Indochino suit review, Part I: Chronic iron overload presents a challenge for online made to measure suits.

Call this an indirect training post since what I'm going to describe is a by-product of the training I've been doing.  It is certainly proving to be significant in terms of resources and patience.  The initial goal when I started this particular endeavour was to buy a suit.  A basic charcoal suit that I could use for business meetings and dressier occasions.  It's not like I've never bought a suit before but it has been a long time since I've needed to buy a suit with my current measurements.

It's quite easy to spot sales at various retailers where fortunate men can buy suits for under $200.  Those ads caught my eye as well since I didn't want to spend much money.  I'm not the type to chase fashions or a particular look, nor do I consider buying clothes a hobby or a passion.  I'm the type that would wear 7 copies of the exact same thing just to eliminate the need to have to put together a wardrobe.  In the past, when I've needed to buy a suit, I was either young and poor enough that wearing an overly altered suit that still didn't fit was good enough, or I was out of shape and fat enough that an off the rack suit was good enough to make me look like a fat guy in a suit.

This time around, I wasn't as fat and that's where the problems started.  My first stop was at a mass market chain.   The suits on sale didn't work because the size 44 pants that came with a size 50 jacket were enormous.  They were so big that no tailor could alter the seat and waistline so they'd fit.  The fix would have been to completely re-cut the pants but even that would've been a hack solution and also would've eliminated any savings resulting from the sales promotion going on.  Way back in the day, I had a suit altered that way and having pants where the back pockets nearly touch in the middle of your bum and the front pockets are halfway around the back is akin to wearing clown clothes.

Next I tried their line of suit separates. These weren't on sale but I was running out of options.  I was confident I could find pants that would fit but the jacket was still a deal breaker.  The size 50 jacket that almost fit in the chest and shoulders was apparently built for a customer that was approximately 6" taller than I with a much, much larger midsection.  Like the pants with the suit I tried earlier, the jacket was un-alterable in any kind of effective or economical way.   Apparently being somewhat mindful of my diet while building muscle through resistance training had left me too wide for my height in the shoulders and chest and not wide enough for my chest and shoulders in the waist.

At this point, I was lamenting the fact that I would have to rely on wearing an old blue blazer that sorta fits and dress pants to every function that really required a suit.  It was about this time I got an email from Indochino that they were holding a pop-up tailor event in Toronto.  I had also gotten a referral to a brick and mortar location in Toronto for business called, Surmesur, but I elected to go with Indochino for my first made to measure (MTM) suit experience.

The Indochino business model is to provide custom-tailored suits and shirts based on measurements submitted online or through a pop-up tailor event.  The suits are made in China and shipped via Fedex when finished.  On May 10th, I attended their pop-up tailor shop at their temporary location in downtown Toronto and was measured by a staff member.  The staff member wasn't a tailor but was someone hired and trained to take the measurements used in their fitting process.  There's a description of the process here (mine was similar except without the VIPs and the hors d'oeuvres).  Unlike this review of the process, there were no off the rack suits to try on to help the fitter fine tune the fit.  In my case this would've probably been very helpful.

After measurements, I ordered the "essential charcoal suit" and was told the suit would arrive by June 7.  The total cost was approximately $550 cdn (the prices on their website are in USD), almost double what I had planned to spend but since I was resigned to the fact that my weight training had created this mess, I bit the bullet and invested the money.  That price was still significantly less than the next tier of made to measure suits sold in higher end stores.

I was surprised when I got the shipping notice earlier this week but excited to see what would happen when I tried on the suit.  It arrived yesterday so I unboxed it and tried it on.  So far, I was impressed that the suit had arrived a full week early.

Fedex package

what was inside the brown box

my suit

Since I was never a connoisseur of fine fashion, this suit which is Indochino's entry level model made of 100% super 120's wool, was easily the nicest suit fabric I've ever worn.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I've owned more than a few suits that were not even 100% wool.  So as far as quality of material was concerned, the bar to impress me is pretty low.

Despite being impressed by the quality of the fabric, the real litmus test was going to be if the darn thing actually fit me right out of the box.  I was pretty skeptical it would but since Indochino has a $75 alternations allowance, I was hopeful that if there were needed changes, that they would be minor.

Unfortunately, this was not to be.

While it still fit better than any off the rack suit that I've had hacked together, there were many issues.  After re-examining the sleeves, I'm not convinced they're short, if they are, it's less than half an inch.  And what I thought was a twisted sleeve was just a crease from being packed in the box.  Still the gaping lapels, tight fit when buttoned and the issues with the back and vents of the suit were troubling.  Not knowing anything about tailoring I posted pics on a forum dedicated to 'style'.  While I knew not to expect bespoke quality tailoring from a measure-then-cut-and-finish, entry-level suit, I did want to know if there was a way to utilize the $75 alternations allowance so the suit would look better.  Unfortunately, the response I got from the experts on the forum were:

"Short front balance long back balance. Erect posture and barrel chest. Sloped shoulders need less width point to point and you need to relax the half girth to manage the drop from the shoulders to the waist. You're super wide up top. To flatter that you close the point to point a bit and actually open up the half girth.
The long and short of it is no. The $75 alterations credit will cover nothing useful. Jacket needs to be remade with these proper observations."


"Going MTM for your build will take several tries to even get close. You can consider this first suit a rough first draft. This is a good example of how measurements don't reveal the "depth" factor. The jacket is too small over the chest but very large across the blades. You may need the front panel of a jacket two sizes larger and the back panels two sizes smaller. This puts the cloth over your chest where you need it and reduces the back where you have too much cloth. The jacket would still measure your chest size but would distribute the cloth where it is needed. Not sure if the program you are using can accomplish this. You also need a hammer dart cut into the canvass and the cloth. You need bigger darts cut into the cloth and the canvass as well. This will help shape the chest to accommodate to your chest shape. Again, this may or may not be an option with this maker. Sending pictures to them and having a dialogue of your fit issues is the next step.

Since people read and learn from these posts I highlighted the bold part to clarify. Point to point measurements increase with sloping shoulders. It's the basic principle that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This line "I" is shorter than "(". Sloping shoulders are more curved and the distance across them is greater than if they were high shoulders and have a straighter horizontal line. Given that the width of the shoulders are the same and the only variable is the degree of slope."

I don't pretend to know what they're really talking about since I don't build suits for a living but I can tell it's not good.  Fortunately Indochino has a 'remake' policy as well so I've submitted the feedback in the hopes they can re-make the suit with the proper adjustments.

Aside from the fit, I can't complain at all about the quality of the construction or the fabric.  After poking around at that style forum, I realized that tailored suits can drag you down a rabbit hole of perfection seeking. Since I will never buy a $3000 bespoke suit or even a $1000 made to measure  suit  unless I win the lottery, I'm not too concerned with having every fitting detail perfect, I just want a suit that fits well enough to look like I'm not wearing a hand-me-down.  If worse comes to worse, Indochino also has a money back guarantee but I'm hoping I won't need to utilize that.

So far my overall impression of the process is favourable but I would caution anyone with a weight trained build to be wary.  The measurements and templates used to by tailors in China to construct the suit don't appear to be able to account for the body shapes that result from chronic iron overload.

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