Update those old Armani suits, or not

Update those old Armani suits, or not

Q. I have six Armani suits that are 30 years old and still in great condition, but I imagine they are all unusable going forward. Is that the case? They all have pleated trousers.

A. Interestingly enough, because Armani was always a fan of pleated trousers, many of today’s Armani suits are still made with pleats. Not, of course, the deep double pleats of thirty years ago; now they are smaller single pleats.

If the suits in your closet were of lesser quality, I might not encourage you to have them altered. Whether it is cost effective or not to invest in extensive alterations depends on several factors: if the fabrics and patterns are ones you still like, if you have a really skilled custom tailor and if the suits include both single- and double-breasted cuts.

These days, the most important element of all men’s clothing is that the silhouette is much slimmer and a bit shorter than it used to be.

The most noticeable difference is in the trousers. They are now cut a great deal trimmer than they were. Most have flat-fronts. Also, today the rise is a bit shorter. The easiest and the most effective alterations to modernize your suits would be to update the trousers:

  • Have the pleats removed or made much shallower
  • Taper the leg significantly so the bottoms measure 7 inches rather than 9 inches
  • You can remove the cuffs. While I personally like cuffs on trousers because the added weight makes them hang better, many men feel that pleats go with cuffs, and flat-front pants go with plain hems. It is a matter of personal preference. Certainly, taking off the cuffs is a more contemporary look.

Not nearly as simple as altering the trousers is tailoring the jackets. I always advise that a man can have many adjustments made to improve the fit of his clothes, but that he should think twice before changing the shoulders of a jacket. Still, there are features of the jacket that would benefit from updating. Suit jackets from thirty years ago (not just Armani jackets) were full-cut and drapey.

Now, everything in the modern man’s closet is a lot slimmer, has a trim fit and is even cut shorter than it used to be. If you are fortunate enough to know a skilled tailor, he can make various adjustments to the jackets that will make a huge difference:

  • Remove excess fabric across the back
  • Nip the sides to make the waistline slimmer
  • Shorten the jacket an inch (or up to an inch and a quarter). A good tailor knows whether shortening the jacket’s length will throw off the proportions, so the pockets would end up being too low.

Spending up to $250 to alter a suit may seem extreme, but it could make sense when good suits cost $2,000 and more.

If some of your suits are single-breasted and some are double-breasted, it might be wise to give up the double-breaded suits and spend your money on just updating the single-breasted suits. It is easier to make them look contemporary. Of the two types of single-breasted cuts, two-button jackets are more current; but if your suits have three buttons (and if you are not a super perfectionist), only button the middle button, and it will look fine.

As to your old double-breasted suits with so much fabric that they now look too full on you, all is not totally lost. Donate the jackets to Goodwill, and have the trousers altered. The fabric is, no doubt, of such fine quality that you’ll end up owning a few “new” pairs of very upscale dress pants.

You did not tell me your age, but the younger you are, the more logical are these alterations. As long as you don’t have a belly, you can adopt some of the newer “shrunken” fashion-forward looks. If you are a lot older or if you have too much weight, don’t try to look like a young Tom Ford model. The result could come off as clown-like.

Even for a man who does not have a closet full of old Armani suits, much of this same information applies if you inherit suits from Dad, or if you get lucky in your local thrift shop.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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