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Buying a men's suit online: Tips from the experts

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A decade ago no one would've believed that we'd be buying suits online, but the truth is, there are countless opportunities to boost your wardrobe on the web.

"You can save 20% to 50% by buying online," says Michael Lubarsky, contributing fashion writer for AskMen.com. Below are some tips you should remember when looking for suits online.

The modern cut
Lubarsky says online is the place to go for modern styles like Italian and European cuts where the jacket is blocky and tailored at the waist. However, these styles typically lack a vent in the back, which means they can be restrictive. If you're not in shape or don't like fitted styles, look for a suit with side vents (pictured) or a central vent, which allows for more movement.

For big names such as Valentino and Armani, Lubarsky says to check out Bluefly.com. He also recommends Jos. A. Bank, Banana Republic, and Amazon.com. Tyler Thoreson, executive editor of Men.Style.com also recommends Yoox.com and member-exclusive retailer Gilt.com.

Know your measurements
Before you begin your quest for the perfect suit, you'll need to know your measurements. "Go to a reputable department store and try on a number of jackets so you know your size," Lubarsky says. Alternatively, you can go to your local tailor or have a friend or partner measure your chest right across the pecks, he advises. Then bring the unaltered suit you bought online to your tailor to be adjusted if need be.

Waist size is also important. "If you're bursting at the seams of your jeans, you need to go up one size," Lubarsky says.

It's also important to remember that your jacket sleeve should reveal a half-inch of your shirt cuff. Anything shorter or longer will look disproportionate.

Lubarsky also advises sticking with solid-color suits rather than complex patterns since it's hard to see exactly how close a suit's stripes can be on a computer screen. "It's almost guesswork," he explains.

Rely on your local tailor
"If you go to the Jos. A. Bank Web site, they charge $10 or $15 to put cuffs on," Lubarsky says. By using your local tailor, you can get it to fit once you get it home, he says.

Thoreson says to take advantage of alterations if they're included with your purchase; otherwise he recommends taking your suit to a tailor you trust.

Read the return policy
According to Thoreson, the return rate on online merchandise is a high 40 percent. "Be prepared to be disappointed," he says. However, to improve your chances at success, Thoreson advises ordering more than one suit.

"Order the two closest sizes," says Thoreson. "You may return both, you may return one."

It's also important to know the return policy for each store you shop at. Jos. A. Bank, for instance, is good with returns, says Lubarsky. "You can pay them to put a cuff on a trouser or have them hemmed and they will still accept them as a return." Unfortunately, not all online retailers have a forgiving return policy. "Some vendors have a 14-day return policy, which is not much," Lubarsky explains. So make sure to brush up on return policies before making your purchases.

Don't fear the unknown brand
"Many of those unknown names are actually made in the exact same factories of Valentino and Ralph Lauren," Lubarsky says. Their design may be slightly different, but you're getting similar workmanship if not the same fabric quality, he explains. A suit from a lesser-known designer can cost around $200, a savings of more than $1,000 from a well-known designer brand.

Examine the suit carefully
Once your suit arrives, it's important to take a close look at the material, Lubarsky says. Look at the stitching on the lapel, armholes, and trousers to see whether the material is stitched or glued together.

"If you've got some pieces that are glued, the suit may not last as long as you would like," Lubarsky explains. "Glue will break down from the heat of dry cleaning." That's important information to know if you plan on buying more suits from the same retailer in the future.

"How a suit fits all comes down to your body type and the cut," Lubarsky says. "Jos. A. Bank is more generous around the hips, while Banana Republic is pushing design a bit around the hips," Lubarsky says.

But by carefully taking your measurements and knowing the different cuts and styles, you should have little to no problems buying a suit online and saving money in the process.

Brian T. Horowitz

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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