Q&A: Measuring Jackets and Brands to Look For

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I’ve received another email from a reader, this time asking about measuring yourself for eBay as well as brands to look out for!

Tom’s Question

Hi Ethan,
Saw your interview with Raphael and really enjoyed it. I have only recently began looking on eBay for some jackets to add to my collection. I am having a tricky time getting the proper measurements, wondered if you could help. 
I have a couple of jackets that fit perfectly, so I am taking measures from them. I laid them flat on a table and buttoned one button. The issue I have is measuring the chest/waist.
When laying flat, the side seam of the jacket is actually slightly on the front side. So I can measure two ways – seam to seam, or to the actual edge of the jacket. In both the chest and waist, I will get a very different measure depending on which I do. Which would be the proper measurement?
Lastly, do you have recommendations on jacket brands that you look for? I do like the timeless style of the 30’s and 40’s myself. 
Keep up the great work. 

My Answer

Thanks for the email Tom!  Looks like you’ve been reading my post on how to find jackets that fit on eBay.  In fact, the picture that I’ve used as the header was one that I found on eBay!  Lets dive in.
There isn’t anything wrong with measuring jackets you already own, but note that this method won’t be always accurate.  Some jackets have different placements or allowances in some areas which applies both to your jackets and the jackets you find online.  However, I tend to use the chest measurement taken from the edge of the garment, under the pits.
Please note that no matter where you take the measurements from (the jacket or your body) tailoring will always be necessary.  It’s best to find a jacket that’s a few sizes up in the chest/waist, because anything exact or smaller will have the high possibility of not fitting you properly.  I always make sure the shoulders are exact, but I have purchased 40R suits and sportcoats and gotten them tailored down.  With that said, I have gotten lucky with 38S and some 36R jackets, but there were some that I had to let out to their maximum capacity since they were too small.  While I was lucky that they had extra fabric, I would like to size up a few inches just in case.
As for the brands, that’s hard to say.  I definitely keep Chipp, J. Press, and Brooks Brothers pretty up there in terms of searching for Ivy style clothing. It makes sense as they are the premier American Ivy brands.   You’ll get a winner whether you get a vintage piece or a modern one.  In terms of regular jackets, I tend to look for Polo Ralph Lauren stuff.  They’re still made with great quality as well as having a classic design that isn’t too modern (watch out for slim lapels); same could be said for some Southwick suits. The guys at the venerable website Put This On have a weekly ebay listing and have developed their own search function that can help you find great suits.  However I will say that you don’t always have to look for name brands when shopping on eBay.
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1970’s J. Press suit.

There are tons of great vintage and modern pieces that you can find that don’t have a discernible label or is from a company that doesn’t exist anymore.  All of my true vintage clothing has labels from companys that are no longer around! Names Palm Beach, Manchester Clothes, Campus Clothes, Curlee, and Oviatts are just some of the amazing manufacturers that grace the insides of my 1930s-1940s suits and sportcoats.  Even some of my 1960’s Ivy stuff has random naming. While they obviously didn’t survive the test of time, these jackets are still perfect additions to your wardrobe, with many of them being fully canvassed, large lapels, and half-lined!  These are details you can’t find for an affordable price even if you find modern Brooks Brothers on eBay!  The ivy suit that I wore on my last day of BR is one great example.  It cost only $100 (pre tailoring) and is cut from micro herringbone flannel and works for any era, modern or Golden Era style!
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The 1960’s ivy style sack suit, with a label from a company that doesn’t exist. 

 However, don’t let modern manufacturers get you down.  Some things still look great even though they aren’t a big name brand.  Just look at this post about my Jos. A. Bank suit! It has large lapels and high rise trousers, both of which are perfect for a Golden Era inspired wardrobe.

 

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An amazing 90’s Jos A. Bank suit!  Classic styling and tailored to fit better than it did just out of the box. 

 

My main advice to you, when picking a jacket or suit, is to first look at the jacket.  Does it have what you’re looking for?  Are the lapels the right size? Is the button placement too low?  Don’t just buy it because it says Brooks Brothers or Polo RL.  These brands are still fashion brands, and there are definitely low buttoning 80’s models that flood eBay today.  Stay away from these.
Second, look at the measurements.  Will it fit?  Make sure there’s excess fabric to be let out if necessary.  Compare the chest and length measurement to your own. Make sure you know what can and can’t be tailored and factor that into the price.
Lastly, look at the materials.  This is probably the most important thing that separates name brands from regular vintage items.  While most vintage pieces were made with “real fabrics” (like worsted wool, flannel, tweed, etc), the fact remains that blends still did happen. There’s nothing wrong with cashmere, wool, silk, blends, but its a problem once elastines and polyester is brought into the mix.  Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren did include these synthetics in their clothes, especially during the 1970s and 80s, so be wary!
Once you’re happy with the look of the jacket, the measurements fit, and you’re sure of the material, then buy the garment!  If you have a modern classic style, then I suggest looking for stuff from the 1960s to the present.  Eras prior (like the 1930s, 1940s) have certain details that look odd when worn with modern garments. These details include heavily roped and padded shoulders, as well as the wool being a different texture (i.e rough) when compared to modern worsteds.  You can always have 1930’s style with modern (or slightly vintage garments)! Just look at this post:

It’s a 1960’s jacket, but with a 1930’s tie, vintage styled shirt, and high rise trousers, you definitely get that classic 30’s look.  However, you don’t need to buy true vintage to have a classic style. In addition to the brands still in existence (Brooks Bros., Chipp, J. Press, Ralph Lauren) Ring Jacket is  one to look out for. They are a modern Japanese maker of suits and sportcoats that have great lapels and shape.  You can find some on eBay, but they retail for a lot more than vintage stuff.  If you have the budget for it, it will be a great addition to your wardrobe!

Conclusion

I hope I was able to answer your question Tom!  eBay is a great place to go when looking for additions to your wardrobe, you just need to learn the tips and tricks to find some great pieces like I have.  I used to look for strict Golden Era vintage pieces, but I realized that I was being much to close minded.  I had 1940s style down, but I knew that my modern attire was lacking!  Once I started expanding my tastes and finding slightly less vintage (1960s-1980s) stuff that fit my needs as well as learning what modern brands still do a great classic look, I was able to find some great stuff to create a “modern 1930s wardrobe” without having to spend money on crazy bespoke items!

eBay is certainly a great tool to find what you want and I hope you use it well to expand your wardrobe!  Just know that you probably won’t get anything perfectly right.  No matter what you buy, some tailoring will be necessary. So don’t let that stop you if things aren’t perfect!  Just know the basic guidelines on what to look out for and make sure that the details (like material and button stance) are what you need!

I hope this answered your question Tom!  If any of you have any more questions feel free to reach out to me on Facebook, Instagram, or send me an email here:  inquiry.streetxsprezza@gmail.com I’m always happy to answer questions, whether they are quick or detailed!

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza 

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