6 Tailoring Tips for Finding the Perfect Suit
Here's what you need to know before getting a custom suit made
Ede & Ravenscroft Focus
With the 2016 Hong Kong Tatler Ball fast approaching, we asked the tailoring experts at Ede & Ravenscroft — London’s oldest tailors specialising in high quality, hand-made suits — about the essential knowledge you need to arm yourself with before heading to your first fitting. With these tried-and-true tips, your suit will remain a wardrobe staple for many years to come.
Consider Your Options
If this is your first time buying a bespoke suit, you should be giving some serious thought as to whether you'll be sporting it for business or pleasure, and how often you're expecting to wear it.
According to Chris Potter, senior bespoke cutter at Ede & Ravenscroft, a suit made for special occasions or the odd meeting can be made in a luxurious and soft material — not the most durable, but always a delight to wear. If you're expecting lots of mileage out of the suit, a robust cloth should be used to stand up to the daily rigours of travel and work. In both cases, two pairs of trousers will extend the lifespan of your new suit considerably.
The Anatomy of a Dinner Suit
The classic look for a dinner suit is either a jacket worn with a waistcoat and trousers or a jacket and trousers worn with a cummerbund. Although Potter notes that cummerbunds have been waning in popularity.
The jacket can be single- or double-breasted with either a peak lapel or a shawl collar. Potter personally favours the single-breasted jacket with shawl collar and lapels, worn with a waistcoat and a pair of traditionally cut high-rise brace top trousers — the picture of classic elegance.
Know the Materials and Colours of the Moment
According to Potter, the 10oz Barathea is a classic material for a dinner suit. A mixture of wool and mohair, the fabric is light in weight and cool to wear, it also holds its shape well. For a traditional look, an all-wool Barathea is the most popular choice, while some customers opt for a cashmere mix for a soft and luxurious finish.
Potter points out that midnight blue is becoming a popular alternative colour choice, and some mills are injecting life into their formalwear collections by using printed and sparkling fabric.
Quality Takes Time
The process of producing a hand-made a suit can take quite some time — going beyond taking your measurements. Many hours are spent on material and style selection ahead of the actual production cycle. At Ede & Ravenscroft, the pattern and cloth are cut and made by hand.
On average, Potter would like to meet the customer three to four times before the completed suit is ready to be collected: once for placing the order, followed by the first appointment for an early-stage baste fitting, which is then ripped apart, re-marked and the paper pattern amended. The second fitting is more advanced with the pockets and lining in place, which are once again ripped apart, remarked and amended. On the last visit, the tailor will have the finished work at the ready. The process typically takes around three months or longer.
To prepare for your appointment, Potter recommends wearing a shirt and trousers with formal footwear. Being in dress shoes — ideally, those that you'll be wearing the new suit with — will help determine the right length of your trousers.
Know the Fit
According to Potter, an exquisitely-made suit should sit well on the collar, shoulders and around the neck. The coat should also balance well on the figure. "I like to take as much time ensuring that the back of the coat looks just as good as the front with a nice elegant shape," says Potter. There should be a little drape — room in the chest and across the back — to allow for movement, but not so much that the suit is loose fitting.
Ede & Ravenscroft also offers a range of ready-to-wear menswear tailoring available in store and online.