A guide to suit fabrics and why you should pay attention to them
How can you tell if a suit is good quality? Fabric is a good indicator, as it’s one of the most important components that affects the overall aesthetic of a garment. The better quality the fabric, the more you will enjoy wearing a suit.
When it comes to suit fabrics, your options start with synthetic and range through to wool, cashmere and silk blends – the latter of which may cost hundreds of dollars per metre. But what’s in a pricetag? Aside from indicating quality, fabric will also affect how comfortable a suit is to wear (because no-one wants to deal with itchy clothes), and how well it sits.
Suit fabrics, in a nutshell
When buying a suit, your options are generally as follows:
- Cotton and linen
Synthetics come in at the lower end of the scale, there’s nothing discreet about these suit materials. The fabric is very stiff and shiny, and it does not hug the body; nor does it move with you or breathe well. If you are looking for a cheaper option for a casual event, cotton or linen are better options, as they are lightweight and breathable.
For everyday wear, wool is ideal, as it is also breathable and sits well on the body. Finer wools graded ‘Super 120s’ and above will drape even better, elevating the overall style of the suit. These finer wool blends, however, are delicate fabrics that aren’t durable enough for everyday wear – but when you do don them, they will make you look a million bucks.
Suit fabrics, in detail
Synthetics: Polyester, Rayon and Acetate
Synthetics are man-made fabrics that are cheap to produce. The weave of the fabric is very tight, which means it does not breathe well. The fabric is also less soft to touch (so if you have garments that are itchy, chances are they’re synthetic).
Because of the stiffness of the fabric, suits made with synthetics are usually constructed using the fused method (the practice of gluing a jacket’s interlining in place), which means that the suit doesn’t sit well, resulting in a rigid look.
For all of these reasons, synthetic fabrics really are your least desirable option, but they do offer one advantage: they are hardwearing, especially in the crotch area, meaning that garments made with synthetic materials will last longer and are less likely to wrinkle.
Wool is the most common natural fibre used in suiting. It can be woven to form many different types of fabrics. Wools labelled as a Super 100s, Super 120s or Super 180s refer to the number of times the wool was twisted when it was made. The higher the number, the finer the cloth and more expensive it is.
But there is a catch to be wary of. Super 160s and Super 180s may feel amazing – like liquid silk against your skin – however they are less durable than a standard fabric. Suits made with these fabrics are not meant to be worn on a day-to-day basis.
If you do buy a suit in Super 160s or more, try to wear it no more than once per week, and leave it hanging on a good coathanger to air out before storing. This gives the fibres a chance to reset and go back to their natural shape.
Cotton and Linen
Cotton and linen are derived from natural fibres, and they are popular in casual suiting. Both are light and breathable, making them ideal for our warm climate in Brisbane.
The reason why cotton and linen are better for casual suiting is that these materials wrinkle easily, fade more readily, and are not stretchy in nature. That means they don’t sit well against the body and they can change shape over time. So when buying cotton and linen, stick to casual and loose-fitting styles such as sports jackets.
Suit linings are usually made with polyester and acetate, which are synthetics that don’t breathe. Higher quality suits may use silk as their lining, which is preferable – look at the label on the inside pocket to find out what materials your suit is made from.
For more information, check out The Suit Book – Everything You Need to Know About Wearing a Suit.