get asked about buying off-the-rack on occasion; some people scoff at buying off the rack, but there is no reason to do so. For some, a custom tailored suit may simply be too expensive so going off-the-rack is the best option available. Though I prefer going custom, there is definitely nothing wrong with wearing an off-the-rack suit, especially if it fits you (and your budget). So, here are some options and helpful tips when going off-the-rack:

First, focus on your shoulder and chest fit.

This goes not just for suits, but any item of clothing in general. Any fit relating to width (shoulders, chest, waist, seat, etc.) will be more expensive to alter, whereas any fit relating to length (sleeves, jacket, pants, etc.) tends to be cheaper (and easier) to alter. Therefore, if there's a good bargain or sale going on at your local department store, focus on suits that have the best shoulder and chest fit. If you can find one that fits well, you will save on the alteration costs associated with the shoulders and the chest.

Then, consider making length alterations.

Once you've found a suit with a decent shoulder and chest fit, look at the length and consider making the necessary alterations (if any). These minor adjustments, no matter how small, make a big difference at the end. In most cases, anything related to length can be taken in or let out by at least an inch, so there is definitely some flexibility when it comes to altering lengths.

It never hurts to ask the retailer if they can make the alterations; you'd be surprised what retailers are willing to do to move a suit off their rack and into your closet. Sometimes they'll do it for free!

The jacket sleeves should end right before your wrist (i.e. where the ball of your wrist lies) with your arms by your side. The jacket sleeves can be a bit shorter than normal shirt sleeves; this will allow the shirt cuff to show.

The jacket length should end at (or just before) the bottom of your pant zipper. If the jacket length is too far off (either long or short) it will look awkward on the wearer.

The pant length is the easiest to alter (and often the most inexpensive). Altering the pant length so that it rests just over the tongue of your shoe will make your bottom half look clean and fitted.

Finally, check the fabric composition.

I say this last because, in all honesty, fit trumps everything. I've seen expensive suits with a bad fit and economical suits with a great fit; the great fit always wins. The suit fabric is important, but I would say it comes second to fit for the average shopper. A 100% wool suit is desirable, but is expensive and can run up your dry cleaning bill. For the budget-conscious shopper, an economical option would be blended suits (such as poly-wool); in most cases, blended suits look just like 100% wool suits and can be easier to maintain.

In summary, going off-the-rack is a great option for shoppers, especially if there are great deals out there. And, for an extra $50~$100 in alterations, your off-the-rack purchase will look immensely better, and much more customized.

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