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10 Simple Updates That Can Make Your Suit Look Expensive

A few low-cost alterations and styling tips can make any off-the-rack suit look like a million bucks.

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Shop for shoulder fit

The first thing you to look for when purchasing a suit jacket is the fit of the shoulder. “Altering the shoulders is labor intensive and could be very costly,” says Richard Aviles, president of Bridge Cleaners and Tailors in Brooklyn, New York. “If you buy the jacket and the shoulders are as close to perfect as possible, then the rest of the jacket will be fairly simple to tailor.” You’ll know the jacket is too large if the shoulder pad extends beyond your natural shoulder. If it’s too small, you’ll feel constricted and see a dimple in the fabric between the shoulder pad and your bicep. (Related: These are the surprising alterations you didn’t know your tailor could make.)

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Go with the bigger size

If you’re between sizes, buy the bigger one (and if that one feels too wonky, try a different style or a different brand). “It’s always easier for a tailor to take in fabric than let it out,” says Aviles.

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Get the perfect sleeve length

The ideal sleeve length is three to three and a half inches up from your thumb’s largest knuckle, says Aviles. When worn with your dress shirt (which you should wear to your fitting), about 1/2 inch of your shirt cuff should peak out the bottom.

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Keep this in mind when shortening sleeves

If your jacket has functioning buttonholes on the bottom of each sleeve, you’ll want to beware how much you plan to shorten them. Because of this detail, your tailor can only shorten the sleeve from the bottom about ¾ inch. Anything more than that and he or she will need to remove the sleeve from the shoulder and take it in from there. That could result in the sleeve becoming too tight around your bicep (this is because the sleeve is built to get narrower from top to bottom, and you tailor will have to take in from the wider half, thus bringing the narrower half up higher).

Use this calculation for jacket length

When it comes to jacket length, Aviles has a simple formula: the length from the bottom of the folded collar to the bottom of the jacket should be equal to the length from the bottom of the jacket to the bottom of the pants’ hem.

Shop for pants like this

Choose pants for the way they fit your waist, not for their length. If the pants are too long, your tailor can always hem them. “Hemming is the easiest possible alteration,” says Aviles, adding that men should bring their dress shoes to their tailoring appointment (and wear them while the pants are altered). When it comes to length, there are a few options. Aviles says the current trend is to have a hem with no break (meaning the pants are on the shorter side) He believes a slight break is most traditional.

Choose classic colors

Charcoal grey, black, and navy blue are great places to start when buying a staple suit. Match your shoes to your belt (black works well with most suits) and your socks to your pants. If your suit is traditional in color and style, try patterned socks for a touch of flair. The hardware on your belt should match any other metal accessories you have on, such as your watch. (Related: Here’s what your outfit color says about you.)

Mind your buttons

Get that whole button thing down once and for all: On a two-button suit, button the top button while you stand, and unbutton it when you sit. On a three-button suit, button the middle button (you can also button the top button if the lapel is flat) when you stand, and unbutton it when you sit. Under no circumstances should you button the bottom button.

Find a reputable tailor

The perfect fit that a great tailor can give you makes all the difference in how you look in your suit. “You can have a $10,000 suit that fits poorly and looks terrible or a $450 suit that looks like a million bucks,” says Aviles.

Don’t worry about dry cleaning

Aviles dismisses the idea that too much dry cleaning ruins suits. “It’s not the dry cleaning process,” he says. “In most cases it’s the finishing process that creates that unwanted shine on wool and cashmere pieces.” If you go to a reputable tailor with experience finishing suits, he says, they’ll be able to maintain your piece for years to come.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest