Finding the Right Fit for Your Clothes

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I talk a lot about your clothes needing to fit properly. When your suits, shirts, and trousers fit your body, they disappear; people may notice your overall appearance but exactly what you have on is less prominent. Comments may range from your overall good sense of style to compliments on a specific article of clothing. Regardless of your sterling personality, MBA, or fat bank account, when your clothes don’t fit your body – be it too large or too small – everything suffers. Unfortunately, this is a common problem with many men. So, let’s talk it over and get you cleaned up.

Too many guys simply can’t judge what “fit” means to them. So, what exactly does it mean to have clothes that fit you? First off, everyone is different; what fits me may not fit you. Also, when dealing with “off the rack (peg)” clothes, no size fits two men the same way. If you and I both wear jackets that are sized 44 regular, mine may fit like a glove yet yours leaves you feeling slightly constrained or with sleeves that are too long. The point is everyone one is different; even those of us with the same sizes.

This is where the tailor enters our discussion. It really is surprising that so many men who value their appearance are so intimidated by tailors, or at least hesitant to approach one. A good tailor can make your clothes fit in a way that changes how you view your wardrobe. Imagine a closet filled with shirts, jackets, and pants that you know will fit just right. Each item will always work, always fit. It can change your entire outlook on dressing for the day. Start with items that are favorites but have issues: that shirt the sleeves are too long or pants that never fit quite right. While you may not want to spend the extra money on clothes you already own, the outcome makes all the difference in the world.

What do you want to keep in mind when it comes to making sure your clothes fit? First and foremost, be aware of how your clothes feel when you put them on. Here are a few more guidelines.

Trousers

credit - thesartorialist.blogspot.comPants should not be tight around your waist, but they should stay put without a belt. The only exception to this rule is if you are wearing braces. Then, your waistband should have a little extra room to allow the pants to hang properly. Regardless, you should never have to struggle with a button or zipper and there should be no pulling across the front of your pants. Another test is your front pockets; they should always lay flat and closed and not flare open. If they do, the waist needs to be let out.

Most dress or semiformal trousers should have a slight to medium break when the bottom meets the shoe, no more than one inch. As a general rule, your socks should remain mostly hidden when you walk down the street, so a higher break is perfectly fine as long as it doesn’t look like you’re wearing high-waters. When standing still, you want your legs to remain proportional to the upper half of your body and the visual weight of a breaking cuff usually suffices. Speaking of cuffs; they are most appropriate with lighter fabric, to help weigh down the leg, and when you want a defined end to your leg. Cuffed pants also tend to work best with pants that have wider leg openings. Pants with narrower legs tend look better without cuffs.

Two final notes: first, casual pants like khakis should never be cuffed; the same is true for formal trousers (read tuxedos). Additionally, formal trousers should not have a break; they should just meet the tops of your shoes.

Shirts

When you button a dress shirt, there should be just enough room in the collar for you to slip you index finger in and comfortably move it around. Ideally, you should not turn blue and pass out. The body of the shirt should have room that allows for movement but not so much that it billows out after five minutes. Slimmer styles are in vogue right now and after some griping, I am now a convert. They are more comfortable and allow for a fit under trimmer jackets.

The current trend is also toward higher arm holes that lead to a more fitted sleeve. Generally speaking they should end just below your wrist bone though I don’t consider it a hard and fast rule. Just don’t let them puddle around your thumb, it looks sloppy. Your shirt’s hem should also stay tucked in even when bending over and your collar should not be so high as to make your neck disappear.

Jackets

credit - thesartorialist.blogspot.comIn my opinion, you should always want to wear your jacket. The shoulders should feel snug but the line of your own shoulder should not be visible under the fabric. Your jacket’s collar should stay firmly in place against your shirt’s collar and not pull away or ride up. You should see about a quarter to a half-inch of shirt cuff; any more and it looks like you’re wearing your dad’s shirts. With the “shrunken jacket” trend hitting the runways more and more, it can be hard to discern what a proper body fit entails. For real men in the real world, you should be able to easily button your jacket and when you let your arms drop, the jacket’s hem should line up with your knuckles.

You jacket’s rear vents should not pull; if they do, take it to you tailor have him let it out a bit. Then put down the slice of pizza in your hand. Remember, the best way to make sure your clothes always fit is to stay in shape.


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice