Starter Suits for Everyone
Our last installment showed where you might be headed if your goal is to be is a high-level producer or executive, but some of us may be earlier on in our careers, working in a non-profit sector, or otherwise just need a basic, less expensive suit/suiting wardrobe. First and foremost, if you need to wear a suit, do not mix and match fabrics. Believe me, it is way more obvious than you might think - different lighting will bring out color, texture, sheen, and hand differences you never noticed in your mirror at home. You are far better off buying a secondhand suit from Ebay, a thrift store, or consignment store if these options below still break the bank.
Target has greatly stepped up its affordable suiting game this season. I went in for cat litter and was pleasantly surprised to find really nice fabrics in sophisticated colors and a couple of fit options as well. For women, try the Bi-Stretch line, which is basically a clone of the Banana Republic fan favorite Sloan pants - except Target totally beat BR to the punch and created a blazer to match. The fit of the blazer is generous through the shoulders, and both the curvy and regular fit pants have about a mid rise, so petites may not find this a good fit. For men, try the Tevolio line. I have not yet had this on a client, but the fabrics seemed like they would stand up to a day at your desk and not look like you slept in them come lunch hour.
If you are a man or woman with a narrow, European build, head over to H&M. Their fabrics are not going to be as luxurious and well-behaved throughout the day as a higher-end suit, but the cuts will look much more posh on your frame than some other (possibly more expensive) brands. Look for the wool blends, as cotton will crease terribly even on the car ride to work. I would also suggest pairing an H&M suit with shirts and blouses found elsewhere, in order to help elevate the overall look.
Halogen for Women (Nordstrom)
Chances are that a Halogen suit will not fit you perfectly off the rack - but the good news is that Nordstrom offers free tailoring. If you really need that sucker nipped and tucked a lot, they may charge and reimburse you with Nordstrom notes as long as you have a store card with them. Still, the fabrics are pretty nice, the sales associates will assist greatly with finding the right style and fit for you, and for the price, Halogen really can’t be beat for a tailored suit.
SuitFellas for Men
A client told me about this store back when I still styled for Nordstrom, and she had all wonderful things to say. I have not been to the b&m location, but I trust my client’s word when it comes to quality, value, and service. The prices here are phenomenal for the styles and fabrics on offer - and in a world where brand loyalty is quite hard won, word-of-mouth referrals mean the world to me. If people are talking about this place in particular, there is definitely a reason.
*Express, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and J Crew also traditionally offer nice suiting options, but for various reasons have ceased to be on my list of go-tos this year. Express’s quality seems to have taken a dive IMO, while Ann Taylor never seems to have the matching pieces I’m looking for anymore. Banana Republic is still a very, very solid option though for the price for a gray or black suit I’d usually choose Halogen for the free tailoring. J Crew also pushes the price point, and they have been adding too many trendy details like peplums and ruffles that a) make it hard to layer with a blazer for arctic a/c, and b) seem too twee and whimsical for this segment on corporate business wardrobes. Still, every retailer offers a different selection every season, and these places may be worth a look if other avenues have not yielded the right suit.