How should a ladies suit fit?
August 23, 2019 2:10 AM   Subscribe

I mostly know how to dress myself like a grown up, but I need a suit for next week. Can someone please show me pictures of what a well-fitting ladies suit should look like? I'm mostly concerned about the jacket/blazer side of things. I've found some fit guides online, but they are all woefully under-illustrated for me.

The goal is to appear professional and confident without my new suit "wearing me" if that makes sense. My main questions are:
1. How should it look when buttoned and what are the signs it's too small? Pictures if possible, please! Because my brain seems incapable of grokking the advice I've found.

2. How much pull on the lapel is acceptable, if any? NB- I found one yesterday that looked nice everywhere and layed flat when I stood perfectly still and straight, but the lapel/collar started puckering and flaring as soon as I moved at all.

3. How much should I be able to move my arms with it buttoned? Does a proper fit assume I'll be moving around and/or performing tasks* with the jacket open or closed?

4. My shoulders are broader than average and I won't have time for alterations. Should I size up to fit my shoulders so it can button comfortably but it's too big/boxy everywhere else or get the one that is more flattering overall and just keep it unbuttoned? I suspect the right answer is go bigger and have it altererd, but I need this for next Wednesday and can't guarantee there will be time.

*I will be required to perform tasks at the upcoming event. Unfortunately these are as-yet unspecified tasks, but it's unlikely to be actual physical labour in the traditional sense. Could be delivering a presentation, could be reorganising cabinets.
posted by Eumachia L F to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don’t wear suits regularly, but I’ve had several for interviews, presentations, etc. I’ve always worn them with the jacket buttoned.

My best way to answer your other questions is to suggest you go to Nordstrom and get one of the saleswomen to help you.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:20 AM on August 23

It depends on your shape and the style of the suit. And your budget.
If you have anything larger than a B cup, you will need to get it fitted if you want to button it. I haven't lived in the US for ages, but I'd think that better department stores should be able to make alterations in one day.
Shoulder fit is very important. Don't compromise on that.
posted by mumimor at 3:12 AM on August 23

For what it's worth I live in the UK and Monday is a bank holiday. I might be going for the least bad option at this point, but I'd be grateful for good visual examples.
posted by Eumachia L F at 3:18 AM on August 23

The issue is (and god knows I’m no one’s authority on fashion, but I do wear suits for work) that the answer to your question is completely dependent both on your body-type and on the style of the suit you’re wearing. I’m broadshouldered and flattish-chested, and I wear sort of menswear-styled pantsuits; for me, the jacket fits right if the lapels and so on lie flat when it’s buttoned and I’m walking around, but I unbutton to sit down or do anything physical.

But there are completely different possible jacket styles, and I can’t speak to how they all should fit.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:51 AM on August 23

To be a little more precise, the suit you described — fits only if you’re standing still — is too small. Everything should lay flat for ordinary walking/gesturing. I only unbutton for sitting or, like, putting things on overhead shelves. But that’s the style of jacket I wear — different possible jackets you might never unbutton.
posted by LizardBreath at 4:05 AM on August 23 [6 favorites]

The jacket should lie flat across your back when buttoned — no pulling, no involuntary ruching. The cuffs should come just past the flare of your wrist when your arms are slack at your sides. The lapels should lie flat.

As a shortish, slightly overweight lady whose overweight is all tits and ass, this sounds like an absolute pipe dream! I usually go with a boxy Chanel-style jacket if I absolutely have to wear one, for that exact reason.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:34 AM on August 23 [4 favorites]

For images, look for a website of a tailor or someone who does alterations. Most alterations are hem length, but there should be a few with suits.
posted by childofTethys at 5:02 AM on August 23

Boxy-Chanel-style jacket was exactly what I was thinking of as a more forgiving style, but couldn’t come up with the words for.
posted by LizardBreath at 5:12 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

You look fab has an excellent description of what a good fitting tailored jacket should look and feel like: The comments where people talk about the fit of actual jackets they have may also be helpful. Sorry that there aren't more photos on it.

My own opinion is that a jacket needs to fit on the shoulders first of all, then the arms (comfortable to move and neither too long or too short). The rest can be a bit more flexible. And that it's ok to wear a well-fitting jacket unbuttoned if that looks better. You're not getting one tailored so you're looking for the best overall look from what's available in stock.
posted by plonkee at 5:29 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]

Different style blazer fits

Here is one pic I found using search terms like womens blazer fit pics fit guide. I have to leave now but try some searches with these kinds of terms.

Good luck!!
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 5:57 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

If you can get it to fit across your widest points (typically shoulders/bust/hips) that's where you need to start. Then it's time for alterations to take in whatever excess material there is (say around the waist, below the shoulder blades, etc.) I find a lot of my jackets have to be taken in along the back seams a bit in addition to having the sleeves shortened.

There should be no signs anywhere of pulling or not sitting flat when buttoned. I don't normally find my arms too restricted at all--if they are, that means the jacket isn't fitting correctly. I'm also one of those people who keeps the jacket buttoned unless sitting down, and even then some shorter jackets can remain buttoned.

These aren't the best photos, but the character of Diana Trout on the TV show Younger sports some wonderful suits that are beautifully tailored. If you do a search for more of her clothes, that might give you some idea. The Jessica Pearson character from Suits (and Pearson) is also known to wear some fabulous and well-tailored jackets and suits. Again, you might get better results from a more thorough search.
posted by sardonyx at 6:03 AM on August 23

I do own suits, but as a petite woman with a large chest, I’ve never buttoned one. I also wear shell tops instead of button downs. Some blazers are meant to be unbuttoned- so try for that?
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:20 AM on August 23

Is the requirement A) that you wear a suit or B) that you look professional and confident? If it's A, please feel free to disregard the rest of my comment.

If it's B, I would recommend not buying a suit in a hurry. I think outside of specific situations where a suit is truly mandatory, something slightly less formal that fits well is far better than an ill-fitting suit. You can look perfectly professional in say, a tailored dress and something like one of these knit jackets, and it'll be easier to find something that fits your shoulders and that you can move around in.

Sorry to question the premise, but it took me a while to realize that "professional" did not have to mean stiff buttoned shirts, boxy suit jackets, and basically the complete opposite of my non-work wardrobe, so I just wanted to put the idea out there. It's been a lot easier to look put together and confident since I found shapes and styles that don't make me feel like I'm playing dress-up.
posted by yeahlikethat at 10:04 AM on August 23 [3 favorites]

Misook and Ming Wang are similar to the MMLaFluer knit jacket. Some of their prints are not to my taste at all but others are really nice, washable suits that avoid the obvious fit issues that traditional woven suits do,

They're not cheap but I have some that are going on 20 years old which look great.
posted by crush at 8:09 PM on August 23

Corporette is a blog of conservative-skewing professional fashion discussion/advice/deals, and may be useful to you as well.
posted by mosst at 6:51 AM on August 26

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