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Upper arm binding when raising arm

Ben W

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Hi folks,

I'm new to classic menswear. I'm not sure if I have garments that aren't fitted properly, or if I just have unrealistic expectations when it comes to the flexibility of such.

The problem I have is in raising an arm (or both arms) out in front of me when wearing a suit / sport coat / overcoat. I feel a binding in the upper arm (bicep) and also some at the elbow, and the jacket sleeve rides up significantly. I don't expect to be able to do jumping jacks, but I did think I'd be able to raise my arm out to a 90º angle or slightly less without extreme binding. I'm barely able to raise it at all before it starts to bind, and anything beyond about a 30º starts to become quite uncomfortable / feels like I might rip something.

I've worked with my tailor extensively on this problem. He has tried moving the shoulder out away from the body, moving it in, picking it up, lowering it, adding padding, no padding at all, letting out the back, rotating the sleeve more forward, upsizing, downsizing, etc. I really feel he has tried just about everything and I'm still in the same boat. One of the gentlemen he works with is roughly my size and put on my jacket and said it felt normal to him. This leads me to believe that this may be a case of improper expectations on my part.

I can't drive with my hands on the wheel at 10 & 2. I have a phone holder on my dash and I can't reach it. Go to shake someone's hand or reach for a glass on the other side of my plate and the jacket sleeve rides up significantly, with lots of binding. Take the jacket / overcoat off and the problem disappears (so the shirt is not restricting me). Are these just the sort of problems one expects to have when wearing these garments?

I experience this with an OTR Mens Wearhouse suit, JC Penny sport coat, MTM suit, MTM sport coat, and MTM overcoat. This was the primary reason I went to the MTM tailor after buying OTR. All of my MTM jackets and overcoat are at the tailor so they can make a couple further minor adjustments and re-press for me after we did so much playing around with the garments. I'll post some photos when I get them back if it would be helpful in answering.

Thank you for your time.
 

compuccesory

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Hi folks,

I'm new to classic menswear. I'm not sure if I have garments that aren't fitted properly, or if I just have unrealistic expectations when it comes to the flexibility of such.

The problem I have is in raising an arm (or both arms) out in front of me when wearing a suit / sport coat / overcoat. I feel a binding in the upper arm (bicep) and also some at the elbow, and the jacket sleeve rides up significantly. I don't expect to be able to do jumping jacks, but I did think I'd be able to raise my arm out to a 90º angle or slightly less without extreme binding. I'm barely able to raise it at all before it starts to bind, and anything beyond about a 30º starts to become quite uncomfortable / feels like I might rip something.

I've worked with my tailor extensively on this problem. He has tried moving the shoulder out away from the body, moving it in, picking it up, lowering it, adding padding, no padding at all, letting out the back, rotating the sleeve more forward, upsizing, downsizing, etc. I really feel he has tried just about everything and I'm still in the same boat. One of the gentlemen he works with is roughly my size and put on my jacket and said it felt normal to him. This leads me to believe that this may be a case of improper expectations on my part.

I can't drive with my hands on the wheel at 10 & 2. I have a phone holder on my dash and I can't reach it. Go to shake someone's hand or reach for a glass on the other side of my plate and the jacket sleeve rides up significantly, with lots of binding. Take the jacket / overcoat off and the problem disappears (so the shirt is not restricting me). Are these just the sort of problems one expects to have when wearing these garments?

I experience this with an OTR Mens Wearhouse suit, JC Penny sport coat, MTM suit, MTM sport coat, and MTM overcoat. This was the primary reason I went to the MTM tailor after buying OTR. All of my MTM jackets and overcoat are at the tailor so they can make a couple further minor adjustments and re-press for me after we did so much playing around with the garments. I'll post some photos when I get them back if it would be helpful in answering.

Thank you for your time.
Fam I got you. Probably 80% of your problem is due to armholes that are too large and a low armscye. Read this article to see what I mean. Note especially the types of jackets worn by dancers.


You can't do Fred Astaire shit in your Men's Wearhouse suit. If your MTM is also Men's Wearhouse, it won't be any better because MTM can't alter the armholes, you need a different brand/make/cut of jacket. Fix this and you won't have a problem raising your arms at least parallel to the ground.

The other part restricting your freedom of movement and the reason why your upper arm is being constricted is that your sleevehead/shoulder is too small, and this is also influenced by the style of suit. If your MW suit has highly padded shoulders it will be even more restrictive.

Read this article:

Also see this Permanent style article comparing MTM vs bespoke jackets from the same make:


Note how the bespoke jacket has a significantly larger sleevehead, which allows for more freedom of movement as described in the Parisian gentleman article.

Based on my experience, suits at Men's Wearhouse, Macys, JaB and other such places are unwearable to me because of their enormous low armholes. More upscale places like J.Crew and Banana republic suiting generally has more acceptable armholes, as does Suit Supply and most online MTM brands like Indochino. The reason why suits have low armholes is that it makes putting them on and taking them off easier, especially for old fat people who don't have a lot of movement range in the upper body anyway. The super high armhole jackets that pro dancers wear on stage are very difficult to don and doff and might even require 2 people.

Size of sleeve is also dependent on make, although as the PS article says, making a large sleevehead fit in a smaller armhole i.e. Spalla Camicia is tricky and might require some hand finishing, which makes it expensive.

Here's an armory video describing such a shoulder:


Again based on my experience, for all the other problems the company has, Indochino's jackets do very well in both these respects and are very comfortable to wear for extended periods where you need to work with your hands, and is the cheapest way to get where you want to go. Otherwise look into Neapolitan tailoring I guess.
 

Ben W

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Thank you @compuccesory! I will mention this to my tailor and see what he thinks...

The MTM garments are from my local tailor, not Mens Wearhouse. I'd rather not mention who that is at this point as they really have gone above and beyond to try and resolve this issue for me. I don't want what might be perceived as a negative note here to reflect poorly on them. I really appreciate having a local guy I can go talk to and have take measurements. I'm fairly rural, so the bigger names like Indochino would be online-only access and that scares me.

I appreciate your thoughts and all of the links.
 

compuccesory

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Thank you @compuccesory! I will mention this to my tailor and see what he thinks...

The MTM garments are from my local tailor, not Mens Wearhouse. I'd rather not mention who that is at this point as they really have gone above and beyond to try and resolve this issue for me. I don't want what might be perceived as a negative note here to reflect poorly on them. I really appreciate having a local guy I can go talk to and have take measurements. I'm fairly rural, so the bigger names like Indochino would be online-only access and that scares me.

I appreciate your thoughts and all of the links.
To be clear, that's not saying your tailor isn't doing a proper job, the low armhole style of jacket is prevalent amongst what Americans call "sack suits" and they are designed like that for a reason - to make them easy to put on and take off. If you're an older gent who mostly just leaves his jacket hanging on the back of your chair this may be what you and your tailor's usual clients actually want.

I know you said you were rural but if there's a J Crew or Banana Republic within driving distance, go try out some of their jackets and see if there's a noticable difference, or just buy one online knowing they have pretty liberal return policies. Suit Supply has a try on at home program where they send you 3 suits for the price of one for you to try on and you can return any or all of them, shipping already paid.
 

Ben W

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@compuccesory

So my tailor has replied after I sent him the first article you linked above...

We actually tried that 3 different ways.
If you remember I actually raised up the shoulder and pinned it making the arm hole higher by raising the shoulder.
I also raised it from front to back. Each time we did that, I asked how it felt. The changes did not affect the way it felt.
Believe me, I tried all those possibilities. 😉
I'll look into J Crew / Banana Republic / Suit Supply and see if I can make that happen.
 

compuccesory

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@compuccesory

So my tailor has replied after I sent him the first article you linked above...



I'll look into J Crew / Banana Republic / Suit Supply and see if I can make that happen.
That doesn't sound right to me. The basic problem is that a jacket with high armholes has *more* material in the back and side panels than one with low armholes, that's where your extra room to move comes from. Putting more pins into a jacket that has low armholes isn't going to create more material, so it seems doubtful to me that you could simulate the solution like that. Consider the following examples:


This is called an "action back" jacket and it's basically trying to do what we are talking about but going even further, by having more material in the form of gussets. I have no doubt that you would be able to move your arms like crazy in a jacket like that but obviously you would look ridiculous wearing such a thing in the office.

If you have a casual or dress shirt with pleats on the back at the upper back seam, the pleats are basically doing the same thing.

The point being that your arms are constricted when you raise them because there isn't enough material in the mid back panel to accommodate it. I don't think you just give yourself more room on a jacket by pinning the shoulders, but I'm having trouble envisioning it. Just take your jacket right now and stand sideways in front of a mirror and raise your arms and note how the material running in an arc from your armpits around your back is being pulled tight. That's basically the problem you need to solve.
 

Ben W

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What you're saying makes some sense, though we did also let out the back of my jackets a fair bit in an attempt to ease the problem with no significant improvement.

I went ahead and ordered a trial set in 3 sizes from Suit Supply with overnight shipping. I think in OTR sizing I generally need a 52R or possibly 52L, but the largest they seem to offer is a 50L. So I grabbed a 50L, 50R, and 48L. If I experience the same problem with these I'll try to record a video of the garments from different angles while trying to raise my arms so hopefully we can confirm where the problem originates.

Again I greatly appreciate the input here and hope the Suit Supply order either does not exhibit the symptoms (giving me something I can show my tailor), or if they do I can capture the problem on video so we can discuss further.
 

compuccesory

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I admit that at a relatively more common 46R I already have a fair bit of trouble finding jackets that fit at the places I mentioned - Banana Republic doesn't even stock anything bigger than a 44 in their stores, so I'm not really sure how it would work for someone significantly larger - maybe big people are just doomed to never be able to raise their arms, like Jon McCain?
 

Ben W

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Ha!

At 6' 4" and 290 lbs it is tough to find anything that fits properly. I thought going MTM would solve that problem, but alas... still cannot raise my arms. Maybe I need to truly do some saving and go fully bespoke? But I'm not sure how feasible that is. I don't think the city I'm near is big enough to attract traveling tailors and traveling to NYC or London 3-4 times for a suit is likely impractical.
 

Ben W

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@compuccesory

I appreciate your input so far. Now that I have received the Suit Supply try-on suits I recorded a video showing the problem I'm having:


Would you still say this is the result of low armscye? If so how can I communicate with my tailor so I can get a jacket that does not have this problem? Or, do you think I really need to go elsewhere (if so, where)?
 
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Ben W

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Edit: Updated the above post with the complete video uploaded.

Is what I'm asking for an abnormal thing to want? Is most everyone walking around with jackets that have these types of restrictions? I've tried on jackets that are much too large for me, including ones with no shoulder padding, and experience the same issue.
 
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compuccesory

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I'm not a tailor, just a regular wearer of suits, and I am probably way out of my depth here because my body proportions are very different from yours, but I would venture that what you would need to do to the jacket to have more movement in your arms should be the same, regardless of size. It's may be your proportions are such that a jacket with the features that would allow sufficient freedom of movement may simply look too odd or be too different in drape and construction compared to a suits made for a more conventionally proportioned population.
 

Ben W

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Thanks @compuccesory. I really do appreciate your prompt responses to me here. I'll keep looking for a way to resolve this.
 

Ben W

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I'd love to see examples of every day people trying to make that sort of a movement in their suit, and how their jacket responds. Anyone willing to share?
 

dukeaw

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I dont know what everyone is on about with armholes... This is very clearly an issue of not enough excess fabric across the shoulder blades and upper back. Let it out in the upper back and you'll have more mobility. Very straightforward and easy for a competent tailor to let out the center seam. dont go to a dry cleaner. They will mess it up and the jacket wont drape properly. Go to someone that can do it cleanly.
 

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