Menswear & Tailoring: How Slim Is Too Slim?
February 18th, 2014
On Articles of Style 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. 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.
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.
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.
Have you been experimenting with different fits?
Feel free to share any feedback, or questions, in the comments section below!
Yours in style,
Articles of Style
Photography by Alex Crawford