How to Look Good in a Pinstripe Suit

Last Updated Mar 24, 2010 7:39 AM EDT

Now that spring is around the corner, it's time to look at the bedrock of your business wardrobe, the suit.

The pinstripe suit is still a solid, widely-acknowledged business staple, and if you're working in an area that expects a more formal look, then it's worth investigating.

Far from the pinstripe being out of fashion, it may even be worn without a tie these days as long as that fits your office dress-code. However, there are a few caveats to wearing one -â€" it all depends on your body type.

Here's a few body types to illustrate what will work and what won't.

Tall/thin. If you're tall, narrow in shape and long in the neck, arms and legs â€" you will look very long and skinny in pinstripes, all vertical lines tend to accentuate height and narrow the body. Plainer fabrics would be more suitable for you, and as double-breasted suits seem to be making a comeback, albeit cut narrower. You are the perfect model for that style.

Styles with more of a waist cut into the jacket remove the impression of your rectangular shape. This isn't a retro-look or a dated 'boxy' style -- modern double-breasted suits give a great impression of power. Alternatively a single-breasted suit can make you look even longer and leaner with the single row of buttons forming an eye-catching line down the front of the jacket, with a lengthening and even more slimming effect. If you prefer a single breasted suit though, think about a lower-buttoning two-button style which once again will form more of a 'waisted' elegant look.

You can also look for more texture, such as herringbone or a fine check in the fabric to add bulk.

Tall/large. You are the perfect candidate for a pinstripe suit for all of the reasons that don't suit the body-type above. Slimming vertical lines will give an impression of a narrower shape, but for this larger body type think twice before putting on a double-breasted suit as the wider set of buttons will increase the perceived width of the wearer.

For you a two or three button suit, pinstriped, even chalk-striped if you like it, or vertically 'self patterned' will defy the extra pounds and give a much slimmer look. Also make sure that the fabric is fine and the cut sharp â€" avoid the lapels being too wide, as this will also increase the focus on body width.

Go for double vents as these are kinder to the more rounded backside!

Shorter/slim. Another great body type to wear vertical stripes to lengthen the body. Beware though of turn-ups (cuffs) on trousers, as these bring the eye down, forms a horizontal line and visually shortens the legs. Also be very sure that the suit fits really well.

Jacket sleeves falling below the first thumb joint and the jacket being longer than you can hold in your hands with your arms held straight down, all make you look smaller as the suit looks over-sized. Another massive mistake I see a lot in my business style sessions around the country is the length of trousers. The hem of the trouser should meet the shoe with just ONE bend in the trouser. Any more than one fold in the bottom of the trousers looks messy and over-sized.

Shorter/wider. If you are more of a Teletubby than a cat-walk model, then, if you like them, do choose pinstripes as they will slim and lengthen your shape. Avoid double breasted suits at all times and choose a single-breasted low buttoning suit â€" ensuring that the overall fit is great - a good, well-tailored fit will make you look very self assured and capable, where as tired and tight-fitting suits will do the opposite.

Accessories -- ties, belts, watches, and shoes, all need to be in excellent condition. They are the finishing touches to your overall successful impression. Obviously, in today's world of work, not everyone has to worry about being suited and booted, but if you do, make it right, make it fit and make it classy.

(Pic: Crombie)