Looking for a decent women's suit
February 21, 2017 11:03 AM   Subscribe

I am having a hell of a time finding a decent women's suit or matching separates that fit my criteria: pantsuit, less than $300, one button on the jacket, straight legged or tapered but not (freaking) cropped, buyable in person in NYC. Black or grey. Help me out here.

I've looked in several places and have found nothing that hits every beat. Ann Taylor has been closest but they stock practically no pants that aren't wide-legged or cropped, and I look utterly ridiculous in cropped pants. (They also seem to sell the majority of their suiting online, and I really want to try this stuff on in person.) Banana Republic doesn't seem like good enough quality for the prices they're asking. Express and Zara might as well be made out of tissue paper. I tried Century 21 and found literally absolutely nothing - plenty of blazers and pants but not a single matching set - and stalked resentfully past the huge floor of lovely men's suits at enormous discounts.

I know I could try thrifting a suit and getting it tailored, and I probably will, but I might need to buy a suit before I can do this as I'm trying to get interviews now.

I guess I'd go up to $450 but it would have to be one hell of a suit and fit all my criteria perfectly.

I could compromise on the one-button thing as long as it didn't look incredibly frumpy, which most of the two- and three-button jackets I've seen have.

If it makes any difference, I'm around a size 8 but sometimes wind up as a 10 in pants, and I also have fairly long arms which sometimes screws me when it comes to blazers - but I'm not tall enough to wear a 'tall.'

I figured I'd try Nordstrom Rack and JC Penny next, but does anyone have other suggestions?

(As a secondary question, what's with all the goddamn cropped pants? They just make it look like I bought the wrong size pants!)
posted by showbiz_liz to Shopping (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried J.Crew? A bigger store should have a decent selection of the suiting, and they have one-button jackets and slim pants.

My take on their quality is that it's basically fine (not fantastic, but not irritatingly cheap). They have a lot of sales, although it sounds like you may not be able to wait for one.

To get you started, the Campbell suit?
posted by chocotaco at 11:10 AM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Have you tried Marshall's or TJ Maxx? They both have women's business suits.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:12 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Macy's usually has decent women's suits in some of their house brands, and also Calvin Klein.
posted by Miko at 11:16 AM on February 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

I came in to say J Crew as well - the Campbell and the Regent suits both seem to fit all your criteria except price (they come in under $450 even without a sale, but I don't think they're quite worth what they're priced. Better quality on average than the brands you've tried, though). Depending on how tight your time crunch is - I've had luck trying things on in store for size and fit, and then buying gently used J Crew suits on ebay or craigslist. The nice thing about the 120s wool is that the colors and fabric stay consistent over the years, so you don't need to worry about buying a used blazer and pants separately and then having them be two different shades of black or grey.
posted by exutima at 11:20 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I like Talbots for work pants. They fit me well and they are step up in quality from Ann Taylor or Banana Republic. I've never put together a full suit there, but it looks like they have as separates number of one button jackets and matching straight leg or tapered pants that you could put together for under $300.
posted by Kriesa at 11:21 AM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Seconding Macy's. They have a good selection and are generally decent quality for the price.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:30 AM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I like Lord & Taylor for suits personally.
posted by rdnnyc at 11:39 AM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ann Taylor Loft? (they may just be called "Loft" now) They don't sell "suits" per se but have separates made out of the same material that work as suits.
posted by ethorson at 11:47 AM on February 21, 2017

Macy's eg this or this
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:08 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I bought my first two suits for my female-shaped body (my body changed shape dramatically afterward) at men's stores. The first was at Men's Warehouse. The guy who helped me was great; the guy who measured me for alterations was, like, afraid to even touch me which was kind of off-putting. Also, be firm on your price-point if you try that route. The other was at a local men's boutique store and, astonishingly cost less than the one from Men's Warehouse. You might want to ask around if other women or queer people have had good luck buying suits at men's stores/sections, but odds are, in NYC, no one would bat an eye. The higher end stores include tailoring in the cost of the suit itself. Sometimes you have to pay for tailoring if the suit is on sale/clearance, but usually it's worth the discount you're getting otherwise. This is, of course, much more difficult for those who have narrow shoulders, are shorter, are bustier, etc.
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:15 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I presented as a woman I went to Talbot's and got a suit there (for a job interview). They let me mix & match the jacket & pants sizes. Too bad it's not a size 8, I'd just send it to you.
posted by AFABulous at 1:18 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

You could see if your local Aritzia has a Desmond jacket in your size, and get them to wrangle you some pants to go, though not sure they won't be slightly cropped (seems to be crops or flares this year :/). There are some other decent imo jackets there as well. But if you can swing J Crew, might as well do that.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:10 PM on February 21, 2017

I have had good luck with Ann Taylor! Did you check out the non-cropped pants on their website? They can usually special order a few different ones for you to try on in-store.
posted by stillmoving at 2:11 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

On the Calvin Klein website I saw a few one-button "suits" that are actually pants and jacket sold separately. I have a jacket of theirs that's very good quality. In my experience, the sizes run a little large.

I understand you want to buy in person -- you could call around and see who carries those particular garments, or what other CK jackets and pants are available.
posted by wryly at 3:12 PM on February 21, 2017

I'd check out Macys and I'd use their free personal shopping service to do it. Set up an appointment with one of the stylists, describe what you are looking for, and show up to a fitting room full of stuff that meets your needs. It's low/no pressure and a great experience.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:53 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Buying wool suiting at BR during one of their 40% off sales (one where suiting isn't excluded, that is) might work out well. They do this stupid thing where they don't sell a full range of pants and skirts to match each blazer they offer, though, so YMMV.

Ann Taylor's suiting has been kinda weird for long-armed/slightly long torsoed people these past few seasons - I have the same jacket fitting situation, and I typically need to size down and buy tall.

If you're cool with some sort of synthetic blend, The Limited's suiting isn't bad and is a gigantic step up from Express.
posted by blerghamot at 7:57 PM on February 21, 2017

I got a pretty great gray pantsuit (sold as separate blazer and trouser) from Uniqlo about two years ago, for under $150. They don't have a super-wide selection of businesswear, and the styles change from year to year, but I like their simple quasi-androgynous styling and the quality is generally better than Zara/Express/etc. There's a gray two-button blazer and matching non-cropped trousers for $80 and $40 respectively, now. I don't know if they keep these in stock at the NYC stores now (I got mine at the Soho branch) but they do have in-store pick-up for online orders so you can try on and return if needed there.
posted by karayel at 9:12 PM on February 21, 2017

I found a Nine West suit at Macy's I like. Macy's had a good variety of traditional to more contemporary suits, too.
posted by soakimbo at 9:59 PM on February 21, 2017

Banana Republic or Ann Taylor - but call ahead to the store to see how much suiting they stock, some have much more than others. Otherwise go to Nordstrom and see if they have Halogen suits on sale or Macy's and look for a Tahari in a matched suit set or matching separates. Do not get Le Suit brand at Macy's. Marshalls or Target (if in NYC) might have something.
posted by Red Desk at 12:10 AM on February 22, 2017

I also have trouble with stores not carrying the selection I want. You may want to try picking a store you can physically get to, then shopping online - it's not hard to get free shipping by this method - and buying EVERYTHING that you think might work in the size you think you are, plus one size up and one down. Try on at home, return en masse what you don't like to the bricks-and-mortar store.

I live in Canada so can't speak for stores, but would also recommend Talbots for high quality.
posted by sarahkeebs at 7:33 AM on February 22, 2017

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