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A Cry for Help! Lifes Most Important Decision....

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
This post is a cry for help. It is also the single greatest thing I may have ever done for myself. In two months I will graduate college and move to New York to begin a new job in art financing and would like to bring together all of the knowledge that exists here to help me truly dress for success. I consider your assistance vital as not only have I found myself scouring Ebay for something to fit someone 5'8 with a 30' waist and 7.5 feet more frequently then writing my dissertation, I actually think I may now know more about tie construction then my topic.

My life will soon oscillate wildly between the worlds of money and creativity. On one side, bankers who worship status designer clothing in their Churches of money and the sherbet cashmeres of Park Avenue for whom "summering" is a perfectly acceptable verb. On the other hand, the achingly cool whose MacGyver meets Marc Jacobs ability to turn a stained Buck a Pound item into every designers muse with little more then a needle and thread. Having split my time Masters in the UK splitting my time equally between these forums and classroom I have gown to disdain cheap fusing, corrected leathers, and a poor fit without ever having appreciated the power of the alternatives I leave my sartorial decisions entirely in your hands.

As a soon to be former Top Ramen gourmand my current wardrobe consists of what you would expect, one dark wool suit suitable for interviews, a closet which could earn me a passport to Banana Republic, and a pair of dark brown and dark leather shoes. Since this I am interested in the following:

- What would be the most versatile starter wardrobe I should aim to build?
- How many suits, pants, shirts, sweaters, ties, and shoes?
- In which colors and weights?
- When and where should I buy each?
- MTM vs OTR; Fused vs Welted; 7 Fold vs Reg?

I have purposely not mentioned price until this point because I understand that this is a difficult transition and an investment in the future. Unfortunately, since New York rents will make me lucky to be able to afford something more comfortable or opulent then the gutter I would appreciate some consideration on which things are the must have barest necessities and which are the things that can come after I have sufficiently sold the dream to afford to dress as a man who appreciates quality and knows how to carry it. What is a reasonable budget to get started with and what are the smallest increments in which I can obtain the best things?

Thank you for your help, my dissertation advisor and future love of my life are indebted for your intervention and assistance!
post #2 of 19
The basics, in terms of suits/coats:

Charcoal suit
Navy suit

What else you need in this category will depend on how often you need to wear a suit, and how formal you will need to be. I'd suggest year-round weights for all, to start, though those NYC winters get mighty cold. For your disparate purposes, you might try something Italian. Corneliani, Canali and Zegna often represent a nice compromise between stylish and conservative. Try Sierra Trading Post, Marshall's, Filene's Basement, those types of places. You can find new Corneliani regularly for $500 or so; Corneliani-made Polo blue label can be had for $400 or less. Beware faked Zegna on eBay, or those that claim to be Zegnas that are really only made of Zegna fabric.

After you have your basics, I love a good pinstripe. And a heavy flannel chalkstripe would come in handy in the winter. Keep in mind that the more distinctive a pattern is, the less often you'll be able to wear it.

On a limited budget, if you can wear OTR, I'd suggest you skip MTM, at least for now. It's an unneeded expenditure. Buy your suits, then invest in getting them tailored. A good tailor can do wonders.

For shoes, you need at least two pair of good ones. AEs are conservative, but are decent quality and can be had fairly inexpensively. You can't go wrong with the Park Avenue in black for wear with a suit. I'd suggest starting with two pairs of black, to rotate each day, though I personally prefer brown. Add a brown pair or two as soon as you can. (All this advice, of course, doesn't take into consideration what you already have.) You can find AEs for less than $150 regularly; desirable models such as the Park Avenue can be found on sale for about $190.

The more shirts you can get, the easier life will be, because it will cut down on the need to do laundry. At the bare minimum, I'd suggest at least five to start. This is blasphemy to some, but this an area where I think you can cut corners, for a bit. Get some decent, all-cotton point collars at a discounter for $20 each and you'll be fine for a while. If the shirts are too blousy, invest some of your savings in having them tailored. Makes a huge difference -- a cheap shirt that really fits can look spectacular, at least for a while. At least two or three of your shirts should be white. After that, you can add blue and patterns -- even pink, for days when you're dealing with creative types. Once you get settled in, you can start upgrading, both in terms of quality and quantity.

For ties, I see no need to invest in seven-folds, not now. They're expensive and most people won't know the difference. Instead, look for decent ties at the discounters. You can find decent ties for $20 and under. That said, a nice tie is a thing of beauty. Top-quality ties, such as Charvet, can be had on eBay for $50 and less.

All this advice, of course, assumes you're looking to build your wardrobe as inexpensively as possible. If you can afford better/more, go for it. But it should see you through for a while. Good luck!
post #3 of 19
Art financing? Say more...
post #4 of 19
Pretty much everything Doc said. A few additional items to consider:

1. As far as using proper business attire as an advantage, remember you don't have to outrun the bear, just the other runners. What does that mean? Many of your peers will show up in some derivative of American Jackass. You need to have perfectly servicable, quality wardrobe, but don't need to outdress everyone in the place. Your wardrobe needs to compliment your work not overshadow it.

2. Make a list of what you have and what you need. I use Excel but you can use whatever you want. After you have the basics you can add nice to haves and upgrades to your list.

3. Use your list to guide your shopping, online and brick and mortar. You can also use it to help loved ones pick gifts for you.

4. Don't try to get everything at once. You will make compromises in quality, price and style in an effort to get finished.

5. Ties-ebay has a great selection of Brooks ones. They run $5-$10. They're not Marinella but you can get a good inventory together for low cost.

6. Shoes-AEs are great. I would also suggest a look at the Charles Tyrwhitt calf offerings. I like their looks a little better than AE and the price is a wash with the 50% off.

7. QUALITY, QUALITY, QUALITY - beware of the falso economy of cheap goods.

Hope that helps a little
post #5 of 19
Great post. Being in New York will help you considerably, if you have the time to shop. Keep an eye out on for the Manhattan sales alert thread, visit Century 21, Daffy's, and Filene's regularly, and thrift. Buy a few cotton pocket squares and wear them. Fused is bad, sure, but poorly fitting is worse. If you find a cheapy suit for $100 that looks good on you and fits right, buy the damn thing. You probably can't afford the whole high end wardrobe right now, so negotiate the compromises, but prioritize fit. Be judicious about your needs and purchases, but don't hesitate to pick up something that isn't seem perfect for your needs if it's a great deal and fits well. Basics can be a little boring. What's a reasonable budget? Tough to say. If I was starting at nothing, I think I'd want at least $2,000. Below and you're either getting huge bargains, buying things used, or buying lower quality garments. This will likely still be a little tight, depending on how well you have to dress. As for numbers, there are a multitude of similar threads on here and Ask Andy About Clothes. Read them if you haven't. Read them again if you have.
post #6 of 19
Originally Posted by The Apprentice
I actually think I may now know more about tie construction then my topic.
As a PhD candidate probably about 6 months away from the end (whatever end that may be), I think I really know that feeling. I think it would be really easier for me to write a paper on the history of the dress shoe than on any wubject remotely related to my topic.

I second all the excellent advice that has been given. As for shoes, I don't like the look of AE. If you want a sleeker, if equally traditional, look in that kind of price-range, you are probably better-off looking at the less expensive of the English of French makers (think Shipton or Loding).
post #7 of 19
If your job entails getting financing from bankers and VCs, then yes...your appearance will be important.

If your job entails bringing business to bankers (i.e. you run a company and want to issue debt, equity, buy something, etc...) then you can wear hammer pants and a stained tank won't matter.

That being said, with the move to business casual at most banks (IIRC lehman is the only big bank that is still business formal 24/7), there has been lessening of the emphasis placed on appearance...just learn to look neat, not flashy or expensive.
post #8 of 19
In my experience as a gallerist, minimal/durable Prada and APC are my "art world Gap".
post #9 of 19
Originally Posted by gusgusterson
In my experience as a gallerist, minimal/durable Prada and APC are my "art world Gap".

Spot on... I'd add Jil Sander to that list. Pick up three suits there and you're good to go. Prada and Jil are conservative, yet cool; perfect in the enviorment you'll be in. Trust me the last place you want to shop is Brooks Brothers or some other natural shoulder shop. If you do go the Polo route, get either Purple or Black Label.
post #10 of 19
I really hesitate to jump into this advice providing situation. However, I cannot resist offering just a bit.

You asked about numbers of items. There is some relevance to that - but only a bit. Sure, you will need a few suits minimum to get going. However, if you have read the posts here for months, you know there is no upper limit to what some of these guys have.

Whatever you do get, no matter how many, concentrate on FIT. Sure, there is exceptional quality and pattern that can be distinguishing in high cost suits. But even those can be ruined by poor fit.

Similarly, the moderate priced suit will look so much better if it correctly fitted. If you can possibly swing it with all of the other NYC costs, I'd recommend that you go to either Mr. Ned or LS clothing. I've used neither. Just read the many satisfied reviews here and on AAAC. For $750 or so you can get a properly fitted suit in a wide range of fabrics. No, it is not the low ball solution. But I can tell you that it is pretty easy to spend $150 - $200 on alterations for a "good deal" suit that is not exactly the fabric you want anyway.

Make sure that one of the suits is a fairly plain fabric in dark charcoal. maybe with a slight narrow herringbone pattern. Nothing in black.

Good Luck with the new job.
I had not imagined that there was such a job as a loan arranger for art finance. BTW, whatever happened to that painting that the japanese guy paid $50,000,000 for and then got foreclosed on?
post #11 of 19
Nobody commented on sweaters. Because of the weather, it's a low priority, but that also offers some great out-of-season sale prices (all over the Internet, see the Resources page). You are going to need at least two sweaters, with smooth textures. Merino wool and cashmere are good choices. Solids in neutral colors (not black), probably v-neck, but that depends on your body build and tastes.
post #12 of 19
Well, I'm in art, so maybe I can help.
Clothing: the artists wont care, but the gallerists will as well as your clients. Allan Flusser's Book Dressing the Man.
Seems to give good lasting advice.
I wore a dark navy suit to my own opening, black seems to be the usual attire for artists and it gets old.
A few pocket squares of color and pattern will add alot of mileage. Colored shirts also. People think I wear alot of different suits, its really the shirt changing it up.
I buy good shoes and the internet gets some good deals. Just find out how a particular brand fits in the stores.
I buy some Allen Edmonds at their "shoe bank." Slightly marred but nothing you wouldn't do to them eventually.
post #13 of 19
Originally Posted by The Apprentice

In two months I will graduate college
Thank you for your help, my dissertation advisor and future love of my life are indebted for your intervention and assistance!

It's "graduate from college."
post #14 of 19
I like how you registered just to correct someone's grammar.
post #15 of 19
Originally Posted by Jovan
I like how you registered just to correct someone's grammar.

Hey, ya gotta talk good if ya wants to impress a elite-type money guy, doncha?
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