05 June 2012

Summer Suit Field Test

About a year ago I expended several days of blog space on my attempt to find a serviceable and reasonably priced cotton suit for warm-weather use. I ultimately purchased the Plain Weave jacket and pants (sold as separates) from L.L. Bean Signature. I wasn't buying this suit for any specific occasion; I was trying to take the "get it before you need it" approach.

Buying separates meant I would need only minimal tailoring: the pants were hemmed and fit decently enough, but the jacket's sleeves were too long, with the added complication of working buttonholes. At one time this was an indicator that your clothing had been custom-made for you, but in recent years it has found its way to all sorts of low-cost, mass-produced sportcoats and suit jackets. It's a gratuitous and unhelpful "feature," because (1) no one needs to be able to roll up his jacket sleeves, and (2) if the sleeves are not the right length, it makes getting them tailored much more complicated.

After I'd bought the jacket, I never bothered taking it to the tailor because I didn't need to wear it anywhere imminently, and because I wasn't 100% convinced I wanted to keep it. Since it was from L.L. Bean I knew I could return it, so I left the tags on and put it away with my other suits and jackets.

A few weeks ago I spontaneously decided to volunteer for an event. The instructions said volunteers should wear business dress, and when I started thinking about what I was going to wear and what the weather would be like, I realized I might need to wear the cotton suit. The one that still hadn't been to the tailor yet, after nearly a year.

Around the same time I clicked on one of the emails from Jos. A. Bank that deluge my inbox every day. Their cotton-blend suits with some sort of "stay cool" voodoo in the fabric were being offered at a ridiculously low price, somewhat less than I'd paid for my separates. I decided to order one to see how/if it fit, since I'd never bothered to go into one of their stores and try one on in person. To be safe I ordered the same style in two different sizes, which also got me above the free shipping threshold.

The Bank suits arrived, and neither one fit particularly well. The 42 fit decently in the shoulders, but there was no way I could button it. The 43 was a bit big in the shoulders and I could just barely button it, but it didn't look good. When I returned the suits to the local store, the salesperson tried to convince me that the 43 could be let out at the sides, but that sort of alteration is much more complicated (meaning it also costs more) and I didn't feel strongly enough about the suit to start with. The Bean jacket fit me much better overall, except for the sleeves.

That meant I still needed a tailor, and by now I had only a few days left. From my previous experience with Mr. Lee, the tailor I've used in Teele Square, I didn't think he would be able to complete the job in time. I had noticed a tailor shop near our house and decided to visit. The proprietor understood what needed to be done to the jacket's sleeves, but she told me she would have to close the bottommost buttonhole on each arm. I didn't care as long as she could do the work. She offered to have it done in four days; I asked if it was possible to complete it in two. She said yes, and with no additional charge.

The day of the event was sunny and about 80 degrees, but thankfully not humid. I had to walk a short distance from the subway, so I got a little overheated; it was easier to wear the jacket than carry it. I also discovered that putting my phone in one of the inside breast pockets messed with the way the jacket hung on my chest, but shifting it to a side pocket solved the problem.

Once I got inside the building and adjusted to the strong air conditioning I was fine. Because they are cotton, these pieces have a slightly more casual look overall than a "real" suit, but I dressed it up with a blue spread-collar shirt and a red paisley tie with a blue accent that picked up the shirt and a light beige accent that picked up the suit. I wore it with honey-brown lace-up shoes with tan cotton laces. I managed this picture with my phone in the men's room mirror:
If I had been attending a more casual sort of event, I might have considered wearing loafers, but if you're wearing a suit with a tie, you should be wearing lace-up shoes. If you have to attend an outdoor event in summer, I'd recommend getting a linen suit with as little lining in the jacket as possible, but if you know you'll be in a climate-controlled environment, cotton works nicely.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOVE the "overall" LOOK! Classy, comfy & just YOU!!! ME