Why Buy A Suit Online
So why would you buy a suit online rather than head in-store? Indeed, stores offer the luxury of knowledgeable advisers that can offer you counsel and ensure the right fit.
However, there are indeed benefits to buying suits online that you may feel outweigh going in-store.
Firstly, you can do it all from the comfort of your own home but most of us are familiar with that already. Similarly, one of the greatest benefits is that buying suits online is often cheaper too.
In fact, this is probably one of the main reasons many of us turn to buying suits online. Thanks to a greater buying power, it gives us access to better quality and more premium garments.
Finally, many online retailers operate from warehouses rather than stores. This allows them much greater storage, which means that there will be a better stock with a greater variety. Therefore, they’ll be less likely to run out of what you seek.
Tips On How To Buy A Suit Online
Even the cheapest suits can be the most expensive items in our wardrobes, so it’s important to know how to buy a suit online so you can get the best value.
In this section, we’ll offer some advice that we hope will be useful for newcomers and even help veteran online suit punters.
As such, here are some fundamental tips to keep in mind when buying a suit online:
- Know Your Measurements. You’ll need to know your chest, waist and inseam measurements as well as your height and weight.
- Be Aware Of The Fit. There are many styles of suits (slim, fitted, regular, etc.) so make sure you know what you are getting.
- Read The Return Policies. You may not like the colors or the fit may be way off and you don’t want to get stuck with a suit you can’t return.
- Use A Good & Calibrated Computer Monitor. Fabric colors can (and often will) look different in person than on-screen.
- Get Ready For Alterations. It is very possible that you will need some alterations done after your suit arrives so make sure you have a good tailor at the ready.
In order to determine your sizes, make sure that you read our full guide on how to take your measurements at home.
Buying Ready-To-Wear Suits Online
Off-the-rack (a synonym for ready-to-wear) suits are sized by a number and a letter. Many of the retailers we recommended above structure their entire market around these abstract figures.
These numbers often range anywhere from 34-60 depending on the store and brand, whereas letters are S, R, L, and sometimes XL. You might see things like 40L, 54XL, 36S, and so on.
The numbers refer to chest sizes (in inches), while the letters refer to the length of the jacket: Short, Regular, Long, and Extra Long. The difference between each length is generally about 1.25″.
Consult the brand’s size chart to see how they size things for your height and weight. Remember that each brand will have subtle differences in their block patterns.
Be aware of different “fits” like Slim, Athletic, Modern, and the like. There is no industry-wide standardization for these terms, so you have to pay attention to photos the brand provides.
Furthermore, many websites also have customer reviews built into each individual item, so take advantage of that. If 96 out of 100 people say that the suit fits snugly and not “true to size,” it’ll fit you just the same.
OTR formalwear may not provide you the best fit compared to made-to-measure services. However, it does have the advantage of being much cheaper as manufacturers craft standardised sets rather than making unique pieces for their clients.
You can learn more about OTR formalwear with our dedicated guide.
Sets Versus Separates
Some suits are sold as sets while others are sold as separates.
A set refers to a jacket and trousers that are sold as a pre-ordained pair, with specific chest and pant waist sizes paired strategically. Typically there’s a six-inch difference between jacket and pant sizes (for example, a 38R jacket will often come with 32″ waist pants), and this is referred to as a “drop.”
Separates, on the other hand, is a way to buy suits that allows for more accurate sizing. With separates, the jackets and pants are sold as “à la carte” items so you can choose the sizes you need without being locked into a pre-determined drop. This is particularly helpful if you’re an athletic guy with a big chest and a narrow waist.
Like some of the retailers above, buying separates also means that you can mix and match your suits or simply buy the individual garments that you need.
A decent strategy (if your budget allows) is to buy more than one size of the suit you’re looking at and return those which don’t work.
Even if you’re ordering a made-to-measure suit like Indochino and Black Lapel listed above, be mindful that you should expect alterations in all cases. As most made-to-measure brands guarantee a good fit, they will typically offer credit or reimburse any alterations.
Needless to say, alterations aren’t covered when buying ready-to-wear clothes. As we described above, ready-to-wear caters to templates, which few men will fit entirely. Therefore, it’s a certainty that you’ll need some alterations to look your best.
To avoid any surprises, check out our tailoring guide, which explains the different jobs that are possible and how much they may cost. Similarly, you can cross-reference all of this with our guide to how a suit should fit.
Rather than buying a suit that offers the closest fit, try to buy the one that will be the easiest to adjust. For instance, if it’s better if it fits around the shoulders but the sleeves are too long rather than the other way around.
When you receive the suit, try it on with a mirror (or a friend) and look over what may need some work. If it requires too many alterations, consider returning it for another size. You can also try it on with a tailor to see what he or she recommends.
Even if you’re buying a cheap suit off-the-rack, always get it altered. A cheap suit that fits will always look better than an expensive one that doesn’t.
The men’s tailoring industry, like the rest of the clothing industry, is slowly but surely pivoting to an online model.
It’s impossible to say whether or not brick-and-mortar stores will survive, but what we do know is that more and more men are making their purchases online. Should you join their ranks, be aware of the pitfalls and advantages.
When buying suits, it’s also helpful to be aware of your body type and your coloring. It’s one thing to know what you like, but it’s quite another to know what cuts and colors will look best on you. Click the previous links for full guides on how to determine what your body type is and what your coloring is.
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