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Affordable Business Suit Buyer's Guide on a Budget

I love a nice suit, and I love a nice suit at an incredible price. Look like Don Draper on a budget. The only thing that beats the combination of these two things is when my awesomely priced fantastic looking suit has quality design and unique detailing!

Indochino.com is a great site that offers men great suits at great prices. They've branched out into shirts, individual pieces like vests, ties, socks, etc. too. Now, I haven't tried the individual pieces yet, however, I did recently buy their Ultimate Three Piece Khaki Linen Suit and I’m just going to say that it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in the clothing arena!

First off, you’ve got to go to a local tailor and get your measurements taken. Super simple, this will allow you to create a suit on Indochino’s site that will basically fit you perfectly the first time you try it on. It’s very easy to do this, and I would suggest that when you sign up on the site you write down the measurement questions they ask you about. This way you can go to any tailor and they can take them for you and fill the sheet out.

In 5 minutes, you’ll be on your way to the most handsome man you’ve ever seen (no not me, you!)

Once you’ve got your measurements, just pick whichever suit you like (Linen and Cotton are great for summer), choose how you want it, below are my recommendations (these are personal, so I’ll describe why I like my suits this way, it’s really just preference, and body type that make the difference).

1st: Blazer - Lapel Style: Notch vs. Peak vs. Shawl:

Notch Lapel
Notch Lapel: Most often used style, basically a triangular cut at the shoulder   height of the jacket

Peak Lapel: Adds a little flair, the bottom portion forms a point outside of the top portion

Shawl Lapel: Traditionally used with Tuxedo jackets, but has become a bit of a trend recently

On Indochino, they have an option to choose the Notch lapel in a slim fit. This is my choice, because it helps to keep the suit jacket trim in my opinion.
Peak Lapel

Always keep in mind your body type; it can make a huge difference in a suit. I have a slim build, with small shoulders, so for me, a slim lapel helps to keep things in proportion i.e. – a big lapel would make my shoulders look too small.

If you’ve got broad shoulders, then you can pull off a traditional cut, or even the peak lapel if you like (the peak lapel is broader).

Shawl Lapel
Unless you’re planning on using the jacket as a one-piece or the suit for a wedding, or as a traditional dinner jacket, I wouldn’t do the shawl lapel. Although I do like it, I think it’s best suited for jacket separates; a nice one looks great with jeans to differentiate you from the packs of notch lapel jackalopes out there.

Step 2: Jacket Vents – One, Two, And None

Vents were originally made so that a gentleman could ride a horse more easily while wearing a jacket, and they’ve continued to prove useful, allowing easier access to back pockets, better for sitting, and improves the hang of the jacket (so it doesn’t look like just a huge piece of cloth).

It’s really just personal preference on something like this. I like the two vent, simply because I think it allows me to fit the jacket a little closer to my chest and waist, and gives a tad more freedom of movement. One-vent jackets are just as good though, and I would say stay away from the no vent option unless it’s going to be worn with a tuxedo or meant as a dinner jacket.

            Step 3: Jacket Buttons: 1, 2, 3

Shawl Coat Jacket
Years ago, I went to Brooks Brothers and bought my first two suits. One dark blue and one charcoal grey. Sadly, at the time, my sartorial senses weren’t as sharp, and I let the Brooks Brother in house tailor choose most everything for me. Now, this is not a critique of his skill, it’s rather a word to the wise about understanding body type and furthermore where to buy your suits from. For me, being just about 6 feet tall, 150 pounds, small frame, and a slim waist, the classic American box cut style was just terrible for me. I need a more Italian or European style fit to match my shape. For others of you out there, you may need the big American style; you just have to go with what feels right.

This leads to the ever-revolving jacket button question: How many? And then how many do I actually button up?

For me, again body shape plays a big part. I need to make my top half look a little longer than it is, to balance longer legs, so I go with 1 or 2 button suits. The lapel will get cut a little deeper, creating a larger amount of space that your shirt and tie show through, creating a longer line from neck to button, thereby elongating your figure and making you look taller.

Dinner Tuxedo Jacket
Personally, I’m a big fan of one-button jackets, because you only ever button one button, so you don’t really need the other one. That’s just me though, and it can put off some people. Also, keep in mind, if this is a suit you’re buying as your first, or as your more conservative piece, and then go for the 2 buttons. It’ll always be in style, and you won’t have to worry about it.

The 3 button is good for those taller or bigger guys with a bit stockier frame. It centers the jacket, especially since you button only the middle button. The buffoons out there having all three buttons done up are just that, buffoons, so please don’t imitate them. Buttoning two buttons is acceptable; I just prefer not to do it when I’ve worn a 3-button jacket. If you do button 2 buttons, then make sure you do the top 2.

Step 4: Jacket Lining

This is a fun choice on the site, giving you a little room for creativity in your suit! Pick a lining color for the inside of your jacket. I like to go with something a little unconventional or a color that might add a bit of pizzazz to your piece. Remember it’s about wearing what you want and being confident in it. I went with a light pink lining on my khaki suit and it’s been a great conversation starter, not to mention looks fantastic when I open or take the jacket off ;).

Step 5:  Monogramming!

This is super cool! Indochino let’s you monogram your jacket, up to 40 characters. Now, for my first suit from them, I didn’t do the monogram, but I plan to in the future. They put the monogram over the inside left breast pocket, so it’s not too flashy or anything. I would definitely recommend that you put something there that you’re comfortable with everyone seeing though, otherwise you won’t want to take the jacket off which could get awkward.

Step 6: Pant Pleats

This should be an easy for you gentlemen…no pleats! There are certain people that can pull off pleats, but you have to be very conscious of how to wear them, otherwise they can make you look bloated or pear shaped. 

Step 7: Vest

If you’re going with a 3-piece suit, then Indochino let’s you choose how many buttons you’d like on it. I’d go with the 5, and wear it with 2 buttons undone, 1 on the bottom and 1 on the top. 

Step 8: Vest Lining

Same as the jacket, unless this is an individual piece, I’d choose the same lining as the jacket.

Some of these options may or not be available if you’re shopping for a suit elsewhere, and depending where you are, you may even have more options!

Another good trick I’ve used before too, is to buy a suit that I like from H&M, or a blazer from Gap, Banana Republic, Zara, etc. and then have them fitted by a tailor. For jackets, just make sure the shoulder seams sits in the right spot (seam should be at the point where your shoulder ends), and a good tailor should be able to fix anything else. For pants, just make sure the waist is only a maximum of 3-4 sizes too big; otherwise the back pockets will look too close together when the tailor fits the pants.

For the pants, you’ll have to decide on the length of the “break” of the pant. There are a few different types of breaks:

Full Break: Means there’s a full fold where the pant cuff meets the shoes, makes the legs look a little shorter.

Medium or Half Break: Standard style among most suit makers, and traditional cut for most people. Pant cuff breaks but not fully, sits with a crease on top the shoe.

Slight or Short Break: This is the trendier break, and the one I prefer. Gives a clean line from pant cuff to shoes, showing your shoes off while at the same time making you look a tad taller.

No Break: This has been the trend with high fashion designers for a while, first made really popular by Thom Browne in the early 2000’s. If you think you can pull it off, dive in! I’ve never felt comfortable with it, but that’s just my own thing. 

A suit is something you have to consider for the long term. Even though the prices are incredibly good, you don't want to have to keep buying a new suit every time you gain a pound, or wiffle waffle between notch lapel and peak lapel, or that crazy red and yellow plaid style houndstooth cloth you ordered. 

If these are some of your first suits, order what fits, and what's classic. If you want to be conservative, err on the slightly larger or more traditional cuts, and if you fluctuate weight or change your style, you'll ave the room to do it with. You'll be able to keep them forever, and maybe even pass it down, which is pretty cool in my opinion.

Want more Frugal Business Fashion? Read My Posts:

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As Always, Best Of Luck In Business To You All!

Published By Michael J. Schiemer
Owner & Marketing Consultant
Frugal Business Digital Solutions
Schiemer Consulting
Boston | Worcester | Providence
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