A Great Suit Fit By The Numbers
No-Punches-Pulled Advice From A Long-Time Suit Dealer
You might think twice--or three times, or never--about dropping many hundreds of dollars on a dapper tuxedo. A skydiving suit, however? Shut up and take my money, dear manufacturer. Just make sure it’s in my colors and that the sponsor logos are right.
When you’re slinging that kind of cash around, the last thing you want is for the object of your ardent longing to show up too loose, too tight, too short, or too long--and, due to a bafflingly high instance of improper measuring on the part of the buyer, that happens all the time. Take it from Joel Strickland, double British gold medalist (in both freestyle and freefly) and dealer for the venerable Vertical Suits. He’s been wrapping innocent skydivers in measuring tape for some years now, and he has excellent advice for the un- (or under-) initiated.
“Measuring is not as difficult as people think it is,” Strickland soothes, “So, if you follow a few simple rules, it is pretty straightforward.” In other words: don’t get too nervous about this.
2. Get someone to help.
“While it’s technically possible to measure yourself,” Strickland explains, “It is not recommended. There will be some touching. Try not to make it weird.”
3. Make it a dress rehearsal.
Strickland advises everyone who comes to him for a fitting to wear what he/she would normally wear under a suit: base layers, thermals, underpants, jeans, whatever’s usually under there. You’ll want that suit to fit comfortably over your usual undergirdings, not strain over a pair of baggy, beloved chinos you didn’t wear to the fitting.
4. Follow the video.
“It is difficult to get it wrong if you use the talking pictures,” Strickland says. “We live in the future. Few people are ever more than ten feet from a device that will let you do this. No excuses.”
He’s referring specifically to the Vertical Suits fitting video, of course, but similar helping hands are available from other suit manufacturers.
5. Measure twice, cut once.
“Always measure twice,” Strickland insists. “Maybe switch hands or stand on the other side and do it the other way around. Perhaps switch the limb being measured. See that the numbers match up.”
6. Don’t tweak.
“Suit design has grown into a very precise process using science and maths and brains,” Strickland says. “The manufacturers ask for a lot of measurements for a reason, and the best results come from sticking to the plan. If you mess with them, it can throw out the form of the suit and compromise its awesomeness.”
7. Let the company know about your special needs.
If you do require a specific area to be looser--for example, if you wear a brace--reach out to the manufacturer for advice instead of altering your measurements to suit what you think the suit requires. They’ve almost certainly seen your issue before and can give you the best advice.
8. Don’t fudge the numbers.
Your measurements now are what counts. “If you want your suit to fit,” Strickland sighs, “Do not adjust anything based the diet you just started or the gym membership you just bought.”
9. Be gentle.
“When wielding the tape measure,” he continues, “You should be aiming for tickle, not strangle.”
10. Come as you are.
When being measured, stand naturally. “Don’t puff out your chest or suck in your stomach or clench your buttocks or whatever,” Strickland explains. Your suit will feel better, fly better and look better if it fits you as you really are, right now.
11. Look to the experts, if you really want to nail it.
The best way to get all of this stuff done is to seek out one of your chosen suit’s stable of official dealers. “In and around all the places where skydiving is popular,” Strickland advises, “There are people who work closely with the company as boots on the ground to help.”
These dealers have the benefit of many years of combined experience, as well as a direct line to the manufacturer for questions. They’ve generally tried and tested many different jumpsuits through the years, and can offer horse’s-mouth feedback on any issues or questions you might have. Sniff around at boogies or events--not just under the loudly-logo’d tents, but in the crowds, as well.
“They will go on and on,” Strickland assures. “You will wish they would shut up about it after a while.”
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