Hemming and Hawing over Pants – or how to buy a suit without the suit wearer
Hemming and Hawing: Every girl knows that a fitting from a talented tailor can take your race wear dress from nice to enviable; the same holds true for menswear. However, if you’re like many of us with husbands or partners that would rather watch back-to-back chick flicks than try on clothes, the chances of getting him professionally fitted are on par with Sylvester Stallone reciting poetry. It’s just not going to happen.
That however still leaves us with the quandary of getting the suit in the first place – particularly if he happens to be allergic to shopping centres.
So, unless you’ve figured out how to deactivate that Saturday afternoon magnet between the lounge and sports channels (a Nobel Prize worthy feat), just forego the frustration and venture out on your own. After all, if you can’t get Mohammed to the mountain (in this case, Myers)…bring the suits to him.
But how do you go about choosing those suits in the first place?
Fortunately for me, Darlene Chin, owner of menswear store, Attitude for Men offered up some sage advice on choosing a suit, checking the fit and, answering that age old question, how the heck to measure pants hems.
On-trend or tried and tested
Like a good therapist, Darlene walked me through the process, explaining that when it comes to choosing a suit, it’s really a balance between personal preferences, current trends and traditional standards. This goes for the cut, colour and fabric texture.
Lesson learned: there really is no one specific way to wear a suit. Heck, even jacket sleeve lengths are variable. Traditionally, the shirt should only show a bit when the elbow is bent, but at the moment, according GQ Magazine shorter cuffs are in fashion as men are wanting to show more “linen.”
What’s in the wardrobe
You probably already have an idea of his basic preferences, but slyly do your own market research. Try to extract a comment or opinion (notice, I said try) on something very timely. For example, “Just out of curiosity, would you ever consider wearing a hat to the races?” Odds are pretty good you already know the answer, but it’s easy to get a bit more information from there like asking about the shoes or tie.
Be careful though, you don’t want to go overboard and blow your cover. The goal here is just to confirm your perception on his preferred style.
After years of straightening skirts, adjusting zippers and tugging in shirts, we (and by we I mean me) develop our own shopping list of dos and don’ts. Guys have their own as well, but they just don’t know it. Say you seem him pulling at his collar. Could be it’s too tight, the fabric could be itchy or possibly a chafing seam. Pushing up the sleeves? Could be they’re too long or he just wants more give in the elbow.
The same deductive reasoning applies to the shirts and suits themselves. I invariably know what he doesn’t like based on what colours, styles, fit and fabrics get rotated to the back of the closet.
High Street Shopping
If you are indeed going to take this calculated approach, it’s best to visit a store that has a creditable return policy. I’m not advocating walking out with a dozen suits only to return 11 the following week. Quite the contrary. If you’ve done your homework, you should probably have no more than two and heaven willing, he might even like both of them.
Fit for a King
Now, this is where I realise Darlene really does understand the shop-phobic male psyche as she managed to check the fit of the suit pieces and mark the hem of the pants, all within two minutes! No fiddling with lots of pins, no standing up on a pedestal and best of all, no complaints from the obedient model.
Of course there are oodles of fitting guidelines, but these were so easy I just had to share.
- The shoulder pads should sit flush with the arm. If they extend beyond the shoulder, they’ll create a slouchy look.
- He should be able to comfortable cross both arms across his chest without being restricted by the fabric in the back.
- The jacket should be able to button without any tension. Too tight and you’ll have to go up another size which probably means the shoulders won’t fit, the arms will be too baggy, etc.
- Matter of preference but these are standards:
- The sleeve length should hit the point where the base of the thumb hits the wrist.
- One to two centimetres of shirt should peak out from the sleeve.
- With arm straight, the bottom of the jacket should just hit the knuckles.
- Comfortably snug – not loose or tight around the waist.
- Fitted around the bum – not too tight or too saggy.
- The “break” is a matter of preference. It’s the horizontal fold created when the pants hit the shoe. (Check out Primer Magazine’s, piece on the four different versions if you are so inclined.)
Hemming the Pants – Marking/pinning a hem has always felt like an exercise in applied physics, but Darlene showed me the most simple way to get it right.
- Shoes off.
- Make sure the pants are sitting on the natural waist and that the wearer is looking forward, not down at what you’re doing.
- Smooth down the fabric on the inside leg from crotch to the floor, applying the slightest bit of tension (not pulling) to the pant leg till it just reaches the ground.
- Pin the hem at the point where the pant touches the floor, this way, when shoes are on, the back of the hem will hit just near the heel and the front will hit the top of the shoe creating the break.
- Best part is, you only have to put one pin in one pants leg. The tailor just measures out the rest.
Now if only I could do the same to my skirts.