Butch Style

How to Fit a Suit
September 2, 2010, 9:58 am
Filed under: articles, clothing | Tags: , , ,

The suit is classic and timeless, and a well-fitting suit can help you feel your best and give you confidence in your appearance. It can also be a necessity for a butch working in a formal office setting or going to a friend’s wedding. Unfortunately, buying a suit can be especially difficult for us butches. Some of us have to deal with large chests and wide hips that suit designers did not have in mind. And most of us never had the experience of wearing a suit growing up so it’s hard to know where to even begin. I’ve done some research to come up with a guide for those buying their first suit, and I’m hoping it will help.

To get a general idea for your size, you can measure yourself. Alternately, when you hit the store – if you are comfortable with it – the salesperson will be able to measure you and suggest suits for your body type. There are many different cuts, especially in the jacket – box-shaped, tapering, hourglass, slim, wide, etc – so try on as many as you can get your hands on. As for fabric, you probably want to look at wool for your first suit. Worsted wool, which is midweight and very durable, is a classic suit choice and good for most climates. Heavier wool is good for winter but won’t make a year-round suit. Linen is nice in the summer or in warmer climates, but it wrinkles easily.

You might be lucky enough to find a suit that fits you perfectly, but more than likely you won’t. This is where the tailor comes in – and this is an expected part of buying a suit. A lot of places that sell suits will have an in-house tailor or one that visits regularly. If they don’t, ask them (or friends!) for recommendations or check out DapperQ’s map to find a queer-friendly tailor near you. Some aspects of your suit’s fit are easy – and cheap – to alter, and some are near impossible. Here are some things that you want to look for when trying on a suit, and how easy they might be to alter if they’re not perfect.


The jacket itself should be long enough to cover your butt when your arms are relaxed, but you should be able to grab the bottom edge with your fingers. Alternately, you can measure the length to one inch below your crotch – your actual crotch, not that of your pants. The sleeves should just cover your wristbone. A too-long jacket in either area is one of the easiest things for a tailor to fix. It’s also possible, in some cases, to lengthen a jacket’s hem, assuming that there is enough fabric in the existing hem and that the jacket does not have rounded corners.


The jacket’s shoulders should sit flat and fit your shoulder without extending beyond it. They should also not be too snug – you shouldn’t feel tightness or pulling on your upper arms. When your arms are relaxed, your upper arm should be directly in the center of the sleeve. If it is pushing on the front, back, or outside of the sleeve you will get wrinkles. Shoulder width is very difficult and intensive to change, so this is one of the top priorities in buying a suit off the rack. Likewise, the way your arm hangs in the sleeve is exceptionally difficult to alter. Some suits have shoulder pads and some don’t – it’s entirely a matter of personal preference. Shoulder pads can help you look more masculine, if that’s what you’re after. But don’t go overboard.


You should be able to button the front buttons easily and without creasing the suit in the back or around the buttons. If the lapels pull open when the suit is buttoned, it’s too small around your torso. On the other hand, you don’t want it too loose – look for no more than 3 inches (or a clenched fist) between the top button and your torso. You also don’t want a jacket that’s stretched over your butt. If you’re trying on a jacket with no vents and it’s too tight in the butt region, try on a jacket with a vent or two. The fit around the torso can be altered – to an extent. A competent tailor will be able to bring in the waist or make the entire body slimmer.


The back of the collar should end at the middle of your neck and shouldn’t pull away from the back of your neck. If you find excess fabric below the back of the collar, a tailor can pull this up under the collar.


Generally, you want your trousers to be comfortable. They should fit like any other pair of pants around the waist. They should fit snugly but fall straight down with no creasing. The bottom of the trouser should fall on your shoe with a slight break. Pants are, again, easy to shorten and possible to lengthen depending on the availability of extra fabric in the hem.  Most suit pants have cuffs around 1″, but you can wear the pants sans-cuff as well.


You should be able to move around easily in your suit. Swing your arms around. Crouch down, sit on a chair. Take a look at the suit in all positions, and make sure you can stick your arm out enough to shake someone’s hand without the jacket sleeve creeping up to your bicep.


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