7 tips to help you order a suit online the right way

Bespoke or off-the-rack? Expensive or cheap? Well-fitting or ill-fitting?

It’s always been a tradeoff: pay more for the custom-tailored garment or ease your wallet’s pain with a lesser-fitting piece. But clever companies like Indochino and Suitopia aim to offer customers a best-of-both-worlds experience—the perfect fit and the perfect price tag.

But hey, I’ve ordered t-shirts online that didn’t fit right, polos that were off-colour, and sweaters whose fabric looked and felt a lot different than I anticipated based on the website’s description. And those are simple garments. How can ordering a full suit online not go terribly wrong?

The answer is, it totally can—and will, if you don’t take the necessary precuations. Here, I’ve compiled 7 tips to make your online suit order a positive experience.

1. Order fabric samples.

The fabric of your suit is key. You want the right quality, the right colour, the right feel. And no matter how high-res photos are online, you need to see it in the flesh with your own two eyes. Any reputable online made-to-measure company will send you fabric samples upon request. Some will charge a small fee up front to cover shipping, some will send them free and tack on a surcharge to your suit purchase, and some will charge you but then reimburse you when you follow through with an order.

For example, Indochino sells a Tailor’s Kit for $29. It includes 16 fabric swatches, 2 measuring tapes, and a $29 credit toward your next purchase. This nominal (sometmes non-exisant) charge is worth every penny in ensuring our suit meets expectations.

2. Take accurate measurements.

Sounds obvious, but this cannot be underestimated. When ordering MTM online, websites will ask you for myriad measurements—chest width, arm length, etc. Have another person help you take these measurements as precisely as possible; no use guesstimating here. In fact, it’s ideal to see a professional. Seeing a real tailor in person and getting your true measurements is the wisest method. 

3. Stay focused on needs.

Something about ordering online sets the stage differently than in person. More options flash before your eyes and you start to get excited about all sorts of funky patterns and colours and materials. Stay focused. If you need a classic charcoal suit, get one. Save the metallic silver party suit or retro throwback navy pinstrpe for another day. Practical first, then punchy.

4. Hunt for deals.

The great thing about the web is the abundance of savings potential. Daily deals sites have been known to work with online MTM companies and there’s always sites like Styleforum.net and RedFlagFeals.com that will keep you aware. If you need a suit now, don’t wait, but if you have some time, hold off until you can snag your garment for substantially less.

5. Check out the custom options.

Customization is the name of the game with online suits. Colour, fabric, and fit aren’t the only choices one has. Each website offers different customizations or upgrades, so be sure to explore. See if you can get slanted pockets or functional sleeve buttonholes or pick stitching. These kinds of details make for a truly bespoke suit, but don’t overspend your budget if the extra charges begin to add up.

6. Expect to alter or return your suit.

If it’s your first time doing online MTM, expect the worst. It sounds terrible to say, but it’s best to be prepared. Odds are if you take accurate measurements, get fabric samples in advance, and stick to what you truly need, things will work out okay. But things can go wrong—you may have mistyped a measurement, the company may have gotten the colour wrong, etc. Don’t get pissed if you have to return it for adjustments or see a local tailor for tweaking. A genuine custom suit doesn’t come easy but it’s always worth the extra effort.

7. Don’t shy away from round two.

If your first experience turns out well, you’ll probably never buy in-store again, be it bespoke or off-the-rack. If it went sour, you may be tempted to stick to your old ways. But I would suggest giving it at least one more go-around. You can learn from your mistakes the first time, try a different website, etc. It will only get better.

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