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An Attorney’s Guide to Buying a Suit Off the Rack

An Attorney’s Guide to Buying a Suit Off the Rack

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Let’s face it, the rules of fashion are much simpler than the Rules of Civil Procedure.  But that simplicity is highly deceptive.  While lawyers learn about motions to dismiss in law school, probably no one ever bothered to share with them information about the disasters they may face when putting together their wardrobe to argue those motion, or to meet new clients for the first time.

It may appear that getting a suit to fit properly should be a pretty easy process since all you have to do is try it on and look in the mirror.  You could even have a tailor examine it to give his expert opinion and make any needed alterations.  But that’s where most attorneys make a mistake.  No matter how experienced a tailor may be, it always pays to know what’s important before you go shopping.  In other words, you don’t want to totally rely on someone else’s opinion when getting a suit to fit right, even if that person is an experienced tailor.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR TAILOR

When you enter a clothing store it’s a good idea to ask the salesperson to identify the most experienced tailor.  Salespeople are usually happy to give you this information since it demonstrates their knowledge of their staff.

Once you have the most experienced tailor’s name—and we stress that it’s only advisable to shop in a store that does have a tailor—then you can meet the tailor and tell him what you want.  In a moment you’ll know exactly what to look for in a suit fitting, but it’s worth pointing out that being on good terms with your tailor is also of paramount importance.

I recently went into the Brooks Brothers women’s department with a female banker, and when we asked for the tailor, a short man with blonde hair arrived and, in a heavy Italian accent, said, “Hello, how are you! Good to see you!”  I looked at the fellow in some surprise.  Then I realized that it was Danny, the same tailor I had seen five months ago with another client.  Five months ago!  How this guy remembered me was a mystery.  He sees hundreds of people a week, and yet he knew who I was and was acting friendly as hell.

Then it occurred to me that the last time Danny and I had worked together, I had given him a ten dollar tip.  I smiled to myself. Probably no one in the entire previous year had given him a tip. Because of that small act of generosity, I stood out in Danny’s memory, and he was favorably disposed toward me—and my clients—and he was bending over backward to make sure that we were happy.

This is the kind of relationship you want with your tailor.  And giving him a tip is a sure way to stay on good terms with this key player in your shopping experience.

 

THE BUBBLE BLOOPER

Before we get to the bubble blooper, one comment about female shoppers is in order.  Unfortunately, most women don’t have the luxury of a tailor in the stores where they shop. Men’s suit departments almost always have a tailor available, and this is because men demand it.  Women should be as forceful about demanding this crucial service.  By necessity, some of our female clients have engaged their own tailor for alterations, but it’s always easier to use a store tailor because you can refuse to buy a garment if the alterations don’t work out to your satisfaction.

When buying a suit, the first thing you’ll try on is the jacket.  If you want to know how a jacket should fit, just look at the current president of the United States. For example, Barak Obama’s jackets always fit snugly around the shoulders and lay flat across the top of the back, below the neck.  This is the way you want your jacket to fit. You don’t want a bubble in the back.

Make sure to inspect it in a three-way mirror.  After the tailor puts in his pins and makes adjustments for you, look at it again.  Proper length is measured as follows: for men, the jacket should come down into your curled palm when your hand is by your side.  Women’s jackets should fit the same way, with the exception that some fashionable women’s jackets are shorter.  These shorter jackets tend to give you less authority, but on some women they can still be acceptable. If you’re a short woman, however, wearing jackets that are standard length is a better idea.

 

FITTING THE PANTS

Now remove the jacket and put on the pants. They should be comfortable when standing and sitting.  The biggest mistake customers make is letting a tailor tell you what size the waist should be.  It is highly recommended that you demand at least one or two inches larger than is comfortable.  This is because a roomier waist will allow you to eat a good meal and still have the pants fit.

Overweight women sometimes prefer pants with an elastic waist.   Another option for overweight people, especially men, is the use of suspenders.  Tell your tailor to sew in suspender buttons when he fits the pants.  It’s easy, inexpensive, and gives you the option to wear comfortable suspenders should you choose to do so now or in the future.  As far as suspenders, for work situations always wear the kind that require buttons, never the cheaper clip-on variety.

 

FINAL SUIT CONSIDERATIONS

The best fabric for suits is wool, and blends of wool.  Even in the summer and the South, wool is appropriate, especially in a tropical wool weight.  Searsucker suits are also appropriate for summer wear.  Be very careful if buying a linen suit.  They tend to wrinkle and will make you look like a squeegee man who cleans the windows of cars at busy intersections because of their crumpled appearance.

Before buying a suit, carefully examine the stitching of the seams. It should be neat and strong.  Also examine the way buttons are sewn on.  You might want to instruct your tailor to reinforce any buttons that get a lot of wear, such as the top button of a two-button jacket.  Tailors know how easy it is to wrap some extra thread around the button to secure it, and they’ll be happy to do it for you.

When you go to pick up your suit, remember to try it on again, and look at it in a three-way mirror.  This is the time to demand that any remaining problems be fixed.  An intelligent customer demands—and receives—service.  Next time you come into the store they’ll remember you, too.

 

About the Author

Paulina Glozman is a senior image consultant with Manhattan Makeovers and part of their fieldwork research team.   She can be reached at paulina@manhattanmakeovers.com.

James Nguyen
James Nguyen

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