Saturday, March 19, 2016

Suit Up: Banana Republic vs. J.Crew

Last month, I started looking for a new suit. I rounded up the top contenders in this post and ordered two to try on at home. On the left, we have the black Banana Republic lightweight wool two-button blazer (I'm wearing 0P) and the Banana Republic Logan-fit black lightweight wool trouser (I'm wearing 2P). On the right, we have the black J.Crew 1035 jacket in super 120s wool (I'm wearing 00) and the J.Crew 1035 trouser in super 120s wool (I'm wearing 0, but the pants need hemming; I folded the extra fabric under for the purposes of this comparison). The Banana Republic suit is currently available but is frequently excluded from sales. The J.Crew suit is currently sold out but seems to pop back regularly in random sizes. Also, the super 120s wool is available in other fits (similar jacket, similar pants).

For size reference, I am 5' 4" and weigh approximately 115 lbs. My measurements are 32C-26-34. My usual Banana Republic size for tops is 0P and between 0P and 2P for bottoms. My usual J.Crew size for tops is 00 and between 00 and 0, sometimes 0P, for bottoms.

To evaluate these two suits, I am looking at three main factors (in order of priority): the overall fit, the quality of the material/construction, and the total cost.

Overall Fit
Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two suits. In all of the pictures, the Banana Republic suit is on the left, and the J.Crew suit is on the right. For a fair comparison, I am wearing the same silk top and vintage shoes.

From the front, the BR jacket is shorter, with the hem ending at my hip. I like that the sleeves are decently slim and a good length. The fit through the torso is also good with almost no pulling across the chest or stomach. However, the jacket does have pretty aggressive shoulder pads.

By comparison, the J.Crew jacket hits below my hip, and the sleeves are noticeably longer and less slim. Also, there is more wrinkling around the top button of the jacket. I like that the shoulders are only lightly padded.

Both jackets are fully lined. The BR jacket has a striped lining throughout, while the J.Crew jacket has black lining in the body and striped lining in the sleeves.

The two jackets look similar when worn open, but on the BR suit, an open jacket highlights the bagginess of the pants. In particular, the pants look matronly in their full cut and also too baggy in the crotch.

By contrast, the J.Crew pants are slimmer and sleeker. However, they are too long, so they would need to be hemmed by a few inches. Both fit comfortably in the waist, although the BR pants are looser.

From the side, the J.Crew jacket is considerably slimmer than the BR jacket. However, it is also too long, almost completely covering my butt. Both pants are wrinkly in the back, especially around the thigh region. Also, the BR pants are fully lined, while the J.Crew pants are unlined. 

From the back, the J.Crew jacket has a more nipped in waist than the BR jacket. The wrinkling issue across the back of the thigh becomes even more apparent.

Material and Construction
The BR suit is 95% wool, 5% spandex for the body and 95% polyester, 5% spandex for the lining. The J.Crew suit is 100% wool for the body, 100% polyester for the body lining, and 95% polyester, 5% spandex for the sleeve lining.

The BR suit's wool blend feels rougher to the touch than the J.Crew suit's silky super 120s wool. Also, the BR suit has a thicker lining, so it feels more stuffy. The J.Crew suit will be more breathable, I think, which is beneficial since I would only be wearing a suit in stressful situations.

Total Cost
I bought the BR suit during a 40% off sale (rare but happens occasionally), so that brought the price to $184.80 pre-tax. The J.Crew suit was on super sale, so I got it for only $83.99(!) pre-tax. However it requires some alterations, which I'm guessing would cost around $50, bringing the total to $133.99.

TL;DR Summary
Fit: The BR jacket is a little sleeker. Both pants have their own issues.
Material: The J.Crew suit is more breathable.
Cost: The J.Crew suit is cheaper, even with alterations.


Even after writing up this comparison, I'm still undecided about which suit to keep! What do you think? If I could only pick one, which suit do you think I should keep, and why?

17 comments:

  1. Does the BR suit have a back vent? Looks like the JC jacket does.

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    1. They both have back vents. The BR one is just very hard to see in pictures.

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  2. I like the BR suit on you! Overall the length of the jacket looks more proportional to the pant length. If you're not a fan of the shoulder pads, that seems like it would be an easier alteration to remove them (and also to have the pants slimmed at the hip and hemmed) than the alteration you would make to the JC jacket. I also like that the BR pants are lined-- it helps with the breathability issue.

    One thought: are the twills/weaves/colors of the BR and JC fabrics close enough that you could mix and match, e.g. BR jacket and JC pants? For my job talks, I had a hard time finding a full suit of the same fabric and brand that I liked, so I ended up mixing a JC jacket in 120s wool with Loft trousers and it worked out really well.

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    1. I hadn't even considered getting the shoulder pads removed, so if it bothers me, I'll definitely do that. Why do lined pants help with breathability? The lining is polyester, so wouldn't that make them less breathable?

      I actually considered matching the BR jacket with the J.Crew pants! Unfortunately, there is a subtle difference in the two shades of black. One is a little bluer, and the other is a little redder. Probably no one else would ever notice, but I think it would always bother me.

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    2. Ah, I didn't catch in your text the lining was poly-- that's definitely not breathable lol! But there are some types of fabric lining that do make a difference with breathability-- from what I understand, something like rayon lining tends to help since it's light, anti-static, and the fibers help to wick sweat away from the body.

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    3. Yes Bemberg Rayon is a wonderful lining. Anti-static and breathable.

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    4. Thanks for letting me know about Bemberg rayon. I wish there were more options for women's suits, like men's suiting.

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  3. All in all, I'd vote for the JC suit. It's cheaper, and more form fitting (let's face it, that's all people see) for the same quality. Someday you will be a famous engineer and will purchase the Brook Brothers suit regardless of price. But for now it seems like the best bang for the buck with minor difference to the BR suit. No?

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    1. I tend to agree with you. At first I thought the BR suit looked better, mostly because I liked the way the jacket looked (I like the higher pockets). But the JC suit looks good too and will be perfect after alterations - plus it's less expensive and 100% wool. So JC gets my vote!

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    2. Thanks for your input! Based on the reasons you guys listed, I've decided to keep the J.Crew suit! The breathability plus the affordability swayed me in the end.

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  4. Going purely by pictures and how the fit looks, I don't think you can go wrong with either suit. (I feel like our clothing budgets are fairly similar, and either the 185 or 135 ish price point are reasonable for a suit in that light?)

    I'm actually not that knowledgeable about proper suit fits for women (all suits just look dowdy on me, even the ones that fit better), but I think I'd prefer the slimmer fitting jacket on the J. Crew suit.

    I'm surprised that the BR pants are lined! I was fussing about how so many dress pants I was seeing in stores was unlined, but from talking to friends (some of whom own more expensive suiting items from Theory), they also typically find that women's dress pants are unlined.

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    1. I also think that women's suiting looks frumpy in general and wish there were more options. I really envy how easy men have it! They seem to have a wide array of well-fitting, affordable suits available to them.

      Lined pants these days are getting pretty rare. I read that even higher end suiting like Theory have unlined pants. On the other hand, I would rather have unlined pants than pants that are lined in polyester. Based on the recommendations I found on Corporette, Jockey slip shorts are a good option for wearing under unlined wool pants.

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  5. I would follow the recommendation of mixing pants and blazer. a pant suit has to me a bit of an outdated feel. A combination of a different pant/blazer is much smarter (pun intended) and can still be formal business attire. Coordinate with color and a patterned blouse. I would go for the J Crew blazer, the quality is great, the 120s wool can be worn year round and in general I find J Crew's quality superior to BR. An important aspect is that the blazer must be light and easy to wear, you must not feel 'encased' in it. I have a Ludlow blazer myself and it's like wearing a sweater. Yes, that comfy.

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    1. Thanks for your feedback! I decided to keep the J.Crew blazer, because it was more breathable and affordable than the Banana Republic blazer, despite J.Crew's recent declining quality.

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  6. I like the look of the BR suit more because of the fit of the jacket. As you mentioned both pants aren't perfect. So if neither are a perfect fit without huge alteration works, my vote goes to the cheaper JC suit since it may be lighter and more comfortable to wear.

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    1. Thanks for your input! In the end, I decided to keep the J.Crew suit for exactly the reasons you listed!

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