I’ve been doing a bit of research on suit-making in recent times and a couple of days ago I dropped by a tailor to have myself measured. I’ve put together some basic terms and knowledge about suit-making for women, the literature on which I’ve found sorely lacking on the Internet (and perhaps in general). Whether it’s made to measure or true bespoke in the end, this should serve as an adequate starting point.
There are mainly notched lapels, peaked lapels, and shawl lapels. Peaked lapels are traditionally more formal, but I see them on casual blazers very often these days, so they’ve become a little too fashionable for my liking. Business suits commonly feature notched lapels, so that’s the safest choice to stay with. Shawl lapels are simply continuous curves down the jacket, and are oddly reminiscient of Chow Yun-Fatt in The Bund (上海滩).
2. Single-breasted, double-breasted
A single-breasted suit has one column of buttons, while a double-breasted suit has (surprise!) two columns.
3. Number of buttons
One, two, or three. One is fashionable; two is formal, and so is three. Always keep the third button open; you look really upset with the world otherwise.
Single, double, or none at all. Vents are openings at the back of the jacket which enable you to sit down properly. A single vent opens in the middle, at the bottom (duh!); double vents open on two sides. I can’t get a good picture, so I shall attempt a ’90s-style drawing instead. Most women’s suits should have single vents, but I must say I’ve seen many double vents around — it’s probably just a matter of preference.
5. Torso Length
Tailors suggest that the jacket should end just about where the crotch does — any longer and one looks frumpy; any shorter, it starts to look too fashionable.
6. Sleeve Length
The sleeve should end just around the wristbone, but your tailor may adjust it based on a number of factors — e.g. how your shirt sleeves look, your watch.
7. Princess Cut
Some men don’t believe that “princess cuts” exist, but that’s simply a term for a more fitted style that emphasises the waist (and thus obviously not part of men’s sartorial dictionaries). Suits without the princess cut, I think, make some women look like they’re walking around in cardboard boxes.
A caveat, though: this will never be as good as talking your suit out with your tailor, who (hopefully) specialises in making clothes for women.