How to Choose the Right Fabric for Your Custom Suit

By: Herb Melton, Clothier
December 12, 2019


One of the best ways to make a good first impression is with a beautiful, well-made custom suit because it is perfectly designed for your body. The lapel is gentle and firm at the same time, the collar perfectly contours to your neck, and the shoulders are hand-stitched to account for the slope of your shoulders.

Once you’ve decided to embark on the journey of a custom suit and once your measurements are taken, the next step—and the one that is easily overlooked—is choosing the right fabric. Your wardrobe reflects your style and professionalism, so make sure you opt for a look that accentuates your features, instead of overpowering them. Additionally, you need the right fabric for your lifestyle, such as how often you travel and where you live.

Unfortunately, many men don’t take these elements into consideration when buying a suit. Often, if you’re like most men, you scramble to a department store because you need a suit or there’s a holiday weekend sale, determined to buy one regardless of the fabric.

Once you understand your choices and what questions to ask, you’ll be better prepared to choose the right fabric for your specific needs.


Three Types of Suit Fabrics


Before we help you choose the right fabric, it’s important to know your options and the differences between them. Each of the fabrics have a range of quality from bespoke all the way down to discount store selections. Understanding your options will help you decide which to choose and determine the style of your new custom suit.


Fabric 1: Plain Weave


The plain weave is characterized by a simple crisscross pattern of the warp and filling thread. The only differentiating factor is the number of yarns used in each thread and the type of twist the cloth maker incorporates into the design. Overall, this type of cloth is breathable and wears exceptionally well, making it perfect for regular use.

Contrary to popular belief, a higher yarn count does not necessarily mean superior quality. The higher the count, the lower the durability. Therefore, it is best to opt for a moderate number and a properly woven fabric rather than simply a higher thread count, especially if you plan on wearing your suit very often or if you travel regularly.


Fabric 2: Harness Weave or Twill


This type of weave is easily identified by the repeating pattern of diagonal and parallel lines. The depth and steepness of the twill may vary for each piece. One of the most important factors is the quality of the weave.

For instance, when weaved properly, harness weaves are generally more wrinkle-resistant and durable than plain weaves. However, lower quality weaves may not have those benefits.


Fabric 3: Fancy Weave


Fancy or satin weaves are best suited for formal wear, evening wear and special occasions. This fine material looks great, however it lacks durability. Therefore, it is not for everyday business suits, as it isn’t designed to withstand the wear and tear.


5 Questions to Choose the Right Suit Fabric


Now that we’ve covered the three types of weaves used to make custom men’s suits, it’s time to decide which is right for you. Below are the five questions a Tom James clothier reviews with you before ordering your custom suit to help you choose the right durability, the right weave, and the right style for your body type and your professional image.

Of course, they are also able to rely on their years of experience building wardrobes that elevate the look of their clients in every occasion. The questions below serve as the framework to choosing the right fabric for your lifestyle.


#1: Where Do You Plan to Wear the Suit?


This is an important question because it addresses your lifestyle to help you choose the right durability. Is this suit for everyday business wear? Are you an attorney looking for a ‘court appearance day’ suit? Will you travel regularly in the suit?

If you find yourself in airports every other week, choose a garment that holds up well and still looks good after experiencing the rigors of travel. A super 200 satin weave is a beautiful cloth but will not hold up well if you’re hopping in and out of airplanes and taxis all the time. It should only be taken out of your closet for special occasions.

Something seemingly as insignificant as whether you sit on cloth seats or leather seats should be taken into account as well. The areas of your suit that rub against the leather, such as elbows or pants, will wear off faster, if you choose the wrong fabric.


#2: How Often Do Your Plan to Wear the Suit?


If you’re planning on wearing your new suit regularly, steer clear of the finer suit materials, as these will deteriorate rapidly under constant wear and tear. Those should be reserved for special occasions or specifically for formal wear. Instead, opt for gabardine or a two-ply plain weave, as they’re sturdy and will last for years.

And remember, if you want to maximize your suit’s life, always take your jacket off when at the office or airport to reduce the wear and tear.


#3: Where Will You Wear the Suit?


The conditions you subject your suit to will obviously have a huge effect on how long they last. Do you drive to work or take public transit? Do you have a long walk from the office to your car? Do you spend all day on the road, driving from client to client?

When choosing the fabric for your suit, you need to consider all the places you’ll wear the suit, the travel required, and the conditions of that travel.

Also, keep in mind that you’ll need different wardrobes for July and January. For the summer season, ultra-light linen works best. For colder months, you’ll need a heavier winter weight suit to keep you warm.

Consequently, the same rule applies to where you live. Someone in Miami will not choose the same fabrics as someone in Boston. Still, you should develop a wardrobe for two seasons, warm and cold, so that you’re not wearing heavy weights and fabrics in the summer.


#4: How Do You Want to Be Perceived?


This question helps you and your Tom James clothier decide on the style and pattern of your custom suit. Your answer should take into account your environment and with whom you interact, sell to, or lead. The styles you choose have a distinct impact on their perception of you.

For example, a conservative lawyer should avoid buying bold plaids, since these patterns will stand out more in the courtroom and may create negative perceptions from judges or potential clients.

Additionally, your perfect suit should complement your complexion and build. Wide, bold stripes on a large man look dominating, but the same style on a smaller man doesn’t have the same impact.

We recommend building a classic wardrobe of navy solids and stripes and charcoal solids and stripes first, even to our younger clients who want bold patterns. When you have the essentials, it can actually look like you have a hundred different suits because you can wear so many different options. Then you can expand your wardrobe to include bolder patterns for the Derby or to other special events.


#5: What Is the Wrong Fabric?


Unfortunately, the only way to tell if you have the wrong fabric is if you don’t like wearing it. Maybe it doesn’t perform on you or it doesn’t look good on you. Sometimes it even makes you uncomfortable or you have an allergic reaction to the lesser qualities of wool. Other times you can’t tell if you bought something too heavy or too dark for your leather seats until it starts to shine up on you.

That’s where a well-trained, professional Tom James clothier can help you. Their job is to go through the questions listed above about your career, your professional image, and your lifestyle to help you choose the right suit fabric for your style and the perceptions you want to create.

For instance, your Tom James clothier knows if you don’t like wearing flannel suits or if you need a more durable fabric because you travel every other week. This is where their years of experience can help you choose the right fabric.


Choose the Right Suit Fabric


If you’re like most men, you run into a department store determined to buy a suit from the inventory on hand without considering the questions listed above and without considering the image you want to portray. Then, even if the suit is 70% off, it becomes the most expensive suit in your closet because you never wear it.

This is where an experienced clothier takes charge and keeps you from making costly mistakes. Tom James is home to industry experts who will assist you in finding the best suit fabric to match your unique styling needs.

Are you ready to choose the right fabric for your next suit? Check out our latest collections. Then, connect with a Tom James clothier today!

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