How to Spot a Well-Made Pinstripe Suit

March 12th, 2015

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The most expensive element of a suit, by far, is the fabric used to make it. It takes roughly 3.5 yards of cloth to make a two-piece suit in a size 40, and a decent Italian wool is going to run at least $40-50/yard.  When cutting the suit, therefore, manufacturers do whatever they can to cut down on fabric usage. This means carefully chalking the pattern pieces as closely together on the cloth as possible.

This is all fine and dandy for a suit with no pattern, but once you introduce a pinstripe (especially a wide gangster stripe like this one), the placement of the pattern pieces becomes crucially important to the look of the suit. It takes more time, effort and fabric (and is therefore more expensive) for a tailor to properly match the pinstripes across the pattern pieces. Next time you see a pinstripe suit, look closely, you can see how much effort and care the tailor put into the cutting.

The first thing to note is the balance and symmetry of the pinstripes on the lapels. Here the cutter left the perfect amount of space between the outer stripe and the edge of the lapel – allowing the line of the lapel to mimic the spacing and proportions of the stripes.

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Next, notice the pinstripes around the darts in the midsection of the jacket. Starting just below the muscles of the chest there are front darts that end down at the pockets. These are common on most men’s suit jackets (unless it’s a “sack suit”). They are used to create suppression at the midsection; the deeper the dart, the greater the difference between the chest size and the stomach girth. Therefore, the better shape you’re in, the deeper the dart you need to accommodate for your “drop” (difference in chest to waist).

The thing about a dart is that it eliminates fabric from the underside, which in turn distorts the proportion of the pinstripes (or any other pattern on the fabric). Take a look at the midsection of this beautifully cut suit by Michael Andrews Bespoke. The pinstripes are carefully treated to accommodate the darts, keeping them perfectly symmetrical and parallel as they are brought in the shape the jacket. This effect also further enhances the suppression effect of the jacket.

Also note the pocket flaps (and the welt of the breast pocket), which are also properly cut to match the stripes of the jacket front.

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Lastly, another area to examine is the setting of the sleeves into the shoulder.

A good cutter will do his best to match as many stripes as possible – keeping in mind that it’s physically impossible to get the pinstripes to match perfectly here. (Due to the curve of the armhole, the distance between the angled pinstripes on the shoulder is wider than the straight ones on the sleeve.)

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That’s all for today. Just a reminder to respect the tailor who takes the time to properly craft a quality garment.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier


Photography by Alex Crawford.

  • Frederic

    You fail to mention one desirable piece of pattern matching: aligning the stripes on the collar with those on the lapels and the back. This is rarely found on off-the-peg suits (although some Brooks Brothers suits have it). In fact, it isn’t universal even on Savile Row. And the suit in your illustration lacks it. But it certainly pleases the eye.

  • BigB

    If you really want to see a well made tailored pinstripe suit look at the lapel and the outer stripes. The stripes ends will meet with absolutely no off setting. This standard can be seen in old movies from Hollywood when male actors worn pinstripe suits; e.g., Fred Astaire, Spencer Tracy and other old school actors. Even the stripe ends of the front and back material will meet. Every now and then this standard will be seen. It’s a pity to see expensive pinstripe suit material with second rate tailoring. Also, look at how well the suit jacket material wears with the material not having that waving appearance in the sleeves when the arms are straight and when the body of the jacket is buttoned. It makes the jacket look like it’s too tight when buttoned. That’s the difference between old school tailoring and what is widely available today. If one doesn’t request the absolute meeting of the line ends, he won’t get it.

  • Haberdasher Limited

    Great guide to the pin stripes. Unless you are a New York Yankee, most men have a very narrow window when it comes to pulling off a pinstripe suit.

  • mnp

    What killer shoes are those??

  • djsavenger

    Now, this is where Dan’s Anti-Windsor sentiment from last week gets him in trouble: The suit is absolutely stunning and the shirt is amazing. But the tie knot needs to be wider/ thicker to balance how wide the lapels are. The suit is so powerful…the tie needs to make a statement to match it. Just my opinion. But I bet if they did a side-by-side shot of Dan in this outfit, one with a Windsor Knot and one as originally posted, I bet a lot of observers would prefer the Windsor with this look.

    • cam

      yes..if you wish to look like an espn anchor. might want to add a matching pocket square too

      • facelessghost


      • djsavenger

        Look, you can take cheap shots all you want. The tie knot is too small for the shirt collar and is out of proportion with the lapels.

        • cam

          then opt for a double four in hand as Dan has suggested. I strongly feel that a Windsor knot is an abomination. you expressed your opinion and this is mine.

        • Miguel

          It’s not about the know it’s about the width of the end of the tie.

    • Juan Zara

      I’m sorry but you couldn’t be more wrong. Double-windsors never look ok unless you have an abnormally large neck.

      Also, when taking proportions into consideration, one shouldn’t so much look at the knot of a tie, but at the blade, which is exactly as wide as the jacket’s lapels, in this particular case.

      Moreover, with a suit so “powerful”, you really don’t “need to make a statement”. The opposite would be true, actually. Unless of course you want to look like Craig Sager, 99% of the time, less is more.

  • Vic

    short, but good and very insightful little article. thank ypou for writing it and congratulations. Vic (from Portugal)

  • TO

    This is awesome. I will definitely be looking at the next thrift store pinstripe number I come across with these points in mind. I have a feeling it will be a disappointing experience overall.

  • Juan Zara

    Technically, shouldn’t the jacket’s back panel’s stripes match the front panel’s stripes where they meet, or would it be too matchy-matchy?

    I know some tailors/suitmakers prefer not to match the collar’s stripes/patterns to those of the lapels, as it tends to look “too perfect”. What’s the rule here?

  • Miguel

    Great post Dan, that pinstripe suit is a killer of a power suit, great symmetry by MAB.
    You know sometimes when buying a suit you take some things for granted but learning this little tips is helpful.

    Imagine buying a pinstripe suit and the right and left sides stripes are not in the same place, that will certainly look funny.

  • cam

    dan, you stated a normal suit in a 40 takes about 3.5 yds of fabric. just curious as to what this suit would take? also, is there anything to look for in the pattern with regards to the pant? i would assume there should be something to look for (in terms of symmetry) in the crotch region as well as if turn-ups are used. thx

    • tommyjohn_45

      Good question.. I tried on a pair one time and all the pins sort of ‘honed in’ on the crown jewels… almost made it seem like a bullseye target haha.

      I recently picked up a great wool pinstripe by Ted Baker (85% discount!?!) at Lord and Taylor. Couldn’t pass it up. Yet I almost never have an occasion to wear a pinstripe.

      • TO

        In Ottawa? I thought that was a women’s store, dam that’s a good discount

        • tommyjohn_45

          Haha naw it’s a typical department store. Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ted Baker, Ben Sherman, etc… Not sure about most, but the one here in Boston has some pretty good sales fairly often.

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