When having a bespoke or made-to-measure suit created, the most important decision you will make is choosing the fabric. Knowing which fabric is used for different types of suits, and which fabric is best in summer or winter will make your decision much easier.
While the type of suit and its purpose certainly narrows down your options (for example dinner suit versus business suit), there is still a lot to consider. You don’t want to be wearing an overly heavy suit to an outdoor wedding, or be troubled by an easily-crushed fabric if you have business travel planned.
As a general rule, natural fabrics will always look better and last longer with wool being the primary choice. Man-made fabrics tend to have a shiny appearance and are a tell-tale sign of a cheap suit.
There is a lot to say about wool, so we’ll start here.
Wool, such as merino, is beautiful and it doesn’t necessarily mean a hot, stuffy suit. There are several reasons to love wool:
- It will keep its shape and remain wrinkle free.
- It lets the skin breathe.
- It's one of the most sustainable and renewable fabrics.
- It's durable and therefore long lasting.
- It grabs colour really well, so you can go for something really subtle or super bright.
- It adjusts to a person’s body temperature.
Wool can be either worsted – where fibres are combed through before being spun into yarn – or woollen (not combed). Most worsted wools you see have both old and new wools mixed and re-blended together, it's quite rare to find what some describe as 'virgin' or 'pure new wool' and it's usually far more expensive.
Worsted wool is categorised according to the number of times the wool has been twisted when it was made. You may see labels like Super 100s, 120s, 140s, 160s or 180s wools. Generally, the higher the number the finer and lighter it will be (similar to cotton), and the higher the price.
Cashmere is obtained from the neck area of a special breed of goat. While luxurious and expensive, pure cashmere does produce a slight sheen. While popular in Europe (particularly Italy), more traditional matt options are preferred in Britain. Opt for a wool/cashmere blend (1% cashmere) for a touch of luxury.
Linen & Seersucker
The traditional choice for a summer suit, linen never fails to convey a cool, breezy look. The material is very porous so allows more air in to circulate near your body keeping you cool. It does crease easily, but this is part of the charm.
Seersucker is another light-weight, summer option. It’s puckered and creased surface holds fabric away from the skin making it cooler.
If creases turn you off, here at Alexandra Wood we have some great fabrics which reflect the nature, colour and appeal of linen, but are sophisticated alternatives that don't crease.
A closely woven combination of silk, cotton and nylon. Velvet is mostly used for smoking jackets and can make a great statement in the evening (but never in the office).
A lovely natural material that moves well and is cool but does crease easily.
It looks beautiful and by all means, if you want a delicate suit that looks a dream please choose it, but I wouldn't say it is overly practical.
Looking at the weight of the cloth will help you narrow down the type of fabric to choose as it indicates the type of weather the suit can be worn in. The fabric is measured in ounces per square yard.
- 7oz – 9oz: Lightweight. Perfect for high summer.
- 9.5oz – 11oz: Light to mid-weight. Good for the transition from spring to summer and summer to autumn.
- 11oz – 12oz: Mid-weight. Perfect almost all year round.
- 12oz – 13oz: Heavier mid-weight. This will be too warm for the hottest summer months but may work in autumn.
- 14oz – 19oz: Heavyweight. Perfect for winter.
It’s worth noting that heavier cloth will drape better, and mid-weight fabrics always look the best. Anything from an 11oz upwards will have you looking your finest for longer. As a guide:
- Business suit customers should choose 10oz+ - 14oz to be robust enough for everyday use.
- For special occasions and very infrequent business meetings, you can opt for the above as well as more luxurious fabrics ranging from 10oz+ in Super 120s-140s wool.
- If it’s for a one-off occasion, then the world is your oyster and anything above a Super 120s is advisable for quality.
Choose a viscose lining. I know this sounds like choosing a polyester for a suit, but for the lining resilience is key. It's next to your body so takes a lot on.
There is a huge amount of choice with linings and contrast colours are very popular. It’s even possible now to have these custom printed to match your style and personality.
- Phoenix by W.Bill at Harrison's for funky fabrics,
- Dashing Tweed for quirkiness
- Cape Horn from Holland & Sherry for a well-balanced business suit with a touch of luxury with 1% cashmere.
Fabrics continue to advance and there are some great colours, so now is the time to experiment and be brave. Alexandra is always on hand to show you how.