Sartorially yours: timeless tricks for the perfect suit silhouette

Sartorially yours: timeless tricks for the perfect suit silhouette

LiQM_Mar2017_CoverThis column first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.

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Sartorially yours: timeless tricks for the perfect suit silhouette

By Simon C. Thalheim

There was a time when a businessman would put absolute trust in his tailor, who was by definition a master suit maker. The off-the-rack revolution drove almost all of those tailors into retirement. So what now? Will fine suits become an endangered species at the mercy of designers and ephemeral trends? Whatever the future of fashion may hold, here are some old tailors’ tricks that will help you get the best out of your suit.

Before sending your suits to your tailor or seamstress, be sure the garments meet the following criteria, because there’s only so much a tailor can do:

–       The shoulder seam should run below the arms, perpendicular to the floor.
–       The jacket should button easily, even when you are seated.
–       The jacket length should cover your seat.

To create a more athletic figure:

Jacket :

–       Pick a jacket with wider lapels. Think of Harvey Specter from the TV show Suits: the idea is to give presence. On the other hand, Mike Ross wears slimmer lapels, which give the impression of a slighter shape and a younger look.
–       Having flap pockets will give you wider hips and strengthen the X shape you should be going for.
–       A double-vented jacket will emphasize the outer lines of the body. This allows the jacket to follow the body closely as you walk and stick more to the silhouette.
–       A double-breasted jacket increases the size of the X shape because of the two rows of buttons.

Shirt :

–       Wear shirts with wider collars, in order to create a horizontal line below the chin.

Tie :

–       Wear wider knots to give more power to your outfit. Make sure the widest point of your tie matches the widest point of your lapels.

Trousers :

–       Every man has a belly. The idea behind wearing trousers with a slightly higher rise is to remove the emphasis on that belly. It also creates a finer waist. Don’t think of Bill Hader mocking Clint Eastwood on Saturday Night Live; think of Ryan Gosling in the film La La Land or Joaquin Phoenix in the movie Her.
–       If you are thicker around the seat and thighs, don’t go too slim. The person you are speaking to will just look at the curves. If the pockets pop open, your trousers may be too tight. Don’t go too slim on the calves; you want people to look at the widest point on your body, which is your shoulder line. If your trousers are too tight, they will give the impression that you must have skipped leg day at the gym.

To create a taller figure:

Jacket :

–       Pick a jacket with fewer buttons in the front. That increases the amount of shirt showing and creates a longer line of lapel to look at. This is a trick Ralph Lauren (who is 5’6″) uses with his double-breasted jackets.
–       Shorten the length of the jacket. Try to cover the seat and go no lower. Also, keep in mind that the smaller the jacket, the longer the line of the leg.
–       Prefer peak lapels over notch or shawl lapels. They create a longer line. The idea is to make whoever approaches you look longer before they see your face.
–       A single-vented jacket will create a boxier look and cut the silhouette in half. It’s ideal to help define where the jacket ends. It also lengthens the leg line going from the floor to the back of the jacket, as it goes all the way up to your lower back.


–       Wear shirts with narrower collars to create more of a vertical line below the chin. Button-down shirts are ideal, since the collar is fixed vertically.


–       Wear slimmer knots. Once again, make sure the widest point of your tie matches the widest point of your lapels.


–       Make sure your trousers are hemmed a little shorter than the end of your heel.
–       Jazz up your look by wearing colourful socks matching the shirt or the tie. You might want to reduce the circumference of the cuffs, but be careful, this will make your feet look bigger. This has to be done with moderation; otherwise, you’ll end up with clown feet.
–       Try turn-ups (cuffs) to add layers to your leg.
–       A higher rise on the trouser leg increases the leg line.

But remember: never go too slim on a suit. That would impose an era on it, trapping you in the early 1900s, the 1960s or the 2010s. True fashion is supposed to be timeless. Feel free to use these tricks to help you change your silhouette into your ideal shape, while keeping in mind the right proportions for you.

Sartorially yours,



About Author

Simon Thalheim

Simon C. Thalheim is a style consultant in Quebec. With many years in the tailoring business, he is an expert in the field. Don't be fooled by the German last name, Simon was born and raised in Quebec. When not between consultations, he spends time travelling mostly to Europe, attends whisky tastings, plays soccer and comments on music and entertainment shows. He is passionate about English culture and Savile Row.

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