StyleForum member CrimsonSox recently found this fascinating guide on how to buy a suit, surprisingly published in 1949 by the US government. This 24-page book covers everything from suit quality to proper fit, and gives a level of sophisticated detail that would be hard to find in many men’s magazines today.
There are some things here, however, that limit this book’s practicality for today’s use. For example, there’s no discussion of fused suits, which today makes up much of the market. The tips given for how to discern quality also seem like they mostly apply to the extremes. That is, it’s like telling someone how they can tell if they’re looking at a Kiton suit vs. something you’d buy at one of those shops that sells five suits and a beeper for $200. Most people probably don’t need a guide for that – they’re usually trying to discern the quality between two very similarly priced garments (which is very hard, if not impossible, to judge).
Still, it points to some things that go into making a suit jacket, which is fun to know, and the guide on how a suit should fit is pretty good. Best of all, the first eight pages has a great overview of fabrics (especially pages 6 and 7), which is useful if you’ve ever wondered what words such as gabardine, serge, covert, and tropical worsted mean.
You can download the book by clicking on the “gear icon” button, located at the right hand side of Google Book’s site. To read more, you can check out the other guides the US Department of Agriculture published as part of their Home and Garden Bulletins. Here’s one on how to mend men’s suits, for example, and here’s one on the fitting of women’s suits and coats.