I Bought Three Suits for $75

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Buying a three piece, chalk stripe, half lined, high rise trouser suit for $3 is probably a once-in-a-lifetime situation.   Getting three suits for $25 each, however, is still pretty damn good!  Don’t worry, this isn’t an ad for Jos A. Bank; it’s more of advice to always check eBay since you never know what you’re going to find!

More often than not, I spend a little over $100 per suit and $120 on tailoring.  Sure, I could save up for a low end MTM service ($800-1000) or get something from Ring Jacket or Eidos, but I don’t make that kind of money at all!  I still want my high rise trousers, wide lapels, and ivy details so it makes sense that I simply buy vintage/used from eBay or thrift stores.  That’s how I end up with cheap-as-fuck suits that look like a million bucks after a trip to the tailor for a total cost of around $200.  That still isn’t bad considering the quality and details that you can’t get from department stores!

The last time I got a suit, the purchase itself only cost me $3.  You can read that fantastic story here!  It may have been a bad move because now I think that even $20 for a suit at a thrift store is too much.  Regardless, I still spend my free time checking out thrift stores and eBay for great deals on great suits.

The Purchase

While browsing eBay, I found a seller who had posted 4-5 suits for the price of $25 each.  They all had the same title:  “HOMER REED, SOUTHWICK SUIT, IN OUTSTANDING CONDITION”.  Upon clicking the listings I found out that the seller had come across a bunch of suits (probably at an estate sale) that were bespoke for “Homer Reed”, all made by Southwick.  For those of you who don’t know, Southwick Clothing is an American manufacturer of suits (since 1929) based in Massachusetts; they even produce garments for Articles of Style!   The suit fabrics were all different, ranging from tweed to wool twill, but were reportedly all the same size.  At first, the listing didn’t have many measurements up, only the waist (36″) and the chest (42″).

While I know the important rules of buying online,  I definitely needed more measurements to be confident in my purchase.  I inquired the remaining measurements with the seller and I finally found out that the shoulders were 18″ and had a back length of 30.5″.  I let him know that I couldn’t buy the jacket because I have a 17.5″, but he assured me that it wasn’t going to be an issue.  I then bought one  suit at $25 (grey chalk stripe) and prayed to god that it would fit.

After a week of shipping time, I received the light grey chalkstripe suit.  It was 3-roll-2, had high rise trousers; its everything I want from a suit!   Luckily for me, it fit! Well, it fit reasonably well.  I then took it to the tailor to get some alterations done which were what I call the “typical Ethan work” that I’ve done for my Jos A. Bank Suit and my $3 suit.  The total definitely ranges since I often bring other garments for Ruben to fix; I never inquire about the final total but I think it’s pretty reasonable considering all the work that has to be done.

Taking in Suit Jacket

Taper Jacket Sleeves

Shorten Jacket Length

Take in Trouser Waist

Add Suspender Buttons

Hem Trouser Length

Add Turn-ups (cuffs) at 1.75″

Taper Leg Opening to 8″   

Total: $120-150~ (3x, so about $450)

The result was perfect.  Knowing that I could save these suits, I put in a request for the seller to give me two more suits (grey tweed, tan twill) for $50! He accepted, resulting in the amazing total of $75 for three great suits.  Tailoring is still a hefty amount compared to the purchase price, but its worth it!  Here are the results:

Grey 3-roll-2 Chalk Stripe Suit

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Plain suits definitely have their place in someone’s closet, but patterns like chalkstripe are there when you’re ready to graduate to “advanced fashion”.  I’ve always wanted a light grey chalkstripe suit ever since I saw this picture of Jake Grantham.  Unlike my Jos A. Bank suit, this one is in much lighter grey which trades in the conservative, corporate look for some more visual interest.  Grey is still more “safe” than brown but the wide and bold lines give it a retro look that might turn some heads at the office!   Either way, it’s a great suit that fits perfectly in my wardrobe.  I could either pair it with solids for something more business-like or I could do some expert pattern matching to show some style prowess!  You can see which one I went with.
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Instead of going for a straight 30’s inspired look, I went with a bit of modern Italian/ivy vibes with a button down collar shirt and foulard tie.  There’s some advanced pattern matching going on since I’m going for three at once: chalkstripe suit, stripe shirt, and foulard print tie.  You might consider this something from the 30’s but it’s something that most sartorial guys do today. It’s a shame that most guys don’t pattern mix like this and instead go for stuff like this when they’re “adding pop”. Just keep everything in scale and you’ve got something that’s creative and tasteful!
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Just look at that fit!  There are no darts, since it is an ivy style sack jacket, but it still keeps some great waist suppression to give me a figure!  Ruben did a great job slimming the jacket body and sleeves down into a “modern” fit while still retaining the classic elements.  I’m also impressed that he was able to shorten the jacket without having it look like its proportions were thrown off!  The pockets may be a bit low (evident with pocket flaps) but I’ll probably tuck the pockets in for a pseudo jetted look to keep things streamlined.

I also want to note the amazing lapels.  They’re wide but notch is placed quite low with rounded (or blunted) edges.  Additionally the lapel/collar line is angled more toward the ground; both of these details give the jacket a more classic look instead of being a sharp, exceedingly wide lapeled monstrosity from the late 60s early 70s when this suit was made. It’s not quite a 30’s lapel, but its close enough!

Bespoke Suit made by Southwick (eBay), Custom Shirt from Natty Shirts, Foulard Tie (Thrifted)

AE tassel loafers (eBay)

  Grey Tweed Suit

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The next suit is a light grey tweed with an extremely subtle blue stripe.  I wish it was in a regular worsted or some lighter weight wool because it’s such a great color to have for spring suiting!  I kept things pretty conservative with a plain blue OCBD, block repp stripe tie, and black wingtips.  It’s a sharp look but you could definitely have more fun with additional patterns if you need to! I mean there’s a reason why grey suits are so iconic; they’re perfect for business or fun, depending on your styling choices. Just make sure that the fit is impeccable.  Note the extended shoulder, slight waisting in the jacket, and straight leg with shivering break.   Sexy.

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You can see some of the interesting details of the fit here.  The lapels are very wide and the notch is quite “open” with slightly rounded (or blunted) edges.  These sartorial designs place this suit from the late 1960s to the early 1970s.  While it’s pretty telling of the fads of the era, you can tell that Mr. Reed wanted something a bit ivy. The lack of front darts and the 3-roll-2 configuration state that story.

I’m not a big fan of padded or extended shoulders, but I think it looks quite good here, don’t you think?  Derek and Die, Workwear has written about it and they were pretty common for suits since the 1930’s.  I prefer a natural shoulder since I like having an “easygoing” look even in a suit, but they definitely had some statue to my small physique.  Maybe Brock from The Modest Man should write about that?

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Look at those sleeve buttons!  There’s only two and they’re spaced far apart!  It’s pretty weird compared to today’s standards, but this was done for a long time.  Just look at the three buttons on these 1940’s suits.   Tailor Caid, the Japanese  1960’s ivy style bespoke shop, keeps this tradition on its garments; you can barely make out this detail in this picture of a jacket worn by Mark Cho (bottom right). Based on my observations, having kissing buttons (or more buttons in general) is a modern fad.

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Grey Tweed Suit (eBay), Custom OCBD from Natty Shirts, Block repp stripe tie (thrifted), Johnston Murphy black wingtips (eBay)

Tan Wool Twill 3-Pc Suit

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The last suit I received was this fantastic light brown three piece cut from a wool twill.  It’s comparable to my other first Southwick suit that I got on eBay  in terms of color and jacket style, but I like the one from this present post better.  The vintage wool simply feels better from the “shiny” and “fine” worsted  from the old post.  At least now I have a vest, which makes the entire suit versatile by how many pieces you get to play with!

I don’t always wear three piece suits, but I wore all the pieces here.   I don’t believe that three pieces are more formal than a two piece suit, but it definitely creates a more solid color block since it covers most of the body (like a double breasted suit).   The light color will definitely come into play for this spring/summer season and I can’t wait to make combinations like this!  The suit in the illustration is even 3-roll-2!
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The color palette is very similar to an outfit worn by Alan See at Pitti Uomo, in a solaro suit.  As I’ve stated before, combining blue and brown in different shades is one of my favorite pairs to make! That’s why I decided to wear striped blue shirt with this light brown suit and used a green polka dot tie for small splash of color.

I seldom wear solids together since I always have a hankering for pattern mixing.  Even though the suit is plain, there’s still fun in the tie and shirt.  It’s all still earth tones and I think the result is easy one the eyes without being too boring! Remember, I’m not dressing for business or professionalism.  I’m dressing for fun.

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Unlike the $3 chalkstripe suit, this vest didn’t need any alterations!  It fits well with a simple adjustment to the buckle back.  You can see that it was obviously made for a larger man due to the longer length and bigger armhole.  It’s okay though, since you can’t tell once I put on the jacket and I probably won’t typically wear the waistcoat too often apart from that.

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Look at that clean button hole. You can also tell that something is up with my right shoulder.  Only true bespoke can fix that!

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Two buttons, just like the previous two suits.

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I finished off the look with some dark brown suede bluchers.  These were my first #menswear shoes and they’ve been by side for almost 4 years, which is surprising considering they’re from Zara. I definitely want to replace them with something better but for now they’ll do!  I really do wear them all the time.

Three piece brown wool twill suit from Southwick (eBay), Blue Stripe shirt from Massimo Dutti, 1930’s Green tie (eBay), brown suede derbies from Zara 

Conclusion

$25 per suit is an amazing fucking price for a suit, especially when it has all the Ethan details like high rise trousers, wide lapels, and a 3-roll-2 button stance.  Tailoring was hefty ($150 per suit) but considering what was done to each suit in a quick amount of time (under a week), it was very reasonable.    It just goes to show you that you can find some awesome vintage pieces for your classic menswear wardrobe for cheap.  Why buy something from the mall when you can always go vintage and tailor it to be wearable?  It will always be cheaper to go this route instead of buy OTR anywhere else; it just depends what you’re looking for!

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Qemal and Taka from Liverano & Liverano, shot by The Armoury

While I was finishing up this article, I realized that the cut and style of these suits were very similar to the house style of Liverano & Liverano. Just compare the sharp edged, wide lapels to my own; or the 3-roll-2 configuration and the extended roped shoulders.  Nothing can beat Liverano and his expert Italian craftsmanship and special approach to bespoke (hidden darts??), but if you simply want the  aesthetic, you now know that alternatives exist!   You can read more about the Liverano aesthetic and construction on their website.  

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Half lined construction!

Each of the suits were made by Southwick and all featured the same details: 3-roll-2, high rise, and half-lining.  It’s hard to find those details without going MTM or even bespoke, so I’m very happy that I was able to find these suits for such a great price!  As long as some parts of the suit fit correctly, you can always tailor it to the way you wan.  It was a bit of a gamble since the original listing didn’t have all the measurements but remember to always ask before purchasing. I want all of my readers to be able to get lucky with thrifting or eBay finds like I have, but it takes a long time to find the right piece that can be saved!

I hope you also enjoyed the different styles of styling the suits within the article! If you didn’t notice, a lot of the styling was pretty contemporary with the use of spread collars and OCBDs instead of my usual spearpoints!  Even though the suits are vintage, the general theme of the outfit is something you could probably see at The Armoury or B&Tailor! Details always matter and play a big part in the look you’re going for.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W. 

Street x Sprezza

Photography by Vince H. and Scott E.  

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17 comments

  1. Bradley · March 19

    Great article! I live in LA and am looking for a good tailor. Who does your suits?

    Like

    • Ethan W. · March 20

      Ruben from Ruben’s Tailor Shop in Orange! He’s the best.

      Like

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  3. Shin-hau K. · March 20

    Great find, Ethan! It does seem a little pity that the Tan Wool Twill 3-Pc Suit has a too-long waistcoat. Maybe you could have it tailored and the bottom cut straight just below the 5th button (will have to remove the 6th cutaway button and buttonhole), ala Steve McQueen’s Thomas Crown? I think the cropped waistcoat look could flatter you and elongate your leg line.

    Like

    • Ethan W. · March 20

      Thank you!

      I’ve never thought of doing that! The look is definitely sharp and different than what you’d normally see. My only concern is that straight-hem waistcoats are typically done with double breasted ones rather than single breasted. Though, it may be worth it if I plan on wearing the waistcoat!

      Like

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  5. Staehling Style · April 2

    I think I can beat your find of the three suits: a light brown 1950s single breasted suit, a great tweed sport coat with patch pockets and a chalk stripe double breasted suit from the 40s. Here’s the best part: $12.50 each!

    Like

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  9. Kyle · April 24

    Love your article! And would like to ask your opinion about ordering suits online? I am considering this tweed suit http://www.studiosuits.com/custom_suits/mens/wool_suits/tweed_suits, what do you think??

    Like

    • Ethan W. · April 24

      I wouldn’t do it. I’d do something a bit more reviewed and known like Indochino, Black Lapel, or Oliver Wicks. Tweed is cool, but you want to make sure it comes from a good mill and a good MTM company.

      Like

  10. Sheeran · April 25

    Thanks for the suggestion! I’ve heard about Indochino, but my friend recommended mi this one, I’ll try and let you know!

    Like

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