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Help me avoid being dressed like a bum in '09

ruff_ilb

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Preface: After typing this all up, I realized it may suffer from the wall of text effect. I have bolded the important bits below for anyone who doesn't care to read the whole thing.

Hello, StyleForum -

Late in '08 I came to the realization that I am lacking a few style essentials. While I'm unlikely to get pulled over by the fashion police here in college, I've started attending events where my go-to business casual outfit (grey/tan slacks, unaggressive dress shirt, reasonably nice tie, and sports coat) isn't quite cutting it. Even when it is appropriate, some of the items in it are beginning to become a little worn - ties, for instance, are beginning to have that wrinkled, faded, "old tie" look, and hems on pants are beginning to fray. At the same time, I've had more and more formal events to attend (both professional and social) and (after securing a higher-paying job for the summer) a modest but workable budget through which to outfit myself.

This, of course, all comes somewhat tragically at the same time that I discovered this forum: suddenly my deteriorated square-toed leather Rockport oxfords (gasp!) are not the fashion icons I believed they once were. I shudder to think what other skeletons still lurk in my closet.

But I digress - I need to update my wardrobe, and I need your help. I don't have a lot of cash to spend on the project - realistically, around $400 now and maybe more in the summer depending on what grants I can land.

Here are my priorities as I see them. Feel free to offer suggestions on how they ought to be arranged:

1. I need a suit. I do not currently own one, but would make regular use of one had I the opportunity.
2. I need a nice pair of black/dark brown oxfords as a go-to pair with the suit. I have a decent brown belt, but if I get black oxfords, I'll need a matching belt.
3. I need a few new slacks and ties to replace/augment my aging collection.

Some other general comments:
- I'm (comparatively) good on shirts. I have a few nice brooks bros' no iron in several colors, and a wide variety of other nice shirts (most of them brooks bros or RLPolo) in many colors. They're old though, and mostly button collars, which are less formal, right?
- In december I managed to score a RLPolo midnight blue tux for $100 that will fit me with minimal tailoring (I am proud of this snag).

These points bring up a series of questions (this is really the key point of the post):

If you were in my shoes, what would you do in terms of getting a suit? My size is a 41L, but I can fit in either a 40L (a little too small) or a 42L (a little too big). Either way I would have to get the suit tailored (I am a little too tall for a L suit, but XL are hard to find) and it would probably look fine. Most of the stuff I can get OTR at my local Macy's would probably be miserable and overpriced. I'm looking at ebay (I managed to pick up a nice HF Madison Charcoal pinstripe 42L for $230 in 42L for my father), and I'm hoping I can get a nice HF or BB for not too much, as these tend to be the most plentiful options in my price range. Other than a good deal on a HF or a BB suit, what would you look for on eBay (or somewhere else?) I have found two issues with the selection: the pants are almost always double reverse-pleated, which I have always known as a more formal, older style less suitable for young adults and social occasions. Are double reverse-pleated pants appropriate young adults in social occasions, or are they reserved more for the over-40 business crowd? Second, these suits are almost always in pinstripes. My impression is that pinstriped suits are again more formal and (importantly) less versatile - is this correct? I will probably have only the one suit for a while, so I want as versatile a garment as possible.

As far as shoes go, I'm just going to try to pick up a pair of plain black oxfords with a non-square toe. I really do not like split-cap shoes, so they are right out. Any shoe brand ideas for my budget? I see a few AE's get tossed around on ebay (see below) but they're only cheap because they're used, and that makes me somewhat suspicious.

Anyway, here are some prospective purchases:

Suit:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=230317805596

Shoes:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=130279908041

Thanks in advance for your help - I'm a new poster here; please guide me with a firm hand.

- Ruff_ilb
 

Irond Will

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Pleats are, in general, for fat people and older people. I would avoid them if you're in your early 20s. If you know the brands you want, BB and HF (both good brands), ebay is a decent resource, though you'd do well to pay careful attention to actual measurements and can get burned regardless. Pinstripes are more business-y than solids and less versatile. But not by a huge amount. Look for a good solid, but if a pinstripe is your best option, don't feel too bad about going with that. People here hate black suits, and they're probably too severe for most occasions, but people outside the SF don't give them the kind of thought that we do here. Rockports are, in my opinion, probably the best bang for your buck in terms of a cheap but decent-looking black captoe oxford. You might be able to pick up AE Park Avenues for a similar price on the B/S forum, but if you're paying full retail, Rockport seems a decent blip on the quality-per-dollar continuum. My other standby for decent value is Land's End. You can find some reasonable garments at reasonable prices in their sales, and they tend to be pretty robust with a great return policy.
 

ruff_ilb

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Originally Posted by Irond Will
Pleats are, in general, for fat people and older people. I would avoid them if you're in your early 20s.

Yea, that's what I thought - but any ideas on where to get a decent suit with non-pleated pants in my price range? I've only seen some cheaper CK and Lauren RL suits tossed around, and I'm not a big fan.

Originally Posted by Irond Will
Pinstripes are more business-y than solids and less versatile. But not by a huge amount. Look for a good solid, but if a pinstripe is your best option, don't feel too bad about going with that.

What can I wear with, say, a solid grey suit that I can't wear with a grey pin? The rules seem to be a little ambiguous here...
 

Irond Will

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Originally Posted by ruff_ilb
Yea, that's what I thought - but any ideas on where to get a decent suit with non-pleated pants in my price range? I've only seen some cheaper CK and Lauren RL suits tossed around, and I'm not a big fan.



What can I wear with, say, a solid grey suit that I can't wear with a grey pin? The rules seem to be a little ambiguous here...


If you're young and on a budget, a lot of people have recommended H&M or Target. The last guy to take the H&M advice, though, caught some flack from it because forumers felt it was styled too aggressively for an interview. I'd recommend you take a look at Target's stuff to establish a baseline of quality and cost. If you're anything like I was (and I'm only slightly better at this point), the differences between a $100 suit and a $1000 suit are going to be fairly subtle to you.

In my opinion, Brooks Brothers 1818 line is a pretty decent quality-to-price point when they're on sale. You should be able to get one new from $400 to $500. If you live near a decent-sized city, it might be worth your while to go to a BB retail location to be fitted and shown what is available, even if you end up buying nothing.

Pinstripes are a little limiting because they're generally regarded as "work clothes". They're not terribly appropriate for social engagements or, like, weddings or funerals. Furthermore, you have the option of wearing a solid suit jacket with odd trousers - something that is more difficult with pinstripes.
 

Tarmac

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you should talk to this guy:

Originally Posted by COS
I will be graduating from college this upcoming May, and have a teaching job lined up to start the following August.

As a college student, my wardrobe consists primarily of t-shirts and jeans, with athletic shoes and flip-flops.

I own one dark grey suit that my parents bought for me when I was in high school, and it still fits.

I also own a button-down shirt and tie and a pair of dress shoes that I wear with the suit when I wear it - to funerals, weddings, and those rare occasions when I might go to Church.

However, I'm starting to think quite a bit about the future. I'm going to be a real adult now, and have an actual profession. I need to start dressing the part.

I've gotten some money, gift cards, etc. for Christmas that I'd like to put towards building my adult wardrobe. My birthday is coming up soon, and then right after that will be graduation, so I'd like to make those events work towards my adult wardrobe's advantage as well.

So, here are the factors that will effect what I get:

I really don't have alot of money, and when I do start my job, I won't be making much money (everyone knows how underpaid teachers are), and what I will be making does have to cover all of my expenses.

I'm ready & willing to completely reinvent myself, and establish a new personal sense of style & taste that I can maintain for the rest of my life.

I will be a high school teacher. The dress-code for teachers at the school that I will be working at is pretty basic, and states that men are to wear collared shirts tucked into trousers/pants (not jeans) with a belt and close-toed shoes with socks.

As I'm young and will be teaching students that are - in some cases - only about 5 years younger than me, I need for my new wardrobe to help me create that boundary between us, that distinguishes me as a mature, responsible, respectable adult authority figure.

I also need it to help me get my colleagues who are old enough to be my parents or even grandparents to take me seriously as an equal.

My job will require me to be fairly physically active while still adhering to the dress code, so I'll need pretty durable clothes.
I'll also be spending quite a bit of time outside or in un-air-conditioned buildings, and where I live (in the Southeastern United States) it is usually extremely hot, and rains somewhat frequently as well.

I'd like for my new wardrobe to be extremely versatile - I want my new clothes to be clothes that I can wear to work, out to eat (with friends or with a date), out to the movies or shopping, out to bars and clubs at night, and even to Church (I think that I'm going to start going regularly now).

I'm still young, and don't want to dress like an old man. I know that I should be avoiding trends, fads, etc., but I can't help but want to look "cool" according to the standards of other people around my age.

I'm single and heterosexual and I want to attract girls my age and maybe even a little bit younger (girls that are still in college will be fine with me).

I'm a pretty casual, laid-back, fun-loving, easy-going person, and I want my wardrobe to reflect that. I want to be approachable, not intimidating.

I'm also extremely thin (about average height, though), and - I think - oddly proportioned. It's not always easy for me to find clothes that I think fit right.

I need stuff that is easy to take care of. As much machine-washable stuff as possible would be great.

I try to look around at stores and even online, but I'm just so confused and overwhelmed by everything that is available.

On top of that, what I see and like that makes me think "I want to look like that guy" completely goes against my goals - guys in tweed jackets with elbow patches and cable-knit cardigans. Sort of like the professor look or maybe an English country gentleman. But, like I said, that doesn't really seem to fit in with my goals! Maybe part of it is that I've always preferred browns, tans, and beiges to blacks and greys.

So, here's the part where I ask for help from everyone and anyone that can help and is willing to do so.

What are the main things that I should be concentrating on getting?

Where do I need to be looking to make sure that I get what I need but stay within my price range?

If you could even just make a shopping list for me, that would be great!

I know that there are tons of other questions that I should be asking, and I have an idea about some of them but just can't seem to put them into words. I'm sure that there's probably also more information that I should be giving you.

Any and all advice and guidance is greatly appreciated, and if I need to give more information to help you help me, please ask.

Thank you very much!
 

Agnacious

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Originally Posted by Irond Will
Pleats are, in general, for fat people and older people. I would avoid them if you're in your early 20s.

I personally prefer the look of pleats with a suit. But I am neither at my ideal weight nor in my 20's.
 

Irond Will

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Originally Posted by ruff_ilb
Anyway, here are some prospective purchases:

Suit:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=230317805596

Shoes:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=130279908041


It's always dicey buying things off the internet. Even if the HF blazer is as advertised and the measurements actually correspond to what you would wear, odds are pretty good that the fit is not going to be great. I made this mistake with a $50 ebay HF suit in my measurements. Great suit, but it doesn't fit, and my tailor is going through heroic efforts trying to force it into shape. It's a handsome-looking suit from the pictures, but $250 seems like a kind of expensive first foray into eBay. Your call.
 

Holdfast

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Originally Posted by ruff_ilb
Preface: After typing this all up, I realized it may suffer from the wall of text effect. I have bolded the important bits below for anyone who doesn't care to read the whole thing.

Hello, StyleForum -

Late in '08 I came to the realization that I am lacking a few style essentials. While I'm unlikely to get pulled over by the fashion police here in college, I've started attending events where my go-to business casual outfit (grey/tan slacks, unaggressive dress shirt, reasonably nice tie, and sports coat) isn't quite cutting it. Even when it is appropriate, some of the items in it are beginning to become a little worn - ties, for instance, are beginning to have that wrinkled, faded, "old tie" look, and hems on pants are beginning to fray. At the same time, I've had more and more formal events to attend (both professional and social) and (after securing a higher-paying job for the summer) a modest but workable budget through which to outfit myself.

This, of course, all comes somewhat tragically at the same time that I discovered this forum: suddenly my deteriorated square-toed leather Rockport oxfords (gasp!) are not the fashion icons I believed they once were. I shudder to think what other skeletons still lurk in my closet.

But I digress - I need to update my wardrobe, and I need your help. I don't have a lot of cash to spend on the project - realistically, around $400 now and maybe more in the summer depending on what grants I can land.

Here are my priorities as I see them. Feel free to offer suggestions on how they ought to be arranged:

1. I need a suit. I do not currently own one, but would make regular use of one had I the opportunity.
2. I need a nice pair of black/dark brown oxfords as a go-to pair with the suit. I have a decent brown belt, but if I get black oxfords, I'll need a matching belt.
3. I need a few new slacks and ties to replace/augment my aging collection.

Some other general comments:
- I'm (comparatively) good on shirts. I have a few nice brooks bros' no iron in several colors, and a wide variety of other nice shirts (most of them brooks bros or RLPolo) in many colors. They're old though, and mostly button collars, which are less formal, right?
- In december I managed to score a RLPolo midnight blue tux for $100 that will fit me with minimal tailoring (I am proud of this snag).

These points bring up a series of questions (this is really the key point of the post):

If you were in my shoes, what would you do in terms of getting a suit? My size is a 41L, but I can fit in either a 40L (a little too small) or a 42L (a little too big). Either way I would have to get the suit tailored (I am a little too tall for a L suit, but XL are hard to find) and it would probably look fine. Most of the stuff I can get OTR at my local Macy's would probably be miserable and overpriced. I'm looking at ebay (I managed to pick up a nice HF Madison Charcoal pinstripe 42L for $230 in 42L for my father), and I'm hoping I can get a nice HF or BB for not too much, as these tend to be the most plentiful options in my price range. Other than a good deal on a HF or a BB suit, what would you look for on eBay (or somewhere else?) I have found two issues with the selection: the pants are almost always double reverse-pleated, which I have always known as a more formal, older style less suitable for young adults and social occasions. Are double reverse-pleated pants appropriate young adults in social occasions, or are they reserved more for the over-40 business crowd? Second, these suits are almost always in pinstripes. My impression is that pinstriped suits are again more formal and (importantly) less versatile - is this correct? I will probably have only the one suit for a while, so I want as versatile a garment as possible.

As far as shoes go, I'm just going to try to pick up a pair of plain black oxfords with a non-square toe. I really do not like split-cap shoes, so they are right out. Any shoe brand ideas for my budget? I see a few AE's get tossed around on ebay (see below) but they're only cheap because they're used, and that makes me somewhat suspicious.

Anyway, here are some prospective purchases:

Suit:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=230317805596

Shoes:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=130279908041





Preface: After typing this all up, I realized it may suffer from the wall of text effect. I have bolded the important bits below for anyone who doesn't care to read the whole thing.

Read the board a bit

Thanks in advance for your help - I'm a new poster here; please guide me with a firm hand.

- Ruff_ilb
My pleasure.



(just kidding with you. No offence, but you'd get much better idea, just by sticking around and reading a few topics.)
 

Tardek

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If you're only going to buy one suit, and will be using it regularly, don't get black - there's only one profession that wears black suits every day. I would probably go with a grey, either light or dark depending on your tastes, with two buttons. I am new here, and I don't know my this from my that, but it doesn't sound like you're looking for (or can afford) anything of amazing quality. I would go to your nearest clothing giant, and tell them what you're after, and let them guide you a bit.

It's also worth taking it to a tailor (they probably won't offer tailoring where you're shopping) and get them to fix the jacket and pants up to your measurements more exactly.

There's already been good advice re: shoes. If you're not looking to stand out though, you can't really go wrong with black shoes/belt - but if you're wearing a lot of tans, and you are, perhaps brown is the way to go.
 

RVAduffer

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If versatitility is what you desire, it's plain fronted non-patterned navy blue suit for you. Add a pair of dark brown captoes, a brown belt and you can mix and match your way to several outfits.
 

whiteslashasian

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Originally Posted by RVAduffer
If versatitility is what you desire, it's plain fronted non-patterned navy blue suit for you. Add a pair of dark brown captoes, a brown belt and you can mix and match your way to several outfits.

This would be a great start for any professional looking wardrobe. Unless you're in pretty good shape (meaning fairly skinny), I would probably avoid H&M and Zara for suiting. I was able to get an H&M suit that fits me very well in "not too fashion forward" cut and design, but I haven't seen that suit on the racks in a long time. The stuff I see now is a bit out there or too freaking slim.

If you want a decent quality and extremely conservative suit, the Merona option isn't too bad. Make sure it's the 100% wool one, the poly blends are crap. I tried one on and the jacket isn't too bad. Pants are a little generous though...

Personally I'd go for either a Charcoal or Navy suit, no pinstripes or window pane. Two buttons and dual vents would be ideal. I think either brown or black captoes would be a good place to start for footwear. You'd likely want to go brand new for your first set of "quality" footwear though.
 

GBR

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Originally Posted by Irond Will
Pleats are, in general, for fat people and older people. I would avoid them if you're in your early 20s.

.


Absolute nonsense: Pleats can look right on anyone at any age and add a tad of comfort to trousers..
 

ruff_ilb

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Ok, got it. This is all just confirming my suspicions on the pinstripe v. plain front - I suppose I'll just continue searching for a plain navy or grey/charcoal suit somewhere. I wasn't going to get a black suit, anyway. I'd still like to hear more opinions on the pleated front.

I'm not too worried about the eBay front - I've gone to local stores and tried on a bunch of suits and in general they would need tailoring. As long as the fit is close, it should be good enough (or is this reasoning flawed?)

Edit: By the way, can anyone clarify the quality of the different HF Lines? I understand that the madison line is the new top line; in particular, can anyone speak to the quality of the "customized for [insert store name here]" line?
 

JimInSoCalif

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I would suggest that you own a plain gray and a plain blue suit before you buy any with a pattern. The difference betwen a suit looking good on you and not is in the fit.
 

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