Suit: very good, NYC, semi-clueful me, a month to do it in?
September 13, 2014 6:34 AM   Subscribe

I need help buying a suit for an interview for a massive job upgrade. For once, I'm willing and able to spend serious (semi-serious?) money. Advice on where to go/which expensive features to splurge for? (Anon so my current employer doesn't stumble on this...) Special shopping advantage: New York. Special disadvantage: I only have a month. Entrez snowflake:

I've read a bunch of stuff (including a bunch of prior askme threads) on suit quality, and so I get the basics---canvassing, hand stitching, the importance of fit, etc. What I don't get is how to identify these things without trusting some salesperson (I'm a verbal, not a visual/tactile person and struggle with such things), or how to best optimize cost and quality choices. I also don't have a real sense of to what extent the various quality options actually make a difference in terms of impression (will anyone even notice whether the jacket really buttons?).

SO: in a bit over a month, I have an interview for a job I really really want. My current suits aren't great---I bought them back when I was a broke student, so think jos a bank permasale + I've changed sizes a bit. I need at least one new suit. My current job pays me pretty well, so I can afford to spend significantly more money than I have in the past. And since I really really want this new job, and intend to spend the next month nailing down every little detail that can possibly make a difference, I am willing to spend pretty heavily if necessary.

Budget: Right now, I think it would be painful to spend more than $1,200 or so (and obviously I'd rather spend less). However, most of that pain would be psychological. If it would actually make a difference in looking good and landing the job, I can choke down the pain and add a thousand to that without breaking the bank.

The good thing is that I live an hour from New York City, or from Philadelphia in the other direction. So there are options. The bad thing is that I have no friends nearby who buy fancy suits and can recommend tailors. The other bad thing is the time constraint probably keeps me from doing anything REALLY slick like finding one of those magic Hong Kong tailors who do London quality for Detroit prices.

In case it matters, I have roughly a small rugby player/running back build. Tall, but not towering, muscular with a little bit of hated pudge on top but not huge, some junk in the trunk. 6'0, 215 or so, in casual clothes usually wear medium shirts and 34/34 jeans.

Ideally, I'd like to avoid off-the-rack in favor of, I guess MTM if there's time (I assume there's no time for full bespoke), and as perfect a fit as possible. I'd also like to have any features that will facilitate flying across country with the suit stuffed in an overhead compartment, then putting it on in a hotel room to do an all-day interview the next morning without requiring the intervention of a pro to make it not be a wrinkled mess. Also, while I'd obviously like an expensive purchase like this to last, what I REALLY care about is looking good for this interview and any others I get in the next few months, so I'm willing to economize on longevity features in favor of short-term looking good features.

Then, questions:
- is the difference between full and half canvas worth paying for? (Am I right to assume that fused should be right out?)
- how much wool quality is actually worth paying for? 120? 150?
- most importantly, where do I actually go? I suppose I could show up at Brooks Brothers or something and pay for the brand name, but I'd rather spend my money on quality not brands. So how do I find someone reliable and fast to sell me this thing and not rip me off? Any recommendations?
- dare I try Indochino or some similar online tailor? My worry there is that if the suit shows up in a month and it sucks, I won't have time to get a remake, and will end up with some piece of off the rack garbage. Is that a serious worry?

I already have shoes I love, so no need to tell me about the need for good ones.

posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Were I you, I'd take myself to Brooks Brothers (I like very traditional suits.) Ask a salesperson all of these questions and have them show you what they are.

The thing about suits, you're going to pay, whether you recognize the brand or not. Don't go to Men's Warehouse or such places.

Don't order on-line, people who do that know all of their measurements (all 200 of them). You want to deal with folks who you can talk to, and who can teach you.

Brooks Brothers provides the suits on Mad Men and doesn't Don Draper look dreamy?

I bought a BB women's suit and I LOVED it!

You can order bespoke once you GET the job. Fly to Korea for that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:47 AM on September 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

I recommend Brooks Brothers as well for a skilled, good-natured, and relatively pleasurable experience for the less experienced suit-seeker. It's an investment, and I'm willing to bet, one you'll feel good in and good about.

A Brooks Brothers suit is recognizable - there those whose status and income may require a presentation that is 'beyond BB'... but - this does not sound like where you're at right now. (Echoing Ruthless Bunny: I see a bespoke suit in your future! And a great BB suit for today).

My husband was in a similar situation years ago ... this is a middle aged man who had not owned a suit since his bar mitzvah. That put around 45 years between him and his last suited moment. Brooks Brothers did a beautiful job for him.

If you are more venturesome, I'd recommend Saks (if they have a good sale). My Dad, a classy guy with not a lotta dough, generally wore suits and jackets from Saks - on sale.

I agree with Ruthless Bunny on another point - forget Mens Wearhouse and all those places. If you really know how to buy a suit, and really know what you're looking for, you can do ok there. But for those with less experience - Brooks Brothers is a best first stop.

Good luck on that interview!
posted by ferkit at 7:23 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can actually go to the tailor Brooks uses for their better MTM suits - its Martin Greenfield. He actually does a lot of the high profile MTM brands.

There are a plethora of MTM guys in NYC - I suggest you troll the mens clothing fora and figure out what the options and learn about cuts and what sort of cut you prefer. Maybe go to a department store and try on a few styles. Its sounds like you are pretty fit, so you have some license.

Your tailor should answer your first questions - tho full canvas is the way to go. 120 is probably as fine as you want to go - but I'd ask the guy you go with. That's part of what you are paying for.

I wouldn't do someone like Indochino - but that's just me. Again there are guys on those fora who have gotten suits from there and can give you pluses and minuses.
posted by JPD at 7:26 AM on September 13, 2014

Oh - I just saw your time line. A month for a first MTM suit is going to be tough.

Read up on suits, what makes a quality one, who delivers a good QPR in RTW and go check it out.
posted by JPD at 7:28 AM on September 13, 2014

If you come to Philadelphia, look at Boyd's and Brooks Brothers (they're only a few blocks from each other).

Boyd's has fantastic variety, much of which is in your price range, and the other comments have already highlighted the value of BB.
posted by grudgebgon at 7:37 AM on September 13, 2014

I got a beautiful, tailored, great value suit at Suit Supply on Broome in NYC two years ago. A MeFite recommended them.

Their staff, at least when I was there, were all aspiring fashion designers (heck, Tim Gunn from Project Runway walked in while I was being fitted.) There really wasn't a sales pitch - they spent as much time teaching me posture on how to wear a suit (which, let's get real, is a whole lot of why Don Draper looks so good on Mad Men.) They agonized over measuring to fit, which considering the complements I get in it, was worth its weight in gold.

Turnaround time was 3 days. Total cost was $800. Can't recommend enough.
posted by buoys in the hood at 7:38 AM on September 13, 2014 [8 favorites]

Don't go MTM. You don't have time, and honestly, unless you are applying to Oligarchs Are Us, it won't make a difference. Dink around with mail-order MTM later, or if you get the job, get on the roster of one of the Savile Row guys who visits the US - it will take months and months but you'll get good stuff.

Suit Supply comes highly recommended. People are always talking up Zegna, and what I've seen of their stuff is high quality, but most suitable if you don't have a really pinkish skin tone.

You don't need to worry about wool quality - buy a high-end suit that fits in a color that is both interview appropriate and flattering and the wool will take care of itself.

The thing is, people fetishize MTM/bespoke. Crappy MTM is still crappy, and as you can tell from reviews on Put This On, Men's Flair and so on, it's a pretty uneven market. You will be amazed by how good a high-quality off the rack suit will look when it's well-tailored - hell, I've seen guys in well-tailored Men's Warehouse suits look hella better than guys in fancier suits who didn't anything tailored.

I personally think all that 150 wool stuff is overrated - basically, it's finer and more fragile wool, and while it's wonderful soft, it shows wear like blazes.

If you're flying across the country, get a proper garment bag, go in a day early,stay in a posh hotel which you have vetted in advance and which has a nearby/onsite garment service. Failing that, call around to a decent tailor and ask if they can help steam and press your suit. Failing that, take a small steamer and go over the suit carefully - not too much, as you don't want to steam the shape out of the suit. If I were you, I'd get one now and practice on your existing suits.

The most important thing is to get the fit right - hie thee to Suit Supply and Brookie's (and I'd be more serious about Suit Supply - the staff at Brookie's aren't what they were) and concentrate on fit.
posted by Frowner at 8:07 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't go to Brooks Brothers.

Go to Alton Lane.
posted by dfriedman at 8:20 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Men's suits from Theory are incredible and within your price range. You don't even have to go anywhere, just order a few and return all but one (what I mean is, call them to get your recommended sizing but then order more than one to try on at home). What I really like about them:

1. The fit is just perfect. Fitted enough to make anyone look distinctly un-schleppy yet not so hipster-skinny that a conservative interviewer will think then "funny". They really do not look "off-the-rack", at all.

2. The colors are the platonic ideals of the color i.e. the navy is THE Navy, the charcoal grey is THE Charcoal Grey, etc.

3. They dry-clean beautifully. My husband has a few and they look good forever, right until he gets a hole in his pants' back pocket from years and years of wallet corners poking at it.
posted by rada at 8:31 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to add that if you want to avoid off-the-rack you will need $3k-$4k and 2-3 visits for repeated fittings. At $1,200, you will get "cargo cult bespoke" i.e. a tailor who doesn't do the one thing that a bespoke tailor is supposed to do which is fit the suit perfectly to your body through repeated adjustments. I used to have my clothes made and it really does take at least 2 adjustments (4 total visits from the first visit when they measure you to the last visit when you pick it up) - otherwise the tailor is just using standard patterns which is no different than off-the-rack.
posted by rada at 8:52 AM on September 13, 2014

I suppose I could show up at Brooks Brothers or something and pay for the brand name, but I'd rather spend my money on quality not brands.

You are not paying for the brand name at Brooks Brothers. You are paying for all of the other things you've mentioned: extremely knowledgeable, highly trained sales staff; tailoring that results in as perfect a fit as possible; and people who speak wool weight, canvas and buttons fluently. Those things are what make the Brooks Brothers brand.

Unfortunately, the old guard tailors at BB are all dead and they can't train and retain the new floor staff, so I'm 4thing Suit Supply. Go to both; you'll learn loads.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:19 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I vote for Paul Stuart, right next to the brooks brothers flagship store but what BB was 30 years ago. Great quality, wonderful service. I expect suits /pants from there to last 10-15 years.
posted by shothotbot at 1:00 PM on September 13, 2014

Suit Supply. 100%.

They'll get you a nice, very well-fitting suit quickly.
posted by yellowcandy at 3:36 PM on September 13, 2014

Yeah, I would go with Theory, Suit Supply or BB. If you pick BB definitely try the Milano: it's the most modern cut in a stuffy brand, and it'll be acceptable anywhere. Do not do custom-made: you don't have enough judgement/experience yet for that.

Shoe quality is actually at least as important as suit quality. Try Allen Edmonds or similar. Dark dress socks, understated tie. Make sure you have a laptop bag or case that works with the whole look. Something like Tumi would be neutral and fine for most fields.

Don't overthink this. Don't worry about canvas or wool quality. For job interviews outside the menswear/fashion industry, they will not notice if your stuff isn't top quality, and if they do they won't think any less of you. They actually don't care whether you know anything about clothes (and many successful people don't) -- they will be more interested in your social skills: do you know what's appropriate to wear, will you wear it, and can you pull it off without seeming stressy or uncomfortable. That's all.

The most important thing you can do prior to your interview is to wear the entire outfit at least 2x beforehand -- out for lunch, around the house, whatever. That will give you a chance to work out any kinks, like anything that binds or unravels or pinches or itchs or trips you. The goal is that on the day of your interview, you don't want to be distracted by your clothes. Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 10:58 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

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