My chest is a tank! Tanks need suit jackets too!
June 8, 2014 12:04 PM   Subscribe

FashionPhillyFilter: I have had a borderline-apocalyptic time trying to find a suit/sports jacket that fits in Philadelphia. I am a tall-but-not-notably so (6'0") dude who is built like a [big football guy term here], but with a smaller waist & bottom half to mis-match my enormous breastplate/shoulders. (My friend says "you are an inverse triangle"). Attendants at the stores I have gone to have been completely flummoxed by my proportions, which end up with either the jacket not fitting over my chest or there being a puffy cloud of fabric on the bottom. It's at the point where I'm getting recommendations for $1895 (low estimate I was given???)+ tailor-made jackets as the only solution for my build, which I am trying to avoid based on my budget (doctoral student on stipend). Surely there are... some stores that have tailorable off-the-rack things that might fit? Any suggestions as to stores that have fashionable, comfortable clothing for larger-built gentleman, especially in distance of Philadelphia?

The standard stores I've been to (which may be different from the "standard stores" you have in mind, so please recommend!) have generally had only massively limited options for someone my size (i.e., basically "you are bigger and need to buy a suit for some occasion so here's a suit"), and these also tend to be mismatched and I'm not 100% sure how much I should trust the tailoring process to remedy these proportion differences for me. It's just not something I have any experience in; the one time I had a tailoring job done it was really bad, so I have a bad exemplar. I am willing to spend a fair amount ($500-$1000) on a suit/sport jacket that lasts, but again I am shocked that apparently my only option is to get one made for me! :( -- Then again, this is my first time needing a semi-formal attire to wear on a daily basis, so maybe this is more typical than I think and I need to bite the bullet?

(I had posted before a more style-based question on this point wherein some folks gave a few recommendations as to where to shop, but have largely been unsuccessful on this point.)
posted by Keter to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total)
Have you looked for an "athletic cut" suit? I'm not sure who carries them, but I hear it's what body builders shaped like you look for.
posted by cecic at 12:22 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The problem with department store clothing is that it is designed to appeal to the masses and to fit the masses. That means average proportions for given height/weight, allowing for fit preferences of the target demographic. The extent of tailoring offered by department stores or your dry cleaner then allows you to get this more or less fitting item to fit well enough to get away with. But there are clear limits because the clothes were made using the least amount of fabric and the lowest quality fabric they can get away with.

If your proportions are really so far out of the normal range you will not find anything off the rack that will fit you well enough to wear without tailoring. Given the above constraints even with tailoring these clothes may never fit you well.

So if this is going to be an item you'll get a fair amount of wear out of get some more quotes and seriously consider going bespoke. They will construct a garment that is made to fit you and only you. They'll be able to work with cut and fabric to give you something that makes you look well dressed as opposed to the (bad) compromise you'd end up with a severely tailored off the rack item.

If you'll get a fair amount of wear out of this I assume it's an item you'll wear to work? Think if it as an investment in your professional image, think about cost per wear and how this item will last you longer than any department store suit. Basically, whatever you need to get you over that hurdle.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:27 PM on June 8, 2014

Buy things that are too big in one of the dimensions (so fits in the chest, doesn't fit at the waist) on eBay and have them tailored. eBay because there are soooo many used suits out there, often very nice brands, and since you're getting them tailored you don't mind if the fit is "eh". Then find a tailor that will work with you. Expect to spend as much on the tailor as you would on buying a nice suit at Nordstroms to get it to fit.

This is a slow investment over time kind of thing. So, since you're a grad student, start with a couple of nice button down shirts, a sport jacket and a suit. Take good care of them once you get them. Slowly build your collection.

Take heart, most of us feel your pain. I get a lot of stuff tailored (though as a petite woman, I likely have slightly different issues than you). It is a long-term investment, I'd rather have a few things that fit beautifully than lots of things that fit terribly.
posted by arnicae at 12:33 PM on June 8, 2014

I replied in your previous question about buying mens clothing in Philly. I'm not sure if you've checked out Brooks Brothers but that would be a good place to start. They specialize in mens suiting and formal wear and I doubt your body shape is so unique that they can't give you advice. They do made to measure which is less expensive than completely custom/bespoke.

Similarly, I also recommended Suitsupply, which has a branch in Philadelphia. They also specialize in menswear, however, for made-to-measure suits/sportcoats, you'll have to go to DC or the NYC SoHo branch for service.

Where have you tried so far?
posted by scalespace at 12:41 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Big and Tall stores? Do you have any athlete friends - dudes who play on your school's teams - who might have a clue to sources for the v-shaped?
posted by Cranberry at 12:56 PM on June 8, 2014

I am currently en route to the Brooks Brothers here in fact... Today is day two of suitpocalypse. I am encouraged by the potential of made to measure suits there, so we will see. Sadly, though I adored the Suit Supply styles I saw earlier, the styles run very trim cut and we had a laughable time with the upper fit, though I would superbly recommend them for smaller gents based on the service and product.
posted by Keter at 1:03 PM on June 8, 2014

My husband is heavy, but built with enormous shoulders. He usually goes to Men's Wearhouse (yes, not the best quality) and they fit him through the shoulders and tailor the rest of the suit jacket. Then they switch the pants off another suit - I assume they write off the mismatched pieces. I don't know if ALL the Men's Wearhouses will do this though. He spends a fair amount each year with the same salesperson.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:44 PM on June 8, 2014

I have 56-58" shoulders and a 42-44" waist, I get all my suites from Casual Male XL if there's one near you, I highly suggest checking out.
posted by ZureaL at 1:45 PM on June 8, 2014

Be aware that Caual Male XL is changing it's name to Destination XL. It also has a higher end brand of stores called Rochester B&T.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:55 PM on June 8, 2014

Macy's has suit separates, so you can mix and match jackets and trousers.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:15 PM on June 8, 2014

7 years ago, when I still lived in South Philly, there were a number of old Italian tailors in the neighborhood that were extremely reasonable. Don't know if it's still true, but the existence of low cost-high quality old school things like that was one if the things I loved (and miss) about South Philly.
posted by overhauser at 4:24 PM on June 8, 2014

The term you're looking for is "drop." Drop is the delta between the width of the jacket shoulder and its waist. Different designers/manufacturers cut differently, and what you should be looking for is a brand with a high drop.

Try Ask Andy and style for more information and brand recommendations, including this thread which explains the basics:
posted by Susan PG at 4:51 PM on June 8, 2014

I wonder if Hugh and Crye would have something for you (in the sports jacket area anyway since they don't do suits). They made a name for themselves due to their focus on fit. Worth giving their customer service a buzz - the guys that run the place are incredibly nice.
posted by kitkatcathy at 5:44 PM on June 8, 2014

Pay attention to the Maxwell's Clothiers site. Their deal is that they send somebody around to various cities, including yours, to measure people and take orders for suits. Those people receive custom-tailored suits specifically to their measurements sent to them from Hong Kong.

I suggest you do that; many people I know who will never fit anything off the rack, because they're at that end of the bell curve and that's life, have been happy with Maxwell's work.
posted by mhoye at 7:22 PM on June 8, 2014

If you're comfortable with the online option, you could try Indochino. My husband got his wedding suit from there. Just find someone you trust with a measuring tape and you should get a suit that's close to fitting. They will reimburse you up to a set amount if you need to take your suit to a tailor for fine-tuning.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 4:30 AM on June 9, 2014

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