Queer eye for a big guy...
October 10, 2006 3:24 AM   Subscribe

I am having a suit and/or tuxedo made tomorrow in Shanghai. I don't know squat about fashion, and I am a pretty big guy. Help me pick some clothing that will look good on me.

I can get a custom tailored suit for under $100 in Shanghai - how can I not?! I'll be there for eight days (six real days, travelling two, but I think I might be able to get measurements taken on the first travel day).

I'm 6' 2", 270 lbs, I was never a football player, but people always ask if I was. Broad shoulders, not particularly muscular, but (obviously) not a twig; fair amount of gut. I don't know where I hide it, but I look pretty good for a guy who is nearly 300 pounds...

So... What kind of suit will look good on me? What particular suit features am I looking to stock up on or diminish? I am looking for something that will look good five years from now (i.e., classic, not cutting edge fashion).

Similarly, for a tuxedo, what is a timeless look for a big guy? Wow... my own tux! How cool is that?
posted by juliewhite to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am not a man, but I do buy suits for my fiance who has a little bit of a tummy and is embarassed by it.

I think a lot of men look really good in the classic three-piece suit. That is, I think the vest is the key to making a suit look great on a larger man; it kind of functions like a man-corset and hides the gut.
posted by Alison at 5:55 AM on October 10, 2006

Yeah, a double breasted three piece suit would work well.
posted by Jawn at 7:07 AM on October 10, 2006

Classic 3-pieces are very nice, but hard to dress down. Think pinstripes, baby! I think 2-button jackets are on the way, but you could make the case that they're more "plunging", thus slenderizing (though I don't buy it myself.) Whatever you do, avoid double-breasted. Also, you want to pay attention to and clearly specify small details - handmade buttonholes, how a pocket finishes, etc. Ask to see samples of the tailors' work, pick your fave details, and then mix and match. Also, if you're a gizmo guy, have them put in extra "hidden" pockets for blackberries, ipods, etc. They can do that. I would say definitely go for a cuff at the ankle. Don't skimp on the fabric - you'll likely not get many custom suits in your time, so don't hold back on the luxury - vicuna, cashmere, whatever. Also, don't be afraid to be bold with the linings... get heavy silk or satins in kick-ass colors and/or patterns. Finally, make sure you get 3-4 shirts that can handle your suits - and get french cuffs, too. Have fun!
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:18 AM on October 10, 2006

No! A double-breasted 3-piece suit would be awful, and very stuffy! A two-piece suit has side vents, which allow for some drape while still maintaining the fit. More flexibility and comfort.
Also, don't forget to get a monogram!
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:20 AM on October 10, 2006

definitely not double breasted. it will make you look bigger than you are. two button jacket and pants with a cuff sounds great.
posted by sulaine at 8:22 AM on October 10, 2006

Much as I love double breasted suits - they are definetly a risk, and work for me because they make me look slightly less skinny - this doesn't sound to be what you're going for - and it would be overkill with a waistcoat. I'd go for a classic black pin stripe single breasted three piece suit - after all, you don't have to wear the waistcoat...
posted by prentiz at 11:22 AM on October 10, 2006

Keep in mind that one of the greatest faux-pas made in general with double-breasted suits is that they are made to be kept closed all the time, while the standard for men's suits in North America these days often seems to dictate a considerable amount of time with the jacket unbuttoned.

Small men can get away with leaving their double-breasted suit unbuttoned (see Letterman for example) but on large men... that's a LOT of extra fabric hanging there.

Also, many men (and suit-makers seem to be adapting to this) wear their trousers far too low, like jeans. This is a huge problem because the trousers on most suits will be made with a high rise that is designed to sit just below the navel. Wear them lower and the whole piece is out of whack - not only too long but no longer fitting well.

As a larger (but not huge) man myself, I haven't gone there yet but braces/suspenders can be very helpful for keeping the trousers' waist where it should be. Just remember - you don't need a belt with suspenders.

I would go with a standard three-button blue or dark gray suit, two piece (apologies to the poster above, but three piece seems a little affected these days), with belt loops and suspender stays (but use one at a time!), a nice inch and a quarter cuffs, and great detailing as mentioned above - cuff buttons should be functional (optional), it should have a proper waist closure (button on the left, slider tab on the right or two buttons).

The real trick is to ensure that the fabric used will be of very high quality, including the lining. Such a suit will last for years of heavy usage and keep its shape.

Unrequested personal anecdote: for my wedding I went to a large but respected chain in Canada called Harry Rosen and had a suit made. Unfortunately the guy who took my measurements didn't do a great job, and when I came in for my fitting, there was an old guy sitting in the corner who was harrumphing and shaking his head and generally displeased. He came over to me and started tugging and testing, and finally said, "this suit cannot be made to fit."

Turns out it was Harry Rosen himself. He re-measured me, noted the fabric I had chosen and asked me when my wedding was. "A week Saturday," I told him, and he said, "OK, come by on Friday and we'll have a fully tailored suit for you. Don't worry, it will be perfect the first time - I've been doing this for 60 years."

Best suit I've ever owned, even without considering the event.
posted by mikel at 11:47 AM on October 10, 2006

The shawl collared tuxedo is a classic look, that works well for big men. And personally, for a suit a that is not going to be worn regularly, like a tux, $100 Shangai make may be fine. But the amount of "custom tailoring" you'll see in that grade of suit is pretty limited. You're getting an adjustment of stock patterns, not a drafted pattern for your body and stance. So, check the fit carefully at the time you pick it up. Some things can be "fixed" after make, and some things can't. Shoulder lines, armholes, collar set, lapel curl, front edges and bottom curl, you're stuck with. If the sleeves are too long, or the coat is a little tight through the shoulders, that's comparatively easy to fix.

Stick to wool or polyester-wool blends, in choosing fabrics. In that grade of suit, the blends are more realistic, as the 100% wool offerings in that range may often contain significant amount of processed wool fiber, which is short, and makes the cloth tend to pill easily.
posted by paulsc at 12:05 PM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

english cut is a good blog about suits and tailoring, if you want more info.

Some would say my views on this kind of thing are too traditional, but there you go.

When getting a tux, the facings (the front of the lapel), will be covered in silk or satin. Silk is the traditional option here in the UK, and personally I think satin looks a bit naff, in a 70s kind of way. Tux should be double breasted, even for a big guy.

Midnight blue is also acceptable for a tux, as well as black.

Single breasted is better for a big guy when it comes to a suit. Three button is the traditional number, although only the middle button is ever done up.

When getting the fitting, have a look at yourself in profile, and check that the back of the suit is smooth along your back. If the shoulders are cut badly, it is easy to have a permanent wrinkle between the shoulderblades.

Pin stripes are great, but not too thick.

Just my opinions, obviously
posted by Touchstone at 3:23 AM on October 11, 2006

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