If you’ve been in the market for a new suit at least once in the past few years, you probably know your options: Fully custom (or bespoke), made-to-measure, or “off the rack”.

Even if bespoke suiting is out of your price range at the moment, made-to-measure is a good alternative, especially when you consider the number of options currently out there, with most MTM suits similar in pricing to their off-the-rack counterparts.

In this (hopefully ongoing) series, I won’t necessarily comment in depth about the particular company, or the details of the suit characteristics beyond what is necessary.

What I want to focus on in this series is fit: How it fits right out of the box, what turned out perfectly, and what I need to alter to get to 100%.

Hopefully this series gives you more confidence in ordering made-to-measure suiting in the future. And if you have any questions along the way, let me know.

Today, we’re checking out the Black Lapel suit.


First Impressions

MTM Showdown: Unboxing the Black Lapel Suit

click to enlarge

This particular unboxing article has been a long time comin’.

BL sent me this suit during the release of their Fall / Winter collection. I included it in an article where we discussed maximizing your suit’s versatility, but haven’t had a chance to show you what the suit looked like in detail.

The suiting fabric is an all-season wool (Super 110s) with a navy ground and a lighter blue plaid pattern… a subtle, perfect twist to your standard navy suit.

This is my third BL suit, by the way, so while you’d think I’d have the perfect fit by now, my measurements have changed from year to year. I always opt to retake all of them, just to be sure.

What fits well

When I try on a jacket, I want it to feel as if I’m putting on armor. I expect the jacket to perfectly contour my upper torso, chest, and back, all the way to down to the waist where the jacket is buttoned. From there, it gently tapers out as expected.

Based on the description above, this suit is almost perfectly spot on, right out of the box.

The jacket hugs nicely across the back and chest; snug enough without feeling tight and restrictive. The shoulders end where they should.

The pants’ rise feels perfect, with the waistband above my hips, right where I like it. The upper leg is non-restrictive and a bit roomy… a choice I made, since I don’t like how suiting trousers look when the leg is too tight.

The pants have a half break, and the silhouette is more of a straight leg.

More on the pants in a bit.

What needs altering

MTM Showdown: Unboxing the Black Lapel Suit

click to enlarge

In an ideal world, you won’t need further alterations on MTM suits, but if you’re working with a company for the first time (or, in my case, if you have to change your key measurements over and over), there’s a chance you won’t nail your perfect fit.

You’ll have to see a tailor to get it to 100%, and that’s okay, because once you update your profile and measurements on the store’s website, your next suit should fit much better.

In my case, I only need minor alterations for this Black Lapel suit.

When I try on a jacket, I want it to feel as if I’m putting on armor. I expect the jacket to perfectly contour my upper torso, chest, and back.

Remember how I described earlier that a jacket should fit like armor? Mine feels perfect in the shoulders, chest, and back, but I need to take in the waist a few inches.

This may have been my fault; I might have chosen to measure a bit more loosely in the stomach area, thinking that it’s always easier to get it taken in than let out.

There’s also a chance BL leaves a little room for error, which adds a few more cm to the size of the waist… who knows. In any case, once I take the waist in a couple inches, the jacket will fit flawlessly.

The pants in general have a more conservative silhouette. I believe I padded my measurements a bit here as well. (I ordered their Slim fit, by the way. In my experience, it’s the right amount of slim—think modern and contemporary—without feeling skinny.)

I like how the pants feel in the seat and thighs, which makes me know I took the right measurements for my rise. (Pro tip: Measure your rise as instructed in their videos WITH pants on. Just sayin’.)

I do plan on having the pants slimmed down a bit from the knee to the hem, to give it a more tapered look.

Lastly, the waist is slightly large, to where the pants bunch when I fasten my belt. I’ll probably take in 0.5″ – 1″ at the waist.

Get One Of Your Own

black lapel navy plaid suit(updated 5/17/2017) I don’t believe the navy plaid cloth exists anymore, but doesn’t matter, Black Lapel has a great selection of fabrics.


Keep in mind, Black Lapel has a Flawless Fit Guarantee, and offers up to $75 credit for any alterations done by your tailor.

Lastly, you can schedule an in-person appointment if you’re living in or planning on visiting NYC.


What are your experiences with MTM suiting?

  • Tried it once, loved it, never looked back?
  • Bad first experience, never doing it again?
  • Decent experience other than a few hiccups, willing to try once more?

Let me know in the comments below.

If you like the first article in this MTM Showdown series, tell me what other online MTM companies you are curious about and want to see!

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25 Responses

  1. Bo on

    Really like the rundown, photos and details here — nice! I actually have an MTM Black Lapel suit in Light Grey that I picked up back in 2012 (inspired by that grey Skyfall suit!) and I was really pleased with it — no alterations or changes needed out of the box! I don’t wear it as much as I should since I have a Navy JCF number that’s more versatile, but I’m still really pleased with it.

    • Barron on

      Glad to hear! I think in hindsight, I shouldn’t have been as loose w/ my measurements considering BL is so good w/ sizing and allowance anyway. Light grey is totally versatile; I’m sure you could pull that off just as easily as a navy suit (especially as the weather warms up)

  2. MC on

    Looks great! I ordered a light grey suit from BL last year. I got measured in their NYC studio. For the most part, they nailed the fit on first try. Since I visited the studio, they did all the alteration without me having to take it to my own tailor and apply for If I do it over again, I’d ask for a slight lower button stance and slightly wider lapel. But not much more.

      • Barron on

        Ooh, that’s nice, didn’t realize that was possible. I too would ask for a lower button stance next time; forgot to mention that. I requested a wider lapel as well.

  3. Genuine Men's Mag on

    Hey Barron,

    What’s been your experience with putting in your measurements rather then being measured by (most of the MTM) have measure by appt. With you being in NYC and previously SF, would you say thats the best way to go? We did indochino about 2 years ago and had some issued with inputing our own info and not getting a great suit.

    Steven from Genuine Mens Mag.

  4. Jack on

    I am interested in what you have to say about ownonly.com’s suits, it’s a new brand.

    Thanks, Barron.

  5. Kevin on

    Just out of curiosity, and no offense meant, how is it possible that your trousers sit on your hip bones? The waistband seems incredibly far from where your naval is and your elbow joint. You have a lot of shirt showing for trousers with a perfect rise. I daresay the rise is shorter than those on RLBL pants.

    • Barron on

      The pants sit ~ 2″ below my navel, which feels like it’s more or less right above the hip bone. Sorry if I’m not describing it right. The rise is certainly higher than my denim, though not high in the traditional sense.

      If I’m not answering your question let me know, haha

  6. Khoi N. on

    Hey Baron. Looking forward to seeing more on this series. That’s just about all you can ask for out of the box. I recently dived into the world of MTM suits with my first being Knot Standard. Opted for the Madison Navy Suit during the Memorial Day Weekend sale. Their service is on point and my suit arrived much sooner than anticipated. I can actually wear it for a wedding I’m attending in Paris at the end of June. I wasn’t expecting a flawlessly fitting suit as I’ve read many of these reviews on MTM, but to my surprise it fit extremely well. If I were to make a slight alteration it would be to bring in the waist half an inch and perhaps taper the pant legs every so slightly. I opted to keep it as is, because it’s so comfortable and still looks really great. The super skinny fit isn’t the best look on my short stature anyway. So Knot Standard is a win! My next MTM suit will be from Black Lapel as I’m looking into the Gray Sharkskin. They also won me over w/swatch samples and measuring tape 🙂

    • Barron on

      Glad to hear it! I may do an unboxing w/ them soon. Black Lapel is always a sure bet. Dragon Inside is another one I will be doing soon (really loved the outcome of their suit).

      • Khoi N. on

        Thanks for the heads up on Dragon Inside. Will surely check them out! The 365 day alteration period is great.

  7. Eddioe on

    My brand new (made in the USA and still tagged, threaded and pants un-hemmed) $15 suit from the Salvation Army fits me like a glove. Sure it’s a Cotton/poly blend with a slight sheen, but it looks great on me and I get complements every time I wear it. I’ve also got 3 cheap ($170-$250) OTR suits from various retailers that I wear, get complements on those two. I’ve also got the hottest girlfriend in the office.. and maybe in the building.. I work with these fool rookies who make $28K a year and buy “custom” $800-$2000 suits from the interwebs, lol.