1. Whether you’re a man or a woman dressing for business or attending a special event, it’s a good idea to have at least one nice suit in your closet for weddings, job interviews and formal dress nights on vacations. Choosing a business suit isn’t exactly rocket science, but it does take time, patience and persistence. Purchasing a suit is also a sizable investment, so you want to make sure you’ve got one you absolutely love.

    Know Yourself, Trust Your Friends

    Salespeople will say just about anything they have to in order to cement a sale and get a commission. They’ll even tell the CEO buying a women’s suit that she looks great in a frilly little thing that would be more appropriate to the pages of Playboy than the boardroom. When you go shopping, trust your own likes and dislikes and, for good measure, bring along an opinionated friend who will be brutally honest.

    • Do Your Homework. Look at suits online and in catalogs. Read what the experts have to say about best fabrics, most flattering colors and fair pricing. By the time you set foot in your first store, you should already have a good idea of what you want and what you expect to pay.
    • Go to a Department Store. A department store is a good place to find a large selection of fairly priced suits. Dress or slacks on the women’s suit? Vent or no vent on the men’s suit? A department store will have all your options.
    • Ask to Be Measured. Your measurements change all the time. Have a salesperson take precise measurements so you’ll know what sizes you need to buy.
    • Try Before You Buy. The shoulders on the suit should match yours, not stick out 6 inches as if you were a football player. You should be able to button up the jacket without straining. If there’s more than a fist’s room between the jacket and your belly, the jacket is too large. Pants should fit comfortably and not ride too low or too high on the waist. The pant leg should touch your shoe.
    • Know What Your Tailor Can and Can’t Do. Tailors can do some amazing things, but miracles are not in their bag of tricks. If the shoulders of your new suit jacket don’t fit right, the entire jacket will always be off kilter, and no tailor can change that. Pants that are not more than an inch too large or too small are usually fixable, but don’t press your luck if the fit is more than an inch off. Buy a larger or smaller size instead. Usually altering the length of the sleeves falls under the category of an easy fix.
    • Try It on Again After the Tailor Alters It. You’re within a few minutes of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on this purchase, so make sure your suit fits exactly the way you want it to fit. Don’t be shy about speaking up if more alterations are required.

    Buying Online

    Buying online has some advantages and some disadvantages. In general, any suit that you buy online will cost less than if you bought it at a brick-and-mortar store. You can also spend hours browsing in the relative comfort of home until you find the suit you want.

    Since you can hardly try the suit on over the Internet, be sure you know exactly what the company’s return policies are. Most retailers are fairly understanding about letting you return suits that just don’t fit. In fact, some retailers estimate that up to 40 percent of the suits they ship out get returned. Others impose strict time limits, or worse, won’t take returns at all. Steer clear of those folks.

    When your suit first arrives, examine it carefully. Look for problems with stitching, coloration or shoddy workmanship. If you see any of these problems, send it back. You’re paying too much to settle.

    Finally, make friends with your local tailor. Most business suits need at least small alterations to look their best, and your local tailor will be the one to help you turn your Internet purchase from so-so into so divine.

    Care and Maintenance

    Enjoy wearing it on appropriate occasions and take care of it. The rinse cycle is a big no-no for suits. If you want them to enjoy long, productive lives, dry cleaning is the only way to go. Store your suit properly so that it doesn’t wrinkle and will be ready to wear the next time you pull it out of the closet. Purchase some form of moth protection. Most suits are made of wool, and moths can’t resist wool. Better a little mothball smell now than a lot of holes in your investment later.

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