Lessons in Tailoring from The Suit Book by Clare Sheng

Posted on 20 December 2018

Lessons in Tailoring from The Suit Book by Clare Sheng

Above ten steps on a busy street in the Brisbane CBD lays an unassuming suit tailor whose story began 24 years ago with a watchmaker from Shanghai. Mr Men’s Melbourne recently caught up with Clare Sheng, owner of The Fitting Room on Edward’s and co-founder of The Modern Gentry, about her latest book and what we should know about buying a suit.

In 161 pages Clare breaks down the buying, maintaining and styling of suits into five sections. In short, these are suits for shape and style, dressing for occasion, alterations, suit care and “dressing well is a mindset”.  Without giving too much away from the book, we’re going to share the five points we enjoyed most and why they’re important.

1. Building a winning wardrobe

“Trends should not apply to a professional wardrobe, because ‘fast fashion’ usually means cheap, disposable clothing that fades, rips, and even loses its shape easily.” Clare Sheng, The Suit Book.

In the first section of the book, there are seven tips to build a stellar closet. How exactly do you make a winning wardrobe?  It can be as simple as working with what you’ve got. Say you own two suits: one navy and one grey. Use this as a starting point and buy your shirts, ties and accessories based around these colours. When buying to match the suit don’t forget to factor in your skin tone too, Clare says.

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Another way you can build a great wardrobe is to “get it altered to fit”. Everyone knows money can’t buy class. Regardless of how well-made and expensive your clothes may be, if they don’t fit well they’re not going to look good. Investing in alterations creates clothing that is more flattering to your figure and feels better to wear.

2. Buying the right size

“The golden rule is to always fit the widest part of your body first,” Clare Sheng, The Suit Book.

In the next section of The Suit Book Clare talks about the right size to buy. Let’s start with the shirt: for many men who work out or, more simply, have a body shape different to that of a mannequin, there’s an issue with pulling at the armpits. Nobody wants to limit their movement for a shirt that only looks good when static. To avoid this look for shirts where the upper seam sits just inside the shoulder. Alternatively, you can look at the rear seams of the shirt, Clare says. Pleated shirts compliment wider torsos while darted shirts might better fit a narrow waist.

Read more: Dressing for your body type

3. Tailor talk

“Length, shape, waist, and width can all be adjusted,” Clare Sheng, The Suit Book.

You get what you pay for, right? Not quite. It’s best to approach a tailor the same you would a barber: with clear intent and a style. Blindly asking for a hairstyle with no mention of how you actually might style it, is the same as asking for clothes to be altered without trying them on for the tailor. One can only do so much. It’s better to come prepared; know your budget, personal style, the occasion and expectations, writes Clare.

Courtesy of D’Marge

4. How to maintain your everyday suit

“There is nothing more damaging to the suit than wearing a size too small,” Clare Sheng, The Suit Book.

Have you ever thought about buying a second pair of trousers for your suit? Your legs do more than twice the work of your arms, not to mention the amount of time you spend with your jacket off in the office or while eating. Having a second pair of trousers also allows room for experimentation. Maybe throw cuffs on one pair and adjustable waist loops on the other—play around, spice up your daily routine. A good brush to wipe down your suit and a sturdy coat hanger to keep the shoulders in shape will also go a long way. Having a saddle sewn into the groin of your trousers can prevent rubbing, which is usually one of the first areas tailors sees worn out. Clare writes, “You have invested hundreds if not thousands of dollars into your suit, so look after it.”

5. Conducting yourself in suit

“It’s still important to act with grace and consideration for others, but men and women should be treated equally,” Clare Sheng, The Suit Book.

A personality to match: actions speak louder than words, and suits. One way or another our character will begin to seep through the fabric, but that doesn’t we can’t work on bettering ourselves. When you put on that suit, treat it like a uniform—employ your own set of rules. Whether it be fixing your posture, keeping your composure or improving your phone manners, create your own guide and stick to it. This will not only have your organised but develop your character. Confidence in and out of the suit comes down to structure, too. Learning to manage your time, diet and exercise will help you feel better and be more energetic.

See also: How to wear a formal suit without losing your cool

By Joseph Lam