Whether you work in a profession that calls for full suit and tie at all times, or in industry that requires a more casual style and only occasional suit wearing, looking your best is undeniably the remit of the traditional work suit. In spite of this, years of cheaply made, poorly fitting off-the-peg garments have tainted many people’s impressions of the traditional suit.
But business suits need not be dry, dull, drab garments! In this blog post we’ll look at how you can dress to impress even with strict industry or company specific dress-codes to consider.
The main offender contributing to the degradation of the work suit in popular opinion is the poor fit of suits off-the-peg. Made to standard sizing based on ‘average’ measurements taken from measurement surveys, it’s rare that a suit will fit perfectly off the rack. Oversized shoulders, baggy arms and tight chests are commonly seen in jackets, whilst trousers are often overly long and either too tight or overwhelmingly loose.
The reason that suits, when properly made, look so good is that they highlight and compliment the best parts of a person’s physique. By fitting jackets correctly across the shoulder with a taper to the waist, the ideal jacket creates the triangle silhouette that we are naturally inclined to appreciate aesthetically. Trousers, likewise should balance this upper silhouette; too baggy and they undermine the careful contouring of the jacket and if too tight they will create a top-heavy outline that’s far from flattering.
Common fit issues to watch out for when buying a suit are:
Many issues can be corrected by a good alteration tailor, but this is very much damage limitation; for the perfect fit a garment should be made from scratch to account for one’s sizing and postural idiosyncrasies – a good bespoke suit will do that.
Correcting the fit or having a garment made to fit perfectly will go a long way to seeing you looking your best at work no matter what the fabric choice and colour, and should, therefore, be the primary concern.
Often overlooked, the quality of fabric used to make a suit makes a massive difference not only to the immediate appearance in terms of colour but also to how the suit ‘lays’, while contributing to the fit.
Most off-the-peg suits, especially those in the lower price brackets, use cheap fabrics with a high content of man-made materials, this can add to the life of cheaply made fabrics but leads to a lifeless fabric which lies flat. Well-made, high-end suits use natural fibres which have a much more pliant structure; wool, silk, cashmere and vicuna, amongst other fabric types, don’t lay completely flat, they have a life and bant that adds to the lay of the suit, supports the cut and structure, and looks better for longer.
The outer fabric is not the sole additional consideration in well-made high-end and bespoke suits. The interlining or canvas used is far superior. Whereas most ready-made suits use fusing between the outer fabric and the lining to essentially glue the suit together, high-end bespoke suits use a floating, horse-hair canvas. This is important for two main reasons: firstly, as above the lining has a life and bant that gives structure to the suit, especially on the lapel which lies with the infamous roll, tailors often talk about, rather than flat and pressed against the chest. Secondly, the canvas is basted loosely to the inner and outer so as to be able to “float” over time, melding to the contours of the body to create a suit that fits better with age.
Colours, patterns, weaves and weight
Perhaps the most restricted choice when it comes to business suits is their colour. Convention often suggests muted colours like, navies, greys and at a push dark-browns. This, prima facie, may seem like an issue when dressing to impress, but not so. Obviously, there are numerous shades of muted colours to choose from but that’s not the only way to maintain a varied work-wardrobe.
The first way to mix-up your work suits is to go with varied patterns. Checks and stripes are a great way of adding some ‘spice’ and variety to colour mandated work suits. Rather than going for bold, brash patterns though, a safer bet is to go with muted checks and stripes. Good examples of muted pattern are chalk stripes and prince-of-wales checks, both of which add body to the suit and differentiate it from an off-the-peg plain suit whilst making sure that the suit remains work appropriate.
As well as patterns on the suit, varying fabric weaves keeps your solid colour work suits unique and original. We recommend small to medium twills as well as herringbones and even self-striped suits (suit with tone-on-tone stripes woven into the fabric). This ensures you meet even the strictest dress code whilst maintaining your sartorial elegance.
The final major consideration when dressing for work is the style of both the jacket and trousers. Although the fit, as already discussed, is a key style consideration, the choice of style centres upon specifics like the pocket or the lapel on the jacket, as this will have a major impact on the overall appearance of the suit. By varying the styles of the suits you wear, even when they must conform to a specific dress-code, you can keep your wardrobe both fresh and on-trend.
A great example is the lapel on a suit. The type of lapel, whether a notch or peak as well as the width of the lapel is a stylistic choice that massively alters the appearance of the suit jacket. Peak lapels add breadth to the shoulders and although initially the reserve of tuxedos and double-breasted suits, are now a trendy option for work attire.
Likewise, the choice of flat front or pleats on trousers varies the drape and appearance of your bottom half. After years of close-fitting clothes being in fashion, more relaxed fits are now in vogue. A simple way to pull off a loose trouser, without looking like you’re wearing Oxford bags, is to add a pleat to the trouser, adding some fabric to the seat and thigh and then gently tapering the leg to the foot.
By varying the stylistic choices on a suit you can buy the same colour and weight of fabric and yet produce two radically different suits. This is really the realm where bespoke suits shine. Off-the-peg leaves you limited to what’s in stock. Bespoke allows you to really play around with the styles and fits that match your tastes and contours, making it an ideal way to stand out from the crowd at work.
Some final considerations
There are some final ways to vary your wardrobe and keep things from becoming too stagnant. Utilising both two and three-piece suits will give you more stylistic options, allowing you to mix and match pieces from different suits. Grey and navy, the perennial staples of office dress code, work well together. A navy upper half with complimentary charcoal trouser (or vice versa) always looks great. Mixing between days with a jacket and trouser and those with a waistcoat too can really broaden your sartorial horizons.
Finally, what you pair with your suits drastically alters your look. A navy-blue suit with a sky-blue shirt and brown wingtip shoes is a far-cry from that very same suit with a white shirt and black Oxfords.
The key message then, when making sure you look your best at work, is to mix things up. Play around with different fits, fabrics, styles and accessories to keep things fresh and forge your own unique and original look in the office.
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