I dress like it's 1999.
July 21, 2007 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Help me dress like a (stylish) adult.

I'm turning 29 in less than a week, and one of my goals for the next year is to finally solve my wardrobe problem. A typical outfit for work or play is an ill-fitting pair of jeans, a polo or t-shirt, and sneakers. I sometimes feel like I should be wearing a backpack and eating ramen noodles. Basically, I just want to look grown up, sophisticated, and a bit stylish.

One of my problems is that I'm 5'7' and kinda skinny. Finding nice-fitting clothes is a big problem, but I know there must be stylish 5'7' guys out there! Where do they get their clothes?

Help me put together a wardrobe. Links please.

posted by mpls2 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Gap for jeans. My assistant's boyfriend is a navy officer, and he's *tiny*. His waist is 27 inches. Gap generally stocks jeans in his size and he never has a problem with fit.

Polos are fine and can look stylish, but you should also add some long-sleeved striped shirts (cliche, I know, but... there's a reason for that.) Get stretch t-shirts in various colors that match long-sleeved shirts. For play, you can also pick up pairs of more inexpensive wool pants (not pleated, no cuff) and wear them with a polo or a buttondown shirt.

By far what will add the most to your wardrobe is a nice pair of shoes when you go out. I'm pretty partial ... but can't seem to find any online -- to the sneakers that look like they could double as dress shoes. Indoor soccer type nubby plain rubber sole and leather uppers.
posted by SpecialK at 11:06 AM on July 21, 2007

If you've got money you could get an image consultant, or if you know someone who knows about fashion you could get them to help you. I find that buying different clothes and wearing them for a while is the only real way to figure this stuff out. You are right to start with making sure the clothes fit properly. People spend a lot of time on their looks and it shows. People that don't spend a lot of time on their looks, well that shows too.
posted by dino terror at 11:08 AM on July 21, 2007

Along with the Gap suggestion, you should browse Banana Republic. Their men's line is consistently trendy and fairly well-rounded (good for work or play), and as long as you're not shopping off the bargain rack they'll send off your purchase for adjustments at no extra charge.

I've got a couplathree inches on you in both directions, but I have trouble finding stuff I fit into there—no trouble finding stuff I like, just stuff I like that fits my rotundity. They seem to target the slim hips/no sidelove crowd.
posted by carsonb at 11:18 AM on July 21, 2007

I'm 5'2", so I feel your pain regarding ill-fitting clothes. I never buy clothes that aren't on sale and invest the difference I would have paid in alterations. For under twenty-bucks an item, you can usually have sleeves taken in, pants altered, etc. It's a little more expensive to alter a blazer or suit jacket.

My wardrobe assembly goes as follows:

1. Get ideas from The Sartorialist and anyplace else that strikes my fancy. For instance, I like the way Steve McQueen dresses in Bullitt.
2. Taking inspiration from these sources, I shop around for bargains on pants, button-down shirts, and shoes. This will take some time; men our size cannot put together a wardrobe overnight.
3. Take the shirts and pants to get altered by a reputable tailor. This is the most important step.
4. Pull it all together with a blazer. J. Crew's blazers will probably fit you pretty well; I usually have to pay a fortune on alterations.

Good luck.
posted by viewofdelft at 11:19 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wannabe stylish 5'7" guys unite!

I've had great success with H&M - there's one in the Mall of America - which offers relatively low-cost, trendy/designer-knockoff garb for non-Abercrombie-sized guys like ourselves, but the quality of the clothes there is not exactly L.L. Bean level - some of their pieces are designed for one or two seasons. In some ways, I think it's better to keep cycling new pieces in and out, and I've got a couple shirts and pants from there that have lasted years. The Mall of America also has a Nordstrom Rack, which is where I get my suits and more dressy work clothes, as well as many of my shoes.

Zara is a little edgier but also a little nicer than H&M; there are only fifteen stores or so in the US and none in the Midwest, though. There's also a Canadian chain with some very sleek duds called Tristan and America, but the closest ones to you are in Toronto, though they've opened stores in NYC and Boston.

My secret fashion stop, though, is Target - for really basic pieces like jeans and collared shirts, they've recently upped the style quotient in the men's department, and since you're in Minneapolis, I assume they're everywhere. If you've got a more stylish "feature piece" your wearing that day - a hat, a jacket, a tie - it's perfectly OK to let the other parts of your outfit be a little more mundane, while not dropping the ball entirely.

A few other fashion tips:

- If your jeans and khakis are more than a few years old, I'd suggest donating them - other fabrics, colors, and weaves for pants are eagerly awaiting your perusal.
- Don't be afraid to spend money on quality, if it's something you know you'll enjoy and wear for a long time, like a nice pair of shoes.
- Don't neglect upkeep! Wash on delicate, remember to iron, that kind of thing. Do be wary of buying dry-clean only clothes, though, unless you're prepared to actually dry-clean them.
posted by mdonley at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

Always, always, always try clothes on before buying. Sizes differ from store to store, plus different styles and shapes look better or worse on different shaped people.

Ask the salespeople for help - if you are afraid they will just say everything looks good, don't try something on and then ask if it looks good, instead just approach and ask them for suggestions on what would look good on you. Better advice can often be had from better stores where the staff are full-time (ie not surly teenagers working the weekends only). I'd suggest an upmarket department store (bloomingdales or something), and then take that advice away to other stores and use it. Don't be fooled into buying what's trendy, buy what suits you best, and will last a while. Spend money on fewer good quality items, instead of lots fo cheap stuff.

I personally suggest dark jeans, match sock color to shoe color (or close anyway), no white sneakers with jeans (so 1980s), buy some nice shirts and get them tailored if you need to. Shirts can be worn casually over a plain t-shirt, or buttoned up for a nice dinner out.
posted by Joh at 11:38 AM on July 21, 2007

I've hard the tailoring advice before. What specifically can a tailor do, besides making something shorter?
posted by mpls2 at 12:05 PM on July 21, 2007

but the quality of the clothes there is not exactly L.L. Bean level

No kidding. I tried on a winter jacket there once last year--I was picking bits of cheap fluff off of myself for the rest of the day.

The "usual suspect" department stores have staff on hand who are just waiting to advise you on a proper fit--you could make their day by asking.

A lot of midrange polos, dress shirts, etc. are just rectangular flour sacks with sleeves. Ask about particular brands or lines that might be more fitting for your frame.

For casual stuff, Hollister (MOA and Rosedale) tends to have better-fitting items at relatively reasonable prices, although they're another place where you should glance at the stitching for a moment before buying--some of their stuff is cheaply made as well.
posted by gimonca at 12:17 PM on July 21, 2007

mpls2, though I'm a pretty average size (athletic, medium everything), I always use a tailor (my dry cleaner) for nicer items:

For dress/suit pants, I have him match the waist perfectly to mine (belts are not actually supposed to hold your pants up; they're decorative (but required) items) and the pants to my legs (apparently one of my legs is about an inch longer than the other; I've since noticed that a lot of people don't realize that their legs are mismatched).

For suit jackets/blazers, I'll find things when they're on sale, make sure the shoulders fit me, and then have my tailor adjust the sleeve lengths if they're not quite right, and perhaps take in the sides to match my figure. I just bought a tuxedo, and though it fit well enough when I bought it, having the jacket tailored to me made it look like amazingly sharp.

A tailor can also turn a baggy (that is, normal) dress shirt into a fitted, very good looking one. Since you're slim, I think you might get a lot more mileage out of having your shirts tailored than you realize. (You might just try buying slim-fitted shirts, though I haven't been very satisfied with them.)

Some tailors charge a lot for their services, so be sure to call around first.
posted by J-Train at 12:20 PM on July 21, 2007

I don't know about the gap for jeans. ill-fitting most often means they look like a sack of rice around your behind, a place few guys but nearly all girls seem to look at.

going to a place like nordstroms will run you a bit more. think $140 for a pair of great designer jeans. you can make sure they fit you just right regardless of length because the alteration is included in the price. this way they only have to stock a few lengths. I realize you can get a decent pair of jeans at the gap for a lot less but hey, how many of those are you going to buy and how long to they last? this is an elemental item of your wardrobe that I'd prefer to do right.

another jeans place to consider: lucky. get them to assist you, those people tend to be tuned in and very nice.

the gap, banana republic and alike stores are great for basics. get a bunch of simple black or white t-shirts there. the kind of stuff that you normally would wear below a dress shirt but could get away with wearing by itself as well. I think they charge $10 for them. banana republic is great for relatively cheap but well-cut button-down shirts.

think about shoes. consider a pair of nice sneakers, cole haan seems to make a lot of stuff that looks well both in a social and professional setting. browse a couple mags like gq and look at whether you like the general style. the stuff you will see will be most likely cost prohibitive but it should give you and us a better idea of what you like. it's not difficult to find something like that at lower prices at a place like (here I go again) nordstroms. come to think of it - they are in deed very solid and a good place to start.
posted by krautland at 12:22 PM on July 21, 2007

Every body is different. From belly-button to ankle, from hipjoint to knee (and from balls to knee), from neck to shoulder and so on, no two bodies are exactly alike. Same for girth. Every 28" hem doesn't necessarily have a 36" waist. A tailor takes these things into account. Retail clothes are generic tubes your body has to adapt to; tailored duds are tubes made to fit and accomodate your entire body.
posted by carsonb at 12:28 PM on July 21, 2007

If you want to look like a grown up, in addition to some of the good advice you've gotten here:

1. Spend good money on a quality pair of jeans. Don't go to the gap. Go to a boutique. Spend the money. It pays off.

2. Get a nice watch.

3. Get two really awesome pairs of shoes. A pair of Camper or something similar for fun, and then a pair of dress shoes.

This is stuff that you can wear with any of the other stuff you have around, and it will make you look like a grown up. I would also recommend not buying crappy fabrics like polyester or rayon. Treat yourself to a cashmere sweater. I know it's summer, but you can get a good deal right now, and it will pay off in the winter.
posted by bash at 12:43 PM on July 21, 2007

I'll leave the specifics to others and offer only this: Get clothes that fit well, and allow you to feel confident.

Nothing is more attractive and "grown up" than confidence.
posted by The Deej at 12:57 PM on July 21, 2007

My standard answer: Check out StyleForum, both the Streetwear and Denim and Men's Clothing forums, and especially the "What are you wearing today?" threads in each of those.

(And do check the archives, this comes up here a lot.)
posted by mendel at 12:59 PM on July 21, 2007

Armani Exchange, The Limited, Sisley/Benetton and Club Monaco all sell men's clothing in waist sizes down to 28" and S and (usually) XS for shirts with narrow cuts.
posted by xo at 1:04 PM on July 21, 2007

Oh, another bit on tailoring: a tailor can take the seat (rear) or stride (crotch) in to keep the pants from looking saggy.
posted by J-Train at 1:05 PM on July 21, 2007

How do I find a good tailor? What's the lingo? Anybody know a good one in Minneapolis?
posted by mpls2 at 1:19 PM on July 21, 2007

Because you're smaller, look for shops that stock European cut clothes (or literally are European). Many higher end stores will have tailoring available or recommend a tailor. Oftentimes tailors will also offer a discount for those referrals.

Along with large retail and chain stores, Minneapolis is a great place for unique clothes. Stroll around Uptown and see if anything strikes your fancy. Take a female friend along to give you pointers/honest critiques (or a guy friend, but in my experience they're generally not into serious co-shopping).

Tips for looking like an adult:

Layering. Keep your t-shirts, but put a v-neck sweater or a button-up over them. And in the fall, rather than a hoodie, put on a corduroy blazer.

Vary your shoes. Don't be afraid to try new things (even if they look uncomfortable).

Buy a real watch.

Don't wear white athletic socks for anything other than exercise.
posted by B-squared at 2:20 PM on July 21, 2007

since you're in Minneapolis, I assume they're everywhere

They actually originated in Mnpls I believe.

What a tailor can do is shorten length in body and sleeves on a shirt, and narrow anything with a center seam. If the item has a one-piece collar, they cannot narrow the item (e.g. most shirts) jackets and blazers are in some ways the easiest to alter, because they have so many pieces, you can basically change the shape.

Find a nice little Chinese/Korean/choose your immigrant laundry and have the grandma there do your alterations for you. WAY cheaper than the store and just as good quality. Plus, probably faster.
posted by nax at 3:09 PM on July 21, 2007

Re: jeans - Gap jeans are great but the cut of the jeans matters. I would recommend a boot cut. Also go for a darker denim if possible, steer clear of the really light blue (or really faded) types.

Banana Republic and Hollister are good suggestions. You can buy nice casual button up shirts and wear them untucked with jeans with the arms rolled up to the elbows. Very casual and I think a really good look on men. I like cargo pants as well for a more casual look and I know you can get good looking ones for cheap at Old Navy.

Sweaters over a t-shirt or button up shirt is also a look I like (but make sure that the shirt you wear underneath peeks out of the bottom of the sweater a little bit). I don't know how they are for the past couple of years, but J Crew (Southdale and MOA) used to make the absolute best thick cable knit winter sweaters I had ever found.

Stay away from tennis shoes unless you are exercising. There are so many stylish, comfortable men's shoes out there - DSW Shoe Warehouse is a good place to start for shoes. Obviously Nordstrom at the MOA is good as well.

There are tailors all over the place. One that I can remember using was out in Wayzata, which is probably too far, but if you look in the yellow pages under "tailor" you should be able to find one. I think most dry cleaning places have one as well. If I am remembering correctly, there is a dry-cleaner tailor I have used on Lyndale Ave, kind of across the street from the Leaning Tower of Pizza (25th or so?) and next to a garden store. Don't know if they're still there though.

I wish I were still there and I'd help you! I love taking friends shopping! Good luck!
posted by triggerfinger at 2:38 AM on July 22, 2007

I'm a dude that's about an inch taller than you (somewhere between 5'8" and 5'9"), quite skinny (about 135 to 140lbs at the moment), and in my 20s. Hopefully this relates.

I find most of my clothes at Banana Republic. I also have a lot of Gap stuff and some J. Crew stuff as well. I've found that Banana Republic's clothes fit me the best. There are others, of course, but I usually stick with these usual suspects.

The Gap can have some good stuff, though I don't think their colors and styles are as good now as they were a few years ago. I think their dress shirts can be nice, however, you might need to go XS. I have them in S and if they were any longer, I wouldn't wear them untucked. Since they are dress shirts, they have a longer shirt tail to keep them tucked in. Their casual shirts (still button up) do not have as long of a shirt tail. So you will have to try them on. Unfortunately, the Gap does not sell XS in their stores. The Gap's sweaters, on the other hand, would probably be ok in a S.

With J. Crew, I've found that at my size, in general, their smalls are too small in the neck hole (for sweaters) and arm length, but their mediums are too wide in the shoulders. Since you are shorter than me, their smalls may be a good fit for you.

But like I said, I prefer Banana Republic to the aforementioned Gap and J. Crew. I've found they size smaller than the Gap, but I still go for their smalls. I think they would fit you well also. You can't really go wrong with most anything they sell.

I concur on the layering. I think layering is the easiest step to looking more stylish -- you have sweaters and you have shirts so wear them together! Start out with the sweater over a collared (button up) shirt look. A white button up will work with pretty much any sweater. Prefer V-necks to crewnecks for layering.

But for style, color is always more fun. Try to match a color on the sweater and the shirt or complementary colors (e.g. I wear a green shirt with a purple sweater). In general, I find it looks best when only one of the sweater or shirt is patterned, unless the pattern is subtle (e.g. pinstripes on a shirt). Once you have established a large enough wardrobe, you will be able to have a lot of fun with this.

I don't agree that the shirt necessarily has to be peaking through the bottom of the sweater though. The key phrase in triggerfinger's post is "a little bit." I'd would say "just barely" (look at the model). I think it looks fine if the shirt is not seen coming out from the sweater though. Don't be afraid to unbutton the cuffs of your sleeves and flip them up over your sweater either. It can add more contrast to the outfit than just the collar/sweater color contrast.

For more layering, get a nice tailored blazer (look at the models). Also check out vests -- both the suit vests and sweater vests (not the Chandler vest and not from the golf section). Don't forget ties with the sweater or dress shirt option. You can really have some fun with the pattern and color combinations.

Slight diversion: some people say sweater vests are old man, but I'm not an old man! They're my favorite piece. I usually get argyle ones (start at the 6 min mark) and I get them from Banana Republic, not in the golf section. They're not Chandler vests (button up), either. I always wear them with a button up shirt and sometimes with a tie too. As with everything, it's all about how you wear it!

I concur on the boot cut and not just for jeans! I wear boot cut everything. I have at least one of blue, green, brown, stone, acorn, and gray pants all in boot cut. I just think it looks way better on me. Since you are thin, boot cut will work. Never, never, never tapered. Straight leg is fine if you prefer it, but make sure it is not baggy. Baggy clothes on a thin person makes you look like a kid that hasn't grown into his clothes yet.

Definitely for jeans go for boot cut and a dark wash. I don't think the store matters that much. Just because it's a designer jean doesn't mean it will fit your body type. It might, but it might not. Try on many pairs. I actually do like the fit of Gap jeans. Also, I would stay away from tucking anything into your jeans.

Definitely get some nice, modern shoes. A brown (or black) shoe that can double as business casual and casual is a good piece to have. I like Steve Maddens for this (pairs without laces). There are other brands, though. A non-athletic pair of sneakers is nice to have as well. Others have mentioned ones from someone like Cole Haan. I actually like Puma, myself, though they are not as dressier obviously. Color is the key -- never plain white. My favorite pair right now is olive green accented with orange. I like suede better than leather also if you want something like a Puma. I think they add a lot of style to a casual look.

Think about adding a nice pair for flip flops too for summer outings. Go for leather or nubuck, which is nicer than any sort of rubber.

The Chinese grandma comment is funny, but true in my experience. My mother is not a grandmother yet, but she does do an awesome job of tailoring.

You might also want to consider getting a new, fresh, modern haircut. That can make a lot of difference too. Ask a friend who is a girl with a modern cut where she gets her hair cut and for recommendations on your cut also.

If you wear tshirts, stay away from ones with funny pop culture references on them. I think they are fine, but if you are trying to look more adult, stay away from them for now. Go for a graphic tee that is more artsy-fartsy.

You can look fine if you get the basics and make sure they fit you well. Being stylish for me, is part the confidence that others have mentioned and setting yourself apart from the pack (subtly, usually). For example, these things are not weird, but they're not exactly what everyone does.

Boot cut pants!
French cuffs with nice cuff links!
Color! (Not just the boring greens, blues, and neutrals!)
Patterns! (Argyle is awesome! Pants with pinstripes!)
Fun socks! (I match my socks to my shirt!)

By wearing what you wear with confidence, you will look like you know what you're doing, and eventually, you will know exactly what you are doing. You'll develop your own style. You'll feel awesome. People will look at you and you will like it. Keep your head high! Good luck!
posted by mathlete at 10:13 AM on July 22, 2007 [5 favorites]

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