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Suit advice for someone who is both tiny and oddly-shaped (UK): is bespoke only option?

Medworth

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Hey SF, long time lurker, first time poster etc. I've been interested in classic menswear for well over a decade despite being quite young. I don't have a huge collection of tailored or 'formal' pieces because of the titular issue; some dressier pants and shirts from places like BB, Cordings, Nigel Cabourn; some knitwear, shoes and accessories whenever places like Drakes and Paraboot do my size, things like that.

Because my OTR options are extremely limited by my measurements (the only shirts I've found so far to fit are kamakura, and the shipping's no joke) I've been lucky enough to avoid making any horrific mistakes, but it's gotten to the point where, years after trying to ""slowly and sustainably"" grow my wardrobe, I still don't have a single piece of outerwear that fits. Not a jacket, not a sports coat in sight. I don't have a suit, and I've run out of places I can think of where I can get something that fits OTR. I am used to altering hems and shortening things, both by myself and with help from a professional, but am reaching my limit.

I'm not just small and short (5'7) -- I'm also very weirdly shaped. My shoulder measurement is about 16". my waist is 29"... and my hips are 33.5", which means I usually chance a 30/32 and hope for the best, as trousers that fit my waist tend to be extremely tight around the seat and thighs. A 13.6" neck also isn't ideal for shirts (kamakura is the closest) and my chest measurement of 33" means that even with the 2.5" leeway for jacketing fit I come short of most places I've seen (or, if the chest fits, the shoulders do not etc). Because I'm both small and 'out of proportion', my hope for buying a suit OTR that fits is at this point nonexistent - for every piece that fits me as a separate from one brand, its counterpart looks cartoonish.

When I was slightly younger, I even tried wearing suits sized for children, which stopped working past J crew's '14 year old' sizing, and made me feel ridiculous most of the time to boot. Since the chest and the shoulders are of course nightmares to alter, I'm now planning on trying on some Ring Jacket pieces in person to see if there's a chance I'll fit their OTR options, but saving that (or suggestions on here), I'm considering Steed semi-bespoke. S+M would be ideal, if I could try on something OTR, but I'm in London. Suitsupply have stockists here, but their OTR don't fit me.

I'm literally just looking for a normal, conservative, mid grey suit. I'm old enough to be at the point where the funerals and the weddings are starting to stack up and slightly at my wit's end.

TL;DR I'm tiny and want a suit that fits me. I'm not rich, but if I can only have one 'sincere suit', as PTO like to say, I'm happy to pay what it costs for it to truly fit as long as good value. I'm looking for any OTR, MTM or bespoke options, accessible from London/England, that are likely to fit me well. If anyone has any advice, I'd love to hear it. If I'm being an idiot, have overlooked something obvious, or have misunderstood how outside the bell curve my measurements are, well, that would just make my life easier.
 

dieworkwear

Mahatma Jawndi
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Given your measurements, I think you'd be better off in custom tailoring.

What is your budget? Do you have a preference for a suit silhouette?
 

Medworth

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Given your measurements, I think you'd be better off in custom tailoring.

What is your budget? Do you have a preference for a suit silhouette?

Thanks for the answer, that's very helpful. I have spent years prevaricating. about whether it was 'worth' it, which ironically could have been spent saving for custom tailoring.

My budget is below/around £2,000 if possible - anything higher and I would have to spend even longer saving for it, I think - usually fine when you want something expensive, but I'd rather not spend another couple of years deliberating given how often I expect to need in within the next five or ten.

In terms of silhouette, that's one of the reasons I was intrigued by Steed - their 'semi bespoke' (it seems like higher end of MTM, though unsure if that service specifically would be helpful to me) and their bespoke seem like the kind of thing I'm interested in; soft for the sake of comfort and not wanting to be overly formal without being super soft or soft for the sake of it. I wear a lot of cords, I look a bit like a 70s hippie when in casual wear. I'd look like I was being worn by the suit if it were overly brutalist or shiny.

The drape at Steeds with its structure seems like it would be a good fit for my body, but again, if that turns out not to be the case I'm open to that, too - I like the look of guys in suits described in similar terms. Also, I'm starting to get the same energy you started getting off of menswear blogs in 2012 about many trends that seem dated now; it's not that the soft look is bad, it's more that it seems like the pendulum has swung a little more. The 'casualising effect', I guess you could call it, is a little more than I'm comfortable with.

Sorry that's so long! It's hard to express yourself in terms of fit for something that is almost entirely theoretical, I hope it makes sense. In terms of comparison, the places I was also vaguely interested in, after staring at their clothes but before I looked too closely into the prices/based off their vibes, were: Anglo Italian, Sartoria Domenica, Vick Tailor, Canali, F-ONE and some others I cannot remember. I was hoping to find as many points of reference that were as realistic as possible and find somewhere I was super confident about.
 

dieworkwear

Mahatma Jawndi
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Thanks for the answer, that's very helpful. I have spent years prevaricating. about whether it was 'worth' it, which ironically could have been spent saving for custom tailoring.

My budget is below/around £2,000 if possible - anything higher and I would have to spend even longer saving for it, I think - usually fine when you want something expensive, but I'd rather not spend another couple of years deliberating given how often I expect to need in within the next five or ten.

In terms of silhouette, that's one of the reasons I was intrigued by Steed - their 'semi bespoke' (it seems like higher end of MTM, though unsure if that service specifically would be helpful to me) and their bespoke seem like the kind of thing I'm interested in; soft for the sake of comfort and not wanting to be overly formal without being super soft or soft for the sake of it. I wear a lot of cords, I look a bit like a 70s hippie when in casual wear. I'd look like I was being worn by the suit if it were overly brutalist or shiny.

The drape at Steeds with its structure seems like it would be a good fit for my body, but again, if that turns out not to be the case I'm open to that, too - I like the look of guys in suits described in similar terms. Also, I'm starting to get the same energy you started getting off of menswear blogs in 2012 about many trends that seem dated now; it's not that the soft look is bad, it's more that it seems like the pendulum has swung a little more. The 'casualising effect', I guess you could call it, is a little more than I'm comfortable with.

Sorry that's so long! It's hard to express yourself in terms of fit for something that is almost entirely theoretical, I hope it makes sense. In terms of comparison, the places I was also vaguely interested in, after staring at their clothes but before I looked too closely into the prices/based off their vibes, were: Anglo Italian, Sartoria Domenica, Vick Tailor, Canali, F-ONE and some others I cannot remember. I was hoping to find as many points of reference that were as realistic as possible and find somewhere I was super confident about.

£2,000 is a good budget for custom-tailoring. It gives you most of the made-to-measure options, although I believe you may fall just short of bespoke pricing. It's worth checking around, as I may be wrong. But I believe bespoke commonly starts around £3,000 (again, double-check).

It's also worth at least trying on some ready-to-wear options. You may be able to fit into a size 34 coat, and those arent' too unusual. It can be frustrating to try on different things that ultimately don't fit. However, the experience will also give you some insight into how you like different parts of a silhouette. The main advantage of ready-to-wear is that you can put things back on the rack if you don't like it. This is not possible with quality custom-tailoring.

When you put on a coat, first pay attention to how the shoulder line expresses itself. Don't focus on details such as whether the shoulder seam sits on your shoulder bone but rather whether teh shoulder line gives you a flattering silhouette. Notice whether you like a narrow or extended shoulder. Think about whether you like any padding. Next, pay attention to the sleevehead expression. A member here named JefferyD wrote a good post about this issue.


Next, pay attention to how the chest looks. It's hard to find any RTW tailoring nowadays that has drape, but if you stop into Anglo Italian, you can try something on that has a fuller chest. Pay attention to how this chest confers a certain silhouette. You can read about drape versus clean tailoring here.


Additionally, here's a post on how to think about suit silhouettes. This may help you get a better understanding of what looks flattering on you and expresses your personality.


You may also find these videos useful.


Once you try on different things and get a sense of the silhouette you prefer, you can use that to find a custom tailor. It's often said that you shouldn't push a tailor too far from their house style. House style is the "default" style they give to people. You can adjust things on the margins but the more you push them away from their house style, the more likely you and the tailor will be unhappy with the outcome.

I use Steed for bespoke and like their work. I don't believe that their MTM is their pattern, but I may be wrong. I believe Edwin found a Polish factory that cuts a silhouette that closely resembles his house style. He then takes measurements and sends your numbers off to that factory. The upside to working with Steed for MTM is that you're getting fitted and measured by a skilled bespoke tailor. If any adjustments are made, those are done in-house. There are some members here with experience with Steed's MTM. If you have questions, you can post them here. Some people may be able to give you more insight into the MTM silhouette and process.


There's no shortage of good custom tailors in London. Another option is Whitcomb & Shaftesbury. They have an "offshore bespoke program," where your pattern is drafted and cut on premise, and then the cloth is sent offshore for making. Many tailors are now starting to do this sort of program because it helps cut down on costs, and the coatmaking process is much easier to offshore than the measuring and cutting. This offshore system allows you to get more out of your money -- you get the cutting and fitting down locally, but the making is done offshore where labor is cheaper. W&S won Permanent Style's Artisan of the Year award last year.


If you Google their name and Permanent Style, you can read more of Simon's thoughts on the company. I believe he may have tried their offshore service.

I've also used Sartoria Solito, who visits your area. I really like their work. Their tailoring is much softer and slimmer than Steed. Steed's tailoring results in an X-shaped, slightly built-up silhouette. It's still soft, but it's English soft and not necessarily Italian soft.

This is Steed's house style/ default style. The most distinguishing feature is the drape in the chest (see above for an explanation of drape)

tumblr_inline_p7k6fyqwXG1qfex1b_540.jpeg



Solito's silhouette is cleaner, leaner, and softer. Steed's shoulder is slightly extended, whereas Solito's shoulder seam sits closer to the shoulder bone. I wish I had a cleaner picture, but if you go to the "Tagged" section of their Instagram, you'll be able to find more photos. Their IG handle is sartoriasolito_official


219084610_244695197241456_1074831092492297400_n.jpg



Both Solito and Steed are on the more affordable side of custom tailoring. I believe thier prices for a suit are around £3,000, but I'm not totally sure. You may want to contact them for an exact price quote.

There are some advantages of going to bespoke instead of MTM. First, all things equal, you get more fittings. Theoretically, this should result in a better garment (although, reality is often more complicated). You can also often change more things. If a MTM company's block pattern is very far away from your build, the salesperson should turn down your order. MTM companies work off block patterns, which are adjusted by CAD. These adjustments give them a lot of flexibility in terms of what they can deliver, but sometimes the client's body is just too far off and the resulting garment doesn't look very good.

I also find that, on average, bespoke tailors are better at guiding you through this process than salespeople. Sales people are often young, sometimes inexperienced, and heavily influenced by trends. They may not know how to solve complicated fit issues. Or they may push a client into trendier fits that don't flatter them. That said, there are a lot of bad bespoke tailors out there. When searching for one, try to find first-hand testimonials from previous clients. Ideally people who have experience with the cutter who will be cutting your jacket, not just the company.

If you go MTM, try to find a company with "fitting garments." These are sample garments that you can try on. You will put on the coat in your closest size. You and the fitter can then better see how you like the silhouette and what adjustments need to be made before you put down a deposit. Such fitting garments are very useful in this process, both for you and the fitter.

Best of luck.
 

Aloysius16

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All good advice for the OP. I was intrigued only by the reference to the Anglo-Italian cut having a full chest. I tried on their house cut in the store recently and found the chest and shoulders to be notably lean. The button stance is low and the waist quite loose (creating a very different and straighter silhouette to a classic Savile Row nipped waist and hourglass shape).
 

Medworth

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It's also worth at least trying on some ready-to-wear options. You may be able to fit into a size 34 coat, and those arent' too unusual. It can be frustrating to try on different things that ultimately don't fit. However, the experience will also give you some insight into how you like different parts of a silhouette. The main advantage of ready-to-wear is that you can put things back on the rack if you don't like it. This is not possible with quality custom-tailoring.

Thanks so much for the thorough and thoughtful reply! I’m not able to respond fully at the moment, but this is extremely helpful.

I appreciate that neither you nor any other reader of this thread may have the answer, and I’ll keep looking, of course; just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t missing a blindingly obvious recommendation, is all - are there any specific recommendations regarding a 34 chest? I the impression that it is very unusual, saving uber trendy stuff that’s marketed to teenagers, or people far more into specific mod/vintage styling, like SJC (whose polos do fit me wonderfully).

I may just be terrible at research, but I definitely have no idea where I would be able to try on any 34 chest sized pieces, though I would much prefer to find something OTR if possible.
Thanks again!
 

dieworkwear

Mahatma Jawndi
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Unfortunately, my knowledge of the RTW market is biased towards the American market. I don't know what's in the UK. If you were in the US, I'd recommend Suitsupply and Spier & Mackay. The Armoury sometimes makes size 34 coats. But all these options are easier if you're based in the US.
 

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