Suit your shape

Learn how to minimise your flaws and maximise your assets. Your clothes should make you feel comfortable, protected and make you look your best – no matter what shape you're in.

It might seem easier to buy off the rack, but everyone's structure is unique, which means a suit may not fit you the way it fits the mannequin. Never fear, there are techniques to look well-suited and flatter your body shape.

The basis of every outfit should always be balance, says Sydney tailor Patrick Johnson, whose label P. Johnson specialises in hand-finished, one-off suits and shirts for men, with a modern twist.

A flattering outfit, according to Johnson, will look even and not show off bulky legs or an out-of-proportion stomach.

Ideally guys are looking for a 'V' shaped torso, with broad shoulders and a smaller waist.

But what do you do when you're a little more 'I' or 'O' than 'V' shaped?

One of the most important tips is to invest in a good tailor, who will know tricks to balance out an outfit, or buy your suits made to measure, says Johnson.

"A lot of my clients are a bit bulky, short or tall and they can't find something to wear in shops. The challenge is to create something that makes these guys comfortable and moves with them," he says.

Here are the experts' top tips on how to fix up and look sharp in your suit:

Tall and thin: Tall men have things relatively easy – you have the height to look commanding in the most simple of outfits, just think of Obama. And you're one of the lucky builds that can play with as many bold patterns as you like. But, if you want to broaden your width to balance your height, horizontal lines are your friend, particularly on your top half, saysWestfield stylist and fashion writer, Donny Galella. They will accentuate your width, as will double-breasted jackets (although they should be avoided if you're carrying bulk around your belly).

When it comes to suits, Woody Hochswender, author of Men's Wardrobe suggests that a jacket with slightly sloped shoulders and flapped pockets can broaden a tall man. Johnson also suggests purchasing a trouser with a slightly wider cut and investing in a light, Italian-style suit to soften the whole look.

A big challenge will be finding shirts, pants and jackets that are long enough, which is why getting tailored clothing is so important, says Theo Poulakis of Harrolds. "Shirts are integral. You have to have the back collar a certain height. I'm a bit taller and I get all my shirts tailored, you'd be crazy not to," he says.

Short: Short men struggle to find clothes that fit. It can also be hard to avoid looking 'stocky', particularly if you're carrying a lot of muscle (or extra weight). To lengthen you out, Galella suggests wearing an open scarf to add a long line, and trying shirts with vertical stripes.

"The trick is to always look for things that have vertical lines and vertical prints. And wear a similar colour on your top and bottom half, so you look like a column of colour," he adds.

Poulakis agrees that straight black works well on short men and create a longer line if the silhouette is kept close-fitting.

That means avoiding suits with flapped pockets and looking for long ties, long lapels and slim line trousers without pleats.

The a lot of the illusion of height lies largely in the fit, Johnson says. "Often short guys get something off the rack and it'll be massive or way too tight. Having a narrower cut pant, especially from the knee down, will help to lengthen the leg, as will a higher waistband," he explains. "Also you want less padding in the shoulder – it's all about proportion."

While he agrees that short men should avoid bold patterns, he doesn't believe the common advice that short men should avoid double-breasted blazers and cuffed trousers – Johnson believes that if they're fit properly, they can work.

Bundle up your buff: If you've spent the long hours in the gym, you want to be able to show it off with snug shirts and jumpers.

But just because you have 8% body fat, doesn't mean it's easy to buy clothes that fit, particularly when it comes to suits.

For built men, the difference between the shoulder width and the waist, known as the 'drop', can be extreme. This is where tailoring or made to measure suits can save you, says Poulakis.

Buff men mainly struggle with the fit around their arms, which can wreck the whole look of a suit if it's not right. "You want it so the sleeves sit perfectly without too much room. If you have a tailor who knows what they're doing, they can give a little more room around the bicep and then work down towards the wrist, giving more shape," he says.

Large leg-room: Guys who have a bulky bottom-half often find it hard to buy a suit that fits them comfortably, says Johnson. Having a suit made or tailored can help them to regain proportion in their legs by giving room around the thighs and then narrowing the cut of the pant from the knee down. Johnson also suggests balancing it out with a little extra bulk or length in the jacket.

The main thing, however, is to make sure that they feel good. "Nothing can be luxurious if it's not comfortable. If you can't sit down in trousers, you look ridiculous," he says.

To make moving easier, Johnson suggests a higher waistband and avoiding a pleat in the pant, as it can add the illusion of width.

Bigger belly: If you are self-conscious about your stomach, it can be tempting to buy baggy clothes and suits. But beware – this makes you look bigger than you really are, say Galella.

You're better off with a suit that is streamlined and skims your sides. You will also want to avoid bulky or bright fabrics that draw attention to areas you'd rather the eye avoid, he adds. That means choosing a thin cashmere sweater over a bulky knit, and a slim-cut blazer rather than a bulky leather jacket.

To flatter these guys, Johnson uses a trick where he curves the bottom of the jacket under the stomach, which gives the wearer more shape. It might sound like this would emphasise the round shape of your mid-region, but in fact it ensures that the jacket skims over your stomach and comes back to a narrower point, making you appear slimmer, says Johnson.

You can use this same trick when purchasing casual clothes and jackets – instead of buying something that flares off your stomach, try choosing a piece of clothing that hugs back into you body to makes you look smaller.

For comfort and durability, Patrick also uses a wider waistband on pants and makes sure the bottom of the suit is balanced and not too slim-fitting – a rule that applies for jeans too.

Poulakis agrees that there are wonderous tricks of tailoring to hide a bigger belly, but also believes that big blokes shouldn't be shy about their size. "They've gotten that way because they love beautiful wine and beautiful food - they're the ones who should be bolder and shouldn't shy away from anything."


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