Men's Guide to Suit Alterations: So You Bought a Suit... Now What?
So, you bought a brand-new suit... now what? While most clothing items come ready to wear, suits require a bit of extra attention before they make their big debut. Just like the saying, "don't judge a book by its cover," you don't want to judge a suit's fit before it has received proper alterations (unless the sizing feels drastically off.) With this in mind, you should always buy a suit at least a few weeks in advance of any occasion you might need it for. Here's the 411 on how to care for your suit upon arrival and throughout its lifespan.
Finding a Tailor for Suit Alterations
The first step to getting your suit ready to wear is finding a trustworthy, quality tailor. We advise taking advantage of Google or Yelp to find local small-business tailors in your neighborhood. Reviews are a great indicator of the price, timeline, and experience to expect for your alterations. Even better, ask around in your network for referrals. Cost varies throughout the country, so we recommend shopping around to make sure you're getting a fair price. Not only can finding a dependable tailor help with your immediate needs, but it's also great to have a go-to for future alterations.
Many dry cleaners offer measuring, alteration, and tailoring services. Since your suit will need to be pressed before wearing, finding a two-in-one dry cleaner/tailor can be a great option, especially if you need your suit ready-to-wear in a jiffy. New suits will always arrive clean, but need a press to fit and flatter as they should. Under NO circumstance should you iron your suit, as it can cause burn marks. Even steaming a suit yourself isn't worth the risk, as high-quality fabric can be delicate.
What Suit Alterations Can Be Made?
The pant legs of suits come unhemmed with an excess length of fabric to accommodate all heights. To finish the suit with a perfect fit and preferred style, suit pants require tailoring before wearing. Your tailor will return the extra fabric to you, and you won't want to throw it away — this can come in handy later if your suit needs any repairs.
In addition to the general fit of the pants, there are also a couple of adjustments that can be made in order to better customize the suit to your preferences. The first thing to consider is hem style: you can decide whether you'd prefer a cuff or straight-bottom hem for your suit pants. A cuff offers a folded-over finished edge, creating a distinct band around the bottom of your pant legs. A straight-bottom hem, on the contrary, lacks this cuff and features seamless fabric. Pro tip: if you're on the shorter side, a cuffed hem can make your legs appear even more truncated, so it's usually better to opt for a straight-bottom hem. Cuffs can also be seen as less formal, so aren't recommended for tuxedos or more elevated suit styles.
Another feature to keep in mind is the break of your pants. The break is the crease or fold of fabric (or lack thereof) that forms at the front of your pant leg. There are no hard-and-fast rules around pant breaks, and it all comes down to personal style and preference. The "no break" look is definitely on-trend for younger men right now. With this, the hem falls just above the shoe and often leads to exposing the ankles when sitting down. If you go for this style, you better wear nice socks! We find a moderate break to offer a more timeless, traditional look, which is popular for older men or business wear.
Phew — that's a lot to decide about hemming alone... but the tailoring doesn't stop there. Luckily, the rest is pretty straightforward. Other typical alterations include the waist being taken in or out, and sleeves being shortened as needed. Suits also come with a tag on the sleeve that can only be removed by a tailor. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Attempting to remove the tag yourself can cause damage to the suit.
Additional FYIs: to maintain shape during shipping, suit pockets come loosely stitched closed. These are simple to gently pull out yourself, or your tailor can handle it for you. You'll also find spare buttons in the interior pockets that you'll want to keep safe in case you lose a button later on.
Wearing and Caring for Your Suit
The great thing about purchasing a full suit is that they offer a lot of versatility in your wardrobe. The pants can be worn alone with the shirt of your choice, or the jacket can be paired with jeans and a crisp t-shirt for a more casual, blazer-style look. You can even throw on a turtleneck underneath during the colder months. With various shirt, tie, shoe, and belt combinations, the possibilities are endless. A look we're loving right now is an on-trend suit with crisp sneakers. With three-piece suits, you can even skip the jacket and go vest-and-pants-only for another outfit variant.
Assuming each wear will only be for a couple hours or so, you can typically wear your suit a few times between dry cleaning. If you're wearing your suit for an all-day affair (especially in conditions in which you might be sweating, whether due to weather or nerves), you'll want to get it dry cleaned after that wear. Factoring in whether you're wearing your suit frequently for short periods or rarely for long periods, the general rule is to get it dry cleaned every 3-4 wears. This will help the suit maintain its shape and material. After a few dry-clean cycles, you'll get a feel for when your suit is ready for a refresh.
Now that you know all of the critical steps to taking care of your suit upon arrival and beyond, it's time to pick one (or a few!) out. Stock up your wardrobe with suit options starting at just $50 from CCO Menswear. And if you need help picking out the right size, be sure to check out our suit size estimator for assistance. Happy shopping!