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Written by Jeanine Poggi, 10.31.08, 6:00 PM ET

A well-made suit is not just a fashion statement. Some argue it’s the sort of thing that can help determine how far up the corporate ladder you go–and whether you manage to stay on it during a period of layoffs.

Even before the financial markets went south, businessmen were trying to dress the part. Men’s tailored categories, which include suits, suit separates and sport coats, grew 7% overall in 2007, according to The NPD Group, a market research firm. In the current climate, however, such items are essential–and you should pay serious attention to detail when shopping for them.

“Suits should be seen as investment pieces,” says Michael Fisher, menswear editor at Stylesight, a trend-forecasting firm. “Just as men would do research before buying a new car, they should pay attention to the details of a suit, because it will be hanging in their closet for a while.”

The most important quality of a good suit is a jacket that has a full canvas layer between the fabric and lining, says Michael Ostrove, senior vice president at men’s retailer Paul Stuart. Cheaper suits have a lining that is fused or glued to the fabric. A more affordable option is half-canvas, where the designer only uses a layer in the more visible top portion of the jacket, but full canvas is best.

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