Buying a suit can be an intimidating experience, particularly if you’ve never shopped for one before. Salespeople will often try to convince you to buy a suit by telling you that it looks great, even if it feels uncomfortable. Plus, it’s often very hard to tell whether you actually look good or whether a suit fits you if you’re not familiar with them.
This adds up to a lot of financial risk. It’s no wonder people can be really apprehensive about buying suits.
Here’s the simplest way to save a ton of money on a suit: Buy a well-made one that actually fits you. That doesn’t necessarily mean a “cheap” suit, but it means one that will require minimal additional tailor work and will last for a very long time.
Here are six steps for saving money on your suit purchase.
Don’t wait until the last minute to buy a suit. If you know that there is an event (or series of events) in your future where you’re going to need a suit, start shopping for that suit now. If you delay, you’re going to end up spending a ton on a suit that you might not even like and isn’t tailored well to your body shape.
Avoid that. Start shopping now, not later, even if you don’t need a suit tomorrow or next week. Putting in some time right now means you’ll get a great suit at a good price.
Shop around. Keep an eye out for suit sales from clothing retailers by watching ads. Many clothing retailers will regularly have strong sales on business attire, and that’s typically the time to strike, particularly when the sale affects a large selection of suits.
You’ll probably find that the sales don’t overlap particularly well. That’s okay. Just check out one sale, and if you don’t find what you like, walk away. It is completely OK to visit several stores before buying a suit, and if you decide that one retailer you visited earlier actually has the best suit for you, wait until its next sale.
Buy a wool suit that’s close to perfect and take it to a tailor for final adjustments. A wool suit is your best bet for a garment that will last a long time and continue to look good. Wool suits have a reputation for being heavy (like a wool blanket), but they actually breathe really well and tend to be made of much thinner cloth than a wool blanket, so don’t be apprehensive. Wool lasts and lasts, so even if it’s a little more pricey, it’s a better investment than artificial fibers.
The truth is that no suit will fit you perfectly off the rack. Every suit will likely need some adjustment. Most stores that sell suits will offer to tailor it for you, but you shouldn’t take that offer. Ask about tailoring – most places just have the salesperson quickly take a few measurements, write them down on a form, then the suit is sent off to a factory somewhere for “adjustments.” You’re likely to still get a suit back that doesn’t fit you well. A better approach is to just find a suit that’s close, take it home without the store’s adjustments and find a tailor on your own to do final adjustments for you. It’ll cost a little bit extra, but you’re going to get the best fit this way.
Shop with a trusted friend and ignore the salesperson. Salespeople will often tell you that everything you try on looks great, regardless of whether it does or not. That’s why you should shop for the suit with a friend, ideally someone you trust in these matters. Tell the friend that it’s OK to say that a suit looks bad on you and that he’s there to help you find one that actually looks good.
Try on several suits, ignore what the salespeople are saying and trust your friend. If your friend gives it a seal of approval, and you like it, too, then that’s the one you should buy.
Stick to a simple style. It can be fun to get a more “flashy” suit, but unless you have an extensive wardrobe, you should be sticking to suits that are of simple colors and have simple styles. That way, the suit works in lots of different situations, and you don’t need an extensive collection of suits. If you want to vary your suit, do it with different ties.
If you stick to a simple style and common colors, you have a lot more options when shopping around, and a tailor will be able to adjust the suit much more easily.
Know what a suit should feel and look like. A final tip: A suit should feel right on you, or close to it. The problem is that if you’re new to suits, you don’t necessarily know what that is. Buy a suit that fits well to begin with, and it will require minimal tailoring and thus minimal additional expense.
First of all, the shoulder pads should end where your shoulders do and not stick out any wider. When you put it on, you shouldn’t struggle at all, and your arms should be able to freely move without resistance or any worry of damaging the jacket or tearing anything. If you put a fist inside the suit jacket on your chest, the bottom should pull up a little, but it shouldn’t if you put in a flat hand. The top suit button should be above your belly button and the bottom one should be below. When your arms are at your sides, you should be able to see about half an inch of your shirt sleeves in the mirror, the jacket sleeves should be at the start of your wrist, and your knuckles should be very near the bottom of your jacket. Those are quick things that anyone can see in a mirror, and if you have most of them done right, it won’t take much tailoring to get the suit to fit your body.
If you follow these steps, you’ll have a suit that fits well and will last a long time at relatively minimal cost. Good luck!