Dear Kathi,

I am in the market for a new suit. This time I want to buy the best that I can afford and would like to know a little more about what to look and ask for. Could you explain a little more about suits and the differences in fabric, cut, and all the other subtleties involved? I feel inadequate and unable to differentiate a good suit from a bad one. I know it’s not only about the price tag.

Josh > San Diego


Congratulations on taking the time to learn a little before you buy your next suit. There are many factors that will determine the quality of a suit. I will begin by addressing the nomenclature you often hear when buying a suit.

The “rise” of a pant is the length between the top of the waistband and the crotch.

The “inseam” is the area from the bottom of the crotch to the bottom of the hemline.

The “outseam” is the area from the top of the waistband to the bottom of the hemline.

The “drop” is the difference between the chest and waist measurements. Athletic cut suits typically feature an 8 inch drop meaning that the coat might be a 44″ but the slacks feature a 36-inch waist.

Being a “details man” is always a compliment and noticed in the first few moments with a new contact. Keep this in mind when you look at a suit, and inspect it for high quality fabric and masterful tailoring.

Make sure that the fine workmanship is apparent. The fabric and seaming overall should be smooth without rolls and pulls. The lapels should curve smoothly along the chest. The collar must lie flat along the neckline. All seams should be securely sewn and lie flat against the inside of the fabric. Shoulder pads should be smooth and sloping. Sleeves must hang straight with an even hemline. Buttonholes that have irregular stitches are a good indication of quality workmanship and are evidence of hand sewing.

For proper fit, the jacket should fit closely to the body without pulling or bunching when buttoned. The seaming should follow your body’s natural line. If the jacket does not fit perfectly, pay to have it altered by a master tailor. Oftentimes, if you ask for the best, the store will recommend a tailor, as opposed to suggesting you use the store tailor, so make sure to let the salesman know you want the best. A perfectly tailored suit always makes an impression.

If you want a more versatile suit, buy one with an unlined jacket. Believe it or not, these jackets are of higher quality because almost all details show up on the inside. More care is taken to create a quality piece when everything shows. You will find these jackets more cross-seasonal and also easier to wear as separates. The shoulders are generally softer with less padding for an easy sloping line. You will find fewer interior pockets, which is a nice way to keep you from adding unnecessary bulk to your profile.
Thanks for writing and don’t hesitate to write with any other specific questions.

Please submit your questions to: [email protected]

San Diego Professional Organizer