The Sartorial Lawyer – Part 4: Tailoring

Professional Fashion Advice

The latest fashion tip from our Sartorial Lawyers: A little inexpensive tailoring can take your off-the-rack suit from meh to marvelous.

Today, we’re talking about tailoring. No, this is not some new fad dance to your favorite pop diva, Taylor Swift; this is about making your clothes fit. A little inexpensive tailoring can take your off-the-rack suit from meh to marvelous.

Very few people actually have the proportions to make off-the-rack look good. (The Sartorial Lawyers are both below average height, despite their above-average fashion sense.) As American designer Michael Kors has said, “A man in a well-tailored suit will always shine brighter than a guy in an off -the-rack-suit.” Even NFL uniforms are tailored these days.

Men: Depending on where you buy, in-house tailoring is often free or low-cost. That said, talk to your friends and colleagues. Find a tailor you trust, who consistently does good work, and be a loyal customer. Jackets should fit to your shoulders first. Everything else, from buttons to seams, can be moved in or out, but it must fit at your shoulders to fit well.

The bottom of your pants should skim or slightly cover the tops of your shoes without touching the ground, unless you are going for the skinny, cropped Thom Browne look like past-WSBA President Patrick Palace. Pleats and buttons can be moved and darts can be added (or removed completely — a flat front is a much more flattering fit on all body types). Shirts can be taken in and shortened to fit better under suits and not double as a floatation device in the event of a water landing. Consider tailoring your jeans and polos for casual Fridays (or casual everyday, depending on your office culture).

Women: Are you wearing a pencil skirt? Where does the bottom of the skirt hit when you’re standing? Preferably just above or just below the knee. Mid-calf is a tricky length that stumpifies even the tallest of models. Jackets should also fit at your shoulders, and buttons can be moved to accommodate your bustline. For tricky button-down shirts, darts and seams can be added to give shaping, and hidden buttons can be added inside to keep your shirt closed in the courtroom. For shift dresses, you can add loops under the sleeves to keep the straps of your slips and bras from slipping out when you take your jacket off at the office.

Consider replacing boring plastic buttons on a cardigan with mother-of-pearl. Suit pants can be a nightmare fit that often leads to the dreaded “adult diaper butt” situation. Buy your pants to fit at the waist or the largest part of your hips and have everything else brought in, including changing front and back rises. Consider whether you’ll realistically be wearing your pants with heels or flats and hem accordingly.

For both men and women: It is far easier to take clothes in than let them out. Buy a clothing item that fits the largest part of your body the item covers and tailor from there. Do not buy clothes at a goal weight or size. Even if you do lose weight, you may gain muscle or lose weight in unexpected places, making that goal item the wrong fit for you. Also, when you reach that goal, your fashion sense may have evolved, making that piece of clothing a relic of a past era gone by.

Readers: What do you want to know from your partners in fashion? We always welcome your questions!