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How Should A Suit Fit?

How Should a Suit Fit

How should a suit fit is an easy-to-answer question (even though many guys don’t seem to know). Here, we go back to the basics and show you the 5 keys to a well fitted suit.

What a Well Fitted Suit Looks Like

It’s only fitting that a custom clothing crew like Black Lapel would spend a lot of our time focusing on fit. After all, fit is the main reason many people get custom suits. But ask 10 guys what a great fit looks like and you’ll probably get 10 different opinions.

Now, usually the old saying, opinions are like assholes, everybody has one and they all stink, would apply. But when the question is how should a suit fit, or what proper suit fit looks like, the answer is pretty subjective. If you’re 6’7” and 240 pounds, your definition of a perfect fit should be different from someone who’s 5’8” and 145 pounds. Nonetheless, there are some objective things to look for in how a suit fits. Those things make up the short answer to the question, how should a suit fit?

The Short Answer to Proper Suit Fit

A well fitted suit should fit if the padding inside the shoulder doesn’t extend beyond your shoulder, there is no gap between your shirt collar and your jacket’s collar, the jacket hugs, but doesn’t squeeze, your midsection, the jacket sleeves end right above the top of your wrist bone and the pants touch the tops of your shoes without bunching up at your ankles.

How Should a Suit Fit: The Full Answer

Let’s break down what exactly goes into that short answer explaining what a well fitted suit looks like.

Here at Black Lapel, we see them all: short, tall, fat, skinny, hunched back, upright, long-legged, and/or pencil-necked. You name it, we’ve suited him up. And what we’ve found is that there are five areas that are universally important parts of a great fit. We’ll show them to you below, using Black Lapel custom suits as an example.


The Five Essentials of a Flawless Fit

1. The Shoulders

2. The Collar

3. The Midsection

4. Sleeve Length

5. Pants Length

Essential Suit Fit Area 1: The Shoulders

1. The Shoulders

You know you’ve got a proper fitting shoulder when the padding in the shoulder is aligned with yours, creating a smooth, straight line from the collar to the sleeve. Then, the jacket will drop sharply like a cliff when it meets the sleeve.

Suits, more than any other garment in a man’s wardrobe, rely on the internal structure to look good. This is no more evident than in the shoulders where the padding and the seam, connecting the body of the jacket to the sleeve, join to form a shoulder’s shape.

The most common problem preventing a well fitted suit is a jacket shoulder that is too wide. When the wearer’s shoulder doesn’t fill out the jacket, you see the dreaded shoulder divot where the shoulder pad and sleeve cap meet but there’s nothing underneath to hold the shoulder’s shape. The jacket collapses in on itself, wrinkling into a shape that appears like a chunk of the jacket’s shoulder has been carved away (hence the name divot).
Too narrow of a shoulder will cause the sleeve to pull the fabric across the top of your shoulder and rumple, further pulling the lapel out towards the shoulders. This won’t feel comfortable or look comfortable.

Essential Suit Fit Area 2: The Collar


On a properly fitted suit, the jacket’s collar, the lapel and the shirt collar should all come together at the wearer’s collarbone.

This one flies under the radar of most people when they wonder how should a suit fit, but the fit of a suit jacket’s collar can make or break the look. Next to the dreaded shoulder divot, the collar gap is a common fit problem found on fitted suits. Why? As we mentioned in the section on shoulders, a tight shoulder can create pulling across the top of the jacket. This pulling, along with tightness in the chest, can lead to the lapel flaring out towards the shoulders. The resulting a gap between the shirt collar and the jacket’s lapel and collar is bad news.

Essential Suit Fit Area 3: The Midsection

3. The Midsection

The perfect amount of waist suppression tapers without pinching in too much so the jacket doesn’t flare out at the hips, but still accentuates the wearer’s V-shape.

While many of us would love a naturally V-shaped torso, the truth is most of us could use a little help from our tailors to achieve this look. That’s why the midsection made this list, but not all midsections are the same, meaning how your clothes fit has to match you. Some men expand from the shoulders to the waist. On some men you could draw a straight line down from their shoulders to their waists. Some sharply taper toward the waist.The amount a jacket tapers from the chest to the waist is called waist suppression and applying the right amount of it is one key to a great fit. For some, that means no waist suppression. Athletic types tend to have a sharp taper from the upper body to the waist, but following the contours too closely can lend an hourglass-like look to your suit.

Essential Suit Fit Area 4: Sleeve Length

4. The Sleeve Length

Nothing says “scrub” like a shirt sleeve that has been swallowed up by an extra long jacket sleeve. Actually, we take that back, something else says “scrub” like that: a too short jacket sleeve that exposes the entire cuff of the shirt.

Your jacket sleeve must follow the Goldilocks rule. Not too long, not too short, but just right. You’ll know you’re there when you let your arms hang naturally and the jacket cuff rests just above the base of your palm, exposing about a quarter inch of your shirt cuff.

Essential Suit Fit Area 5: Pants Length

5. The Pants Length

You don’t need to bare your calves with high water pants but if no one can see your socks, even when you’re walking, you could stand to shorten your pants. Oh, and if the idea of showing a little sock scares the bejesus out of you, never fear, we’ll show you how to find a few great pairs of socks.

Perhaps there is no sadder sight in menswear than a puddle of fabric around the ankles of an otherwise fitted suit. A holdover from 90s rapper style, the long, baggy pants fad died around the same time as Tupac and Biggie (today’s rappers rock well-fitted suits on the regular). Sadly, many men stick to the extra long look for their suit pants and it’s killing their style.

Your Turn

Got questions about your own fit? You can ask a Black Lapel stylist your fit questions and we’ll help you master your own fit issues. Just send us an email at concierge@blacklapel.com It sounds simple, but nail these five essentials of proper suit fit and you’ll be light years ahead of the average guy when it comes to fit. Answering the question how should a suit fit me? will set you on the path to timeless style.

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27 thoughts on “How Should A Suit Fit?”

  1. Dan M Jackson says:

    Is shoulder rumple (my primary, ongoing battle) a difficult thing to correct for a tailor? My tailored sport coats look great on me otherwise, but I focused too much on the cinched middle and slimmed sleeves I think – plus I didn’t know what to watch out for that much. Hope my question isn’t too general. Thanks!!!

    Oh – one more thing, my chest is 43-44 inches, waist is 33 inches; I wear 38 short (I’m 5’6″), in sport coats; are these measurements incompatible? I seem to always have considerable gap between collar and lapel, though I’ve never tried a shirt with the spread collar, think this type of collar might help?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hey Dan,

      Good question, hopefully we can clear some things up for you.

      Part 1: Shoulder rumple is a very common issue men face with their suits. The best fix (for the future) is to go custom and avoid this problem all-together. However, that’s not an answer to your direct question. Shoulder rumpling can be caused by a domino effect of issues, they can be from the arms, chest or the shoulder itself being too big or too small. If any one of these three areas of measurements is notably off-target, something is going to end up looking wrong. In this case, shoulder rumpling. A tailor is not always a guaranteed fix, but depending on the situation, they may be able to fix it for you. It’s good to know that this is one of the more costly of alterations so keep that in mind.

      Part 2: This issue could be rooted beyond just simple measurements. The issue with off-the-rack garments are ‘stock’ sizes, and as a result unique posture isn’t taken into account. As collar gaps are usually indicative of shoulders being too wide or not properly fitted towards the correct posture setting (straight, average, leaning). However, since we don’t really know where the gap is, we can’t answer for sure. In general, if the gap is either on the back or all around, then it’s the issue we just went over. If you’re referring to the collar point, then a wider collar will certainly help. In the end, a cutaway would be the best option for you based on what you’ve described.

      If you have any other style questions, feel free to drop us a line at concierge@blacklapel.com!

  2. Dan M Jackson says:

    Is it okay if shoulder rumple occurs with movement; hand in one’s pocket for example, but otherwise no shoulder rumple when standing straight and erect? This is on a tailored sport coat. Also, would tailored, slimming of the sleeves contribute to shoulder rumple? Doesn’t seem like it should.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      With shoulder rumpling, if you’re standing straight up – and that mean’s properly – you’re right, there should be no shoulder rumple at all. Even with movement, it would be ideal for there to be no rumple as well. However, much like in-laws: we sometimes can’t avoid them. Slimming of the sleeves shouldn’t affect the shoulder rumple, as that is primarily caused by the tailoring in the shoulder to be incorrect, or the padding to be weak.

  3. Dan M Jackson says:

    Is the hourglass look on a suit necessarily a bad look? Also, what if one has a great, cinched midsection to one’s tailored sport coat, but that cinched middle also highlights a protruding bubble butt, not that I mind it, and actually sort of like it. Oh yeah, I am a bit of a bodybuilder.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Though a relaxed fit is more traditional, having a tighter middle cinch is not necessarily a bad look, as long as it’s not creating a “X” shape like this. Bodybuilder! Cool stuff, a protruding bubble but isn’t a bad thing, as long as your suit fits to your curves!

      1. Dan M Jackson says:

        Hi Guys,
        Say, do you all at Black Lapel make sport coats with the Roped shoulder, Dandy look? If so, what might a coat like that cost? I know that, that’s too broad; what if it were maybe a Harris Tweed, grey Glenplaid?

        1. Black Lapel says:

          Hey there, Dan

          Unfortunately, the Roped shoulder, Dandy look isn’t very typical. However, we can accommodate some requests. If you have any questions about what we can do special for your look, contact our awesome concierge team. They have all the answers!

  4. Randy says:

    Where is the waistline for suits? Is it at the belly button, hip bone, or somewhere else?

    Thank you!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hey Randy, check out our waist measurement video to get a better idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXwHv5rsyDk

  5. Kevin says:

    I like the more natural look of a soft shoulder. Would this be consistent with your tailoring? Or do you use a more traditional, padded shoulder?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Most Black Lapel jackets come with some padding in the shoulders. We do make jackets with no padding upon special request from repeat customers who have already dialed in their fit. We recommend some padding in your first jacket, though, to ensure that you get a great fit.

      Be sure to email one of our stylists at concierge@blacklapel.com to discuss the look you’re after and how to achieve it before ordering.

  6. LaMont Davis says:

    Hello..Like many American men, I’m thick (Muscular) however, many of us would do NOT! want to be uncomfortable in a a TIGHT Ass suit…

    Do you off or make a comfortable suit!??

    1. Black Lapel says:

      So if we are understanding you correctly, the goal is to get a suit that fits you well without being tight. When you are a bigger guy, that can be extremely difficult to find in the store.

      We do things differently and get great results (especially for muscular guys like Hashim A.).

      All Black Lapel suits are made to your measurements. We don’t just make a crapload of suits, send them to stores and leave it to you to try to make them fit. In fact, we don’t make a suit at all until we are absolutely sure we’ve got your measurements nailed down. So it takes time (about 4 weeks) to get a suit made, but when you do it’s made to your proportions and built to fit you comfortably. We’ve even written about how to customize your suit’s fit and design when you’ve got an athletic build. Ready to dress your best? Email us at concierge@blacklapel.com and we’ll help you get started.

      Using this

  7. Philipp Iarmaltchouk says:

    Great guide! I always found it hard to buy something that fits me according to all the rules in retail. I am based in London though. Tried a couple of tailors in UK this far, the last one was quite good, a bit more expensive than Black Lapel. So might visit your showroom next time I am in NY 🙂

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We’d be glad to have you here in New York, Philipp, but you don’t have to come all the way to New York to get a flawlessly fitting suit. Most Black Lapel suits are made for people who measured themselves at home. We cover any alterations if you need them and will even remake your clothes if they can’t be altered for a flawless fit. With that, plus the fact that we offer free shipping there’s no reason to hold back.

  8. Enzo says:

    Favorited and shared among my friends. Great guide, cheers from Costa Rica!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks, Enzo. Keep spreading the word!

      Oh, and if/when you order from us, we will have a company raffle for a chance to hand deliver your clothes to you in beautiful Costa Rica.

      On second thought, whoever wins probably wouldn’t come back. Maybe we should rethink this plan.

  9. Khoi says:

    Great visual guide guys. Informative as always.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad to be of service, Khoi. As you said wearing clothes that fit is the first rule of menswear.

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