Finding suits for short, portly men is hell, I tell you, pure hell.
April 22, 2006 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Okay, for whatever reason, I cannot find this information to save my life: In men's suits, what is the typical length for a "short" (as in not regular or long) suit jacket? For a regular jacket? Is there a range of typical lengths?

I know, by the way, that some suits are made custom, but there are also plenty of suits that are bought off-the-rack, and that's really what I'm interested in.

Bonus points: Send me to a resource that has a veritable cornucopia of this information -- arm length to jacket length to chest width . . . and I will send you cookies.

Extra Bonus Points: If you have a suit with a 46 short or "not too long" regular jacket, 46 inch waist with a not-too-long inseam, and you would like rid of it, lemme know. Email is in the profile.
posted by Medieval Maven to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (2 answers total)
Your profile implies that you are not a short, portly man so I guess this isn't for you...

Suit size is the chest size, in inches. The "drop" is the difference between chest size and waist size and is normally 6 inches. Thus, a 42 suit will come with 36" pants. Portly men will want a smaller drop: 38" pants or 40" pants or whatever. "Short" cuts down the trouser length, sleeve length, suit length, "Long" increases them all, but exactly how much varies with the suit and its base size. Google for "suit sizing" to learn more.

Probably the easiest way is not to buy exactly off-the-rack (Sears) but rather to step up a notch in expense and quality and go to, say, Men's Wearhouse or an equivalent men's suit store. Let them find a suit that fits, and let them fit you and tailor it to you (or your S.O., apparently). If you're looking for 46-46, that's a zero drop, and yes, it will probably be fairly difficult to fit you, but hardly impossible - it's not like there aren't any fat men in America. Actually it has become more common at men's suit stores to have suits and slacks separate - the fabrics still match, but picking the pants and suit separately let you get that zero drop combination easily. At Sears (or whatever) where the suit and slacks are sold paired, finding a pair that fits will continue to be difficult.
posted by jellicle at 8:02 PM on April 22, 2006

Men's suits are the family business, and while it's in my blood and I keep up with what's going on in the industry through my father, it's not what I do for a living, so this is all from my best recollection.

A "short" suit is going to shorten a bunch of things: the length of the jacket, the gorge of the lapel, the length of the jacket's sleeves, the rise of the pants, and the length of the pants. How much shorter than the regular depends on the suit and the manufacturer (as do the measurements of the regular).

No two styles of suits will have exactly the same measurements for a given size. You try them on and you get them altered; having short/regular/long just means you have a better-proportioned starting point to begin from. Trying to figure out fit based on arm measurements, etc. isn't going to help much because the salespeople aren't going to know those numbers for the suits they sell either.

The one thing a short, portly man needs is a good tailor. Inseam on the pants is no problem; anyone can shorten a pair of pants down to shorts if you wanted them to. The rise is very difficult to shorten, though.

On the subject of custom: Off-the-rack suits up to a 42 have a 6" drop -- the pants of a 42" jacket, from short to tall, are a 36" waist. Above a 42 or 44 you go to a 4" drop. You won't find anything smaller than a 3-4" drop off the rack anywhere, and you need a zero drop. Sticking with off-the-rack, you'll have to get a 50 jacket and alter it way down to fit. That's pushing the ability of the best tailor; at that point you're practically redesigning the suit. So the best way to find a suit to fit you depends on your budget.

But there are levels between "off the rack" and "completely custom-made":

Custom orders: here, you're ordering a specific size jacket and a specific size pants that match, separately, but they're standard manufactured pieces, the same kind that would usually be put together in an off-the-rack suit. This is useful when your jacket and suit size are outside the range of those typically carried, or outside the range that are usually carried together. This is probably the cheapest way to get a suit with zero drop. The difference between custom prices and off-the-rack prices is usually the difference between suggested retail and the sale price on the floor, keeping in mind that low-end suits won't have a custom option.

Made-to-measure: Here you're ordering a custom jacket and pants again, but instead of choosing stock sizes out of a book, you're getting measured and the suitmaker is choosing the right premade patterns from a library which best fit you. It's not a giant jump from custom order unless you're a weird fit in one or two areas (triangle-shaped men do made-to-measure really well, for instance), but if you're an unusual fit there probably won't already be patterns customized to fit your shape so you won't be that far off from custom order. Both the price and the price range go up a bit from off-the-rack.

Bespoke is the completely custom-made suit, which fits everyone as well as a suit can and costs an arm and a leg: a cutter takes your measurements and hand-draws (!) a pattern from which the suit is made. No-one else will have that suit. For very difficult-to-fit people, there's a lot to be said for getting a conservative bespoke suit; it'll cost two to five times the price of an off-the-rack suit, but it'll fit so much better and it'll stay in style for a decade so it often ends up a better bargain.
posted by mendel at 8:15 PM on April 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

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