Suiting Up
August 30, 2004 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Do you wear a suit to work?
posted by schoolgirl report to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by eastlakestandard at 6:24 PM on August 30, 2004

Response by poster: If so, I assume you don't have five different suits, one for each day. So what's a reliable coat/pants/shirt ratio? In the event I end up with such a job, I'd like to avoid breaking the bank buying work clothes and at the same time not wear the same thing day after day.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:25 PM on August 30, 2004

I have three suits. I wear one perhaps every three months, just for laughs more than anything else. A few years back, I wore a suit every day for five months, and mostly accomplished this by having a couple extra pair of pants (beyond those that were part of the suit) that worked with everything, a wide variety of shirts, and a weekly trip to the cleaners.
posted by majick at 6:40 PM on August 30, 2004

I don't. I live with someone who does, or did this summer. A lot of it depends on how much laundry you like to do. You could get away with one shirt, practically, if you washed [and ironed] it every night. It also depends on whether you need a full-on suit or just nice coat, nice pants, nice shirt, tie, in which case you can be more relaxed and mix-and-match significantly more. My boyfriend did what I considered pretty much the bare minimum and had three shirts [with an acceptable second-string spare], about 7-9 ties, three pairs of pants [with acceptable second-string pair that would work if you're in an office casual Friday environment as well], two pairs of shoes and only one jacket since it was summer. On the other hand, he did manage to wear the same thing week after week, not that he minded. The secret for us -- not that you asked especially -- was to find the brands and sizes of shirts/pants/coats that fit perfectly and then just buy up all of them you could find on ebay. There's a lot of newish brand name office dress-up clothes there for not so much money.
posted by jessamyn at 6:41 PM on August 30, 2004

get (gradually) two suits for spring/summer and two for fall/winter
one midnight blue, one dark gray
solid white shirts, solid light blue
3 ties one striped one whatever one solid something
posted by matteo at 8:27 PM on August 30, 2004

If you're a woman, you probably want at least six distinct suit outfits so you can wear something different every day of the week, and not wear the same thing every same weekday. Other women will notice if you don't.

Certain less conspicuous items can be worn more than once in your six-day cycle. A nice pair of pressed black slacks with a jacket that you hang up or put in the closet will look very different with different styles of tops (blouse vs. sweater for example). A brown, tan or navy top could be worn with a different pant/skirt and jacket combinations. In theory, you could get away with one pair of black pumps, but having brown and navy shoes is nice too.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:36 PM on August 30, 2004

sports coat. if you have to.
posted by adampsyche at 8:52 PM on August 30, 2004

If you mix up the ties, I doubt anyone will care. Two pair of pants and three shirts will probably last you the week if you wash the shirts on Weds. night and the pants on the weekend. Oh, and no suit is complete without a decent watch.
posted by falconred at 8:58 PM on August 30, 2004

I have to look reasonably presentable when the legislature is in session, but most days that ends at chinos/slacks and a dressy shirt, usually a tie. I have 3 suits - a hugo boss black wool crepe, a donna karan grey flannel and a custom made natural linen suit that i had made in Thailand for about US$200.

If you keep everything as simple as possible - flat fronts, as few pockets as possible, similar cut to all your pants and coats - you'd be surprised how you can mix and match even disparate fabrics. The key, though, is having slightly mod short-cut coats! Long coats are so obviously suity that they can't possibly be anything else. I can mix my paul smith moleskin pants with my black suitjacket, add a white shirt and black tie and it looks better than a tux. Just stay consistent, wear a nice watch like Falconred said, and make sure your shoes and belt are sweet.

I recently had a senator compliment me on my pants in a capitol mens room. That was cool. Being as he was one of the better-dressed senators.
posted by luriete at 9:13 PM on August 30, 2004

You'll need at least two suits, and preferably three. You'll need to become friends with your neighborhood dry cleaner. Some suits can be purchased with an extra pair of pants; this is a good idea, because jackets can go an extra wearing or three longer between cleanings than pants can. Get at least three, and preferably five, shirts, and at least as many ties. White, blue, and perhaps a subtle striped shirt, and ties with colors that allow as much mixing and matching as possible. You'll end up with a fairly small overall range of clothing possibilities (because you've chosen stuff that mixes & matches well) but at least you won't be wearing the same thing day after day.
Wear an undershirt -- it'll help your shirts last longer, and, if you're like me, you'll feel less nasty if you sweat into a fitted T shirt than if you sweat directly into your $50 cotton number.
Buy cotton shirts and get them dry-cleaned, or buy a blends, wash them yourself, and feel less comfortable.
Buy nice ties. Buy all these things at Ross, Kohls, Loehmans, or one of those other stores. They have nice stuff sometimes, for much less than Macy's or Needless Markup.
posted by spacewrench at 9:23 PM on August 30, 2004

Some agreements and disagreements from someone who worked as a consultant in manhattan for a few years and wore a full suit every day:

matteo's advice is good. plan for year-round. a wool suit for the winter. lighter suits for the summer. Also, in cold winter areas, you'll need a formal coat to wear over your suit.

Absolute Minimums: 4 suits. 5-7 shirts (white or a light pattern is best), 4 ties (aim for solids), 2 pairs of black shoes (oxfords will do), many black or grey socks

good advice: undershirts will allow you to wear those shirts again before getting them drycleaned.

High end advice: No sportcoats ever. No mix n' match. No buttons on the collar. 3-button suit better than 4-button. Never button the bottom button. Double Windsor tie knots. Dont use tie clips. At least in my circles back then, designer mattered: Armani/local designer suits, Comme des Garcons shirts, Cole-Haan shoes etc.
posted by vacapinta at 10:06 PM on August 30, 2004 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That was far more detailed sartorial advice than I ever expected, thanks everyone. Some of you must look pretty damn fancy.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:25 AM on August 31, 2004

Ties, ties, ties. They are (compared to the rest of your wardrobe) relatively inexpensive, and rarely need to be cleaned. Same suit + same shirt + different tie = different outfit, as far as most people are concerned.

Second to that, buy lots of shirts. Invest in a few good, high-end shirts, and pad your collection with some stock blues and whites. A suit that "ought to be dry cleaned" can generally get "one more wear" in an emergency, but nothing's nastier than not having a fresh shirt to wear on a hot day.
posted by mkultra at 6:57 AM on August 31, 2004 [1 favorite]

i no longer have to wear a suit every day, but i used to and then, i had *considerably* more than five suits, in various seasonal fabrics.

the problem with drycleaning the pants separately from the jacket is that the dyes will fade over time and eventually your coat will no longer match your pants. you might consider investing in the personal valet. if that's too much for you, spray the pants with linen spray and press them between dry cleanings. if you're not spilling or sweating too much, they should be fine. spacewrench's advice to get extra pants with a suit is good, too, because then coat and both pairs of pants go to the cleaner at the same time.

ties and shirts are more noticeable than the pants and that's how your vary your wardrobe (as a woman, i completely disagree that you should stick with solids), particularly if your suit coat spends most of the day hanging on your chair/coat rack. i adore thomas pink for variety, quality, and style. if you're nervous about mixing ties and shirts, or staying from a white shirt/solid tie combination, talk with a salesperson in a "better" store or take someone with you whose style you trust.

and remember, never button the bottom button of a three-button suit coat
posted by crush-onastick at 7:12 AM on August 31, 2004 [1 favorite]

nope. jeans and t-shirts most days. Polo shirts and jeans if I am feeling dressy ;)
posted by terrapin at 7:40 AM on August 31, 2004

I have to wear a suit and I honestly do feel it makes me feel more professional in the workplace - on Fridays and Saturdays when it's dress down I kick back and mess around (even more than usual).
I have two suits, about 10 shirts and about 15 ties.

I have yet to go the whole hog and purchase a waistcoat and a pocket watch with sleeve holders.

And cufflinks...mmmm...cufflinks...
posted by longbaugh at 9:58 AM on August 31, 2004


I have 10 suits, about 25 or 30 regularly used shirts, 15 of which are identical shirts in blue, white and cream, and a ton of ties.

When I started out dressing up, I just did a few nice, but non-descript suits, and then varied shirts/ties more regularly.
posted by mosch at 10:21 AM on August 31, 2004

An extra pair of suit trousers are invaluable for me. That way, they'll keep up with the wear on the jacket. I wear a black linen suit (very light and breathable, but wrinkles like a bitch) as a pit musician -- when I go on tour or have several performances over the week, the extra pants are nice to have when I can't manage a full suit change.
posted by Sangre Azul at 10:35 AM on August 31, 2004

I only wear a suit occasionally. I only have one. I do have four pairs of pants, including the pair from that suit, and many many ties.

The key is to find expensive stuff that fits, but that you can get for cheap. Shop outlet stores if you have one nearby, or find a store (usually in suburbia) that has a decent discount rack. I never, ever pay full price. For anything.

Another thing to consider is fabric. I wear wool year round, and I don't think it's uncomfortable. (But Portland summers are dry and relatively mild, and I rarely wear a sportcoat or suit jacket in summertime.) I really, really, really like Super 100's. Check the tags at the store, you'll find some that are. It's a particular weave that's more expensive but is naturally snag and wrinkle resistant. When you're jet lagged and travelling and you need to look good first thing in the morning, being able to flatten suitcase wrinkles out of a pair of pants just by hanging them up in the bathroom and turning the shower on is priceless.

A few other points:
- Make sure you don't wear dorky rubber-soled shoes. ... I don't care. They're dorky. Don't wear them. Did you hear me? I don't care how cool the uppers are. Doooooorky.
- Make sure you're wearing tie colors that are appropriate for your complexion and frame. (I'm a skinny little fsck, so I like Hermes ties, which are about a quarter inch slimmer at the widest point than most ties and tend to have small patterns, which suit me better.)
- Ebay really is a good place to shop, but we've gotten ripped off rather badly on there before; buyer beware. You'll find clothes where the hem and lining was roughly torn out for whatever reason, or clothes that are stained and won't be cleanable... but of course you don't find out until you get them...
- When you're building a wardrobe initially, start out with classics and then add stylish touches. If styles change, you don't want to be wearing something that's terribly unfashionable (i.e. square-toed shoes, at least in my area) ... but someone that's wearing something that's classic and perrenial will always get respect.
posted by SpecialK at 11:08 AM on August 31, 2004 [1 favorite]

Oh, three last things occured to me...

Guys: Don't wear boxers when you're wearing dress pants. Boxer Briefs or tightie whities, no matter how horrible they are, are the way to go. Boxers make you look like you're wearing a diaper.

When tying a tie, make sure you have a small dimple in the part of the tie that comes out from under the knot. Hint: Cheap ties won't do this.

And last but not least, when wearing a suit or sportcoat, *a gentleman's shirt cuffs should always show.*(In other words, make sure it gets tailored that way, and wear a dress shirt when you're getting it measured...)
posted by SpecialK at 11:46 AM on August 31, 2004

In my dark years as a suited consultant, putting on the suit used to feel like putting on a coat of armor. Wearing a suit is like dressing up for a part in a play about business. In suit jobs, people make assumptions about what role you play based on how you dress.

That means, most of all, buy suits that you feel comfortable in. Not just physically comfortable (although that matters a lot -- the advice about buying different suits for diferent seasons is definitely right), but also comfortable with the role you're playing when you're wearing the suit. Some people look comfortable in their clothes, other people don't, and that makes more of a difference than the amount of money they spent.

Not having to wear a suit anymore is something I appreciate every day. Sometimes you have to admit that the kind of jobs that require you to wear a suit aren't for you.
posted by fuzz at 1:50 PM on August 31, 2004

I wear a suit to play, not work.
posted by Dick Paris at 2:11 PM on August 31, 2004

instead of ebay, you might try bluefly. the prices are good; customer service is excellent. everything is new.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:56 PM on August 31, 2004

Nope, no suits here - I have a lot of solid colored blazers that I mix with pants and skirts though. Last time I went suit shopping I looked like a flight attendant (minus the cute little hat) and swore suits off indefinitely.
posted by Lizc at 3:04 PM on August 31, 2004

Some thoughts and some reitirations of sound adivce above.

Don’t know if they do this over in the States but here lots of Hong Kong based tailors come over to London for a week or so and hire out a hotel room. You go and get measured up they fly home and run up your handmade suits. Voila – you get Jermyn Street quality hand made suits for about the quarter of the price. Here they advertise in the back of the Times, Spectator, Private Eye and the like. Not sure if its an option for you but it’s worth looking out for – you’ll save a fortune.

At least 4 suits – always buy at least a spare set of trousers as they wear out much faster than jackets which spend the lion’s share of the day hanging over the back of your chair.

New shirt every day. No excuses. Always French (double) cuffs, never, ever button-down collars. Sober cuff links – woven silk knots are ideal and reasonably priced; don’t spend money on everyday links, you are going to lose lots of those little bastards.

Please please please don’t wear shirts with pockets.

Don’t even think about double breasted suits unless you’re quite heavy-set / hefty – for skinnier chaps like me they’re very hard to pull off. Same holds for pin stripes thicker than the width of a needle. Again, unless you’re a barrister, thick chalk pin stripes can be hard to pull off unless your confidence is iron clad.

Four button single breasted suits? Ew. Just don’t do it. And don’t be tempted by designer one or two button suits unless you’re feeling bulletproof.

Get shoes right. Lace up. Leather soles, probably brogues.

Last thought, put some money aside for a good overcoat. There’s no substitute for a good first impression. Best of luck!
posted by dmt at 4:51 PM on August 31, 2004 [2 favorites]

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