Garment Doctor Series: How Slim Is Too Slim?

February 18th, 2014

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On TSBmen we often highlight how style should be personal. It’s an outward expression that, ideally, should reflect your personality; who you are, where you came from, what you aspire to be, etc.

We also regularly discuss the importance of fit (sometimes in great detail). Without question, fit and proportion are the most important elements of any article of clothing in your closet. Properly tailored clothing can instantly portray confidence, know-how, and success – even to onlookers who know absolutely nothing about “fashion”.

What we haven’t stressed enough is how fit is also personal and individual. We often receive specific questions about tailoring such as “what’s the right leg opening width to taper my pants?” or “how long should my suit jacket be?”. Lately, since I’ve started featuring some (relatively) looser/drapier garments on the site, we’ve been getting a ton of questions about “slim european style tailoring” vs. “a little room for drape and movement”. Which is the way to go?

The problem is, the right answers aren’t that black and white. The best styling or fit for a person depends on a number of factors, including their body type (height/weight, size, shape, proportion, etc) and, of course, their personal preference or desired aesthetic.

The best general advice I can give is to take a cue from the fairer sex. If anyone understands and appreciates the value of properly-fitting clothes, it’s women. Every fashionista knows rule #1 of finding a flattering fit: accentuate your “assets” and mask your “liabilities”. Clothing can be used to direct onlooking eyes toward the parts of your body that you are most proud of (and confident in), while simultaneously diverting attention away from areas of insecurity. The exact same concept can be applied to menswear and is, in fact, the basis for a lot of bespoke tailoring work. (Naturally, us guys will notice a good fit on a woman almost instantly, but we don’t necessarily put the same amount of thought or energy into the fit of our own wardrobes… Trust me, girls notice and appreciate a good fit too!!).

Therefore, when it comes to questions about tailoring, start by taking a step back and asking yourself this basic question: are you trying to show-off how great your body is (do you spend a lot of time and the gym and generally look better with your clothes off)? Or could you use clothing to cover-up some of your “problem areas” and enhance your overall shape and physique? If so, what are those problem areas? How you answer this question will ultimately determine the ideal shape and style for your garments.

For example, a guy like Khaled (from “Italian Power Tailoring feat. Khaled Nasr“) is in fantastic shape. The guy is ripped. Therefore, he cuts his garments slim to the bone to show off his broad shoulders, trim waist, and athletic legs. This is how he feels most comfortable and confident – and therefore he looks that way.

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Our friend Sergio (from “Tips for Heavier Guys feat. Sergio Arteaga“) doesn’t have the same athletic shape (although he’s recently lost a ton of weight and looks great!). We helped Sergio develop a bespoke fit that would flatter his stockier physique. This involved more room through the chest, stomach and hips (we want to avoid any pulling at the sides), a longer jacket to streamline the upper body (and avoid a boxy aesthetic), and more room throughout the trousers to balance his proportions (and avoid the top-heavy, peg-leg look).

The difference between a good fit and a great fit is usually only a couple inches, or even fractions of inches, but they can make a big difference. It’s incredible how perceptive the eye is to even the most subtle visual changes.

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Lastly, while clothing can certainly be used to visually slim down a wider physique, it can also be used to add some weight to a skinny frame. Take our friend Mike Davis (from “Throwback Jazz Style feat. Mike Davis“), for example. He’s a very small, thin guy, but he’s mastered the art of using cloth to add girth and dimension to his frame. We’re talking longer “drape cut” jackets, pleated waistbands, full-cut/full-break trousers, etc.

The flowy fit is not only perfect for his 1920′s inspired aesthetic, but it also adds a sense of mystery, romance, and confidence to his overall look.

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Have you been experimenting with different fits?

Feel free to share any feedback, or questions, in the comments section below!

 

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Yours in style,

TSBmen

 

Photography by Alex Crawford

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  • DangerDude

    Do you feel like there are different rules for men of color? It seems like the broader body composing and much darker skin tones changes up the way to pull of a style and using color is different as well?

  • RAS

    Instead of “assets” and “liabilities” or “confidence” and “insecurity,” I prefer seeing fit in terms of which basic aspect of yourself that you want to emphasize in a given situation: the body or the mind. Clothing can prioritize either one through not only fit, but also color, texture, pattern, etc., and neither goal is appropriate for all situations, so there’s no single, best “personal style” to define.

  • Bob

    There’s a pretty simple answer to the question “How slim is too slim?”

    A: when it starts to feel uncomfortable

    The best fitting clothes also usually feel the most comfortable.

  • Khaled Nasr

    Great feature guys! What i took from this is very important and you guys nailed it… and to sum up what that is, is that confidence is the most important factor in anything and everything that you wear!

  • Sal

    Hey, Dan! Love the post my man! I was wondering what size suit jacket/sportscaoat should I purchase. My chest measurement is basically a 37. I’m 5ft4 and in between 36s or 38s. which should I go with? also being a male of shorter stature, would no break trousers really help to flatter my frame? Much love from STL,MO-314

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      Sizing really depends on the brand, especially since you fall between a 36 and 38. My advice is to try-on as many jackets as possible to find a brand/cut that fits you best, then have your tailor put some finishing touches on it. And yes, I would go with very light (or no) break… Cheers mate.

  • John S

    Quick question – Wouldn’t a slimmer fit flatter Mike Davis body more?

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      Not in my opinion. A really slim suit on a really slim guy can look frail.

  • John B

    I’d like to add that some fabrics (mainly linen, but possibly more) can look looser by nature, as Dan have said in the past. I’m kind of curious about the reason of the general dislike of padding on jackets.

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      Great point about the fabrics. As far as padding, I think it comes down to comfort and mobility.

  • cam

    great post dan and excellent information…it’s really refreshing to see the thought you put into these pieces…after seeing the title of the post, I was really excited to click on the article and get your thoughts/examples on how slim IS too slim…unfortunately, you really didn’t directly answer that question…nonetheless, thanks for all the info

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      Yea…in hindsight, there probably could have been a better title for this article… Cheers Cam.

  • Sean

    I definitely agree with some of the points you are making Dan. IMO, the best look is a tailored look. Not slim, not, skinny, not baggy, but rather a fit that flatters an individual’s body type without restricting motion and sacrificing comfort. The most important idea is to find a look and fit that works for you rather than concentrating primarily on current trends in menswear and fashion.

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      Exactly. Well said Sean. Thx!

  • Miguel

    The biggest issue I have is my height, I have to buy suit separate because the jacket fit but the pants are too small, this makes my buying suits more expensive.
    However what I learn is to invest in Blazers and in a couple of expensive suits (my budget) and mix and match.
    By the way I followed your advice and found me a good Taylor, it has paid dividends on my fit.

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing Miguel. Yea, separates can be a life saver for a lot of guys who don’t have a standard drop size.

  • Nick

    Dan,

    What’s your thoughts on suits cut like Thom Browne? I personally love the slim fit but tend to not “show off my ankles”. I personally like a shorter jacket.

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      It’s great if you’re built like Thom Browne – small and thin. Nick Wooster wears a lot of TB and obviously rocks it well… But bigger guys in his suits can look a little silly, in my opinion. It all goes back to understanding your “strengths” and “weaknesses”.

      • Nick

        Absolutely. Great post!

  • Rob

    Really loved the Sergio post. Breaks the stereotype that you have to be in tip-top shape to “nail” a look. Really shows the power of Bespoke.

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      Agreed!

      • Sergio Arteaga

        Maybe it’s time for a new feature with a leaner me lol

        • Adrian B

          I agree. Sergio’s lost hella weight since this post. Get this man back in there ! His last bespoke is toooo fire as well