The Unmade Suit

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If I stand side-on to the mirror, it almost looks like a real suit. Of course, it only has one arm and the front and back panels are covered in stitching. But you can’t see that from the side.

I can’t stand like that for long, as Edward Tam is hovering with intent. I’m having my first fitting for a double-breasted suit in Hong Kong, and he thinks there is a little too much give up the back. Quick as a flash, he pins up a half inch, pinching it in a long dorsal fin.

I’m trying to remember all the fit points I should mention. And writing them down in advance is my top tip to you. I was arrogant and thought I wouldn’t forget any. I did. Most of the important ones came to mind, however – the break of the trousers (to my taste, so there is no break in the back line, just the front), the length of the jacket (my taste is a little shorter than normal, about in line with the middle of my thumb when my hands are at my sides) and the length of the sleeves (again, I like it a little shorter, with half and inch of shirt showing with my arms at my sides, over an inch when the arm is at my chest).

Interestingly, Mr Tam and his colleague were sceptical about the sleeve length. In Asia they tend to be rather longer, apparently. But they were happy with my demands and didn’t seem too unimpressed with the result. It is probably as important to be confident in your demands as it is to know they are correct.

Aside from not quibbling over sleeves, the best way Mr Tam showed his quality to me as a tailor was picking up on aspects of my body shape that I was already aware of. For example, I have wide but sloping shoulders. In many off-the-peg suits this has the annoying effect of letting the shoulders of the jacket droop a little, creating folds under the arm. Edward picked up on this when we discussed the “natural” curve of the unmade suit I had on – if the shoulder were any more unpadded, he pointed out, it would reveal my sloping figure and be uncomplimentary.

Edward got a mental tick in my head for picking up on that. And it is probably worth you bearing something similar in mind were you to go through this experience. Go into any high-end suit shop and ask the oldest member of staff for his advice on how a jacket fits. If he knows his stuff he will list all your pluses and minuses, making you fully equipped to rate your tailor.

The suit should be ready this afternoon. I’m rather nervous about it – particularly as the half-made suit I tried on didn’t have its deep purple lining. It might look awful.


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Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at permanentstyle.blogspot.com. He has too many suits.