A Question from Angela of Brooklyn, NY for dapperQ: Our wedding is coming up this April and I can’t determine what I want to wear. I wear men’s clothes but I am open to a woman’s suit if that will look best. I am a little stumped as to where to even begin. I wear a size 38 in men’s pants (not sure what that translates to in women’s sizes) and I am a total pear shape. What do you recommend?
dapperQ Answers: I wish I could offer easy answers for anyone in Angela’s position, but I can’t. Like it or not, men’s fashion is all about fit. On this point, magazines like GQ and Esquire are absolutely clear. According to DETAILS Men’s Style Manual, “You could have the most expensive suit on the market and if it doesn’t fit you right, you are going to look like a farmer.”
Seams have to fall on your shoulders, suit jackets should follow the lines of your body, and neither the vents in back nor buttons in front should “pull.” These days, the more fitted a man’s suit is, the more fashionable. Well-dressed men know that even custom suits must be tailored at least twice while off-the-rack suits may require even more attention from a gifted tailor.
For women like Angela who have curves, a man’s suit will be particularly hard to fit. According to Lisa Richards Hone, a DC sales representative for custom shirtmaker J. Hilburn, to whom I turned for guidance:
“The best candidates for a man’s suit or shirt are women who are full around the middle (think 42-38-42), or flat-chested and narrow-hipped (think 30-26-29). If this is you, it will be fairly easy for you to find a something off the rack that looks good. If your bust is full and you are comfortable in an athletic or minimizer bra, this can also help you fit into a men’s suits and shirts more easily.”
It may be obvious but most of us don’t think about how clothes are made, we think about how we want to look in clothes. Lisa went on to explain:
“The way tailors get clothing to fit around a body is by using seams and darts to shape the fabric. Think for a moment about how one wraps a package — the paper has to be folded and fastened to hold to the shape. So, the more shape you have, the more the fabric needs to be cut and folded and fastened to reveal and flatter the shape.”
If you want to hide your curves, rather than accentuating them – you may decide to go with a boxy suit or tux which is also likely to make you look masculine that one that is fitted to your shape. When it comes to traditional fashion guides such an approach is a real no-no.
But you’ve got to decide what is right for you and your genderbending ways.
If that’s the case, be sure to consider bright colors, patterns and accessories that not only make you feel terrific but delight your guests.
If you are open, give the women’s department a go. Take your beloved or pal you trust. Plan on going to several stores over several days, limiting each journey to no more than two hours. Designers I’d try first include Calvin Klein, Anne Klein, Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Pink, Banana Republic and DKNY.
If you are having trouble getting started, decide on one element, like the shirt or shoes, which you want to build upon. Don’t be shy about ordering things off the web, trying them and returning them.
One thing that won’t make it easier? Waiting til the last minute and settling for a look that doesn’t convey your commitment and enthusiasm for this day. I can promise it’s worth the extra effort.