Guest Review: Black Lapel Tuxedo

The following edited review is by Seth from New York who discovered made-to-measure clothing through his purchase of a tuxedo from online tailors Black Lapel.  My own review can be found here.
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Cost

$688 (US) for a three-piece tuxedo.

Ordering Process

Black Lapel’s customer support is outstanding. I had a very detailed, conscientious response within 24 hours of submitting my initial questions. This led to series of emails over the next week covering various other questions. The concierge who assisted me throughout this process, Frank, was very detailed in responses and offered advice as he felt appropriate.

As readers of the Black Tie Guide will no doubt approve, Black Lapel offers only peak and shawl lapels, and both in one-button single breasted  and 4×2 double breasted models (for both lapels). Additional options I selected included working cuffs, a functional boutonniere (although this was too small, only 3/4″), jetted pockets, no jacket vents, and double-pleated trousers.

The company has an intuitive step-by-step guide for taking measurements, complete with precise written instructions as well as short, silent video examples.

After I submitted my measurements their tailoring staff in Shanghai reviewed the numbers and came up with a list of suggestions and concerns which Frank then relayed to me. (Some of the measurements were just unusual but some were actually incorrect.) They also asked me to submit full-length photos of myself to give them a better sense of what they were working with. I really appreciated the thoroughness which makes sense as they guarantee a perfect fit and claim they will entirely remake any article that cannot be corrected with alterations.

I asked about getting a traditional, low-cut waistcoat and they offered to modify a business vest with satin lapels and covered buttons. I took them up on their offer which did not include an extra charge beyond their usual vest price.

A few days after submitting the order I asked to omit the trouser side tabs I had originally requested. Fortunately it was early enough to accommodate the change. In keeping with my request to “clean up” the suit as much as possible, Frank also inquired whether I’d like to have the back strap on the vest removed. I thought he did a good job of offering suggestions throughout without pushing any particular agenda (giving unsolicited advice is always a tricky line to walk).

They originally indicated that it would be three weeks from the time from order to delivery but the tuxedo arrived about a month after placing the order.  (They have subsequently changed their policy to a four week delivery period.)

Fit & Quality

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Once the garments are received, Black Lapel typically encourages customers to get different opinions on how they fit and to send in photos so that they can address any concerns. I can’t really speak to that process as I was had just moved back to New York and was able to go their office for a fitting in person.   However, there are a few threads on styleforum.com and askandyaboutclothes.com that deal with the standard fitting process in detail.

At the fitting I met Frank and finally got to try on the suit. Before even looking in a mirror, I was asked to give my initial impression of simply how it felt. This kind of took me by surprise, as I suppose I have been conditioned to first check at how a garment looks before even considering how it feels. The shoulders and chest felt a bit odd. At first I thought they were tight, but they really weren’t, they actually just fit properly. Having never had a properly fitting jacket, actually feeling the jacket fabric that close was unusual.

Frank suggested that the trouser legs could come in a bit, and pinned up one leg so I could see the differences in comparison to the original. I thought the closer-fitting version looked much cleaner. Frank also recommending bringing the waist and the hips in a couple inches: these areas too, felt much better when taken in.

I thought the jacket length was a bit long and requested it be shortened.

During original measurement discussions the tailors had decided to increase my sleeve length by one inch but that turned out to be too long.  Frank’s colleague suggested shortening the length from the shoulders instead of the cuff to avoid butchering the functioning buttonholes.

The waistcoat was outstanding and conformed to my request that it be visible a couple of inches above the jacket button. If I had it over to do, I would ask for the button stance to be lowered further to line up with the jacket.

Alterations

The company’s policy is to either cover up to $75 worth of alterations (for customers who cannot make it to the store) or remake the article if the alterations will cost more than that.

The initial estimate for the alterations to be done was about a week. I got an email announcing the suit was ready about two weeks later.

I felt that the jacket sleeves still needed to be shortened by another half inch and Frank agreed to do so. And although the trousers fit much better this time I thought they could still be taken in a bit more.  However, I really wanted to wear the tuxedo for Opening Night at the Met which was a few days away. The company had just changed tailors (hence the delays) and couldn’t guarantee that I would have it back in time. They suggested that I wear it as is and bring it back after that for the final alterations. That sounded good to me.

After the gala I handed the tuxedo back for the final alterations.  Finally, with the proper sleeve length I had a perfectly fitting dinner suit for my Black Tie birthday party shortly afterwards. In a room of men in tuxedos, I drew special compliments for mine.

Summary

Pros:

Excellent communication. I usually got e-mail responses within 24 hours. They try to get a sense of how you’re planning on using the clothes (this was also true for subsequent articles I had made). They seem to have a very holistic approach to the clothes they make for you

I’m not really in a position to judge the quality of a suit, so I’ll leave that to others who can. I can say that after two rounds of alterations the tuxedo fit better than anything else I’ve ever owned. (Unfortunately this has left me with the problem of a growing dissatisfaction with my non-perfectly-fitting wardrobe.)

Cons:

They had a very difficult time sticking to their proposed timelines. I placed the order July 29. It was in final form October 3.  I don’t mind waiting but I don’t like being given a schedule and that schedule falling through. In the future I’ll just plan more time.

Verdict:

I liked the tuxedo enough I’m going to have a business suit made for my dissertation defense in March. For someone living on a graduate student stipend, the $688 I spent on the tuxedo is a pretty serious investment. I am not regretting it while I eat ramen noodle soup this month. It just means I am going to take advantage of every opportunity to wear it in order get my money’s worth, so that’s a win-win in my book. And I like it enough that I plan on buying my next suit from them.

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4 Comments

  1. LAStyleGuy

    Looks pretty nice and thanks for sharing your experience! You might want to rethink the vest when you have the opportunity. You’ve combined a white-tie vest with a black-tie tuxedo–kinda like what Obama did at his inauguration, where he put together a white tie accessory (tie) with a black tie tuxedo (an unfortunate notch lapel model). Said another way, your vest/waistcoat, or cummerbund, should be black.

    Reply
    1. Jovan

      Not necessarily. Obama’s tie was satin, where white tie prescribes marcella. It’s also generally accepted to wear a white marcella waistcoat with a dinner suit so long as other things are high in formality, such as peaked lapels. Personally, I would have worn a marcella shirt as well.

      Finally, this black tie outfit is clearly miles ahead of any black or white tie attire President Obama has worn.

      Reply
    2. Belfagor

      I wore this specifically as a “most formal” look for opening night at the Met. It can’t really be seen but the shirt is a marcella turndown, with vintage MOP links and studs. For less extraordinary black tie affairs I wear the black waistcoat (I had a tailor lower the button stance down to the second button so it now lines up with the jacket).

      Reply
    3. Peter Marshall

      Readers can find the etiquette regarding the wearing of full-dress waistcoats with black tie here.

      Reply

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