Here’s the story that I hear (or see) from most trans guys. You’re looking to buy your first suit. You walk into the store, you’re nervous, and you don’t really know what you’re looking for, so you end up picking out whatever looks decent and dash out.
There are quite a few avoidable issues in this scenario. Feeling anxious when buying your first suit is perfectly normal. In fact, it’s pretty much expected. That being said; nervousness shouldn’t stop you from getting help from a salesperson. And when talking to the salesperson, you should have some idea of what you’re looking for. Just like we all have diverse body types, there’s a vast selection of different suits and you should have an indication of which ones will fit you the best. Lastly, and somewhat surprisingly, the gratifying experience of seeing yourself in a suit for the first time can actually smokescreen how the suit actually fits you.
Here are some steps can you take to avoid these beginner mistakes and get the best suit for you.
The sales rep is there to help guide you in the right direction.
Step 1: Talk to the salesperson!
It’s perfectly okay to walk up to the salesperson and say “I’m buying my first suit, and I need help.” They won’t judge you; it’s their job to help you. They know the suits they’re selling, especially if you’re in a suiting-specific section or store. Material, cost, and sizing are all their areas of expertise, and they can help find the right suit for your body and occasion.
If for whatever reason you feel unsafe talking to a salesperson, go with your gut and go to another location or come back another time. If you’re in a relatively LGBT accepting area, your gender orientation shouldn’t matter when picking out a suit. You can always have a buddy accompany you for moral support, or if you’re concerned, ask other trans guys if they know any trans* friendly suiting places in the area. The fact that you’re buying a suit – a suit the salesperson wants to sell you – should foster a cooperative relationship between you and whoever is helping you.
Step 2: Do Your Homework
Even though I’m encouraging you to ask for help from a sales associate, I’m also telling you to do your research! Have some vocabulary up your sleeve so that you can talk with the sales associate about what you’re looking for in a suit (Two buttons or three – or one? What kind of vents do you like?). Presumably, you’ll want to walk in with a general idea of what kind of suit you’ll want for your body type.
One tip that suit beginners may not know is paying attention to the width of the lapel. The lapel is the folded flaps on the front part of the suit jacket. The lapel’s width should be proportional to the width of the wearer. The skinnier the wearer, the narrower the lapel should be. Heftier guys should choose a wider lapel to match.
Another common error in suiting is the break. The term “break” describes the wrinkles and folds that occur where your pants end at your ankle. Notice wear your pants break, and how many times they break. The more breaks in your pants, the shorter you will appear. For taller guys, a half or full break is a good bet. If you are short, a quarter break or even no breaks will be the best option. The quickest way to make yourself look smaller and younger is by wearing slacks that are too long for you, so choose the right length!
The right fit can make you look like a million bucks. Photo credit: Suavv.com
Step 3: Perfect The Fit
You’ve now tried on your first suit. You look good, I mean it. But you can look better. Before you settle on a suit, do some quick visual and motion tests to see if it’s an optimal fit for you.
The quick tests shown in this infographic in the dressing room can determine if the construction of the suit is right for you. Look out for the visual signs shown in the infographics below (via Dappered.com) to show the proper fit contrasted with what it looks like when the suit is both too big and too small.
Of course, you’ll need to get your suit tailored. No two guys have the same body type, so suits do need to be tailored so that they fit each wearer properly.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can get away with handing a tailor any billowy suit, and expecting them to give it back to you looking like it’s fresh off of James Bond’s back. Narrow down the fit as best as possible, then get it fine-tuned at the tailor’s.
You’re now equipped with an arsenal of suit knowledge you can use when going shopping. Wearing a suit feels especially great the first time, but makes you look and feel like a million bucks whenever you throw it on after. If you need any more specific tips or advice on suits, or any other questions, drop on by my blog (thedappermatter.tumblr.com) and I’ll answer them within a day. Stay snazzy, Point 5cc!