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Good suits vs Bad suits

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
What are the quality differences? How do you tell the difference between a $50 suit from Kmart or something and the $4000 suit from Saks?
post #2 of 16
Anything else you care to ask? How does one solve the conflict in the Middle East? If God is a caring diety, why does he allow bad things to happen to good people? Is this a rash?

post #3 of 16
It might help to be more specific...
Someone could write a veritable encyclopedia with the answer to the question you pose.
post #4 of 16
A very, very basic primer:

Construction quality is the key. Best-quality suits have a "floating" canvas inside the jacket, to give the coat its shape and help it mold to the body. Lesser suits are fused, meaning they are held together with a glue-like fusible. Poor quality suits feel stiff and hard because of this fusing, which can even "bubble" and render the suit fit only for the trash bin. In between you'll find suits that combine fusing and canvas. A suit might have canvas lapels, for example, to give the lapels a more attractive "roll." Not all fused suits are bad -- some can be very decent -- but full canvassing is a prerequisite for a truly exceptional suit.

To tell if a jacket is fully canvassed, pinch the fabric below the bottom buttonhole on the inside and outside. Gently pull the cloth apart. Can you feel a third layer inside? The layer in the middle is the canvassing. It won't be there on a fused suit.

A few other things to look for: Top-quality suits are expensive partly because they contain a good amount of handwork. The armhole inside the jacket, for example, will be handsewn -- look for small sewing irregularities instead of the smooth regularity of machine stitching. You won't find this on low-end department store models. The more handwork, the more expensive the suit.

Also, feel the fabric. Does it have a nice hand? Does it feel soft and smooth to the touch? Cheap suits use cheap cloth, and it's very easy to tell the difference once you've handled a few of each.

Check the lapels. Good suits have beautiful lapels that roll gently to the buttons. Cheap suits usually have lapels that are pressed flat, so that they form a hard "V". Similarly, nicer suits have nicer buttons. Are the buttons obviously a single-color plastic? Bad sign.

Look inside the trousers. How does the stitching look? Is it nicely finished or ragged? Is there extra material to let the waist out? Good trousers will have a "split" in the middle of the back of the waistband, to facilitate alterations.

Finally, try the coat on. Does it feel good? Does the chest feel soft? Does the jacket move well with your body? Fused coats once were known for being stiff and unpleasant, but they don't need to be these days. At the very least, any decent suit will feel good to wear.

Hope that's helpful, and not more info than you wanted.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks! Helps a lot
post #6 of 16
Someone should post comparison photos of the fit and construction of a crappy $150 suit, a decent $500 suit, a decent $1000 suit and great $1000-$1500 suit, and a butter $4000 bespoke piece (throw in rip offs in any price range at their will too)

That would help alot of people (like me) about to splurge on suits sleep well at night
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jodum5
Someone should post comparison photos of the fit and construction of a crappy $150 suit, a decent $500 suit, a decent $1000 suit and great $1000-$1500 suit, and a butter $4000 bespoke piece (throw in rip offs in any price range at their will too) That would help alot of people (like me) about to splurge on suits sleep well at night
Well, yes and no. While photos would help with the construction question, they might not help with the fit issue. I have seen folk look real good in real inexpensive suits because they are either blessed with close to O-T-R bodies or have very good tailors. I have also seen very well constructed garments look like crap on people because they are the wrong size or ill-fitted (think Trump). Of course, when the two mesh, it is a thing of beauty. I would advise a buyer of a suit or sports coat to focus far more on fit than construction.
post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by marc237
I would advise a buyer of a suit or sports coat to focus far more on fit that construction.

I agree with that. There's a lot of neg. hype about fused suits, as if they will fall apart after a couple months. Of course full canvassed is better, but I have fused suits from 1994 that are still in pristine shape which I still wear. I'd rather have well fitting and poorer construction than vice versa.
post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by DocHolliday
A very, very basic primer:

Construction quality is the key. Best-quality suits have a "floating" canvas inside the jacket, to give the coat its shape and help it mold to the body. Lesser suits are fused, meaning they are held together with a glue-like fusible. Poor quality suits feel stiff and hard because of this fusing, which can even "bubble" and render the suit fit only for the trash bin. In between you'll find suits that combine fusing and canvas. A suit might have canvas lapels, for example, to give the lapels a more attractive "roll." Not all fused suits are bad -- some can be very decent -- but full canvassing is a prerequisite for a truly exceptional suit.

To tell if a jacket is fully canvassed, pinch the fabric below the bottom buttonhole on the inside and outside. Gently pull the cloth apart. Can you feel a third layer inside? The layer in the middle is the canvassing. It won't be there on a fused suit.

A few other things to look for: Top-quality suits are expensive partly because they contain a good amount of handwork. The armhole inside the jacket, for example, will be handsewn -- look for small sewing irregularities instead of the smooth regularity of machine stitching. You won't find this on low-end department store models. The more handwork, the more expensive the suit.

Also, feel the fabric. Does it have a nice hand? Does it feel soft and smooth to the touch? Cheap suits use cheap cloth, and it's very easy to tell the difference once you've handled a few of each.

Check the lapels. Good suits have beautiful lapels that roll gently to the buttons. Cheap suits usually have lapels that are pressed flat, so that they form a hard "V". Similarly, nicer suits have nicer buttons. Are the buttons obviously a single-color plastic? Bad sign.

Look inside the trousers. How does the stitching look? Is it nicely finished or ragged? Is there extra material to let the waist out? Good trousers will have a "split" in the middle of the back of the waistband, to facilitate alterations.

Finally, try the coat on. Does it feel good? Does the chest feel soft? Does the jacket move well with your body? Fused coats once were known for being stiff and unpleasant, but they don't need to be these days. At the very least, any decent suit will feel good to wear.

Hope that's helpful, and not more info than you wanted.

Excellent......thanks Doc
post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jodum5
Someone should post comparison photos of the fit and construction of a crappy $150 suit, a decent $500 suit, a decent $1000 suit and great $1000-$1500 suit, and a butter $4000 bespoke piece (throw in rip offs in any price range at their will too)

That would help alot of people (like me) about to splurge on suits sleep well at night

if it is possible, someone should also post pictures of fused and canvassed suits worn over a considerable period of time.
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by acidicboy
if it is possible, someone should also post pictures of fused and canvassed suits worn over a considerable period of time.
I don't think that would really help you. What you need to do is wear both a well-worn fused and canvassed jacket to compare the two. You may or may not see the difference then, but you will definitely feel the difference.

Carlo posted some pics of a dissected Oxxford jacket that illustrated good construction and handwork, but I don't see them after a quick search.
post #12 of 16
Doc, thanks for the short primer on suit construction. Part of the appeals of forum such as this and AAAC is that it serves to educate members. Undoubtedly there will be new members who join, who will not have a clue about sartorial basics that seem so elementary to those more "seasoned." In such case the attitude should not be one of condescension but patience and willingness to explain and help. Oftentimes forum members lament that lack of any style sense among the masses. If you refuse to help a newbie than please refrain from complaining. The same curtesy is to be expected from the novice as he progress into a style veteran, always willing to help the new guy that comes along. Lastly, I believe the true test of mastery of a subject is the ability to succinctly convey the topic. Those who can't are mere students, at best.
post #13 of 16
A few general rules:

1) pick the FIT of a suit on you over any amount of "handwork." Afterall, you want a suit to flatter your particular bodyshape. An ill-fitted $10K suit will not do you any good irrespective of the number of hours that went into making the suit

2) the fabric and the amount of handwork determines the price of a suit

3) a pricey suit does not automatically translate into a "good" suit. This is most often true with designer brands where the customer is paying more for the "name." Having said that, it is, in general, true that a pricier suit will be better constructed than a less expensive one.

I recommend reading Alan Flusser's book "Style and the man", chapter 1, "tailored clothing". You will get the all the information you need. This chapter is the equivalent of "suit 101"

Keep participating on this forum and AskAndyAboutClothes.com, you will find your level of sartorial knowledge increase exponentially.
post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by lee_44106
A few general rules:

1) pick the FIT of a suit on you over any amount of "handwork." Afterall, you want a suit to flatter your particular bodyshape. An ill-fitted $10K suit will not do you any good irrespective of the number of hours that went into making the suit

2) the fabric and the amount of handwork determines the price of a suit

3) a pricey suit does not automatically translate into a "good" suit. This is most often true with designer brands where the customer is paying more for the "name." Having said that, it is, in general, true that a pricier suit will be better constructed than a less expensive one.

I recommend reading Alan Flusser's book "Style and the man", chapter 1, "tailored clothing". You will get the all the information you need. This chapter is the equivalent of "suit 101"

Keep participating on this forum and AskAndyAboutClothes.com, you will find your level of sartorial knowledge increase exponentially.

I certainly agree with point 1, but 2 and 3 seem to contradict each other. Fine fabric and handwork certainly add to the price of the suit, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they determine it. I also would suggest caution with the assumption that pricier suits will be better made than less expensive ones. This is true to a point -- any $1,500 suit is presumably nicer than the 3 for $199 specials you can find -- but things get murky very quickly. I've seen Polo blue label suits that are nicer than far more expensive suits, for example. And Zegna's low-end offerings are outrageously overpriced for what you're getting.

That said, I'm sure we agree in essence, lee. I'm just elaborating for any newcomers who might be reading the thread.
post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by lee_44106
Lastly, I believe the true test of mastery of a subject is the ability to succinctly convey the topic. Those who can't are mere students, at best.

There are people who are extremely knowledgeable and highly skilled, in a particular subject, who simply do not posses the aptitude to efficiently impart knowledge. In fact, geniuses generally make less than great teachers.
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