Complete Guide To Buying Suits Online

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In decades past, you were limited when buying a suit to local shops, department stores, haberdasheries, or tailors. Fortunately, these days, the internet gives you nearly limitless opportunities! Despite the convenience, though, there are also challenges in buying suits online. Read on to find out how to get the most out of this advancement in purchasing classic menswear!

Pros of Buying Suits Online #1: Choice

The biggest pro is arguably your choice. You find tons of brands worldwide, in different price brackets, with different stylistic details and different levels of workmanship. You can find exactly what you’re after, and you wouldn’t be able to get that locally at your tailor store or haberdashery. Let alone your city or probably even your state.

Pro #2: Price

No matter if you shop for a pre-owned or vintage suit or an off-the-rack suit, chances are you can find a better value in the price bracket you’re looking at online. I think that’s particularly true for pre-owned garments, where you can sometimes save up to 80% off, which we did ourselves and made a guide for you to slash as much from the price tag, too.

Vintage suits on display from a local thrift store

Treasures can be found at local vintage stores, but you may have to pay keen attention to details when buying them online.

New garments online are sometimes less expensive but, generally, they’re not more expensive than in the store. 

Pro #3: Ease of Use

You can look for suits online in your off time, at home, or wherever you are, on your phone, on your computer sitting on your PJs, slurping your coffee.

Googling good sites for buying suits online using a laptop

Browse for suits online at the comfort of your home using a laptop at your most convenient time.

You can interrupt your search, and you don’t have to travel anywhere, incur travel costs and waste entire days or blocks of time. 

Pro #4: You Can Take Your Time

Another pro that many men don’t even consider is the fact that you have all the time in the world to try on the suit at home, look at it, and decide if it’s for you or not without the feeling of being hassled by a salesperson who just wants to get that sale.

It provides me the time to calmly assess what suit alterations are necessary. Also, if you buy a custom or a customized suit or made-to-measure suit online, most companies offer a fit guarantee. So, if it doesn’t work out, you can just have the suit remade. Just make sure you actually read the fine print of their fit guarantee because, sometimes, they just provide you with an alterations credit, and you have to hand in receipts, but that’s not what you want.

Raphael buttoning his suit jacket; he's wearing a gray suit with flap pockets, Light red striped dress shirt, navy tie, white boutonniere, and a light red pocket square from Fort Belvedere.

You can comfortably try the suit on at home without the hassle of a salesperson following your every move. (tie, boutonniere, and pocket square from Fort Belvedere)

If I buy sized clothes online from a brand, I typically order multiple sizes so I can just try things on and determine what size is right for me because in the menswear world, there’s a lot of vanity sizing and, sometimes, a size large is exactly right, sometimes I need a medium, sometimes I need a double extra large. Yes, it pays to take a closer look at the size chart, but sometimes I’ve found they’re not a hundred percent accurate.

Of course, depending on how expensive the items you buy, you may have to deal with a limitation on your credit card, and you’ll have to deal with returns, which transitions us nicely to the cons.

Cons of Buying Suits Online #1: Returns

Personally, I hate making returns. No matter if it’s online or offline, it’s always a hassle. It always feels like a total waste of time to me. And it’s simply something I don’t enjoy. With that in mind, we try to make returns at our own store. For Fort Belvedere products, it’s extremely easy. We have free shipping.

A snap shot of Fort Belvedere returns policy taken from the website

It’s quite easy to process returns with Fort Belvedere products, but it’s always a good habit to read the fine print whenever you’re shopping online.

You can do it all online on your schedule. But still, it’s a certain amount of work.

Con #2: You Can’t Feel The Suit

Another big con of online suit shopping is the fact that you cannot physically feel the garment. Yes, companies can throw out the fabric brands they use, and they can talk about their soft construction and all those things, but it means different things for different vendors. And, ultimately, you have to feel it. You have to wear it and see how you like it to really make that call. 

Also, unless you’re able to buy many different models and compare them side-by-side, that’s an aspect that you don’t get. If you just buy one or two suits, you get them, and then you have to return them. Then, maybe, you have to buy the next ones and, by the time you have the third suit, you probably may have forgotten how the first one felt.

 Preston checking the texture of suit fabric samples from SuitSupply.

Even with comprehensive descriptions from the retailer, being able to touch and feel the fabric yourself makes a lot of difference.

Obviously, even if you end up finding something that really works for you, the process is much longer, which is another con.

Suit Types You Can Buy Online

  1. Vintage Suits – First, you can buy pre-owned or vintage suits on pages like Poshmark or Facebook Marketplace, or eBay. In different countries, there are so many smaller sites that focus on more higher-end suits where you can buy them.
  2. Off-The-Rack Suits – You can also buy a new off-the-rack suit that is ready to wear, where you can see the pictures, and it’s in stock, and they can just ship it right away in the size that, at least, you think will fit you. Online MTM Suits
  3. Online Custom or Made-to-Measure Suits
  4. Online Bespoke Suit – I came across this term very recently and was surprised that it exists.

In a nutshell, each one of those has its own advantages and disadvantages. Vintage or pre-owned suits are probably the least expensive, but it also means you’re wearing another man’s clothes. 

Off-the-rack Suit Supply Suits

Off-the-rack SuitSupply Suits

Off-the-rack suits are typically a step up in price, but what you see is what you get. You can get them quickly, but the problem is: they’re all symmetrical, and humans are simply not symmetrical. Because of that, the fit is often an issue. 

With a made-to-measure suit, it means you take all your measurements, and they take an existing pattern and adapt it, so it should work for your measurements. Typically, you can choose from a broad range of fabrics and a menu in detail. So, you can pick different linings, different buttons, and stylistic things. But, it’s typically limited to a menu.

Bespoke traditionally means that a tailor takes your measurements, and he looks at your body and all your imperfections and your asymmetries and the little details you want. Design-wise, the sky is really the limit.

A pile of fabric used for bespoke shirts

Pros of bespoke: lots of fabrics (and designs) to choose from.

For example, the always dapper Henrik Hjerl once showed me that, on a bespoke suit he had made by Steven Hitchcock in a wonderful green fabric with an orange and yellow windowpane, he wanted a little channel that went down his sleeve, all the way along with his suit jacket, down the pants so he could perform magician tricks more easily.

On top of that, you get a lot more handwork, you get a full floating canvas, and the details are spot on and exactly to your specifications. The downside is it also costs a lot of money because many tailoring hours go into it. And you probably also want to use really high-quality fabric because why spend all that money if the fabric is not up to snuff?

A tailor getting Raphael's shoulder measurements

A bespoke garment usually starts with the tailor physically getting your exact measurement, making it a bit more difficult to do it online.

Online bespoke is a bit more difficult because you don’t have that physical tailor connection. Yes, there is software, and there are apps, and they can analyze your body and get an exact understanding of what’s going on in terms of measurements and imperfections. But, there’s also certain chemistry between a tailor and you that gets lost online.

Oftentimes, companies try to counterbalance that by sending you trial garments and try-on garments, so you can test things along the way without just finishing the entire suit then presenting it with you just to find out it doesn’t fit the way you want it to.

Having The Right Measurements Is Key!

No matter what of those four options you choose, the key to a well-fitting suit is the proper measurements. You’ve probably heard a hundred times that the fit of a suit matters most. And it’s not just me saying that, but just look around the internet.

For example, if you buy a suit online that is vintage or pre-owned, chances are you need actual garment measurements. Why? Well, because that’s what most people will be able to provide you with. So, ideally, you already have a suit, and you know what measurements you have to look for. If that’s not you and you don’t have a jacket or trousers that you can actually start with, then I would say you have to estimate, eyeball it, get something, then pin it down and determine what the exact garment measurements will be that will work for you.

Preston trying on a navy suit jacket from Uniqlo.

For tailored menswear, having the right fit matters most. (Knit Tie in Mottled Blue and Brown Silk – Fort Belvedere)

If you buy an off-the-rack suit online, some brands will provide their garment measurements. Others will provide body measurements. So, it’s best just to have both. For made-to-measure and bespoke suits, you generally need body measurements even though some companies may offer you their app that will help you measure yourself or use their AI-powered sizing algorithm. Honestly, don’t do that.

Rather, take the extra time to get your real measurements and follow their instructions. Why? Well, because some companies measure the arm length from the back of your spine, others just on the sleeve, the inside, the outside, and you want to make sure you give them the right measurements. Otherwise, the suit fit will be a disaster.

Kyle measuring Raphael's jacket

Take the time to get your real measurements rather than relying on AI-powered sizing algorithms.

Sometimes, even made-to-measure bespoke companies offer to provide garment measurements so they can just copy what you have at home. But then, that’s not truly a made-to-measure bespoke company anymore in my book.

How To Take Your Measurements–The Right Way!

It’s easy for garment measurements because you can take them yourself. For body measurements, you want a second person involved. Ideally, it could be a tailor or someone with experience in measuring, but even your partner or friend can do it because you typically have step-by-step instructions. Don’t even try to measure yourself. It simply is not going to work. 

Don’t get a tape measure out of your toolbox. Instead, get a soft sewing measuring tape from a reputable brand like Singer. You can find them at sewing supply or drug stores or online for under $5. Why is it so important? Whether you get the cheaper ones, they may change over time, and it simply is not the right length. And if your measuring tape is off by an inch, that defeats the point of accurate measurements.

Raphael holding two measuring tapes showing their difference in length – one yellow measuring tape from Singer and one off-white cheap measuring tape

A Singer measuring tape vs. a cheap one – notice the difference in length.

When you take the body measurements for a suit, you should wear dress pants, dress shoes, and a dress shirt. Do not wear the jacket when you take the measurements. Unless, of course, the specific company instructs you to do so. Even if it might hurt your ego a little bit, you always want to measure the body you have, not the body you aspire to.

Honestly, I’ve seen it time and time again. Once people get measured, they’re all excited, they’re nervous, and all of a sudden, they stand up, or the shoulders go back, and the chest comes out. Sometimes, the arms don’t hang the way they normally do. And even the way they stand changes. The problem is all these artificial changes will later lead to a garment that will not fit you in your normal state, which is a terrible thing.

Raphael standing in a more relaxed manner; he's wearing a blue denim shirt and khaki chinos

Try to relax your body first before taking your measurements – that way, you’ll get more accurate results.

Typically, before I get measured, I close my eyes, take some deep breaths, and just shake my limbs and relax. And then, I just stand normally and don’t even think about being measured. That way, I’m standing in my normal posture in my normal position, just the way I will be 90% of the time later on when I actually wear the suit.

Jacket Measurements

The most important measurements are chest, shoulder, and length of the jacket, along with maybe sleeve length.

Start With The Shoulders

First, you start with the shoulders. Take your measuring tape and start where you can feel the shoulder bone. Keep it snugly. Go over the top part of your spine and to the other side of your shoulder, and you can reach the bone and measure that distance. Most men will measure between 18 and 21 inches, which is about 45 to 53 centimeters.

Also, pay attention to the shoulder shape. Some people have a very erect posture, and others have a very round back. If your back is round, you may want to add about half an inch or a centimeter to the measurements, so you have a better feeling of comfort when you wear the jacket. Otherwise, if it’s too tight in the back, you always feel like your movement is restricted.

Shoulder measurement on a striped patterned suit jacket on a mannequin

You can use a mannequin if you’ll be taking the shoulder measurement of a garment.

If you want to take garment measurements, you can do so on a mannequin. And you just do it from the one sleeve head to the other. Typically, the area where the seam on the shoulder hits the sleeve head. Sometimes, for certain bespoke suits, that seam can be a little off, a little further down. You typically want to be on top of the shoulder.

Some made-to-measure companies will also ask you if you have square shoulders or very sloping shoulders. And even better ones will allow you to define a different slope on either side because many men have a different shoulder slope on each side. For example, my right shoulder is about two inches or five centimeters lower than my left one. That has a huge impact on the way a suit fits.

Measuring The Chest

Measuring the chest is fairly easy. You just take the measuring tape, hold it around your chest at the widest point. You can breathe in and breathe out just to find the right length. And you want it pretty snug, but not super tight.

Typically, measurement is right around your nipples. Take this measurement while you stand and not while you sit because it can change a little bit. Most men will fall between 38 and 46 inches for their chest measurements, which is about 96 centimeters to about 116 centimeters.

Raphael getting his chest measured around the chest area using a Singer measuring tape. He's wearing a denim dress shirt.

Measuring the chest is quite easy; you can typically get the correct measurement around your nipples.

In the US and UK, most suit jackets or even though entire suits will be rated by their chest size. So, if you measure 42 inches around your chest and you’re of normal height, your size will be 42 regular. The equivalent of a 42 regular in Europe is a size 52. So, typically, you just add 10 in the size. So, an American 44 is a European 54.

On a more technical level, a size 52 is, technically, the measurement from pit to pit just measured one way. So, you take 42 inches and convert it to centimeters. You get 106 centimeters. If you divide it by two so you get the half measurement, you end up at somewhere around 53 centimeters, which is very close to the 52-centimeter size of the European system. Let’s say your chest measures 42, and you’re a taller person. Typically, you get a size 42 long or 42L. If you measure 42 inches around your chest and you’re shorter, you get the size 42 short or 42S.

European suit sizing chart

European suit sizing chart

European suit sizing for long and short sizes is a bit different. The equivalent of a 42 long is not 52 long but instead 106, which is a little more than double the number 52. If you’re shorter, your size will not be 52 short, but it will be 26, which is half of 52. To make sizing super easy on you, just refer to this size chart here.

If you want garment measurements for the chest, you just lay the jacket on the floor, you button it, you kind of slightly lift up the sleeves and measure from pit to pit. No, don’t put a lot on the garment because, as you can see, there’s a bit of flex. But, you want the accurate measurement, which is when it lays flat in a normal silhouette.

Getting The Jacket Length

A common rule of thumb to determine the proper jacket length is to measure from the top of your spine, down the back, to a level where you have your knuckles clenched into a half fist, and that should be the length of your jacket.

Frankly, in my mind, this is a bogus rule because men of identical height can have drastically different arm lengths. Also, men at the same height may have longer torsos and shorter legs and vice versa.

So, to get the proper jacket length, measure from the top of your spine where your jacket collar would usually sit, all the way down to the bottom hem of your pants. And then, divide it by two, and that would be your jacket length.

Measuring jacket length from top of the spine where the collar would sit

Measure your jacket length starting from the top of the spine where the collar would sit.

In recent years, trendy jackets are cut quite a bit shorter. So, when you subtract it in half, subtract an additional one to two inches or two and a half to five centimeters, so you get that shorter jacket look.

If you measure the garment, lay flat on the floor and measure from just underneath the collar to the jacket’s base. And then, also measure the jacket back length, including the collar, because different vendors provide different back length measurements.

One aspect to keep in mind is that many off-the-rack and made-to-measure jackets are cut slightly longer in the front and the back, whereas true bespoke jackets are typically designed, so the front and the back have the exact same length when the wearer stands.

Raphael getting his jacket patterned jacket's length measured by Teresa

Measure the jacket length all the way down to the bottom hem of your pants.

Obviously, it also depends on your posture. If you have sloped roping shoulders, your front will likely be longer than if you stand in an erect posture with the same clothing. Getting the front and back balance exactly right is really difficult. Even with made-to-measure, and many programs, it’s not something they can do. And I know of people who’ve gone bespoke for that sole reason.

Getting The Sleeve Length

You measure it from your shoulder bone, down on your relaxed arm to your knuckle or the base of your thumb. Most men want to show a bit of shirt cuff, so some subtract an inch and half, an inch, quarter-inch, three-quarters of an inch, or anywhere from one to three centimeters. It looks particularly dapper if the amount of shirt that peeks out above your collar matches the distance on your shirt cuffs.

It’s important that you measure both arms because many men have slightly different arm lengths. That being said, the final garment sleeve length is not just defined by your arm length. But, it can also be impacted by the slope of your shoulder. For example, my left arm is a quarter-inch longer than my right arm. But, my right arm is also about two inches more sloped than my left.

Raphael measuring a patterned suit jacket's sleeve length on the floor.

Lay your jacket flat on the floor to measure its sleeve length.

Because of that, with ready-to-wear jackets, typically, my left sleeve needs to be more than a quarter-inch longer than my right arm. In a bespoke garment, all this can be considered when drafting the pattern. The armhole on the right can be cut lower for me. Then, maybe, a shoulder pad can be added or not, depending on my preference.

Ultimately, the exact sleeve length is defined when you actually wear it and try it on. So, the tailor can ensure you can get exactly the proper length on each side, which should be identical. For garment measurements, you typically lay the jacket flat, or you can have it on the mannequin, and you measure from the middle of the sleeve head on the outside of the sleeve, down to the bottom tip.

Teresa measuring Raphael's denim dress shirt sleeve length from the middle to the cuffs.

Some would measure to the middle of the sleeve.

Sometimes, people also measure it to the middle of the sleeve. Unfortunately, there is no gold standard. More importantly, I check if the cuffs have working sleeve buttons or not because if they do, lengthening or shortening the jacket is a lot more difficult because you can’t do it from the bottom without screwing up the proportions of the button distance to the hem of the sleeve. So, you have to shorten or lengthen it from the shoulder.

Pants Measurements

For pants, the inseam and the waist are the most important numbers.

Waist Size – Used for The Jacket and Pants

The waist measurement, which is the point where traditional men’s trousers would sit. And today, most trousers are a little lower, more towards the hip. However, it’s also used for jackets to create that nice hourglass silhouette that’s so attractive in a suit.

Many men will have a roughly 6-inch drop from their chest measurement to their waist size. So, let’s say I’m a size 42 regular, then my waist will often be a 36. That’s about a drop of 15 centimeters from your chest measurement to your waist measurement.

Teresa measuring Raphael's waist size

To get your waist size, measure from the slimmest point around your upper body – typically around the belly button.

Sometimes, on higher-end ready-to-wear jackets, that’s even reflected in the size, and you can see a size 54 drop 8, which means it’s a size 54, but the drop is actually 8 inches, not just 6 inches. To measure your waist, you typically have the slimmest point around your upper body, which is typically around your belly button. Again, keep the tape snug but not too tight.

For garment measurements, you can just lay it flat on the floor, button the jacket, and then measure right around the buttoning point or where it’s at slimmest. Of course, if the jacket has a super low buttoning point or a super high one, you need to adjust that measurement slightly. 

Hip or Seat Measurements

This is measured when you stand around the widest part of your bum. For most men, it will range in the 30 to 40-inch territory, which is about 75 centimeters to 100 centimeters. My seat measurement is, in fact, quite a bit larger than even my chest measurement.

Yes, it gives me somewhat of an hourglass shape. But, it also means it’s quite hard for me to find well-fitting pants because I also have a relatively normal waist size and big thighs, so I need big full cut pleated trousers that need to be darted on top, so I don’t just have a huge amount of puddling fabric around my waistline.

Teresa getting Raphael's hip measurements

Measure your hips around the widest part of your bum.

Why, then, do you need to know this? Well, it’s crucial to be aware of your body and the challenges and problem zones that you might experience because if you’re not, you’ll likely end up with a suit that won’t fit you. For example, my expectation is that any pair of trousers or pants I buy online will need to be altered heavily because they’re simply not cut from me.

Inseam Measurements

The inseam is measured from your crotch area to the bottom hem on the inside of your leg. Typically, it’s between 28 and 38 inches, which is about 70 to 95 centimeters. If you want to learn more about proper pants length, the break of your pants, and how it all works together with your shoes, this guide will help you!

Note that if you like super slim pants, they will start puddling a lot earlier because they touch part of your foot earlier. In that case, you have to shorten your inseam by about half-inch to an inch. Sometimes, even more, which is about one to three centimeters when you buy pre-owned trousers, and they have cuffs you can, typically, always let them out unless they’re faux cuffs, and shortening is never a problem in general.

Raphael measuring the inseam of his pants while laid flat on the floor.

To get your inseam measurements, lay your pants flat on the floor and measure starting from the crotch area to the bottom hem on the inside of your leg.

High-end off-the-rack brands typically come unfinished, so you can go to your alterations tailor and get the length exactly right. When you have a pair of pants that you like, you can just lay them flat and then just measure along the seam from the crotch to the bottom hem. 

The Outseam Length & The Rise 

The outseam length will help us to determine the rise. And you measured it from the top waistline to the bottom hem, on the outside of the pant. Now, you subtract the inseam from the outseam. You have the rise measurement. Some bespoke tailors or made-to-measure companies also measure the rise from your waistband in the front, through your crotch, to the waistband in your back.

Raphael's outseam measurement – starting from the top waistline

For outer seams, measure starting from the top waistline on the outside of your pants down to the bottom hem.

Personally, I really like higher-waisted trousers. I think they’re more comfortable throughout the course of the day, and I also don’t want to have a crotch that is too tight and constricting. Most ready-to-wear brands will not provide a crotch measurement or a rise measurement. Higher-end made-to-measure companies will take the measurement, and so will a bespoke tailor.

Thigh Measurement

Typically, in a body, it’s measured around the widest part of your thigh or pretty much in the middle of your crotch and your knee. Since there’s no particular point, it’s a little more tricky to measure it on a pair of pants, but you can roughly eyeball it a little bit underneath the crotch, in that middle area where it’s still quite wide.

Teresa getting Raphael's thigh measurement

There’s no particular point to start in getting your thigh measurement, but you can try doing it just below the crotch area.

On an off-the-rack suit, your thigh measurement will typically determine how slim your pants can be. If you have an athletic build with huge thigh muscles, it will be tricky for you to find off-the-rack stuff. You need a bit more space; pleats are really the way to go because they give you extra room, which is why I always favor pleats. 

Things to Consider Before Buying A Suit Online

1. The Occasion for Wearing The Suit

Do you wear the suit for a funeral, for a job interview, for formal board meetings, or are you maybe an artist who just wants to stand out from the crowd? A lightweight cotton seersucker suit will feel and perform very differently than a really heavy, 14-oz. flannel suit—also, your stylistic choices matter — the fabric, the cut, and the details.

Raphael sitting on a chair with his legs crossed, looking dapper in a light blue seersucker suit,

Raphael looking dapper in a light blue seersucker suit. (Mottled Knit Tie from Fort Belvedere)

A tweed suit in brown may be great for the countryside, or more for a person who lives in a very casual environment and just wants to wear this textured suit. But, it won’t be a good idea for a formal board meeting.

2. Don’t Just Buy Something Because It’s On Sale

Yes, I know you want that deal, and I do, too. But, if you look at the cost per wear, that’s the most important aspect. If you buy this really nice jacket and you only wear it three times, well, it’s actually quite expensive per wear. Compare that to a single-breasted navy suit that you can wear over and over again that may have a slightly higher price, and it doesn’t go on sale regularly, but it will be a much better investment for you.

Raphael wearing a navy single-breasted suit, (front and back shot) silver tie, white pocket square in a tv fold, and black oxfords.

A single-breasted navy suit would get you a lot more wears even though they cost more and not regularly on sale. (Prince of Wales Check Silk Tie from Fort Belvedere)

Of course, I’ve made some mistakes along the way, and I’ve put together a list so you can avoid them. Also, the navy suit may not be the best suit for you. So, not sure where to start? We got you covered with a guide on what and how many suits you should have, and one on building a capsule wardrobe, which consists of items that are very interchangeable and can be worn with one another, which results in a super versatile wardrobe, which brings us to the next point.

3. Be Intentional

For many men, that means sticking to classic patterns that are traditional and not too flashy. On the other hand, if you’re an artist and you want a rust bronze orange suit, go for it. Although it’s ideal to have the foundational suits covered first, and then extending your collection to unconventional- or bold-colored suits.

4. Know What Kind of Buyer You Are First

You want something that looks good, that is not too complicated, and you don’t want to spend too much time on it, and money is not of a big concern? Yes, by all means, go with higher-end off-the-rack or made-to-measure if you have time between when you want to start buying and when you actually need it. Otherwise, you’ll just get frustrated.

Raphael wearing three different suits – gray windowpane patterned suit paired with black boots, black double-breasted suit paired with brown single strap monk straps, and a dark brown three-piece suit paired with dark brown dress shoes.

Determine your buying preferences for suits.

On the flip side, if you don’t have money and you want a steal, and you have time, pre-owned or vintage suits are your best bet. At the end of the day, the clearer your vision for what kind of experience you want and your needs, the better the results will be.

5. Appreciate The Convenience of Online

Be grateful and take joy in the sheer convenience you have today that enables you to order a suit just by sitting on your couch. Even though suit wearing isn’t required nowadays, there is a growing number of men who choose to wear a suit because it makes them feel good, and they enjoy the look of it.

There are devoted groups where people enjoy wearing suits and dressing up. There are also tons of menswear channels, such as a Gentleman’s Gazette and many others, where you can learn a lot about classic men’s clothing. To that point, you can start with these spaces for everything menswear related:

Brock from the Modest Man & Barron Cuadro from effortlessgent

Brock from the Modest Man & Barron Cuadro from effortlessgent

A lot, right? And these are just YouTube channels. I’m not even talking about Instagram profiles!

The Process of Buying Suits Online

1. Vintage Suits

This option is really great for men who want a specific period silhouette, or maybe they like the heavier fabrics or the patterns that they can’t find today.

An eBay listing for a second hand suit.

Finding a good secondhand suit requires time, our piece on How to Get 80% Off Menswear Every Time: My Secret Step-By-Step Process could be useful.

Of course, to hunt one down that fits you, requires quite a bit of time, so if you can place value in your time and take that into consideration, I think that will really help to not just spend a hundred hours on finding one suit when your time is worth a hundred dollars an hour.

2. Off-The-Rack Suits

The most common way is to buy them from the brand’s website. Sometimes, you can also find new suits in places like eBay. But, those will typically be more one-offs where the size choice is limited. Buying from a brand’s website usually entails having a nice size guide, being able to choose from sizes, and getting more information about the quality in the background.

Also, check on the return policy because it varies by country. But sometimes, it can be quite generous. And there’s a budget, so you can also exactly dial in how much you want to spend because you can find suits for $100 online or $5,000 and anything in between.

Don’t just rely on the size you always wear because it can greatly vary between brands. For example, in a Suitsupply jacket, I had to wear a 46 jacket. I have other jackets from a 42. That’s a huge difference.

A variety of OTR suits that we previously reviewed

Sizing may vary for every brand.

Many sites will also use their own jargon and their own definitions. Sometimes, they’ll talk about super numbers, but it’s not a legally protected term. In the same vein some, companies call their made-to-order program “custom program” or their made-to-measure program “bespoke program.” So, buyer beware and always make sure to ask questions if they’re not transparent about what exactly it is that they offer.

Brands specializing in suits often offer different cuts or styles off-the-rack. Typically, there’s something super slim, something in the middle, and something cut a little more traditional. Companies like Suitsupply have even more options, but not all styles are suited to all men. So, make sure you read up on the differences and what you think best suits you.

$400 - 800 Range Tuxedos from Suitsupply

Tuxedos from Suitsupply

Sometimes, that means you’ll find brands that work particularly well for tall men. Others work better for shorter guys or more portly guys. For example, I know that a size 54 drop 8 and Isaia with a 26-inch sleeve length is just a good off-the-rack fit for me. I like the way the armholes are cut, as well as the sleeves. It’s comfortable when I wear it, and it just looks good on me.

On the other hand, I couldn’t find anything at Suitsupply that I liked, and I tried many different jackets, even in-store. Realistically, you can’t expect to just buy a suit online, and it magically fits perfectly when it arrives. Even if you think it does, hold your horses. Order from a few other brands or a few other styles. Compare them all and then decide on which one to buy. 

Kyle and Raphael discussing alterations

Always set a budget aside for possible alterations.

Honestly, you can read about the soft structure and unlined or other details all day long, but unless you wear it and feel it, you don’t know exactly what it’s going to be like. Also, keep in mind that you should always budget for tailoring, and so it pays to have a good alterations tailor in town that you trust, and you can eyeball, “Oh, this alteration here will probably cost me $100, $150, $200 on top of what I pay for my suit.” So, even if you get a deal for $50 on eBay, if you add $200 into the alterations, you still have a really well-fitting suit for $250.

3. Custom Suits

With some body types or certain shoulder slopes, you will never get a hundred percent fit with pretty much any brand. That’s when you go with custom clothing, which is made-to-measure or bespoke. Apart from the theory that you should end up with a better fit, you can also customize your suit.

That starts with choosing from thousands of different fabrics typically. Then, selecting from different linings, different buttonhole colors, different buttons, the lapel width or the number of closing buttons, the pocket details, the vents, and so forth.

If you’ve never ordered a custom-made or made-to-measure suit before, there’s definitely a learning curve, and a lot of men are overwhelmed by the number of choices. Because of that, many made-to-measure companies can actually offer a lot more customizations than they show on their website. So, if you’re a seasoned made-to-measure guy, you can always reach out to them and ask about certain changes because, more often than not, they can actually accommodate them.

Overwhelmed Raphael sitting on the floor with his hands over his head.

Details of custom suits can be quite overwhelming, don’t hesitate to reach out to the brand’s support hotline to know what they can offer.

The degree of customization really varies with the made-to-measure provider. Some pretty much allow you to change the curvature of your lapel or allow you to change the size and position of your buttonhole, and you can tell them what gimp thread you won’t use for your buttonhole. These are all very intricate details, but sometimes they will say sorry, can’t do that, and that’s when you have to go to step to bespoke, where there shouldn’t be any limitations on the design front.

Also, with pretty much all the made-to-measure companies, there are limitations on the stylistic front. Sure, you can say, “I want a double-breasted waistcoat.” But, they may not be able to have the exact cut that you want. Or let’s say you want the 30s, 40s, or 50s suits. Most of these online MTM companies won’t be able to accommodate you accurately.

Price-wise, online made-to-measure suits almost have a range that is as big as that of off-the-rack garments. So, why should I buy an off-the-rack suit for a thousand dollars or more if I can buy a made-to-measure custom suit for $199? Even though the measurements may be good in terms of fit, it doesn’t mean that all these measurements actually work out, and the fabric is often subpar.

Raphael showing his jacket's lining

Raphael showing his jacket’s half lining. (Light Blue Linen Tie from Fort Belvedere)

The interlinings are all glued. The cut is not as refined. And so, at the end of the day, even though the measurements may be right, it may be really uncomfortable to wear that suit because you overheated it and sweat all the time and you feel constricted when you move. The best suits are all handmade with flexible stitches and have a full floating canvas or completely unlined. Less expensive suits often feature a half-canvas construction or a fully-glued construction, which we differentiate in our guide.

For example, for my build, I would choose a higher-end jacket from Attolini or Isaia from an off-the-rack line because I know how it fits. I can feel it compared to a lower-end or even medium made-to-measure suit.

There are tons of brands on the online made-to-measure market, but we haven’t tested them all. If you’d like to see videos with comprehensive reviews on different brands, please share the specific brands in the comments below.

Full Canvas

Not quite sure what a full canvas is? Check out our guide on Glued / Fused Suit vs. Half Canvas vs. Full Canvas Construction

Personally, I divide the entire online made-to-measure market into three separate categories—the below $400, the $400 to $1000, and the $1000+. Of course, these are all starting prices for your suits because, even though you get the same construction, the price for the fabric can vary considerably.

In the sub $400 bracket, you have suits from iTailor, Hockerty, Hangrr, Tailor Store, Suitopia, or Richmart. In the medium $400 to $1000 category, you have suits from InStitchu, Indochino, Suitsupply, Sartoro, Luxire, Lanieri, Black Lapel, and Oliver Wicks. Over $1000, you have online made-to-measure, and online bespoke offerings, including Articles of Style, Senszio, Langelli, MyTailor.com, He Spoke Style, and Michael Andrews.

However, keep in mind that at this price level, you can get made-to-measure, sometimes, from Savile Row houses such as Steed or Kilgour or Richard Anderson. Of course, there are so many other made-to-measure programs such as Attolini, Kiton, Beckett & Robb, Brioni, and so forth. By the way, if you’re interested in moving on from online made-to-measure to the next step up, we have a guide for that, which you’ll definitely learn from.

Brioni website

Brioni, along with many others, offers custom suits.

Personally, I would stay clear of the sub $400 online made-to-measure suits. And even in the next level, I would skip the lower-end there, such as Indochino, because I just feel it’s too much of a compromise in terms of quality and wearing comfort. I also will always opt for the full canvas rather than the half-canvas, even though that may be a $200 upcharge.

Now, I hear you. You’re on a really tight budget, but you want to made-to-measure suit. Wait for sales. Most of those online made-to-measure companies have certain sales in certain fabrics. And if you can wait, just do that, and you get a better quality suit at a price point you can afford. 

Last but not least, please keep in mind that while all these companies promise you a 100% fit satisfaction guarantee, you probably will need one to two, sometimes three suits until you can really nail the fit. That’s even true for most bespoke garments, by the way. The first one is never a hundred percent perfect.

Raphael wearing a grey A Caraceni suit with red and white striped shirt, navy knit tie, white boutonniere and light red pockets square.

Raphael bought this grey A. Caraceni suit from eBay for less than $100. (tie, boutonniere, and pocket square from Fort Belvedere)

So, what does that mean for you? You have to potentially invest much more time into getting the fit, the details, and the style right with one brand. But, once you’re there, it’s straightforward to reorder and get a suit with a fit that you like and the customized style that you’re after.

Conclusion

While it can be very convenient to shop from your couch, buying suits online has challenges of its own. But, knowing the pros and cons, and the process we’ve shared today, you’ll likely get the results you want in your suits–just like how you would when buying in-store, or having one custom made by physically being with your tailor!

What suit type do you think is best for you and your lifestyle that you’d be willing to buy online? Let us know in the comments!



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