Confession: buying a suit intimidates me a bit. They're expensive and complicated — and aren't they mostly unnecessary nowadays? That's how they've long seemed to me, anyway. But it turns out that a decent suit is still necessary sometimes, and even getting one made to order doesn't need to be exorbitantly expensive or excessively intimidating. It can even be fun.
Alton Lane is among a number of brands aiming to cut down on overhead and simplify suiting with an online, made-to-measure system. You input height, weight, body type and desired suit fit, and then select a range of other options. No off-the-shelf options — they only do custom fits. Theoretically, the perfect suit arrives a couple or a few weeks later.
In reality, or at least in my experience, there was a bit more to it. My suit arrived at the local Alton Lane showroom, where I went to try it on and confirm the fit. If need be, the suit is returned for any adjustments. I did this a couple of times, and it was a learning experience, but I finally ended up with a great-fitting suit.
Alton Lane suits start at $399 and prices are determined primarily by the material. The one I got with a more premium fabric called Christoper French Blue Sharkskin is $699 — it's soft and comfortable, and I like how it drapes. A couple of notable features I chose for the jacket are a half-canvas construction and a ticket pocket (the latter which I was, admittedly, talked into).
What's Good About the Alton Lane Suiting Experience?
The end result is a solid fit.
It's important to say this up front because, in the end, getting a fit you're happy with is the most important thing. Everybody's body is going to be a bit different, not to mention their tastes, and that's exactly what made-to-measure suits aim to address.
But that doesn't mean that every such service gets it right. I have a long, thin frame that Alton Lane describes as an inverted-triangle type and, believe me, it's hard to find clothing of any kind that fits me well. Though it involved multiple steps and sending the suit back, what I appreciated most was that the salespeople were open to listening to me and working with my perhaps weird requests.
A virtual consultation is helpful.
What the heck is jacket piping? Well, maybe you know, but I didn't. This is one of the 20 attributes you'll be choosing in Alton Lane's online ordering system in addition to measurements. If you, like me, don't know a ton about suit terminology and other factors (there are even more than I'd realized), start by reading this Gear Patrol guide (maybe a couple times).
Thankfully, though, Alton Lane also offers virtual consultations where a knowledgeable salesperson will help you go through the process. This helped with the intimidation factor. Just remember to be firm about what you like and want because I found there are notions about what's "correct" in suiting that somehow just don't look right on me (to my eyes, at least).
Service was on-point.
The fitting at the company's showroom in Philadelphia helped elevate my entire experience. The space was classy, and you can have a drink while you discuss your sartorial needs and tastes, and just chat. The manager, Holland, was extremely personable and professional. It made the whole experience feel more personal, almost as if going to an actual bespoke tailor — though, of course, there is no tailor on site and the garments are sewn in China.
(Some showrooms also apparently have body-scanning technology to help get a better fit, but I didn't get to try this.)
At the end, I wasn't feeling 100 percent with the way the lapel sat. I was told it would settle a bit with wear, but if I still wasn't happy with it after a couple times wearing it, I could come back and they'd make the suit again from scratch. I didn't end up doing that, but the commitment to getting it right impressed me and gave me peace of mind (an attitude I didn't find at certain other similarly priced suiting outfits). This alone goes a long way in my wanting to give the company business in the future.
What Was Less Ideal in My Alton Lane Suiting Experience?
Online ordering might be superfluous.
The idea is that you input your measurements, shape and preferences on the brand's website and have a perfectly fitting suit in a couple weeks. As noted above, it wasn't quite that simple — life isn't quite that simple, and individual body shapes as well as other factors are hard to reduce to mere measurements and toggled menu options.
My experience possibly comes down to having a less common body type, so some might be able to get the right fit more readily. As the adjustments that resulted in a good suit were the result of the showroom fitting and measurements, the online ordering aspect ended up seeming kind of unnecessary to me. It's also pretty tough to get a sense of a fabric's qualities online.
My Made-to-Order Alton Lane Suit: the Verdict
If I went out and spent thousands on a bespoke tailored suit, would it be better? Most certainly. But avoiding that and still getting a good suit is the whole point. The experience was interesting, educational and fun, but also a little frustrating. In the end, though, it was worth it because I have a suit that I actually look forward to wearing again — and, if I do say so myself, I look pretty darn put-together for the price.