Using A Tailor
Using an Alterations Tailor to Get the Perfect Fit
It is the nature of ready-to-wear clothing that the fit on any specific body shape can be greatly improved by a visit to an alteration tailor. This is the fun part. This is where you get to make your ready-to-wear purchase your own! More often than not, these alterations are easy to get right, quick and will transform the fit of the garment to create a tailor-made look.
Did you know that Clark Gable switched to off-the-rack suits pretty soon after he came to fame? He preferred altered off-the-rack suits to bespoke ones even though his wide-shouldered built was a little outside the industry standard fit.
In order to get the most out of your suit, our recommendation is for you to follow these guidelines for alterations.
Source a reputable tailor or alterationist (check Yelp or Google for a top-rated experienced professional)
The chest of a jacket can be taken in by 1.5"-3". Always leave a couple of inches allowance or room in the chest for movement and comfort so the jacket floats just over the chest.
The waist of a jacket however can also be taken in slightly more than the chest; the usual thing to do would be to take in the sides evenly all along the side seam, thus preserving the original drop ratio from chest to waist (the waist suppression - see dotted line pic). But for a 1930s look the waist should be nipped in 25% more at the belt than the chest and skirt. Note, do not take in too much of the skirt, the width under the belt to the hem, as leaving it wider gives a flattering shape around the hips and allows room for movement. A bit of skirt flare is desirable, speak to your alterationist about this.
The sleeves can be shortened and lengthened from the hem; make sure the buttons are replaced and are kissing or touching each other. Regarding sleeve length, hem the sleeve to the point where the base of the thumb is palpable and starting to get wider, which is just beyond the point where the wrist bends sideways.
It is also worth knowing that narrowing the sleeves is an easy alteration and will give a polished look to the jacket. Narrow the sleeves by removing more from the pit and bicep taping through the elbow and removing less width at the cuff. Make sure the alterationist pins the taper to the curve of the arm whilst hanging straight so the sleeve is shaped in the shape of a hanging arm and not dead straight. In the photo below, the arm is bent merely to make the seam more easily visible. The opposite seam on the same sleeve will be altered accordingly.
WAISTCOAT: the same applies to the chest and waist of a waistcoat.
TROUSERS: In the trouser department, the most commonly requested alteration, aside from hemming and cuffing, is to take in the waist (with or without taking in the seat and hips). This is easily done from the rear seam or from the side seams or both. Another easy alteration is to narrow the leg. The alterationist will pin the hips and or waist and track a pin line gently down the hips and thigh fading it into the knee or all the way down the leg if desired. Note, however, that the width of the hem is period correct so do not narrow it too much.
If you have suspenders, wear them when your alterationist pins your trousers. Make sure your suspenders or braces are set to a level where the trousers hang perfectly - not too high not too low - over the hips. Standing naturally straight with the trousers hanging off your shoulders will create a true vertical drop for the trousers. The hem and other tweaks will be totally perpendicular to the ground and the trousers will look sensational once completed.
Wear the shoes you intend to wear with the suit to ensure the perfect length. Avoid too much break or crease in the front at the hem. Many well-dressed men prefer the front hem to just touch the lace placket of the shoe and just cover the top of heel area at the rear, thus creating a minimal (or non-existent, depending on preferences) break at the front and no break at the rear. A turn-up will add weight to the trousers, thus creating an elegant drape in the leg when moving, and of course it gives a period look to the trousers. The width of a turn-up is usually anywhere between 1.5" and 2", depending on preferences. A width of 1.75" is a safe middle ground for most heights; a 2" width (as seen below) can look great as well, especially on very wide-legged 1930s style trousers, but also on the narrow teens cuts which are usually worn with the hem barely touching the heel of the shoe's uppers.