Christopher Legard, Managing Director of menswear retailer Joseph Turner, shares his fashion tips for men wanting to dress to impress at their next formal event.
From your first suit at prom to your go-to wedding guest outfit, every gentleman needs formal options in their wardrobe. The attire for these occasions needs to be sophisticated, fit you well, and show off a little bit of your personality. So, it’s important to develop a look that can do all of these things — and it’s easier than you might think.
Below, I’ll be sharing my tips for nailing your next formal outfit so you can be confident you look the part at any smart occasion.
Decide which pieces to include
First things first, you need to check whether the event you’re attending has a dress code, as this will help you to determine what you need to wear. If no guidelines are given, you’re usually safe to go with smart trousers, a dress shirt, and a matching jacket. Stick to plain blocks of colour with little to no patterns, as a busy suit can come across as slightly too casual.
You can decide whether to wear a waistcoat or not as both options are considered appropriate for formal events, but wearing a waistcoat means you can unbutton your jacket and still look smart. It can also be used to add a pop of colour or texture to a formal outfit, so search for one that contrasts nicely with your suit.
Get the right fit
You can easily spend a lot of money on a suit, but it won’t look the part unless it is a perfect fit. Too tight can be unflattering, while too big can look sloppy. So, when you buy yours, make sure it meets the following criteria:
- The jacket shoulders should end with yours, not stop short or hang over
- There should be no pull or gaping around the jacket buttons
- The lower hem of the jacket should skim the pocket of your trousers
- You should be able to comfortably fit a flat hand in your waistband, but not a fist
- Your trousers should end at your anklebone
If you’re struggling to balance the fit of your body with the lengths of the sleeves and trouser legs, prioritise the body: you can always get the latter shortened by a tailor.
Develop a colour scheme
If it’s your first formal event, it can be tempting to stick to one colour for all the separate elements of your outfit to make sure everything is co-ordinated. But, if you really want to impress, you should look for complementary tones rather than matching.
Decide whether your suit has a warm or cool tone and choose colours that have the same temperature. Warm colours include red, yellow, and orange, while cool colours are made using shades of blue, like navy. Green, purple and grey can be in either depending on the amount of red/yellow or blue in the mix. If you’re unsure what goes with what, you can compare the items against a piece of red or blue paper and see which they complement the most.
Showcase your attention to detail
Detail can turn even a basic outfit into something special, so you should accompany your well-fitting, colour-co-ordinated suit with some high-quality accessories. Add a touch of shine and luxury with some metal tie pins, cufflinks and jewellery, and sophistication with a watch peeping out from under the cuff of your shirt.
Most importantly, though, what you wear around your neck is the focal point of your whole outfit. As such, it needs to be chosen with care. A silk tie is more wearable than a bow tie or cravat, and you can use it to introduce colour, pattern, or texture to your overall look. Again, try to find a complementary colour rather than one that matches your outfit outright.
Finally, your formal look would be incomplete without some finishing touches. Make sure your wallet doesn’t let you down when it comes to smartness and polish: whether you’re paying for a round of drinks or getting out a business card, you need to make sure it’s as sleek and sophisticated as your outfit.
The tips in this guide can help you decide what to wear at your next formal event. Focus on quality pieces, fit, colour palette and accessories to showcase your taste and impress your peers.