Advice for Prom – Vest Option

dapperQ recently got an e-mail from Emma who wrote: “Any chance there’s going to be a tux feature anytime soon — what with prom coming up for us little high schoolers?”

When I asked for specific questions, she wrote back:

A general suit guide, I suppose. Jackets, ties, renting vs buying, things you should avoid, and what kind of fit to look for, because most men’s suits make you look like you’re wearing a box under your jacket once you put it on. And tie and shirt combinations, too. Stuff like that.

The vibe of formal wear always bothered me. Everyday wear can be pretty androgynous- sweaters, jeans, those things are pretty interchangable. When you go formal, though, it’s just girl-dress and boy-tuxedo. Given the choice, I’d rather be a little different and stand out (not always in a good way) in a suit than blend in nicely and not rock the boat and conform in a dress. Sure, you’re almost bound to get funny looks and the stink eye but a good suit screams power and confidence and it hardly matters. Also, ties are awesome. And hats. Just my two cents.

P.S. This site is great and He Said/We Said is awesome. Just saying.

Iā€™d love to whip out a tux feature but we are a small group of volunteers and already jammed to the gills with assignments. So I reached out to some of the most stylish dapperQ’s recently photographed by Tiffany (a.k.a. Persia) Bailey at the Capital Queer Prom for their advice. The first response comes from Melissa Shaver (pictured right in a photo by Tiffany Bailey.):

So my advice on the formal wear shopping to be go on what you feel comfortable in. I myself do a vest and tie and never a jacket. Jackets cover my body to much and give off a very square look. It all depends on your body build. I am more of the athletic build, but I like to be able to move my arms and I can’t do that in a jacket. For the shirt I would go with something simple, solid colors are always a good choice because then your vest and tie can match. I preferably chose black because I do not like white shirts (they get dirty too fast). Also with the shirt you have to pick a material that is going to be breathable. I try to go for an off the shelf polyester type shirt. I got my shirt at Burlington Coat Factory.

There’s no need to spend a lot of money I enjoy putting on formal wear so I always make sure I have everything for my full attire. When you are getting your pants you want to make sure they don’t look like hi-waters unless that is the look you are going for. As for the tie you pick, I’m a straight tie, not bow tie. Some people can pull off the bow tie, but I can’t.

When I pick my ties I go for patterns that will ‘bounce’ off the vest color.

For example, I would pair a paisley tie with a black vest.

Formal wear can be hard for some of us to buy especially since it’s in men’s sizes. Go with something a little bigger, so you can get it hemmed to your size.

Our next recommendation also centers on formal wear. If you’ve got ideas for non-traditional looks, please write (hopefully including a photo of yourself?) to [email protected].

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  • I’m probably showing my age here. šŸ™‚ When it comes to formal I think understated and well-groomed is the way to go. It’s a time to let your partner shine. One thing I would suggest if funds are a concern, is spend a little less on your tux (making sure the shoulders and length are OK – these are not easy to fix), then spend the extra pennies on having it tweaked by a tailor. Simplicity only pays off if your fit is spot on. Have a great prom!

  • Hey, thanks for the shout out. (I’ve been living under a rock lately and didn’t see this or the email until today. Ugh.) Jacket is still up in the air, but I think I’m gonna pick up a waistcoat, and see if I can get myself a hat. Cheers.

  • Juanita,

    Totally hear you. I think it is possible to show plenty of individual interpretation within the boundaries of understated elegance. Using social guidelines as a basis for an event does not mean you have to be “some guy”. Mr Seinfeld will always be better known for his humour than his dress sense.

    I think of masculine formal attire as the equivalent of the little, black dress. Yes, some will say it is safe, but, when you look at the many choices that fit that description it can be conservative, sexy, cheeky, irreverent, classic, elegant, or just plain hot.

    I take on board the notion of not leaving a partner to deal with all the fashion responsibility, however, (and I’ve already admitted to being a bit of a dinosaur), I would feel as though I had been extremely ill-mannered if I gained more immediate attention than the person I was escorting. That doesn’t mean that I devalue masculine fashion, just that I would prefer a more subtle appreciation of it.

  • Juanita,

    Oh Dear, am I really guilty of championing “American Psycho”? šŸ™‚ I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that social guidelines and personal flair are not mutually exclusive. I think we will probably continue to have a slightly different view there.

    However, having admitted to some prehistoric tendencies, I would just like to clarify that when it comes to ‘femme power’ I am well aware of it’s potency. I’ve spent a decade of my adult life being taken to work functions (some black-tie) by a partner who was not only 3 or 4 steps up the management ladder from me, but, in the same industry and earning over twice the income. My oxfords have often had to sprint to even try to claim equality, I have been escorted beautifully and with consummate grace, and any genderqueering couple by definition are fabulous, aren’t they?

  • My preference for conservative formal wear is exactly that, MY preference. I may not have emphasised that enough in my comments. I appreciate understated elegance, simplicity and good tailoring. It puts me at my ease in a social setting, not because I am unaware of any other options, but, because it suits my personal aesthetic and values. Because of the gender implications, this traditional approach still turns the ‘box’ on it’s head, and should not be dismissed as tired or conformist.

    Other masculine women find that their own values and aesthetics deem the ‘box’ be kicked right out of the playroom, revelling in bold, statements of individual style. Whether we turn it upside down or kick it away entirely, the transgressive act is that we recognise a fundamental right to do with the ‘box’ exactly as we wish.

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