Formal wear

I have no idea where this is going…just take it where you want…

I was at a dinner/banquet of my wife’s. It was a bit noisy and I had time to observe these people, roughly 30-60 years old. Some were attempting to be formal, but casual as well. Somehow that does not work. Very few people can wear a sports coat with a turtle neck or round collared shirt and look OK. It’s like those guys in 1980 that still wore some kind of gold medal around their neck. Just out of place, wrong decade, etc.

I realize many of you aren’t done with college and have not had your first serious job interview. But at some point you’ll need to buy a suit. I have one, a $300 suit, that I almost never wear. I’ll wear a sports coat, collared shirt, and no tie.

This bunch doesn’t seem all that conventional, and I have a hard time imagining all of you with pictures in the TM page with business suits.

Most of all many feel they never want a suit, yet you have to wear one occasionally.

Women’s business suits I have no real info on, but some sort of bow around the neck always looks ridiculous as part of the outfit.

Anyone work at a corporate office? What’s the requirement these days?

I’m just rambling on…so …comments?

Depends on how formal. My preferred attire runs more to jeans and sweatshirts, or khakis and a sweater.
But for work stuff, it depends on the occassion. For days w/ Council or Board meetings, it’s a dress or dress w/ jacket or sweater. I hate most business suits for women; they look hokey, unattractive and like poor imitations of mens’ suits. That “bow at the neck” thing was an abomination.
The men always wear suits, or good slacks, sweater and jacket w/ a tie. (Council meetings are televised, and we never know when we’ll be called up to answer questions.)
For formal things like a banquet: either a suit and tie or a really good suit w/ a collarless shirt if age appropriate. The quality is important. IMO, formal ocassions are not the times for women to wear business suits. I have a few really good tailored dresses. (Cut me some slack; even the silk one I got for about $30 on sale.) A little discreet jewelery and polished shoes and that’s it. Fussy and froufrou are out.

Hey, it was a huge trauma when I got my first job and had to scramble together a “work” wardrobe. Somehow my beloved collection of Tshirts just didn’t make it. Shop around and get at least one “good” outfit. You’ll need it. Trying to fake it w/ fashion hiccups from last year (or decade) will just look pathetic and feel uncomfortable.

Sheesh, sorry. Didn’t mean to carry on like that…


I work in the General Counsel’s office for a national property and casualty insurance company, and it’s “business casual” all the way, unless we have to be in court or some such thing. Even when I go to Home Office, I don’t pack a suit. (I have a few thousands of dollars’ worth of suits hanging in the closet that I don’t wear much anymore. I save a lot on drycleaning these days, though.)

When I first began practicing law in the mid-1980s, we women wore “clone suits.” Dark, maybe even pinstripe, navy, grey, black. It was quite daring when I bought a red suit. And it’s only been in the last year that I’d wear a pants suit into court, even though it’s high quality.

I always recommend a suit for an interview, though. PLDennison and I disagree on this (you out there, Phil? :slight_smile: ), but I think that you can’t go wrong in a suit, and you run the risk of not seeming professional or businesslike if you don’t wear one.

Thank god we got rid of the bows!


Oh yeah, dry cleaning. This must really be a hassle for all of you that need to be formal every day.

For the interview, wear the suit and avoid making any particular statement. Dark suits may make a few people seem less friendly,more domineering, in some cases. One guy showed up in a suit we all thought was only ok for funerals.

Formal? Formal?! Sunbear, with all due respect, you don’t know what “formal” is.
Until my left arm became paralyzed earlier this year (actually, it had been getting worse for years, but finally reached a point where I could no longer put a half-Windsor knot in a tie), I wore a three-piece suit every working day for, oh, 15 or 20 years. I got called on it (sort of) once; it was gently suggested to me by one of my managers that my habit of so doing was making others uncomfortable on “Casual Fridays” (I swear, many people claim that they don’t care what others think about them, but this was the first time that I had ever heard a claim that they cared what I thought about *myself>/i>). I responded, with a straight face, that on Fridays I wore old ties.
I agree that dark suits may make one appear less friendly and more authoritative; that why I wear black suits when I have a choice :slight_smile: (I’m only 5’6"; I’ve heard of a man much taller and heavier than I who wore a black suit when he really wanted to intimidate someone).
I will agree that one’s outfit ought to be suited to one’s job; vested suits just don’t cut it for machinists. But the advice: “Look like the person who can promot you, and he will”, isn’t bad advice.

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”

Well, yes, we are talking formal rather loosely here. But take into account some of the kiddos here still wear the suit they had for confirmation.
I have no experience with the goddamn rental tuxedoes. If I can, I am attempting to never wear a rental suit. If I need to meet royalty, a business suit will have to do.

You know, not every “serious” job requires a suit. Additionally, most women never have to wear a suit of any kind, even in a more conservative office setting. Usually a nice dress will do. It seems to me that the OP thinks that only snooty office jobs are “serious” jobs. Never mind the thousands of office jobs that allow casual dress, never mind the thousands of “serious” jobs that aren’t behind a desk! I’m probably overreacting, but I was offended.

O p a l C a t

I don’t wear a suit. I even have some uniform stuff to go to hard hat areas. However, if there is an interview candidate I’m supposed to take to lunch, and he/she is dressed for the interview, I would have to put on a tie and jacket. Which I would take off as soon as possible.
Like I said, I have no idea where this is going, but there is no connection between the level/value/etc of a job and the suit.We could argue for ever, but in some jobs they have to have the fancy wear to pretend they can give you some ridiculous bill for their work. Most people’s work is worth $20-80 per hour, no more.

The company I used to work for required that all departments wear business or business casual attire. Not so different from any other company except:

–Most of the business was done after normal business hours.

–Most of the employees were under 25 years old, many of them still in high school.

–Other than dayworking executives, all departments conducted business over the phone.

As the administrative assistant (or whatever the hell my title was…to this day I still don’t know) I had to set an example. I didn’t have to wear a suit, but to go to work in hose, heels, a skirt, a nice shirt and often, a jacket was a pain in the ass…especially when the only people who were going to see me were a bunch of mouthy little Tommy-clad teenaged brats who didn’t give a shit about the dress code.

I rather like getting dressed up and looking nice, but only when I want to. I firmly believe that you’re performance is best when you’re comfortable. If that means that one day you feel like wearing a suit and the next you feel like wearing jeans, so be it.

“Excrement. That is what I think of J. Evans Pritchard, PhD.” --Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

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I come here thinking to see a heated debate between “black tie” and “white tie,” and you’re talking about business suits.

society truly is in decline.

I haaaaate ties. Hate em hate em hate em. If I have to wear a suit (and I reeeeallly avoid it if I can) then I still won’t wear a tie with it.

Luckily, website designers, and artists generally, can get away with wearing any kind of crap. Though try convincing some people that.

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Done the ultra-business thing – heels and stockings every day – and now I work in an office where people might remark if someone showed up in a scuba suit, but other than that, we’re on our own.

In defense of stuffy offices – some of the law offices I worked in had dress codes in self-defense. They found that when they didn’t the lawyers who didn’t have court on a given day showed up in track shorts and halter tops.


I, too, thought this was going to be a question about after five tuxs and the like.

Business attire. When I got out of school (1980) I went to work for an oil company. There and later in my own business, it was, for 15 years, business suits every day. It seems like the majors were the first places I started seeing the old Dockers and rugby shirts, and I had an experience in 1996 that connfirmed a change was upon us.

I had done a bit of work for a sizeable public company and had to make a presentation. This was a major dog and pony show with the CEO, V.P.s and Directors flying in along with their tech folk. There were 12 people in this all day meeting, and I was the only one who was not an employee. I was also the only one in a suit and tie - everybody else was casual. I think it worked to my advantage.

Well, when the change arrives, it’s here. I think I’ve worn a suit ~5 times this year (and my own observation is that women respond positively to a guy in a suit). I still wear dress slacks and dress shirts, and I keep a blazer and a few ties at the office, so I can ramp up at short notice.

I know when I’m in some busy office building, I tend to assume the folks in suits are marketing reps and lawyers.

Some advice if you go to Japan. White ties are for anything very formal, black ties are for funerals. That’s an important distinction, believe me. Especially when you’re in a crowd where everyone is dressed exactly the same way, black suit, black tie, and you’re the only twit with a grey suit and a blue tie with silver bands.
Even if you don’t usually care what you wear, you will feel very self-councious. :-/
I didn’t own anything else. Komattazo!

Only humans commit inhuman acts.

One thing about which I’m curious: in offices with mandatory formal business attire, must one wear his suit jacket all day, or is it acceptable for him to hang up his jacket and go around in shirtsleeves?


What’s you all’s reaction to a guy wearing the following items in the office?

Three piece suit

Watch chain

Cuff links

Tie pin

Tie bar


Bow tie

Suit jacket with only one button

Suit jacket with three buttons or more

A fedora


The suit jacket should be buttoned or unbuttoned. leaving some buttons undone looks …a little funny…

You can always spot the people who sat in their jacket in an airplane. Really looks bad with the wrinkles.

Nah, when I bought my current three-button jacket, people told me it would be best to button the center button only, since that would leave more freedom of movement in the shoulders. It makes sense to me; having all the buttons on that jacket buttoned makes me feel like Pee Wee Herman.

I feel sorry for someone who never dresses up in a sharp suit. Makes you feel niiiice, makes you feel like a badass in the office. Flashing those cuff links at your underlings is a like modern alpha male superiority gesture. Makes the secretaries stumble over their typing.


This is an interesting topic. Here in Alaska, getting “dressed up” usually means putting on your cleanest Carrharts and flannel shirt! I own a couple of three-piece suits, several sports jackets, and a tux. I wear them all very frequently, even though Alaska is considered by many people to be “backwoods”. We have some pretty high-brow cultural events in Anchorage and I enjoy being “dressed to the nines” for important occasions. Okay, okay, maybe you don’t consider a Willie Nelson concert “high brow”, but hey, you gotta make do with what you get! My wife and I attend lots of cocktail parties all through the year and we are members of a few service organizations; suit and tie are de rigueur for those kinds of get-togethers. I work for a big oil company (about to get even bigger) and the dress code for the office in Anchorage is business casual, except for “casual Friday” when jeans are acceptable. I am 52 years old and maybe that explains my old-fashioned notion that one should “dress up” for special functions.


Watchchain, cufflinks, bow tie, would all signal “eccentric.”

Suspenders would mean the guy thinks it’s still 1985.

Fedora? Take your damn hat off indoors, pal.

I have a nice old pocket watch on a platinum chain, which I wear occasionally in my vest when I don’t mind looking old-fashioned and somewhat odd. It’s more “up-to-date” (meaning 1929 instead of 1889) to wear it in your front right pocket, the chain clipped to your belt loop.

I’m in the New York City book-publishing business, which means I can avoid suits, which I detest. If I wanted to wear suits, I’d’ve gone into law or banking, at six or ten times my current income. My professional “look” has been compared by some to that of a slightly down-at-heels prep school teacher.

My day-to-day wear at this time of year is dark slacks, either khaki or wool, a vest or sweater-vest over a button-down shirt and necktie, and a tweed jacket. If I have a meeting I’ll wear leather shoes, but today I’ve got on a pair of those black sneaker-like things they call “walking shoes.”