Retail suits can be as good or bad as the brand that makes them, and each brand will have their own methods and standards.
The most important difference between off the peg suits and custom garments is that they’re produced en mass and then sold. Where custom garments are first sold to a client, then produced to their specifications.
Off-the-peg garments are made from a pre-drawn pattern, which is graded in different sizes. No grading system is perfect, and very large or very small sizes often fit poorly (like the shoulders of large shirts hanging down to the elbow). This is exacerbated by the global nature of the industry; where the initial pattern, it’s subsequent size grades, cutting, trimming and retail can all happen in a different part of the world.
The suit form is achieved with layers of stiffening fabric . Expensive suits use horse-hair canvas attached by hand, while cheaper suits glue thick woven cotton into place.
One massive disadvantage of using glue is that the suit becomes rather rigid, limiting the amount of movement without the suit bending out of shape. Horsehair, on the other hand, allows movement where it’s needed, and limits it where structure is important.
Another (more problematic) problem is that the glue degrades over time, leaving you with bubbles. This process is sped up by strain (simply wearing your suit) as well as moisture from sweat and the environment. Even without these factors the very best glue wont last forever, and there’s no way of fixing the bubbling once it starts.
Seam allowance is the distance between the edge of the fabric and where it’s sewn. It’s a subtle play between too much seam allowance which would warp the final garment, and too little which will cause unraveling.
The broader the seam allowance (custom garments are 1cm to 2,5cm), the sturdier the seam, and the more it can be adjusted outwards to accommodate weight gain. Though the narrower the seam allowance (Off the Peg garments can be as little as 3mm) the more garments you can cut from a length of fabric, and the easier it is to join the seams accurately.
If you’re going off the peg, look for a floating chest piece and a good fit in the shoulders, the rest your tailor can sort out for you.
– More on Suits –
—Intro, 10 things you should know– Brief History of Suits – The Trouser’s Fit – The Jacket’s Fit – The Waistcoat’s Fit – The Shirt’s Fit — Off the Peg Suits – Made to Measure Suits – Bespoke Suits – Some Suit Mistakes –