A common mistake that people make in business fashion is to buy an overly expensive suit but to skip having it tailored. No matter how nice of a suit you’ve bought, there are very few factors that determine how good it will look more than the fit.
Depending on your fit, suit separates are an option to decrease (but not eliminate) the need for a tailor. Suit separates are sold at department stores and other clothing retailers. The idea is that you can buy each of the pieces separately, to accommodate different fit. This includes the pants, the jacket, and the vest if available. An example where this makes sense is if you have a more muscularly built chest, but a thin waist. If you were to buy an entire suit off the rack, you would need many more alterations. Especially if you have a thin or athletic build, you should be able to find a very close match in most suit separates.
Even with suit separates, it is likely that one or more alterations will need to be made.
Here is a great guide from an article in Men’s Journal from 2011. As you can see, there are a number of different considerations when deciding on alterations. It is very unlikely that something off the rack will check all of these boxes.
So, now that you have your suit, how do you choose a good tailor? One recommendation that I will make from personal experience is to avoid using the tailor in the store. I realize that this is a much more convenient option, but most times they don’t do a very good job and they charge you out the ass. In addition, especially if you shop at a department store, you will find that they purposely size the pants of the suit to force your hand in using their tailor. Don’t give in. Use your own.
Local is the way to go. Check Yelp and Google local search and read the reviews. In most locations you will find tailors who have been at it for over 20 or 30 years. They will almost always be less expensive than the department or retail stores. In addition to dedicated tailors, many privately owned dry cleaners keep a part time seamstress or tailor on staff. They are usually very experienced and reasonable.
Finally, you have to know what you’re looking for. If you have a thin build, then you most likely want a fit that will fill you out. If you have more of an athletic build, then your fit will accentuate this. Finally, if you are a little larger, you will look for a more slimming fit. Any experienced tailor can assist with this.
Just like shining your shoes, this is a minor investment that will pay off in a major, major way.