Purchasing a suit jacket off the rack can be tricky if you’re not familiar with how one should fit your body. There are many aspects of a suit coat fit to consider when trying on a jacket, whether that be at a suit shop or out thrifting.
Keep in mind that if you are choosing to purchase a suit this way, as opposed to getting one customly made for you, the fit may not be perfect in every area of your body. Ultimately, to get a suit jacket fit that is right for you, you’ll probably have to visit a tailor or send the garment to an online tailor for suits.
That being said, if you find you are between sizes when trying on a suit jacket, but neither of the options seem to fit exactly how you want them to, buy the larger size. The general rule of thumb is to go with the larger size because it is easier to make most garments smaller (take material away) rather than to make a garment bigger (add material).
This holds true in a vast amount of situations, however, if you buy a quality constructed suit jacket, there will usually be additional fabric built into the seam allowances of the shoulders, the hem, the side seams, and the back seams. If present, this will allow a suit jacket to be let out up to an inch and a half in some aspects and cases. The reason it is ultimately better to buy larger though is because most jackets are lined with a satin-like fabric which will conceal the seam allowances altogether, hiding the amount of extra fabric, if there is any at all.
All this being said, here is a condensed suit buying guide to help you know exactly how a suit jacket should look on your body. For a more in-depth guide on parts of a suit and alterations to make your store-bought suit look customized, be on the lookout for Tad More Tailoring’s suit buying guide, How To Buy A Suit That Fits Like A Glove.
First Essential Part of a Suit Jacket: Shoulders
The shoulders of your suit jacket should align with the natural shape of your shoulders. Be aware of any bunching on either the shoulder or the upper arm, as both fabric distortions are signs of an ill-fitting jacket. The jacket material should be smooth from collarbone to upper arm. Ideally, the seam connecting the shoulder to the sleeve should rest at the end of your shoulder slope and where your upper arm begins.
When buying a suit jacket off the rack, the shoulder fit is among the most important aspects to fit correctly, even if this means purchasing a suit jacket that doesn’t fit all other areas of your body. This is because the shoulder of a suit jacket is one of the most time consuming and meticulous alterations to perform for a tailor. Though an online tailor for suits is more than capable of this alteration, in the end, the great amount of time and effort required for this to be a quality alteration, will reflect on your wallet.
Second Essential Part of a Suit Jacket: Sleeves
The general rule for the fit of suit coat sleeves is when your arms are relaxed at your side, the sleeve hem should fall right at the wrist, slightly above where the palm of your thumb ends. This will allow for about a quarter of an inch to a half inch of your shirt cuff underneath to show, which is another telltale sign that your suit jacket sleeves fit well.
As we just mentioned, suit jacket alterations that take place at the shoulder can be expensive. Though a top online tailor can alter any cuff style, an important aspect of a jacket cuff to pay attention to are the types of buttons on the sleeve. To alter a sleeve with functioning buttons and a flap, the alteration is done at the shoulder in order to keep these details which can result in extra costs, making this a necessary detail to notice depending on your budget.
Third Essential Part of a Suit Jacket: The Chest
The chest fit can be checked by crossing a flat hand across your buttoned jacket, slipping it under your lapel, much like you are saying the pledge of allegiance. Not only should this movement be simple to execute, but your hand should have a little bit of wiggle room- ideally being able to subtly pat your chest. Your jacket material should tug at the fastened button if you create a fist in this position under the lapel. If this can be done with no tugging or you still have extra room, the chest of the jacket is sized too big.
Fourth part of a suit jacket: Collar
A well-fitting collar lays smooth on the neck against the dress shirt collar. There should be no gaps and no bunching. If the suit jacket collar is too big for your body, your collar will pull away from the collar of the shirt underneath. This is easy enough to diagnose yourself as the gap will be very noticeable.
On the flip side, if your jacket collar is too tight, there will be bunching right below the collar. Because of where this malformation is located, it may be a little less obvious so you may need a mirror or a trusted second opinion. Another way to diagnose a collar that is too tight is to notice what shape your dress shirt or blouse is in after you take the suit jacket off. If the collar is indeed too tight your top underneath will be wrinkled up around the back of the neck.
Fifth Part of a Suit Jacket: Length
The length of a suit jacket depends on what your preference is. The general rule is that the suit jacket hem should hit right at the big knuckles on your hand (NOT your finger knuckles) when your hands are relaxed at your side. Often this standard applies to men, however works just as well for women. Depending on how and where you plan to wear your suit jacket, it may also be appropriate for the hem to be longer or shorter than this- this freedom is most often socially granted to women.
Always keep in mind that how your clothes fit your body is completely up to you! Though different environments do have standards for what your outfit should look like, the above guidelines are just that, guidelines. So long as the garment allows for certain tailoring, top online tailor will be happy to alter your clothes however you’d like in order to give you the maximum amount of confidence!