It only took me four months to post this continuation of Topic #2.
Topic #2 (2 of 2): The Engineering behind your Suits.
Last time we talk about what color of suits you should wear or at least keep in your closet for special occasion.
Part 2 will cover briefly:
1. Suit and Pant Sizes
2. Suit Vents
3. Lapel (What is a Lapel????)
4. Buttons and Zipper
These different sub topics will assist you in buying your first suit(s) and/or add on to what you don't already know about your suit(s)
1. Suit sizes
So let's make this clear, suit coat comes in sizes and they are measured by the size of your chest in the US (inches), but in Europe the sizes reflect the value from shoulder to shoulder (centimeter). European sizes in my opinion is superior than how the US define the suit sizes. The reason why is because most of the time you look for a suit, the number one rule of thumb is that it should fit your shoulder snugly. This is because it is more difficult to change your shoulder size than your chest.
US: 36, 38, 40, 42, etc. (Even numbers are most common at your department store and odd number like size 37 are a little bit more difficult to find, but do exist.)
Europe: 46, 48, 50, 52, etc. (When American store goes by European measurement, to get the size your looking for add 10 to the US measurement. But this method is flawed since the measurement doesn't translate to inches very well. An example:
A size 46 in Europe will appear to be looser than a size 36 in America. Take 36 inches = 91.44 cm and divide by two, so 45.72 cm. So it is slightly smaller than what was marked on the suit tag. Reason why European clothes might be slimmer than American/China made clothes.
For suit pants, sizes are the same as any other pair of pants (jeans, khakis, etc.). I'm sure you know these sizes already, but for those who don't buy their own pants, they come in waist by inseam (measurement from your crotch to bottom side of your ankle) sizes. Some stores will just go by waist size and it is inferred that the inseam is 32 inches.
US: 28, 29, 30, 31, etc. (in inches for both waist and inseam)
Europe: 71, 76, 81, 86, etc. (in centimeters for both waist and inseam)
How to convert? Take US inches and multiply by 2.54 (cm/in) get your European size.
If you go to a tailor, they will do several measurements (arm length, shoulder to shoulder, chest, waist, inseam, to get you a more tailored suit. However, prices will be over 9000 more than suits you buy off a rack without extra tailoring. It's actually a couple hundred dollars more. Tailor will measure these values for your suit, won't go into detail.
What are R, S, and L next to suit sizes mean? R = Regular, S = Short, and L = Long. This is referring to the sleeve length of your suit. Usually these length are used by department store selling suit, a real tailored suit will have no such letter next to the size. Refer to image below for department store sizing:
2. Suit Vents
Several suit types to notice why looking for your first.
No Vent, Center Vent, or Double Vent
Double Vented style is common and preferred in Europe, Center Vent common and preferred in the United States, and No Vent is uncommon but do exist. Some good things regarding double vent, it allow the suit to stay straight and in shape when you put your hands in your pocket. But, some people hate the Double Vent, because when you sit your suit tail get all wrinkled up and in your way. This is a reason why American prefer the Center Vented suit over the Double Vented. With the Center Vented suit, when you sit down your suit is allowed to fall down your sides rather than being squeeze between the chair and your gluts. But a drawback is that when you put your hands in your pocket, the suit vent can open showing your bottom. The No Vented suit style, gets the worst of the two.
A lapel is the folded flap on the front of your suit jacket that travel upward (in a V-shape) from the first button of your suit to your collar. There are three different type of lapels for your suit, notched, peaked (sharp pointed), or shawl, most suit coat are notched (standard). The trend nowaday is to go toward a slimmer more narrow lapel, roughly 2.5 inches versus 3.0 inches in width (some of course are >3.0 inches).
Some lapel do have a button hole on the left side, I'm not 100% what this is for, but I have used it to pin down a flower during weddings.
4. Buttons and Zipper
Usually suits come in either two or three buttons, unless you are getting a peacoat style suit jacket (4 or 6 buttons). Even then, half of the buttons are for decoration and not use to fasten the jacket together. One thing to note about buttons on your suit, often you don't button up the bottom most button. This is because if you do and try to sit down you can't spread your legs out comfortably enough or risk wrinkle your suit near the crotch location.
The buttons (usually 3 or 4) on the sleeve of your suit jacket are for decoration and serve no functional purpose. It was once useful by in the days, but fashion kept on changing and their purpose was forgotten and most people don't know or care to change what was already a part of the suit.
For buttons on your pants, most suit have two hooks and no buttons at all to secure your pants. Some suit will have a main button and a hook on the inside for extra support. The fastening varies with designer and stores.
For zipper, rule of thumb, if your zipper is plastic on your suit pant then you have a low quality suit. Look at the label, probably made in china. I notice this on my pant suit a year after I bought and got it tailored. Don't make this mistake.
Usually most suits are made with wool, some retailer like to throw in summer fabric like cotton and linen, which are acceptable in today's trend. They also come in many patterns: pinstripe, plaid, floral, etc. (anything you name they have it). I believe they have a camo pattern...
Be aware of some retailer who jack up their prices because they claim that the fabric come from Italy and/or made in Italy. Usually designer brand will carry this Made in Italy, unknown brand that you see at 3 Suits for $129 will probably say Made in China. Just be careful at what you buy, suits are a big investment and I witness the power it has on my very own job interview this past September. Questions?