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Suit shoulders question


Aug 5, 2008
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Hi all, quick question.

I am a size 40 chest, but with smaller shoulders.
Therefore, I was in the store looking to get a size 38 suit instead.

However, when I compared the size 40 suits to the size 38 suits, the shoulder-to-shoulder length across the suit were practically the same (maybe 0.75 inches difference). This seemed to be the case for all suits I compared.

Question is, going from a size 40 to size 38 suit, shouldn't the length (from shoulder to shoulder) be 2 inches differences as well?? or are they not fully correlated?

In that case, how can I get slimmer shoulders with a size 40 suit?



Distinguished Member
Mar 29, 2005
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When you go up or down a size, the change in size only refers to the size of your chest, in inches.
Therefore, if you take a size 40, the circumference of your torso at the level of your chest should be 40 inches. The jacket of the suit will, typically, be anywhere from two to four inches larger than that, depending on the cut, so as to give you some room to move.

The shoulder measurement doesn't change nearly as much - typically only by about 0.5" for each size you go up or down.
There's also a fair bit of variation within a particular suit size, depending on the manufacturer or a particular style within a certain manufacturer's range.
As an example, from my personal experience, a size 44 suit will usually have shoulders that are either 19.5 or 20 inches across from shoulder seam to shoulder seam.
Some brands have wider shoulders - I've seen some suits that measure about 20.5 inches across for a size 44.
Similarly, some brands have slimmer shoulders - I have a suit by Caruso for Adriano & Sons and a Brioni that have decidedly slim shoulders - only 19" or even a bit less. Italian made Polo suits (made by Corneliani) tend to have slimmer shoulders than the usually Corneliani cut.

Therefore, it pays to look around and to try on different brands and even different suit styles made by that brand.

Some tailors are prepared to bring in the shoulders of a jacket, but it isn't a simple procedure, it will cost a fair bit, and it is far better to find a brand/style that suits you and that has the shoulder width that you want.


Stylish Dinosaur
Mar 10, 2006
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As Journeyman says, suits sizes are done proportionately. Because human beings work the same way.

Nearly all the measurements will change, but in relative proportion with each other, not by the same absolute amount. So chest will narrow by 2 inches, but shoulders by only about 0.5".

The exact amount each attribute changes depends on the blocks the maker use, which are informed by statistical tables of "average" men, and adjusted according to the design aesthetic or target market the designer is after. So as Journeyman rightly points out, knowing a range of makers might help you find the fit/silhouette you're after. Post-purchase alterations will then refine the fit futher, within reason.

Ultimately though, if your figure deviates from the "average" enough, post-purchase alterations are insufficient and more custom options will be needed.


Senior Member
May 23, 2008
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You need to look more at different brands than sizes. Some brands that have a trimmer cut and softer shoulder might also have a smaller shoulder length.

Unfortunately, as you may know, the two most important things to fit are the chest and shoulders because those are essentially unalterable.

Keep searching until you find one that fits. You will be MUCH happier in the long run rather than just settling for one that kind of fits.


Aug 5, 2008
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Thanks all,
now i know why people go to MTM, i'm just not an average build....
oh well....its either mtm for me or i start pumping some iron.

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