Gentlemen come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some are tall, some are short. Some are slender, others are broad. Some lean towards being triangular in shape, with wide shoulders and relatively slender waists - or vice versa. Others are more rectangular or square, others again ovoid. And that’s before we even contemplate different lengths of arms and legs.
As tailors of bespoke gentleman’s attire, we see different body shapes every single day, and we love them all. Our job, nay our duty, is to create clothing that best fits the gentlemanly form before us, matching the interests of comfort with the natural desire to be seen at one’s best.
This is a solemn part of the ancient art of the tailor, secret knowledge not widely known amongst the masses. But hey, this is the internet age - we’re not living in a world of trades guilds and jealously guarded wisdom anymore. So we thought it was about time we shared a little of what we know about dressing for your body type. And you don’t even have to give us a funny handshake first.
The hidden optical mysteries of clothes
The first principle of dressing according to your body type is understanding that different cuts of clothing and different pattern types have various visual effects when worn. These effects are largely optical illusions, but as beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and all that, they are worth paying attention to if you want to get the most out of your garments.
Some of the more fundamental ‘rules’ of how clothing affects visual appearance are as follows:
● When wearing stripes, bear in mind that vertical lines make you look taller while lateral lines make your look wider.
● Solid blocks of colour give the impression of a larger surface area, whereas visually ‘busier’ patterns make you look smaller.
● Skinny or tight fits also shrink certain parts of you in contrast with others, while baggy or loose fits enlarge.
● Bright colours attract attention.
It’s all about contrasts
Once the visual impact of cuts, colour and patterns are understood, the next stage is making use of this knowledge. The key principle here is aiming to create contrasts which a) accentuate your best features while diverting attention from others and b) work to balance everything out in a way which is visually appealing.
To give some simple examples - if you are very tall and thin, vertical stripes will only add to the ‘drainpipe’ impression, so you are better off opting for checked patterns or plain blocks of colour (horizontal stripes not being very common in suits). The shorter and squatter you are, on the other hand, the more desirable vertical stripes become as a means of adding length.
Similarly, if you have slender shoulder or very skinny legs, patterned trousers and jackets will only make them look smaller. Plain, muted colours are a better option to make them look larger without necessarily drawing attention.
One common misapprehension is that, if you have a larger frame, you should always stick to the loosest fits to somehow ‘hide’ your body shape. We’d suggest it is quite difficult to look great in a very loose, oversized suit with little fitting at all. If you do have a larger torso, the principle of contrasts suggests you should do more to boost the proportional impression of size in the trouser than go full-poncho on top. Looser fits and solid, contrasting colours in your trousers paired with a tastefully patterned, well-fitted jacket creates a much better balance overall.
Another classic case of creating contrasts with your attire is what you might call ‘inverting the triangle’ - when gentlemen with wider hips than shoulders want to create the impression of the opposite being the case, or at least balancing the two. Aside from plumping for broad shouldered cuts of jacket, pairing patterned or striped trousers with a plain jacket helps to make it look as if everything is tapering downwards.
So that’s enough advice - if you really want the inside knowledge on dressing to impress, whatever your body type, get yourself booked in for a fitting with one of our experts and let us take care of the rest.