Ask A Stylist: Tips For Finding The Perfect Suit

September 24, 2013 7:00 AM

A first impression is everything. How you dress can speak volumes about your personality and confidence in one glance. For men, a suit can be a common item of clothing in the closet, yet one of the hardest garments to get just right. To find the perfect suit for you, a menswear expert is the best source for the ins and outs of what to look for. Here is what personal stylist Jennifer Shinners has to say about finding that perfect suit.

Jennifer Shinners
Personal Stylist for J. Hilburn
(952) 451-0988

Suits Fashion Generic Style Dress (credit: Jupiter Images)

Suits Fashion Generic Style Dress (credit: Jupiter Images)

Jennifer is a stylist for the personal menswear brand J. Hilburn. She is also the senior managing partner and national training ambassador for the company. She loves seeing how fantastic suits can heighten a man’s style and confidence. Gratification comes when clients tell her they received unsolicited compliments on how they look in their suit – a sure sign that the man not only looks great, but feels comfortable in what he is wearing.


According to Jennifer, fit is one of the most important elements to looking great in your suit. “The right suit can amplify your physical strengths and diminish your shortcomings. There are a few clues to tell if your suit fits or not,” she says. “The jacket’s shoulder and chest area will show the first signs of whether it fits properly. The shoulder pads should sit directly on top the shoulder. If not, then the jacket is too big and you should go down a size.” Also, sleeves shouldn’t go beyond the point where the thumb meets the wrist. Trousers should have a modest break and touch the shoe with only an inch of cloth to spare. Any remaining fabric looks sloppy and should be taken up.

Color and pattern

Jennifer believes color and pattern are also important to accentuate your positive features, while hiding the not-so-perfect areas. She notes, “A large person should wear solids, especially dark ones and avoid big, loud patterns. A shorter person could wear patterns that elongate their silhouette, such as pinstripes, chalk stripes or fine, beaded stripes. If one does not want to look thicker, they should stay away from horizontal stripes or busy plaids which break up the body’s vertical lines. Also, be aware that wearing a great fitting suit in the wrong color for you can clash against your skin or hair.”


The styling of a suit reflects a man’s personality. It can show the world you are a trendsetter or that you dress more traditionally. If you are unsure of your personal style, Jennifer has a few tips to help you decide. “If a gentleman loves the look of a jacket with a flap pocket sewn on the angle and a smaller ‘ticket’ pocket above it, or a two-button notch lapel and side vents, they enjoy the more casual, almost ‘English’ look. One who chooses a single-button, peak-lapel jacket with side vents and angled flap or besom pockets likes to be trendy and make a statement. Those who enjoy two-button notch lapels with a center vent and straight, sewn-flap pockets are more traditional types like you may find on Wall Street.”

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If a suit has a great fit, the color and pattern work with your body and it projects effortless style but is not good quality, then the whole look of the suit on you will change in a very short time. The construction of the suit and the materials used to make it are also extremely important. Jennifer advises, “A suit’s quality is not an area where compromise can be made. This should be considered an investment purchase that will last you years.” She recommends looking for hand-sewn suits and has hints on how to know if it is a high-quality garment. “The piece that lies in between the lining and the cloth should be hand-sewn instead of using a synthetic interlining that is heated by machine until it adheres to the exterior jacket. You can actually feel the nubs from stitching in the collar of a good quality jacket. Another sign is pattern matching. Look to see if the pocket pattern matches where it sits on the jacket. Fabric is also important. My personal favorite is Italian wool because has a beautiful drape, comfort and year-round wearability. If you have high-quality wool, any creases you get behind the knees from sitting will hang right out quickly.”

Favorite Clothier

While it’s easy to buy a suit from a warehouse or online, you miss out on getting personal measurements and helpful advice from an experienced clothier. Jennifer recommends finding one that offers a stylist for you at no additional charge. She says, “When I work with a male client, I try to build a relationship with them and bring out their personal style, character and class that may have been lost or not yet uncovered.”

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Cortney Mohnk is a freelance writer covering all things Minnesota. She is also a public relations and event planning professional. Her most important job is mother to her young daughter, who is her partner-in-crime when checking out the family entertainment scene in the Twin Cities. Her work can be found on

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