Updated July 7, 2015

Best Place to Buy a Suit - J Crew vs Banana Republic vs Suitsupply

Shopping for a new suit seems like a simple process: find a jacket, some pants to match and just like that, you're ready to nail your job interview, rock the boardroom, get married or go to a funeral (just preferably not all on the same day). Unfortunately, “simple” and “shopping” rarely go together, especially in the world of retail. A first-time suit shopper has almost no chance of success against the cluttered racks and overwhelming inventory of the average department store. But, with a little preparation, it can be surprisingly easy to get a quality suit that fits you and your budget.

Where to Buy

One of the best ways to ensure your suiting success is to steer clear of stores that advertise dubious offers like “buy 1 suit, get 10 suits free.” In most cases, you will end up with 11 cheap suits that you’ll never want to wear. Don’t let stores use you to unload their unwanted inventory.

Major department stores like Macy’s can also be tricky for inexperienced suit buyers. Fit and quality can vary from rack to rack, adding to the confusion. Also, while prices can be low, most of the suits will require tailoring, which adds to the final cost.

We suggest sticking to stores that sell quality suits that already have a tailored fit. These suits should have a classic look when it comes to jacket length and button stance (not too low, not too high) in addition to a few modern touches, such as reduced shoulder padding, slimmer lapels, and a trim cut throughout the midsection.

Also, these suits should be affordable but not cheap. A $500 suit you’ll wear all the time is a better investment than a $250 suit you won’t wear at all.

When it comes to fabric, wool is worth the extra cost. The only thing that gives away a cheap suit faster than football player-sized shoulder pads is the unmistakable sheen and stiffness of synthetic materials like polyester.

With all this in mind, we chose J. Crew as the best place to buy a suit that will be versatile, affordable and that will hold up for years to come. Banana Republic is another solid option, but those willing to give an online-only store a shot might find better results at Suitsupply.

For our comparison, we looked at the lowest cost wool suit offered by each store. We focused on solid navy, which is the ideal color for a go-anywhere suit.

Roundup Methodology

In determining our top choice, we also considered the following factors:

  • Fit: Does the suit have a tailored fit that balances a classic look with modern design?
  • Construction: Will the suit hold its shape?
  • Price: Does the fit/construction justify the price?

Fit should be one of the most important considerations when buying a suit. Most of us don’t have the time or the money to go to a tailor. You can get around that by trying on different sizes until you find the best fit. You want a jacket that matches the width of your shoulders and the length of your torso. A good way to test shoulder width is to lean sideways into a wall. If the jacket’s shoulder hits well before your actual shoulder, then the shoulders are too wide. For length, let your arms hang down to your side, and curl your fingers. The jacket should be resting inside your palms. Anything lower will make you look like a kid who just raided his dad’s closet. Anything higher and you’re risking blouse/pants suit territory.

Best Place to Buy a Suit

Our Pick: J. Crew:

  • The Suit: Ludlow Suit in Italian Wool
  • The Price: $650 (dips below $500 with sale)

Those willing to pay the price will find the Ludlow line at J. Crew to be one of the best off-the-rack suits for under $700. Unlike a lot of suits in this price range, the Ludlow is half-canvassed, meaning it will hold its shape and drape better off the body.

The jackets are shorter than a classic suit but not short enough to be considered “chopped” or “trendy.” Also, since the Ludlow is considered a slim-fit suit, the pants might be a little tight for some. This is an easy fix because the suit is sold as separates, so you can pair the jacket with the pants that fit you the best.

J. Crew’s Ludlow line is usually more expensive than the competition, but the quality of construction and the exceptional fit still make it our first choice. Fortunately, frequent sales can help ease the pain at the register. Still, those on a strict budget might want to try one of our other suggestions.

Visit: J. Crew Website

Our Runner-Up: Banana Republic:

  • The Suit: Tailored-Fit Italian Wool
  • The Price: $505 (dips below $400 with sale)

For about $100 less than a Ludlow, you can get yourself a suit from Banana Republic’s Tailored-Fit line. Like the Ludlow, the Tailored-Fit won’t need alterations because you can buy the jacket and pants separately. Where the suits differ is in the quality of construction.

Unlike the Ludlow, the Tailored-Fit jacket is fused, meaning the lining is glued to the shell of the jacket. This can make the jacket appear stiff and bulky, which is probably not the look you’re going for. Also, fused jackets tend to have a shorter life because the glue can start to bubble and fall apart.

Still, Banana Republic offers some of the best suits available at this price point, especially when you factor in the sale prices. Banana Republic frequently offers sale codes online or in-store (Tuesdays are a hot day for price breaks, especially for users of its credit card), so, with a little patience and timing, you should never have to pay full price. And since Banana Republic has more than double the number of stores of J. Crew, you’re more likely to find one right around the corner.

Visit: Banana Republic Website

Tip: Before you buy a suit at Banana Republic, visit CreditDonkey for the latest Banana Republic coupons. Banana Republic frequently has coupon codes available, usually off the entire website, but the codes only last a few days, so check back often.

Best Place to Buy a Suit Online: Suitsupply

  • The Suit: Napoli Plain (Purple Line)
  • The Price: $499

Online retailer Suitsupply offers J. Crew–quality jackets at Banana Republic prices, making it one of the best choices for those who are shopping on a budget and who don’t need a suit right away. Choosing the Napoli fit will get you a timeless suit that’s the perfect compromise between classic and modern design.

The Napoli Plain Navy is part of Suitsupply’s Purple Line. For $499, you’ll get the benefits of half-canvas construction at fused jacket prices. If that price is too high, then you’re out of luck: Suitsupply rarely has sales or offers codes.

Of course, shopping online does come with some risks, so be prepared to take advantage of the free shipping/free returns policy until you find the right size. You’ll also need to factor in at least one visit to a tailor to have the pants hemmed.

Bargain Options

If you’re looking to spend less than $400 on a quality suit, you have a few options. But remember, while you might save money up front, you will end up with a suit that will definitely need tailoring and will not hold up as long as our recommended picks.

J. Crew’s outlet store J. Crew Factory sells a wool Thompson suit that retails for $360 but often dips below $300 with sales.

Macy’s offers good deals on suits from Alfani RED, Hilfiger Trim Fit, and Kenneth Cole, but you’ll need to check the tags to make sure they’re wool and not polyester. You’ll also need to double-check the price tags because Macy’s sales can often be unorganized.

J.C. Penney is another possibility for inexpensive wool suits. Just steer clear of the jackets with the massive shoulder pads and look for athletic or slim-fit cuts.

Buying a suit does not need to be a complicated - or expensive - process. With the proper fit and quality, a suit worth hundreds of dollars can look like it cost thousands. And, if you stick with a versatile color and design, you can easily find a suit that will go anywhere you want to wear it.

Ross Frasier is a research analyst at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Ross Frasier at ross@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

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