A prominent tailor and author on suit etiquette has revealed that most people are wearing their suits incorrectly, which can affect everything from their own confidence to their business success.
Clare Sheng, who operates the second-generation family tailor The Fitting Room on Edward in Brisbane’s CBD, and co-founded The Modern Gentry, told My Business that there are many common errors people make when it comes to buying, and wearing, a suit.
So much so, that she has written a book — simply titled The Suit Book — in a bid to bust the myths and misconceptions that prevail.
“We go through maybe 40 to 50 orders a day, and most of them are suits,” Ms Sheng explained.
“People ask the same questions every day: ‘Where do I wear this suit to?’; ‘This occasion calls for this, where do I buy it?’.”
Ms Sheng suggested these, and other, commonly asked questions are the very basics of wearing a suit, but she suggested there is simply nowhere people can go to find out the answers.
“It’s not getting passed down from generation to generation any more, because we’re such a casual society,” she said.
The most commonly-asked questions about suits
According to Ms Sheng, the most common questions she and her tailors face on a daily basis are:
1. What is black tie?
“No one knows what to wear to black tie [functions],” she said.
“Black tie events occur all the time — most large organisations will have one; if you get invited to a charity ball, it will be black tie. But no one knows that you have to wear a proper tux — a lot of people are just wearing their work suits, or they’re wearing the wrong shoes, they don’t have a bowtie, they don’t have the right shirt. So the art of black tie is getting lost.”
2. Where should I buy a suit?
Ms Sheng said that many people struggle to know where they should buy a suit, and why there can be major price differences among different sellers.
“‘Why are some $5,000 and some $500?’ They don’t know what the difference is,” she explained.
“It’s quality, the craftmanship, and the fabric.”
3. How should my suit fit?
“Fashion has changed in the last five years, we’re definitely going towards more slim fitting than a lose fitting,” said Ms Sheng.
“And hem lines were very short, but I think that’s coming back down now. So quite often, people are asking ‘how long should the trousers be?’.
“And it sounds like a simple question, but there are so many factors involved: the softness of the fabric; how wide the trouser legs are; what the occasion is; what your personality is. So it’s a bit more of an art than a science.
What's best: Spend more or fit well?
Ultimately, Ms Sheng said that is generally better to have a good fitting suit than to have a flashy expensive one.
“A suit should make you feel good, make you feel confident and powerful,” Ms Sheng noted.
As such, no amount of money, or quality, can provide that confidence if the suit fits poorly or is uncomfortable to wear.
“But you do get what you pay for. I think everyone should just buy the best they can afford, and have a couple of good pieces that make you feel really good,” she concluded.
The Suit Book is available for download on Amazon and iTunes while physical copies can be ordered through The Fitting Room on Edward's website.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.