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The diplomat's starting wardrobe

elchimba

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I am 172 pds, 5'8''. I will be appointed a diplomat starting January 1st and want some advice on a basic wardrobe for the Foreign Office. I am based in Peru, where there is a somewhat hot summer (90 F the highest) and a not-so-cold winter (57-60 F the lowest). Thus, I do not need heavy suits and definitely no overcoats.

What should I look for? The diplomatic environment here is conservative but does not frown about some flair. I want to have a versatile wardrobe, that can lead to the greatest number of combinations. Most people here go for 3B SB. I do not think DB would fit in a limited wardrobe.
I will buy everything Peruvian, MTM, but the shoes: I am currently comparing Peruvian with Argentinian.

My budget so far can buy:
  1. 3 Suits: blue, charcoal, grey, all semi-solids, all 11 oz. Two 2B SB, one 3B SB. All half-lined, high gorged, high button stance, taken at the waist, mid width lapels, ticket pockets, side vents (I was thinking one 3 roll 2, but thought it was too flashy when nobody here uses it).
  2. 15 Shirts: only a couple with French cuffs, as I can not afford a wide selections of cuffs right now (I only own two silver pairs). 2 solid whites, 5 extra solids (blue, lavender, pink, grey), 5 striped, 3 more playful. All wide collared, no pockets.
  3. 3 Shoes: 2 black, 1 ox-blood. Cap-toes/wing-tips. I rather not buy browns because ox-blood is more versatile on my palette: blue-charcoal-grey.
  4. Assorted socks (some 15)
My current roster will only add a nice textured white French-cuffed shirt, a grey solid 3B SB Cacharel suit, and so-so black wing-tips. I have some 10-15 good ties for starters, in greens, blues, reds, grey, orange, gold/yellow, black, with plans to widen the collection after a couple of months.

So, the basic wardrobe for the first year would be, adding the new with the currently owned: 4 suits, 16 shirts, 4 pairs of shoes, and 15 ties.
In second year -2010- I will add 2 suits, 10 shirts with French cuffs, silk cuff links, 10 ties, and 2 extra pairs of shoes.
Would you change anything of my buying plans? Anything I could be lacking?

Thanks in advance.
 

JordanH.

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i'd like a blue pin stripe and a charcoal pinstripe. maybe these aren't right for a diplomat. i just think they'd be good ideas. black cap toes.
 

koolhistorian

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Are you going to be posted abroad, or are you starting in the Peruvian MFA?
Generally speaking: shirts, drop the lavender and the playful. Buy whites and blues. Period. French cuffs. Buy silk knots, they cost near nothing, they are very versatile and elegant, invest in a pair of gold cufflinks, plain design (square or oval), monogrammed.
Shoes - black captoe oxfords. You do not need the oxblood. Be aware of the quality, buy the best you can afford.
Suits - the grey one will be useful when you do not need to be very formally dressed, but it needs to be somehow formal - so go for a medium grey. A charcoal pinstripe DB can be very useful - it is the modern form of a morning coat (with a white shirt, grey tie, black shoes). If you are going MTM buy a extra pair of pants for each suit (it will help on the rotation). You will need also a black suit, I know it is not popular with SF, I dont like them very much, but it is necessary (for non black ties dinners, formal receptions, etc). BTW, did the Protocol Office had the chat with you about the clothing requirements?
You should put aside some money for a good pen (Montblanc or Montegrappa), a good clock - if short on budget vintage is a solution, proper handkerchiefs (white cotton) and formal pocket squares (white linen).
If you need more explanations, give a buzz!
 

mmhollis

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I'm a bit confused, if you have joined the US Foreign Service, I would say your in for a life of NOT standing out. Blue and Grey suits are probably the best choices. Solid ties, oxford shoes.
 

trex

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elchimba, I am actually peruvian so if you have any questions regarding anything besides clothing just feel free to ask. Regardings clothes, I see no problem either with the DB or the 3 to 2 suits, in fact I would consider them very good choices. As for shoes I am not aware of any true good quality local brands and would go for the argentina option (much better leather and built). There is however a growing shoe industry in Trujillo where you might find decent shoes and if extremely lucky maybe an old store which makes bespoke, but I wouldn't count on it. I take it you'll be staying in Lima, and even if winter is not very cold it does get very very wet, with several days humidity levels at 100%.

Anyway, if you have any questions feel free to PM me as I already wrote. Hope the info helped
 

elchimba

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Just to clarify:

I am Peruvian, in the Peruvian MFA.
I will spend 2009-2010 in Lima, and between March and June 2011 I will go abroad, to a yet undecided destination. So the questions are for Lima, Peru.

I would not go for the Montblanc because in the MFA of Peru everybody's got one, and most are replicas. I will stick to my thin silver Cross. Thanks on the tip. For watches, I would begin with a Seiko diver or something in that range.
 

elchimba

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Trex:

Thanks. I am under the impression that the 3 roll 2 and the DB are too much for starters. In Lima I have never seen a 3 roll 2, and I think it would be too "noticeable".

Koolhistorian:

No fancy dinners yet, for my rank. So I can skip the whole morning coat/black tie/white tie range. Those wil lcome when I am transferred above, in 2011.
 

koolhistorian

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Originally Posted by elchimba
Koolhistorian:

No fancy dinners yet, for my rank. So I can skip the whole morning coat/black tie/white tie range. Those wil lcome when I am transferred above, in 2011.


Did not said morning coat/black tie/white tie range, just a plain, boring, black suit.A A diver's watch is too sporty for the looks of a diplomat, so go for a vintage slim swiss made one. It looks like a family heirloom, they are classy, and probably you can get one at a very good price.

If you are a junior diplomat (just entering the MFA) you will have to pass trough a training period (Diplomatic Academy) in Lima, and there there will be a "Diplomatic Protocol and Etiquette" course, where all the aspects, including what outfit you are expected to wear, will be debated. There is an excellent protocol manual written some time ago by Amb. Javier Perez de Cuellar, former SG of the UN, when he was, if I am correct, Head of Protocol in the Peruvian MFA.
As far I know, the Peruvian diplomacy, as all Latin American ones, is very much conservative, with a special focus on etiquette and "proper" behavior, so act in consequence.
I am still joking about the diplomatic service as being the "undertaker sartorial brigade" but it is true. The diplomatic life is not a very glam, very sartorial world, but in which "the proper person" (in term of clothes, manners, knowledge of small points of etiquette) is appreciated and adopted, but also the contrary - if you lack those (aside if you are US State Department, then nobody expects you to behave
) you are excluded (saw some times that).
Good luck and godspeed!
 

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