This past weekend was one of those increasingly rare ones when DW was in town. She’s been after me for some time to get a new suit. Back in the day, I used to wear a suit to work all the time. But things have changed since the business casual revolution of the mid-1990’s. While I’ve worn my share of blazers and sport coats since then, full-on suits have been relegated to weddings and other formal occasions. So far, I’ve politely deflected DW’s requests with comments like “What’s wrong with the couple of suits I have? Bought them in the early 1990’s and they still fit, plus they’re conservatively styled so it’s not like my formal wardrobe consists of powder-blue leisure suits and a Tony Manero special.” Each comment resulted in what I call “The Look” from DW – a penetrating, burning stare which got more intense with each successive deflection. I’m sure she was thinking that by the time I relented and agreed to go suit shopping, she would look like this:
Well, the crescendo to embark on this shopping excursion increased due to an upcoming wedding we will be attending in a few weeks and I could no longer fend off her advances. So, for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, off we went to go look at suits. She suggested that we first stop at one of the food court restaurants that serves adult beverages…probably a good idea.
Didn’t take long before I was reminded why this is a bit frustrating for me – I’m not the easiest person in the world to fit. The suit size I need in order to get a jacket that is comfortable in the shoulders comes with pants that will fit the girth of a 55-gallon drum that is 7’5” tall (I’m 6’). So off we went to the alterations department. Came out of the fitting room having to hold these pants up with both hands in order to maintain a family-friendly presence in the store while being thankful that I made it to the measuring platform without falling flat on my face from the extra foot-and-a-half of pant leg material. By the time they’re done altering, they will have removed more material from these pants than what I will wind up taking home. That makes me feel like I’m paying for material I don’t need (using my best George Stanley Banks voice from Father of the Bride, 1991). As if that weren’t enough, alterations were not included with the purchase of this suit like they were back in the day. So now I’m paying to have material removed that I didn’t need in the first place!
So, I asked the tailor if he would at least save the removed material. Then I told DW, “Hey, maybe we can take the left-over material to a boat store or fabric shop where we might get some cash. Surely, there will be enough material left to make either a spinnaker or a set of drapes. Or perhaps we can use this material to refinish the one sofa we’ve been wanting to have redone for years – we would only have to pay for the labor.” Then I said, “Better yet, next time we need to go suit shopping, why not just go straight to a fabric store? We can get the material in bulk and, from it, have a couple of custom suits made and refinish the sofa all with one shopping trip. It can’t be any worse than this shopping experience, plus it may save us a couple of $.” I think the only reason she didn’t give me The Look was that she couldn’t keep a straight face.
All of this makes me wonder…for a given style of suit (matching jacket/pants for one price), why can’t you pick out the jacket and pants separately where one can get a size 48-50 suit jacket and pair it up with matching pants that are more-appropriately sized? Now, it’s possible that some alterations may still be necessary, but it would be more of a nip/tuck, not major surgery that will involve a team of tailors from Savile Row and require the pants to undergo total IV sedation.