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Humble first thread post: Intro and Sleeve length semantics

Sartorian

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Hello. I've lurked for about two weeks, and now I introduce myself:

I'm a 34-year-old, very slender, male in law school. I have not been able to scrounge up my tailor's tape, but I believe my jacket size is a 38 Short or Regular, and I have a very thin neck. I'm 5'9", 120 lbs. Have been for about ten years, and don't think I will get much bigger, contrary to the popular notion that men suddenly plump by the time they hit 30. I own a black, 3-button Jil Sander suit that my dad helped me buy at Barney's a couple of years ago, and which I love for its comfort. It is, by far, the most comfortable clothing I've ever worn--far more than the expensive jeans and T-shirts I've purchased over the years. It's hard to find things that fit well on me.

I have one dress shirt--a Brioni with french cuffs. It fits great, and cost over $300. I bought it with the suit.

I have a pair of horribly uncomfortable black shoes I bought at the Barney's warehouse sale a couple of years ago--I believe they were $200 marked down to $100, but shouldn't have cost more than any payless shoe, they're that uncomfortable.

About two weeks ago, around the time I realized I was about to turn 30, I realized I simply need to ditch most of my standard casual-wear wardrobe, invest in a couple more nice suits and get some shirts made. This will make it easier for me to look professional, but also, it will allow me to minimize the space in my tiny studio apartment taken up by clothing. It will also minimize the amount of thinking I have to do in the mornings about what to wear, which I hate.

I am looking to buy two new suits: I think a grey, and then, not sure--navy? Brown? I have dark hair and brown eyes, and being so thin, I am wary of getting another dark suit, because it has such a slimming effect. I was also thinking it might be good to get a cotton/linen summer suit.

To be clear: I am looking to drastically change my standard dress to mainly suits and tailored shirts.

And finally, please note that while I'm a law student in Manhattan, I am not planning on going into a lucrative corporate firm job; I will probably be working in non-profits, or looking to start one; I'm living on student loans and some small savings, so this will represent a major investment for my future, which I will only be able to sparingly supplement. I understand the need to 'refresh' one's wardrobe with new shirts/ties, re-soling shoes, etc., but I will not be making sufficient money to be able to do this in order to follow every latest fashion trend. I will be looking to establish as classic and classy a look as possible. I can't stand seeing a man in a cheap, ill-fitting suit, though, and never want to be one.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

3 questions:

1. How much should I realistically budget for adding 3 shirts, a new suit, well-made, comfortable shoes, a few attendant accessories (ties, cufflinks), tailoring. I will have to get shirts made, because my neck is too skinny for OTR shirts. How much would YOU budget?

2. From years of tennis, my right arm is about 1/2 - 1" longer than my left. I have noticed that this disparity shows with my suit/dress shirt, as my left hand is covered a little too much. Do tailors normally account for such disparities in measuring and adjusting? Should one direct a tailor to adjust the lengths of the sleeve for this, or will this must make the suit look off? Personally, I find the added length a little irritating. Alternatively, should I have had the left sleeve measured, and had the right sleeve(s) cut to the same length, allowing a bit more right wrist to show?

3. Anyone in NYC go to Divine Touch cleaners on 58th street? Rating?


Thanks so much for any input and having the patience to read through this post.
 

DocHolliday

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First of all, welcome, Sartorian.

Originally Posted by Sartorian
1. How much should I realistically budget for adding 3 shirts, a new suit, well-made, comfortable shoes, a few attendant accessories (ties, cufflinks), tailoring. I will have to get shirts made, because my neck is too skinny for OTR shirts. How much would YOU budget?

If you're willing to bargain hunt, you can get very nice suits for as little as $500, sometimes less. (Often less if you're willing to go the eBay route, but that can be tricky for someone just starting to build a wardrobe.) Corneliani is a good brand that can often be found on discount, and frequently appears at Sierra Trading Post. Your size may prove difficult to find, but it sounds like you have some time to hunt, so that should make life easier. The archives here are a great source of information on most any suit brand you can think of.

As for shirts, if you're in NYC, you might consider giving CEGO a call. I haven't used Carl's shirtmaking services myself, but his prices are reasonable and he seems like a good guy, from my brief interactions with him. His customers who post here certainly seem happy.

For shoes, you can get Allen-Edmonds for $100-$150 on sale. They're good shoes that will last a long time. Be wary of shoes that retail for $100-$250; that's become a treacherous pricepoint these days, where price is not usually related to quality. You can read up on shoes here and by checking out Jcusey's Ready to Wear Shoe Pyramid. There's a link to it over on the main page of askandyaboutclothes.com.

Ties are an area where you can save money, if that's a concern. Marshalls often has nice ones for $20 and less. I just picked up one there marked down to $5.

Originally Posted by Sartorian
From years of tennis, my right arm is about 1/2 - 1" longer than my left. I have noticed that this disparity shows with my suit/dress shirt, as my left hand is covered a little too much. Do tailors normally account for such disparities in measuring and adjusting? Should one direct a tailor to adjust the lengths of the sleeve for this, or will this must make the suit look off? Personally, I find the added length a little irritating. Alternatively, should I have had the left sleeve measured, and had the right sleeve(s) cut to the same length, allowing a bit more right wrist to show?

Yes, you should have your jacket sleeve adjusted. The disparity will be much less obvious. It's the type of thing a tailor should do automatically, but some may need to be told. Some tailors these days would be happy to see you walk out the door with your sleeves covering your knuckles.

Can't help you with your third question, so I'll just close by saying "Good luck."
 

Sartorian

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Thanks a lot for the tips!

1 follow-up: how does one know--in the store--if a 'dress' shoe will feel comfortable after being worn for a while? Is this one of things like suits, where most young American have grown up wearing uncomfortable ones, and therefore expecting too little? Do good shoes 'feel' great even upon the initial try-on? Sneakers are always comfortable immediately.
 

khaller

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Sartorian, are you my evil twin?

I'm also a 30 year old, 5'9", law school student in Manhattan (Columbia) looking to update my wardrobe. Having been a long-time lurker here, I've decided to go with some CEGO shirts and a couple Mr. Ned suits. For the money, they seem by far the best value without too much risk of ill fit. Most law school students around here look terrible in their off the rack suits and their rubber soled shoes (I kid you not), and like you I don't want to be one of them. My suits will be ready in a month or so and the shirts in a few weeks. I can relay my experience to you then if you'd like.
 

chorse123

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Let me add to the welcome, and congratulations on deciding to improve your wardrobe with classic clothes.

I'm also in New York and have limited resources, but that doesn't stop me from dressing well. This is one of the best shopping cities in the world, and coupled with the internet and ebay you can do very well for little money if you are willing to put in some time to learn about quality and style, to get to know your sizes, and to shop patiently. It would help if you hinted at some sort of budget - what we find reasonable is sometimes a little out there. Ah, just noticed you asked about that. See below.

I think you should do some reading around in the archives (this type of question has been asked a number of times, as have the various topics) and pick up one or two of the better books on men's clothes (Dressing the Man by Flusser and Gentleman by Roetzel), as you are after very broad information. I can throw in a few points.

Shoes: Not sure what you mean with regards to comfort of shoes. It's possible that you're wearing improperly sized shoes, have wide or narrow feet, or have simply worn bad shoes. Allen Edmonds, while not always the most interesting stylistically, come in a wide variety of widths, and are easily available on sale. Do not skimp on shoes, if possible, and have a few pairs so you can rotate. I don't think I've spent more than $150 a pair on shoes that normally retail for at least $400.

I'd consider getting a casual sportcoat or two. Maybe a tweed for fall/winter and a year round navy blazer (not necessarily a brass button traditional one). These are extremely useful, help up your business casual style a bit, and would take some stress off your suits. Oh, and navy over a brown suit.

1. How much should I realistically budget for adding 3 shirts, a new suit, well-made, comfortable shoes, a few attendant accessories (ties, cufflinks), tailoring. I will have to get shirts made, because my neck is too skinny for OTR shirts. How much would YOU budget?
Shirts RTW: $150 for 3
Shirts MTM: $450 for 3
Suit on sale with possible alterations (important!): $500-$700
Shoes: $150-$200 a pair. Get at least two pairs of dress shoes.
Ties: $40 per for high-end on sale (century 21), though you can spend a lot less
Cufflinks: NA. If you're only buying a few shirts, don't get french cuffed. They are less useful and shouldn't be worn without a jacket. If you must have a french cuff shirt, just get some silk knots: $5
 

weeks

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Originally Posted by Sartorian
Thanks a lot for the tips!

1 follow-up: how does one know--in the store--if a 'dress' shoe will feel comfortable after being worn for a while? Is this one of things like suits, where most young American have grown up wearing uncomfortable ones, and therefore expecting too little? Do good shoes 'feel' great even upon the initial try-on? Sneakers are always comfortable immediately.


Dress shoes can be very comfortable. Initially, you want a snug, but not tight fit. You want plenty of room in the toe box. You should always use shoes trees to keep the shape of your shoes.

Good shoes like Allen Edmonds and Alden seem to get more comfortable with time. Bear in mind, however, a leather soled dress shoe is never going feel like a pair of sneakers.
 

Luc-Emmanuel

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I'd just add that if you found Jil Sander suits to be perfect for you, then by all means you should continue buying Jil Sander suits. They are very well made (full canvass) and very comfortable, usually made in neutral/business friendly colours (navy, charcoal...etc)

!luc
 

Sartorian

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Great input, I really appreciate it.

Khaller, would be pleased to hear how it turns out. I have been looking at CEGO, but also kind of trying to scour about. The smart route seems to be CEGO. I think I've been driven to this state by seeing all those ill-fitted fellow students shuffling about on their way to interviews and moot court arguments. {shudder}

chorse, you're right, I forgot to mention the sports coat. That was actually a big one on my mental list. Of course. I kind of prefer wearing a jacket/coat at all times, and do like the French Cuffs, but I'll consider what you say. I was raised never to take off the jacket by my dad.

weeks and chorse, thanks for the info on shoes. I have narrow, flat feet, so maybe the discomfort I experience with harder-soled shoes comes from my own physical deficiencies (being Asian, I think my genes are coded more for walking in flip-flops and sandals than over rocky surfaces in thick leather.) I'll look into Allen Edmonds.

Luc, thanks for the info on Jil Sander. I really no nothing about suits, but my dad has all of this made from some Hong Kong-based shop in San Francisco, and when I told him I needed a good suit, he just walked me over to Barney's. Turned out the Jil Sander was the only thing they had that fit.

Two more questions: where does one get a passable winter overcoat? I'm skinny, so I really need the best warmth I can find. Are places like Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, etc., just not places to go? Is this because of the pricing or the quality?

BTW, as far as my budgeting goes, I'm really looking at this as a longterm investment, so I'm kind of trying to figure out now how much I should plan on spending, and then just doing it. I plan on owning these clothes and using them often, so I don't mind paying more for better value. I don't look at the absolute price of an article of clothing, but how much use I'll get out of it, and hence, how much it will cost me--roughly--per day. This is the way people used to dress, before the era of disposable consumables, and this is the way I prefer to live. Clothes' affordability comes after its quality and fit (which are about equal) in my mind.
 

DocHolliday

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Originally Posted by Sartorian
BTW, as far as my budgeting goes, I'm really looking at this as a longterm investment, so I'm kind of trying to figure out now how much I should plan on spending, and then just doing it. I plan on owning these clothes and using them often, so I don't mind paying more for better value. I don't look at the absolute price of an article of clothing, but how much use I'll get out of it, and hence, how much it will cost me--roughly--per day. This is the way people used to dress, before the era of disposable consumables, and this is the way I prefer to live. Clothes' affordability comes after its quality and fit (which are about equal) in my mind.

In that case, then, I'd worry less about pricepoints and more about brands. If you can go $1,000-$2,000 retail for a suit, you have a wide variety to choose from. It'll just be a matter of finding a style you like that fits you well. But if the budget is a bit more limited, you can find excellent suits on discount for $500-$1,000.

Similarly, $1,000 will buy you a pair of Edward Greens at retail or three pairs of Allen-Edmonds/Aldens. But when devising your shoe budget, make sure you have enough shoes to rotate, so that you don't need to wear the same pair every day. That will greatly extend the life of your shoes.
 

Sartorian

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Very good to know, Doc, thanks.

Does your brand recommendation extend to sportcoats?

How many pairs of shoes are sufficient to start with? Black and brown, or some other color? My black shoes were spendy, but man, do they make my feet ache. Which color is most versatile with suits?
 

gorgekko

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Originally Posted by Sartorian
Have been for about ten years, and don't think I will get much bigger, contrary to the popular notion that men suddenly plump by the time they hit 30.

Your neck size will increase, and faster than you think. Just a few years ago -- when I was about 30 -- I was wearing 17" necks without a problem. Now at 35 I'm an 18" -- but the rest of me is about the same.

God bless you if the rest of you doesn't increase.
 

Jared

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There's no way that exercise can increase the length of your arm! (If it could, I know something else I'd be exercising...
) If your arms actually are different lengths, it is due to bone disparity which has probably existed at least since childhood. Chances are, though, you hold your arms differently because of a muscle imbalance or tension in your shoulders. If left uncorrected, this will lead to neck pain. I suggest you go see a physiotherapist, kinesthesiologist, or chiropractor before you see a tailor. I'm currently having a "dropped shoulder" treated and my physiotherapist is quite amused that my symptom is "clothing fit" rather than pain.
 

Sator

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For the dropped shoulder a tailor should be able to easily adjust the lengths of your sleeves. I have the same problem, if not quite as pronounced. My tailor says the majority of people do.

As far as things that broaden you out a bit, I would seriously consider a double breasted. Also consider window panes, as the horizontal lines add to the impression of width. A double breasted (especially a DB window pane) suit will obviate the need to turn to lighter colours to try to broaden your silhouette out.

Others will council you differently (Will did recently) but I personally think having a charcoal or navy DB solid as number 1 or 2 in your rotation is perfectly fine on someone who is made to look ridiculously skinny from the slimming effects of a dark coloured SB suit. This is one instance where it is almost mandatory to own a DB suit.
 

Jared

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Originally Posted by Sator
For the dropped shoulder a tailor should be able to easily adjust the lengths of your sleeves. I have the same problem, if not quite as pronounced. My tailor says the majority of people do.
That's because the majority of people have neck and shoulder problems. My dropped shoulder has noticably decreased from a week and a half of doing the prescribed stretches! I'm really glad I declined my tailor's offer to cosmetically correct the problem...
 

Sartorian

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Thanks for the added input.

I may have some neck imbalance, but I'm fairly certain my arms are just different lengths, also. I determined this originally during stretching (yoga), and by putting my arms down and straight in front of me and looking in the mirror. My muscles are certainly imbalanced from playing tennis (this is common).

I had read that it was possible for bones to 'deform' from repetitive physical motions: this is why forensicists can determine certain peoples' occupations from looking at their bodies. I think the classic example is waiters/waitresses, who often develop an bump on one of their feet bone from balancing heavy objects against their hips and compensating with their feet. I actually kind of thought some of the added length had come in my fingers and wrist, as this the major area of stress when I swing my racket. Of course, my shoulder muscle is overdeveloped on the right side.

But basically, the sleeve IS longer on one side than the other; perhaps the tailor messed up and just didn't shorten them evenly. Either way, the disparity irritates me and feels imbalanced when I wear the suit.


As far as DB suits go...hmmm. I really dislike DB suits. I had a short phase of liking them in high school, but that quickly faded. And I read somewhere a while back (maybe GQ), that skinny people should never wear them, that they were better for other body types. Doesn't the added material make for a stiffer-hanging, blockier look, esp. on a thin frame?

What's a window pane? Nevermind, I'll go look it up.


BTW, what is the minimum price one finds fully-canvassed suits for? I've read up on them and understand what they are, and I think one of the reason I like the fit of my one suit is that it's fully canvassed. It just feels not cheap.
 

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