Men’s fashion coming out of the ‘90s was all about slimming the silhouette from the broader and baggier looks that defined the previous decade. These days, however, it feels like the slim-fit trend has gone a bit too far, with clothes-conscious men more likely to be wear things a size too small than a size too big. Plus, the pendulum seems to be slowly swinging in the other direction lately – even contemporary brands such as J. Crew and Todd Snyder are starting to build more room into their clothes.
So, what to do if you look in the mirror one day and realize your jacket or pants fit a little too snug? We spoke with Jeffery Diduch, a professional tailor and pattern maker for Hickey Freeman. Pattern makers, if you’re unfamiliar, are people who do the technical end of fashion design (think of them as the architects behind a garment). If anyone knows how much you can let out a suit, it’s him.
- Body: Good news, you can let out the body about an inch (total) by using the allowances in the side and back seams, but “you’ll want to be careful about throwing off the proportions,” Jeffery warns.
- Shoulders: Sorry, you’re stuck with those narrow shoulders. Bespoke jackets sometimes have some allowances here, even if there’s not extra canvas, but ready-to-wear shoulders can’t really be widened.
- Arms: If the armhole binds or feels tight in the front, you may be able to let them out a half-inch, but it depends on how the sleeve and armhole are constructed. “Remember, the two go together,” says Jeffery. “You may be able to let the armhole out front-to-back, but things will vary from garment to garment.”
- Length: Unfortunately, you’re stuck with the length – mostly. Depending on how the jacket fits, you may be able to lengthen the back hem about a half-inch, but you never want to lengthen it so much the back of your jacket hangs lower than the front. And, the reason why you can’t lower the front as well? “There’s no seam allowance starting at the point where the jacket’s front curves up, towards the buttons,” Jeffery explains.
- Pants: There’s a lot of room to let out in the waist, but the leg will depend. It is fairly common to include 1/2″ to 3/4″ to let out the thigh, and some makers extend this outlet all the way to the hem of the trouser. If the seat is tight, on the other hand, there’s very little that can be done.
So, in sum? Depending on the garment, designers sometimes build enough material inside to account for weight gain, but not so much so that you can radically change the silhouette. Getting that extra room could make your suit or sport coat fit better, but be forewarned – these alterations can be expensive, and depending on what you spent on the suit in the first place, it may not be worth the time and expense.
For a much more detailed explanation of tailoring allowances, check out this article Jeffery wrote for StyleForum. And if you’re a tailoring nerd, make sure you follow his blog. It’s easily the best around if you’re interested in the mechanics behind suit and sport coat constructions.