I mean it. Coat balance is critical, and not just in one direction. There are a lot of factors that come into play when determining the proper balance of a coat, and if something is off it can ruin an entire look. Here are the basics.
Everyone knows your shoulders need to appear even-ish, but your coat needs to be balanced in a few key ways: side to side, front to back, around the buttons, and with the trousers. Each of these dimensions depends on the others being in proportion, so it’s not enough to cinch here or let out there. You need to find (or have made) coats that fit the bill across the board.
Side to side is easy. Even with soft shouldered, unstructured coats, you don’t want to look lopsided or have the coat pull to one side. It looks sloppy, will result in bulging at the back of the collar, and generally make the shoulder line look rumpled and awkward. Like I said, this is the obvious one.
Front to back is a little more difficult. If you stand particularly straight or hunch a lot, this will be almost impossible to perfect without true bespoke. Just the nature of the beast. But, ideally, you want a coat which appears neither to hang from the fronts of your shoulders down the back (like a cape) nor to be affixed to the backs of your shoulders and to be pulled up in front.
Neither of these is elegant, and result in the coat looking oversized in the first case, and undersized in the second. The later is a big problem with a lot of the faux-Neapolitan stuff floating around these days. I don’t want to trash any particular brands or individuals, but most of the trendy tailoring brands don’t balance their coats very well. In and effort to look slim and casual, the quarters end up standing away from the body and too close to the trouser waist.
This leads into (and is connected intimately with) button balance. You can place the stance over a wide range, but it’s not as simple as cutting the holes wherever you want. The area below the buttons, the skirt, needs to be in an appealing proportion with the area above the buttons (the chest). Again, these small, trendy coats kill me on this front. Buttons are too high up on the chest and skirts still manage to be too short. Don’t even get me started on gorge height and lapel length. That’s another post altogether.
Finally, there is the balance between coat and trousers. You want the width of the thighs of your trousers to be close to the width of your coat where the two meet. This gives you a long, uninterrupted line down the entire body rather than cutting you in two. If you’re really tall, maybe you want to wear a belt or something to break yourself up, but I don’t think this is really a problem. We could go into more detail here, but this is just the basics, right?
All of these balance issues revolve around a simple principle – moderation. You don’t want anything wonky, anything too exaggerated, or proportions that distort instead of enhancing the human body. It’s simple when you think of it that way.
Images sourced from Monsieur Jerome and Mr. Mort