How to buy a suit

Everything you need to know about buying a suit, whatever your budget.

Graduate in chicken suit

This isn't how I pictured my first suit after graduating.

Why buy a suit?

Don’t think of it as something you need to hire for that court case, wedding or funeral. A suit can sit right on your shoulders for many different occasions, and even make you look the business down the pub or on a date.

If you’re looking for work then Jobcentre Plus may help towards the cost of a formal outfit for interviews, depending on your circumstances and what’s available in your area.

Where do I start?

Ultimately, you want a suit that’s value for money, depending on your budget and the kind of uses for it that you have in mind. You have three options:

  • Budget: £20 – £250
  • Mid-price: £250 – £750
  • Top-notch: £750 and beyond

Budget: £20 – £250

Hiring a suit is always an option, and will set you back around £20 for a weekend, along with any kind of insurance you wish to take out to protect against accidental damage. However, if you’re going to need a suit on more than one occasion (and chances are you will) then consider buying your own. Cheap suits are available, off the peg in many high street stores. Just be aware that they won’t last forever. With this in mind, look for the following:

  • What’s the cut like? It’s important that it feels comfortable on you. If you have to squeeze yourself into it, or find the sleeves are hanging over your hands, try another size or shop.
  • How fashionable is it? Tempting as it may be to go for something totally cutting edge, think how dated it’s going to look on you in six to nine months time. If you can’t afford to replace your suit every year, choose plain, workman-like clothes.

Mid-price: £250 – £750

At this level, you’re basically paying for the brand name. The quality is bound to be better, but it’s the label stitched into the lining that’ll hit your wallet hard. Just consider how many people you know who step back when you walk into a room with your new suit on and say, “Ooh, Armani”. Here’s how to be realistic:

  • Does it make you feel good? If you know you’ll feel more confident in a name suit (rather than one bought from the market), and money isn’t an issue, then go for it.
  • Is it well made? There is a risk that you’re paying solely for the brand (or even an imitation) so don’t forget to check the fabric and stitching.

Top-notch: £750 and beyond

You’re looking at a tailor-made or bespoke suit here, but don’t dismiss this kind of thing as unaffordable. A suit that’s been made especially for you will be built to last – it won’t fall apart or go out of fashion, because basically it’s one of a kind. So while it might cost you an arm and a leg, it could see you right for five to six years. If you calculate how many budget suits you’d get through in that time, it could even work out cheaper!

What to look for in a suit:

  • Structure and personality: it has to make you look good, and say something about you. You don’t want to feel like a dog’s dinner, so be sure you’re happy with the design and attend regular fittings while they’re putting it together.
  • Shop around: Naturally, it can be a bit intimidating for a first time buyer. Nobody wants to shell out a small fortune and wind up with a suit so lumpy that you look like Quasimodo in it. The key is to look around, and chat to a number of tailors before making a commitment.

How to tell if your suit fits

Whether you’re trying it on yourself, or getting your inside leg felt up by an asthmatic old tailor, here’s how to know if it suits you, sir.

  • Trouser length: When standing straight, trouser legs should rest on the tops of your shoes and then crease (or buckle) roughly three inches above that.
  • Crotch: You should have no problem slipping your hands into your pockets. If it’s a squeeze, your strides are too small. If you can happily play with your genitals without disturbing the fabric (or members of the public) then chances are the trousers are too big.
  • Arm holes: Obviously your arms need to be able to fit through, but also check that when you raise them over your head your jacket doesn’t then ride up your back too much. Holes, as always, should be tight but comfortable.
  • Cuffs: Let your arms hang loose, and then curl up your hands. The cuffs should touch the middle of each palm.


Next Steps


Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of chicken suit by Shutterstock