How a Suit is Supposed to Fit

{how a female’s work suit is supposed to fit}

When you search “how a suit should fit” in Google, the results are exclusively aimed at the male population.  Welp, that does us no good.  So, we’ve gone ahead and created our own fit and style guide for women’s suiting.  If you have any additions or suggestions, we’d love to hear them!

According to its caption on Pinterest, this suit was the first Yves Saint Laurent suit ever designed for a female. It made its debut in the Spring/Summer of 1967.

According to the caption on Pinterest, this suit was the first Yves Saint Laurent suit ever designed for a female.  It was featured in the  Spring/Summer Collection of 1967.  Awesome.


1. Length:  While men’s jackets are supposed to reach the length of their knuckles when their hands are at their sides (that is, not the sleeve but the actual jacket itself), for women, this rule is much more flexible.  Jackets may be worn in a cropped fashion so long as the accompanying garment is a dress or a high-waisted skirt.  In no event should a jacket be worn with a skirt if the blouse or shirt underneath it is visible from behind.  In other words, the jacket must be long enough to fall below the top of the skirt.  For a regular-length jacket, observe the knuckles rule for a maximum length and use you hip bones as a guide for minimum length.

2. Width:  There should be enough room in the chest for you to reach into your jacket with a flat palm, but not enough for you to pull the front of your suit more than 1-2 inches outward from your chest.  Likewise, the back should fit such that you are able to give yourself a hug, but the hug will make your suit jacket feel snug.  You will know your suit jacket is too tight if, when buttoned, the fabric pulls or puckers.  The seam of the sleeves that runs along your shoulder should fall along your outer shoulder (and not wider than your shoulders or in too close to your neck).

3. Shoulders:  Shoulder pads should be thin and should not extend beyond the width of your shoulders.

4. Sleeves:  For full-length jackets, the sleeves should fall somewhere in between your wrist and the top knuckle of your thumb.  For cropped jackets, below the elbow is acceptable.  A suit jacket with sleeves cut above the elbow is too casual for a  professional setting.

5. Buttons:  The top button of a two-button suit, or the middle button of a three-button suit, should not fall below your navel.  And, while we’re at it, the buttons on your suit should always be buttoned when in a professional setting such as court or a formal meeting (when wearing a 2- or 3-button suit, the bottom button can be left unbuttoned).  Outside of court, an unbuttoned jacket is acceptable.

6.  Collar:  Lapels for women can vary in size, but regardless of size, a collar should be worn flat as opposed to flared when in a professional context.  In a more casual setting, pop that collar if you feel so inclined.

7.  Skirt length:  A skirt should generally be tailored to reach the middle or bottom of the knee cap.  Skirts worn on business casual days or with opaque tights can, arguably, be worn an inch or so above the knee.

8. Pant length:  Pants can be tough for women since many of us own heels of varying heights.  In general, your pants should fall to an inch above the ground, revealing the front and back of your shoes.  Pants should fall flat, meaning they should not pool or bag at the bottom.  Cropped pants that are tailored to just above the ankle (anything higher, such as capri pants, are not work appropriate) are acceptable for occasions aside from court or a formal meeting.

Cropped Suit

It is difficult to find a properly fitting suit, so we’ve turned to our local tailors to make slight adjustments once we purchase a new suit.  Tailoring can be expensive, however, so keep these points in mind next time you are out suit shopping so that minimal, if any, tailoring will be required.



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6 Responses to How a Suit is Supposed to Fit

  1. Grahol October 10, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    Hi, my comment is not meant critical, but I am confused. In the ‘sleeves’ section you describe the most appropriate length, however the picture at the bottom completely contradicts this?

    • marhouse October 11, 2014 at 10:19 am #

      Hi Lynda- good point. The bottom picture depicts what we would call a “cropped” suit. It intentionally features shorter pant and sleeve lengths. For cropped jackets, a below-the-elbow sleeve length is acceptable. Above the elbow is no longer formal enough to be considered a suit jacket for a business formal function. For a full-length sleeve, however, the sleeve should fall somewhere in between your wrist and the top knuckle of your thumb. Does that make sense? Thanks for reading and writing in!

  2. Harsha July 13, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    Hey, can you post a picture of the non-cropped suit jacket (both front & back views). I want to understand what length the jacket should be

    • marhouse July 14, 2015 at 7:39 am #

      Hi Harsha, absolutely. Take a look at this jacket from theory. The sleeve is tailored to the model to hit right as the wrist, and the jacket length falls right at the hip, below the waistline of her trousers. When your arms are down at your side, the sleeve should fall somewhere between your wrist (as pictured above) and the top knuckle of your thumb, and the suit jacket (depending on the style) should fall at or just below the hip. This picture shows a wrist-length sleeve and hip-length jacket from behind. There is no exact rule for women’s suit jackets, fortunately and unfortunately. It’s nice to have flexibility, but it makes our job more challenging in terms of finding a proper and professional fit. The best rule of thumb is to ensure the jacket fits properly in all of the other proportions (shoulder, sleeves, chest) and then to ensure that the length overlaps the skirt to some degree so that your shirt/blouse/shell will never be exposed. We hope that helps!


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