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Formal Event wear

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
Advice sought on formalwear purchase. I'll be attending a "Ball" in February; it's a yearly thing at my alma mater (I'm 24, class of '02). Dress code is... unspecified, but there are usually people in everything, from tuxes to chinos, with the majority on the more formal side. I've always worn a rental tux, mainly because my significant other worked at a rental place for awhile and they were free. However, that gravy train has been derailed, so I'm on my own this year. Also, my weight/measurements fluctuated a lot in school, but now I'm a pretty solid 42r/36w. My question: I don't have a lot to spend - $400 is my hard and fast limit. I go to this event every year, but otherwise don't attend a lot of formal events, although the age of weddings is pending. Do you think I'd be better off buying a tux, from, say, JosABank, or a black suit (which I don't have) that I could wear to work, from Filene's maybe... or something else altogether. I don't think anything I have right now could be mixed/matched for this...  
post #2 of 34
Filenes in Boston, if they still have their suit sale on (extra $25% off), have Aquascutum Shawl and similar quality 1 button notched lapel suits for $400 and under.
post #3 of 34
I am in the minority here in hating black suits. I am a traditionalist: black is for formal wear. If you think that you will have occasion to wear a tux even as little as twice a year for the next several years, it is well worth the investment. Brooks Brothers has some traditionally styled tuxedos. Probably a little higher than $400, but not outrageously so.
post #4 of 34
I agree here (as seems to be often) with Manton, I don't like black suits, and I think that you will want to own your own tux.
post #5 of 34
A black suit worn with bow tie etc. looks dreadful. As has been mentioned, buying a dinner jacket now is worthwhile, and you will quickly recoup the cost in not having to hire. You will do so doubly quickly, because of the curious American habit of wearing evening clothes during the day, at weddings. You will look so much better in a suit of your own, as you can have it tailored. Don't forget the finishing touches - a self-tied bow tie, and a silk pocket-handkerchief in either white or red.
post #6 of 34
I agree - buy a tuxedo. Won't ever go out of style if you get something classic. I go to many black tie events, but I would have a tuxedo even if I only went to a few. It will pay for itself in no time at all.
post #7 of 34
Thread Starter 
Alright, fellas, I appreciate the input. Black suit is less desirable. So for the tux, should I get one, I need to determine details. - I think two button, single breast, peak lapel (is this normal? is DB normal?) maybe two button notch, though that says suit. How many vents is classic? I wouldn't be against a one button if it looked good on me, but I dunno about the shawl collar. - Plain front pants, no cuffs. - I have several pairs of black laceups, are patent shoes required? - I have a black cummerbund/self-tie bow tie, and a wool set in blue/red/yellow plaid... recommendations on accompanying vests/cummerbunds? I'm going to check out the DC Filene's (and maybe Towson, MD) around xmas. Any other recommendations? Like I said, $400 is my limit, that, unfortunately, has to be pretty hard and fast. Thanks.
post #8 of 34
Shoreman - If you don't go to a lot of formal events, other than this yearly ball, I would recommend the black suit. IMHO - a black suit would be a lot more useful than a tux. You're right in thinking that you can use it for work or going out a lot more than you would ever use the tuxedo. You can always dress it up more with accessories for your formal events and dress it down more for work or casual type work. Full disclosure - I am sitting at my desk today wearing a black suit over a black t-shirt and a gray lightweight wool v-neck sweater, so perhaps I'm a bit biased today. FYI - for most weddings you probably won't be wearing a tux unless you're the groom. Bradford
post #9 of 34
Thread Starter 
Alas, I am far too uncertain on this subject, in the end it'll probably come down to what's available in Filene's when I go, and how flexible my credit card is. But advice on the choice and styling points is still appreciated, thanks Bradford etc...
post #10 of 34
Quote:
I think two button, single breast, peak lapel (is this normal? is DB normal?) maybe two button notch, though that says suit. How many vents is classic? I wouldn't be against a one button if it looked good on me, but I dunno about the shawl collar.
The one button, single breasted, peak lapel, no vent is classic, but I think two buttons and two vents are okay as well.
Quote:
I have several pairs of black laceups, are patent shoes required?
No, so long as the laceups are simple and classic, like captoe balmorals.
Quote:
I have a black cummerbund/self-tie bow tie, and a wool set in blue/red/yellow plaid... recommendations on accompanying vests/cummerbunds?
How about a nice formal vest in a matte gray?  I bought a dark gray Barneys brand vest for $25 and a light gray Brioni vest for $75, both at Filene's Basement.
Quote:
I'm going to check out the DC Filene's (and maybe Towson, MD) around xmas. Any other recommendations? Like I said, $400 is my limit, that, unfortunately, has to be pretty hard and fast.
The tuxedos at the DC Filene's are not that great.  IIRC, most of them are three buttons with notch lapels.  You may want to check out the consignment stores I listed in this thread.  I bought a one button, single breasted, peak lapel tuxedo at Act II for $30 and I saw an Armani Black Label tuxedo (unfortunately a 4 x 1 DB) in your size at Second Chance a few weeks ago.
post #11 of 34
Quote:
The one button, single breasted, peak lapel, no vent is classic, but I think two buttons and two vents are okay as well.
Depends if you mean Alan Flusser classic, continental classic, etc... A classic American tux (such as J Press has been selling for decades) is peaked or shawl lapel, flapped pockets, single vent. I recently went with the shawl lapel version of this (as interpreted by Costume National) because the peaked lapel is becoming so ubiquitous, and was quite surprised at how good it looked. Of course, I'm a reasonably skinny guy, and the cut was really slim with slim lapels by a designer known for good cuts, so mileage may vary.
post #12 of 34
According to the "rules" and tradition: 1) Dinner jackets should never have notched lapels.  Peak or shawl only. 2) SB dinner jackets should be one button only.  No vents is preferred, side vents are acceptable. 3) DB dinner jackets are fine, even good.  They eliminate the need for a vest or cummerbund.  Personally, I prefer 6 on 2 but there is precedent (e.g., Bogie in Casablanca) for other button stances. 4) Jacket pockets should not have flaps: besom or jetted pockets only. 5) Pleated trousers are fine, cuffs are not.  No cuffs. 6) If you have a completely plain (no broguing at all) pair of black cap toes, and can polish the bejeezus out of them, then you don't need new shoes.  Traditionally, a plain (i.e., no toe cap) black or patent leather oxford with wide black silk laces, or else a black evening pump, is worn.  But these are not essential. 7) Your tie and cummerbund sound fine.  Not sure what you mean by "wool set."  In any case, if you want a vest, the traditional evening vest is backless and has a low front, the better to show your shirt front and studs.  Black is preferred. White vests are for white tie and tails. Light gray looks, in my opinion, too much like formal day wear. Some dudes like those fancy woven silk vests. If you do that, make sure everything else you wear is strictly black or white. 8) You forgot the shirt.  I would avoid the wing collar shirt, unless you can get one made or can shop in London.  The ones sold in the US have wimply little collars and look awful.  A turndown collar shirt (in white) with a pleated or stiff pique front will do nicely.  (If the front bib is pique, the sleeve cuffs should be, too.  If the front bib is pleated, the cuffs should be plain.)  Ben Silver sells light blue and pink linen evening shirts that look sort of interesting, but I would not wear them in the north and certainly not in the fall or winter.
post #13 of 34
Quote:
I bought a one button, single breasted, peak lapel tuxedo at Act II for $30 and I saw an Armani Black Label tuxedo (unfortunately a 4 x 1 DB) in your size at Second Chance a few weeks ago.
Absolutely nothing wrong with a DB, 4 button tuxedo. I recently chose just such a configuration, and couldn't be happier. It is perfect for a smaller frame, and I think looks spectacular. Incidentally, I also opted for midnight blue as opposed to black. In the evening, the color is considered "blacker than black." Here is a picture of it.
post #14 of 34
Quote:
1) Dinner jackets should never have notched lapels. Peak or shawl only. 2) SB dinner jackets should be one button only. No vents is preferred, side vents are acceptable. 4) Jacket pockets should not have flaps: besom or jetted pockets only.
Agree with 1, although notched lapels are becoming the norm, it seems. As for 4 and the second part of 2, that used to be my understanding too; but I've been looking at pictures in the Harvard archives, and it looks like back vents and flapped (but jetted) pockets) seem to have been *preppy* norms for a long time.
post #15 of 34
Manton, I'm afraid I disagree. I think formal shoes are indeed essential. I know every expert says otherwise, and that you can wear a plain black calfskin shoe with a tuxedo, I disagree. I think it looks extremely silly. Not to mention the number of times I've seen wingtips and the like. If you are going to go to all the trouble of buying one or more tuxedos, buy tuxedo shoes - either patent leather lace-ups or opera pumps with bows. Also, don't forget teh correct hosiery - extremely thin silk hose. I think anything less completely ruins the outfit. When the experts are telling you that you can "get away" with wearing plain black calf lace-ups, that says it all: it looks like you are trying to get away with something. The outfit is incomplete. Just my opinion, of course.
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