Fit (Unfortunately) Comes First

Exacting fit is the foundation upon which any solid wardrobe is built.

This is especially true when it comes to suits.  Cis-men who buy off the rack expect that their purchase will have to be tailored.  In fact, this service is often provided at point of sale. But many of us find less than welcoming sales support in our local department stores.  The last thing we want to do is hang around for a fitting and come back again for a final fitting.   We’d rather grab our stuff and book.

If you’ve got wads o’ money like Ellen DeGeneres, it’s easy.


Or at least it’s easier than ever.  Our market is now served by a brilliant array of custom suit makers that include St. Harridan and Bindle and Keep. But if you don’t have $1,000 plus to spare, here are a few suggestions for grappling with fit:

–       Buy a Style Guide. If you have a swell pop or uncle who taught you how a suit should fit, kudos to you.  But, most of us are just trying to piece this together on our own. Style guides provide a great base of knowledge to support that process.  Check out dapperQ’s style guides on Autostraddle here and here. If you’d prefer a hard copy guide, Details has a great one.

–       Find a Mentor. When I wanted a swell outfit for dapperQ’s fifth anniversary this year, I reached out to the most dapper guy I know.  I told him I admired his style and would welcome his guidance.  I also told him I’d love to see his closet and how he thinks about putting together his outfits.  I took options for my outfit to his house, got his advice on the hems and got a gander at his magical bow-tie box.  We are never too old to ask for help.

dapQ on Grand Army final
Susan Herr dancing on Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.

–       Know your size.  Men’s suits come in classic, trim and extra-trim fit.

Suits from St. Harridan
Suits from St. Harridan

Ask a salesperson to measure you.  (I almost fell over when a woman at Macy’s asked me if I wanted her to measure me for a men’s dress shirt, but it changed the game.)   Once you get your size, it’s much easier to grab a mess of brands to see which works best or take them home try them on.

How To Tailor Men’s Shirts from dapperQ on Vimeo.

–       Tailor.  I’d love to tell you I have a favorite tailor, but I can’t.  I go to this or that person at the dry cleaners.  They don’t advise.  They want me to tell them what I want and then they do it. If you can find someone to guide you, make use of their skills.  If not, go back to your style guide and find out how best to communicate what you want.  For tips on tailoring dress shirts, check out this dapperQ video on the topic.

–       Shop with your buddies.  If you want to buy a suit that fits, it will take some time.  My advice would be to eat a big snack so you are well fortified and take a friend along.  You HAVE to try on a variety of suits to see what works best.  Once you decide on one, take it home and see what your “target demographic” thinks.  She’ll probably squeal just to see your effort but invite her to think critically with you about the fit.

–       Buy a custom-made suit. If you can, do it.  You will feel like a million bucks. If you’ve got a wedding coming up, use that as an excuse to splurge.  Go for a fabric and style that will have “legs” long after the ceremony.  But make sure it is something that will serve you well over at least two seasons.  You can make it worthy of a formal event by adding great accessories.


–    Consider the women’s department. I know, pleats are humiliating.  And that may be just the start of how you look at women’s wear.  But. if you’ve got curves, it may be your best option.  Maybe you buy a full suit and trick it out with French cuffs and wingtips.  Or maybe you buy the pants and couple it with a men’s jacket or vice versa.  But, it’s an option many of us have to consider.

–       Avoid bulk: Smooth lines are the ideal.  I often like to look at any outfit in a room with lights dimmed so I can see what sticks out.  We’ve got enough mounds.  Don’t add to the trouble with keys in your pocket, or a wallet at your breast (even if it does make you feel like James Bond when you pull it out.)  Take a money clip with only what you need.  Lose the belt.  Avoid bulk.

–       Be willing to forgo suits.  I’ve never seen anyone write this but I have to.  Some of us have bodies that just can’t look good in a men’s suit.  There are other dressy options, especially vests and shirts tricked to the max.  (Check the amazing style, for instance, of Mojo Jujo below.)  See what works for you and then follow your sense of style.



Fit is the foundation of menswear and every dapperQ has to grapple with it.  With a rack coming in at 38D, I’ve got ‘issues” to contend.  I founded dapperQ, yet I never really feel like I nail it.  But together we can…

This article is based upon a presentation entitled “Wanna be dapperQ? Fit, Color and Flourish are Three Ways to Up Your Style Quotient” presented by  dapperQ’s founder, Susan Herr, at the Butch Event recently held at the Pride Center of New Jersey.





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