The Anatomy of a Suit

What's Hiding Behind Your Lining?

By: Tim Cornell, Clothier
November 25, 2019


The suit has helped men distinguish themselves with certain levels of professionalism, formality, and elegance since the 19th century. There is no other article of clothing that has been more valuable for royalty, military and gentry alike in creating a positive impression!

But are all suits alike? While most will have a collar, lapel, sleeves, buttons and pockets, that’s where the similarity stops. It’s the anatomy of a suit—the layers you can’t see—that truly defines the quality of the garment.

At Tom James, we make high-quality suits for men and women. As the world’s largest provider of custom and bespoke clothing, we know that quality suits are defined more by what is ‘hiding’ behind the lining than by what you can see on the surface.


The Elements of a High-Quality Suit


The most personalized, and therefore highest quality, cars, homes, jewelry, etc. are all hand-crafted. Creating something specifically for one individual means it is one of a kind, not mass produced.

A suit that is made just for you will drape differently because of the construction. For example, hand stitches can literally mold the shape of a lapel.

Beneath the lining of a well-made, hand-stitched suit are features that will create a more long-lasting garment and one that truly fits.




The foundation of a great suit is the construction, and that starts with the jacket canvas. The canvas sits between the exterior jacket fabric and the interior jacket lining. In a quality, tailored suit, there's no glue, no shortcuts between the fabric and the lining. Instead, it is a movable, breathable canvas that gives the suit definition and endurance and is ultimately much more comfortable.

The best canvas is a combination of natural fibers, such as wool, cotton and horsehair along with a synthetic material (such as spun rayon) to give it durability. Lesser-quality suits feature a fixed canvas made entirely of synthetic materials, which means it doesn’t breathe or handle moisture or humidity naturally.




The lining is critical to a well-made suit.

The sleeve of the suit gets the most wear as you move your arms more. Less expensive suits can have a different lining fabric in the sleeves. But it’s not a place to cut corners as the sleeves endure more action and require more durability.

A well-crafted lining breathes exceptionally well and offers a soft and luxurious feel to the body. Pleated and finished properly, a suit lined with a quality fabric is a joy to wear as the lining lets the fabric and canvas perform perfectly.




The shoulders, collar and lapels are the frame of the jacket. When they are hand-stitched there’s a naturalness to the look. It has authenticity. It just looks – and fits – right.

When the shoulders are ill-fitting the wearer looks uncomfortable. There's a stiffness to how the suit drapes. It lacks a certain elegance.

A custom garment takes into account the slope of your shoulders and will drape more effectively because it’s made for you.

Fine suits also have handwork all through the arm hole and shoulder and perspiration shields to protect the outer cloth. The result is a natural looking garment that is perfectly fitted to your body and is comfortable and a joy to wear.




Above the shoulder is the padded collar, which is placed by hand, taking into account the posture of its wearer.

A well-fitted jacket will hug the neck and not stand away. It’s one of the most common mistakes and something most men are unaware of as they never see themselves from the side or behind.

This is exactly why Tom James clothiers take 30 measurements as well as photos of their clients to document the fit. When the collar perfectly contours the neck, both the front of the suit and the back lend a look of distinction and elegance.




A beautiful lapel needs to be gentle and firm at the same time. This is why custom-made lapels are rolled, shaped and constructed with care. With a natural canvas and handwork, a lapel holds its shape regardless of the number of airplane flights or road trips it endures.




With a well-made suit, as the canvas curves around the arms and shoulders, you find 100% cotton sleeve heads and shoulder pads and a lining that matches the rest of the jacket.

Another tell-tale sign of quality construction can be found in the underside sleeve seam. A quality suit with a pinstripe or a pattern, will find a continuation of the pattern between the sleeve and the jacket body on the underside of the sleeve. Manufacturers of lesser-quality garments don’t take the same level of care to match patterns and ensure perfection.




Quality workmanship is also noticeable when it comes to the pockets. Subtleties of function are seen with inside pockets that are pre-tacked to the canvas and outside pockets that are self-lined. This makes them strong and durable, providing a perfect contour to your silhouette.




Quality buttons are made from horn or mother of pearl and are easily distinguishable from lesser quality materials. With a less expensive, store-bought suit, you immediately notice a difference. Well-made suits have buttons that are thicker, more durable, and significantly more substantial.


Choose the Right Suit


A great suit is something that starts with good construction. Crafted from 30 measurements, a custom or Made-to-Measure Suit perfectly contours to your body. There is no pulling or tugging and everything fits elegantly. You instantly feel like the best version of yourself, as you’ll be receiving compliments on your clothing.

You’ve reached the level of success where you depend on professionals for so many tasks, such as your taxes, repairs to your home, and car maintenance. Yet you still wander through department stores to build a wardrobe that would enhance your professional image.

Instead, let a Tom James clothier provide you with the personal advice that you’re accustomed to in other areas of your life. This relationship becomes a team, as your professional clothier will help you choose styles that enhance the image you want to portray. The result is a more suitable wardrobe with ease as our clothiers come to you at your home or office. No more wasting weekends searching department stores for the perfect suit or struggling with an app trying to take measurements with your camera. When you work with a Tom James clothier, you’re in this together. Schedule a time with a professional clothier today to learn the difference.

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"Barbara has been working with me for the past few years and I have found her to be very professional and knowledgeable. She has done a great job in understanding me and recommending clothing that suits not just my style but also my budget."

Custom Clothier Barbara Fuschillo

Barbara Fuschillo

Tom James of Atlanta

"I wear a lot of suits and every purchase I've made from Tom James seams to stand out among the rest!"

Custom Clothier Arianna Occhipinti

Arianna Occhipinti

Tom James of New York
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