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Formal Wear

Tenshi Hinanawi edited this page Apr 19, 2012 · 1 revision

Formal wear is, among other things, a key to looking good, smart, and especially, not look out of place at a job interview, uppity party or in front of your (reverse) trap's parents.

Prerequisite being that you follow the rules, and do not make them, should you be making the rules of clothing, I see little reason for you to read this.

Some parts of this article may apply to more than just formal wear, guess which.

Table of Contents

Men

Thankfully for us men, formal wear boils down to a suit and a shirt, or a much rarer tuxedo, which makes it easy for us to make a neater guide to doing it right.

Shirts

It's been discussed over and over again, but shirts are essential, and here are the basics.

More than likely, you will need to worry about colour and fabric more than anything else- because that’s what most notice.

Fabric&Maintenance

Most shirts you will find nowadays are cotton, linen, polyester, or silk, or some blend thereof. It’s always best to check the shirt label for care instructions- most shirts can be cleaned in a washing machine, but some (silk ones specifically) cannot- so always keep careful.

Most are made with a matte texture (i.e. not shiny), however, many can be found with a satin style. In general, the latter are seen more with darker jewel colors, however, exceptions always apply. Much like colour, the style of the cloth is largely dependent on how you intend to wear it.

Colour,Patterns & Embroideries

Colour

The color of shirts varies immensely. There is rarely a “normal” color shirt- however, in general, colors such as white and black are the most popular just for simplicity. For all intents and purposes, you should have at least one white shirt in your closet.

Only a few safety principles may apply:

  • Solid colour shirts are preferable for formal environments.
  • Lighter shades for darker suits, darker shades for lighter suits
    • There needs to be a visual cut between the jacket and the shirt
  • A pink shirt on a pink man is ugly
  • Try to avoid strong colours such as bright red, green and yellow.

Patterns and Embroideries

So far as patterns go,they are rarely found on traditional dress shirts to be worn with suits. It’s incredibly hard to find a pattern that works with a suit- but they do exist, albeit extremely conservative (such as different yet very close shaded stripes), so be open to the idea. Still, traditionally, plain dress shirts go best with suits. Personally, I’ve only seen stripes work well with suits so far as patterns are concerned, but there’s always room for improvisation.

Embroideries (the subtle, discreet ones) are one of the finer things in shirts, but the result of things is that most of these are extremely bold (and neat), sometimes over the top, and generally hard to find, while such a shirt is good(to a certain extent), reserve it for higher standard events(as long as the embroidery is not something ridiculous). There are shirts with discreet thread patterns in the fabric that often yield good results without too much trouble.

Any and all of these are harder to iron.

Cut

Sleeves

  • have to fully cover your wrists in any position of your arm (as much when your hand rests in your pocket as when it is spread above your head).
  • have to be tight enough when the cuffs are done
    • if they are tight enough this doesn't apply, but loose fitting may do wrong if associated with sleeves too long

Collar

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  • When buying a shirt, unless you plan it otherwise, make sure that the collar size fits you, that is, not tight and suffocating, but neither should there be space to stick more than a finger in it.
  • What you want to do is to mesure the girth of your neck, either, if you have a ruler by measuring it just under the adam's apple, or by asking in store, they should have that.
  • The collar size is generally tagged on shirts, choose the one that fits you best, selecting one the size above if necessary.
There are only really four collar styles you will ever run into:
  • Narrow to medium Spread (also known as “Kent” or “Business”) collars are what you will find on most shirts sold today. These are starched thick collars that range in their distance from the tie knot, and virtually every shirt maker will have a different play on this, but they all tend to look around the same style. More than likely, this will be your bread-and-butter, so stick with these unless you’re experimenting stylistically.
  • Wide (or “British”) Spread collars are not oftenly seen nowadays, and essentially are collars that point towards the far end of the collarbone (and sometimes to the shoulder) rather than pointing downwards, for lack of a better explanation. These are much more popular in Europe than America, but you can get them at good stores worldwide. When wearing a shirt like this, wider tie knots tend to look better (for example: Windsor).
  • Button-Down collars are just that- buttoned down at the ends with little buttons. You see these frequently on more informal oxford shirts and other styles clearly not meant to be worn with suits. They can be worn with a suit (you’ll see politicians do it when they try to be “informal”), but it’s not exactly that style-forward.
  • Club (or Round, Rounded) collars are collars where the ends are rounded off, instead of featuring a point. These are occasionally seen nowadays, but were much more popular in the early 1900s.

Cuffs

Thanks to the “lazification” of society, we can thankfully say that despite various trends that popped up in the mid 20th Century, there are but two styles of cuff you have to worry about:

  • Barrel Cuffs are cuffs that wrap around once and fasten with one button. Most dress shirts nowadays have two buttons for the barrel, which accounts for the odd “34/35″ numbers with most shirts- they are meant for two sizes. These are the most commonly seen, and probably what you will have the most of.
  • Single and French (or Double) Cuffs are best known as the cuff styles that require you have a cufflink. These, instead of having buttons for your shirt, just have two holes, in which you fasten with cufflinks and look pompous. These are actually very fashion forward, but are rarely seen in department stores nowadays.

Matching

Suits

Because a full suit set is better than a satellite one. Note: There are a LOT more styles of suit than this, however, this is covering the select examples you will generally run across in stores. Don’t bitch at me for not mentioning Zoot Suits or whatever. The Single Breasted Suit

Single Breasted

The Single Breasted suit is by far the most recognizable suit, and by far the most popular in society today, with a single row of buttons on one side.

There are some strange variations on the market of suits- many of them are entirely acceptable (and can be worn in many situations), but they do not comprise the “traditional” suit. A few examples:

Three Piece

Three Piece Suits are suits with a waistcoat, which you traditionally wear under the jacket. These are considered a bit more formal, but they are coming into more popularity as of recent. These are often excellent buys, as they allow you to go jacketless (within reason) and still look fully dressed, with more variations thereof.

Double Breasted

Double Breasted Suits are suits with two rows of buttons, resembling more of a pea coat than a suit coat. These are fairly acceptable in many situations, though they often create a unique silhouette that either flatters or harms the image of the wearer.

Tuxedo

Tuxedoes are suits in the very loosest sense, but they occupy an entirely different world, much like tailcoats do. they have unique “rules” for wear and often are much more formal (and much more expensive) than a suit.

There are plenty of other variations upon traditional suits throughout history, including but not limited to “Mao Suits”, Zoot Suits, Mod Suits, Beatle Suits… the list goes on. The long story short on these cuts is simple: don’t wear them.

Fabric&Colour

Fabric is a big player, both in quality and color. Most modern suits come in “business” colors- gray, navy, charcoal, etc.- though green and brown are coming into vogue again. Typically, a well dressed man will have one conservative color (such as charcoal) and then branch out from there. Many suits have a recognizable texture or pattern (such as pinstripes), which are generally acceptable when they are traditional. Most suits available nowadays are made out of wool, though there are strange variations on the market.

Pants

Cut

Pant Style is also a large part of the suit style. More modern suits have flat-front pants, which give a clear cut, modern look. Pleated pants feature a fabric fold (typically in the front of the pants) that allow for greater movement, but also often carry the connotation of being made for larger (fatter) frames.

Jackets

Three Button jackets are by far the most popular of these- meaning that there are three buttons (and the debate still rages on regarding how those buttons should be buttoned). Two Button suits, in comparison, have only two buttons (and it’s generally acceptable to button both of these buttons).

Vented jacket are suits with a “vent” (or cut) on the back of the suit. These typically come in three variations- single vented, double-vented, and no-vent style jackets. Most American styles tend to be Single-Vented, though there is no real problem with going double-vented (or no-vented).

There are a variety of other factors in a jacket. Sleeve Button Style is a player as always, with a varying number of buttons on the sleeve (generally one to four, though it doesn’t matter). Additionally, Pocket Style is a player occasionally, most formal suits having some variation of the flap pocket, though “patch pockets” are also in vogue for more informal suits (mostly just blazers). The recent trend is to have a second, smaller pocket on your right side to keep bank notes.

Cut

Because few run across the opportunity to have a suit cut specifically for them (virtually everyone reading this, including myself, do not have the luck), the suit cut is a very large player. While tailoring fixes many minor flaws, suits still have cut characteristics (referred to as the silhouette) which make the suit “hang” in various ways, so find something that you like. Most off-the-rack suits are made fairly shapeless, though many suits are now carried with “athletic” fits (bigger shoulders, smaller waists) and big fits (big waist, small shoulders). While you will inevitably always need to tailor a suit to get it “just right”, getting something that generally fits you well will save your tailor much heartache.

Sleeves most fully cover the wrist, being of equal length or slightly more than the sleeve length of your shirt.

Shoes

What do shoes say about a man? To your average man, they are nothing more than a comfortable way to get from point A to point B. Shoes are versatile and serve many purposes. Average people do not seem to notice or care about the fashion statement that shoes make. A well-cultured man is not an average man and this should be reflected in his wardrobe. Shoes mean so much more than a means of comfort, they can define a man. A man does not wear a suit with sneakers because a suit is not meant to go with sneakers; moreover, a man does not wear casual clothes with square-toed pennies. It simply sends the signal of bad taste or a complete lack of understanding how an outfit is put together.

The right kind of shoe can say so much about a person and conversely, the wrong kind of shoe can do exactly the same thing. There are essential shoes of every man’s wardrobe. Every man must have dress shoes, fashionable run-around shoes and then the athletic shoes. Every man must have these three pairs of shoes to be the basis of a simple but respectable wardrobe. I believe whole-heartedly that fashion starts from the ground up.

The dress shoe is the secret weapon of well-cultured men. While it might not occur to you at first, dress shoes can go a long way. People notice shoes more often than you think because they can make or break an outfit. Dress shoes come in many different styles and price ranges so I will offer the best variety that I can.

So, to prevent absolute mishaps, I'm going to provide you an all-encompassing guide to dress shoes- from lowly but classy oxfords to the most experimental of shoes.

Shoe Basics

Before we begin talking about shoes, let's touch on the terminology and the basics of shoes- that is, some of the phrases and ideas I'll reiterate in this article.

Dress shoes are largely (but not always) made with two distinct parts- the sole/heel section (typically either rubber or leather) and the top section, which typically includes cloth/leather and all forms of decoration from the toe box to the counter.

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Shoes are typically made with a few key parts. The very back of the shoe is called the counter, a usually reinforced section of the shoe that cups the back of your entire foot. Going forward to about your mid arch is the top line, which is usually the "inner" fabric/leather that includes the holes for lacing. From there, there is sometimes what is called a vamp, or a "strip" of separate leather/cloth running from the mid arch to the top of the toes. Finally, the toecap is the very front part of the shoe, which is also typically reinforced like the counter to resist scuffing and damage.

As for the sole of the shoe, it is typically either a rubber or leather hard part of the shoe designed specifically to be walked on- usually reinforced on the outside and padded on the inside for maximum comfort and durability. More traditional (and often more stylish) shoes will have a heel, either in a standard or cuban variation, which gives the rear of the shoe lift.

Of course, all of this terminology is incredibly vague and applies very loosely- as dress shoes vary with different styles and trends. So, let's do the good old Western thing- divide and categorize.

Styles of Dress Shoes

For the sake of this article (and both of our minds), let's simplify the varied categories of dress shoes into three different styles- oxfords, loafers, and boots.

  • Oxfords (also known as lace-ups) are the most traditional and versatile shoe- traditionally, a leather shoe with laces. Oxfords range from all forms of styles, colors, brands, and even the number of eyelets in the shoes- but in a very loose sense, any "dress shoe" with lacing is an oxford.
  • Loafers are essentially any shoes that do not include laces- the kind of shoes you can slip your feet into easily. These also come in a variety of styles- including monk straps, a form of "buckled" shoes which I include in this category somewhat arbitrarily- but nonetheless are just shoes without laces.
  • Boots are a third category which include shoes that typically extend to the ankle or further. The reason these are generally separated is not only the style itself being radically different but also because boots are typically the only kind of dress shoes you will find that have zippers and, in some cases (specifically Chelsea Boots), elastic.

Toe Styles

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As if the above wasn't complex enough, there are also styles based on the toe style of the shoe. In most stores, once you have decided on what style you have chosen above (boots, loafers, and oxfords), you get the "fun" of getting to look through all sorts of toe styles.

While there are infinite variations of toe styles, they typically boil down into a few core styles- Plain Toe, Apron/Moc Toe, Cap Toe, Wing Tip, Bicycle Toe, and Medallion.

  • Plain Toe shoes are exactly what the name infers- they are shoes without any form of design on the front. Typically, this means that the vamp and the toe box/toe cap are "merged" into one, leaving a very clean and modern look to the shoe- but often the look can be incredibly plain. This is very common in boots and some brands of oxford shoes.
    • A subset of Plain Toe shoes, Medallion toes are shoes with a design on the top- essentially something stitched or punched into the top. These are incredibly rare to find, but interesting- yet often a shade too casual for formalwear.
  • Apron Toe shoes (also known as moc toe- the two are often blended/mixed) are shoes with a separate piece of leather that extends from the very bottom of the top line around the shoe itself, giving the impression of a "crease" (a stiching line) between the top of the toe and the bottom, like a draped apron. These are becoming popular in casual shoes- and when done incorrectly, can be boxy and uglier than sin- but when done correctly, are very fashionable. These are more present in loafers than oxfords/boots, but are found everywhere.
  • Cap Toe shoes are by far the most traditional and fit the above mentioned vocabulary- simply having a "cap" of reinforced leather on the shoe. These are present VERY frequently in both oxfords and boots. Cap toes are essentially timeless style, and you can almost never go wrong- though cap toe shoes can also be boring for constant wear.
  • Wing Tip shoes are found very often in (cowboy) boots and some more casual oxfords- they are essentially a merging of cap toes and apron toes, giving a kind of "wing" effect that extends the cap around the sides of the foot. Traditionally, these contain broguing, which I will explain below. Wing tip shoes are excellent choices like cap toes, but can very rarely come off as too casual for extreme formal wear.
  • Bicycle Toe shoes are essentially apron toe shoes without the very front. Instead of having the leather wrap entirely around the shoe, it only extends on the sides, allowing the very top of the shoe to extend down the front of the shoe in one long design.

Other Common Variations

Just to make this even more complex, there are other variations that can occur with shoes.

Broguing

Broguing is by far one of the most popular features in men's dress shoes. Originally designed in Ireland and Scotland to allow water in the shoe to escape (instead of pooling inside), the stylish ways in which these holes were applied proved attractive and popular. Nowadays, broguing rarely (if ever) extends all the way through the shoe, and usually is simply done simply for ornamental purposes.

  • Monk Straps are shoes that, instead of featuring lacing or the common loafer style, have a literal buckle (of varying styles) on the front of the shoe to secure it to your foot. There's not much to say about these- they work very well casually, but sometimes are a shade too casual for dress purposes.
  • Heel styleare also of issue with many dress shoes. Increasingly, for some god awful reason, dress shoes now vary between traditional heels for shoes (with defined heels usually a half inch or so high) or soles of a single flat piece of rubber, essentially the difference between running shoes and skating shoes. Legitimate heels are generally always much more fashionable and manageable than the "flat" soles becoming more popular. Period.
  • Pointed toe shoes are becoming more popular now for some reason, and generally take cues from women's shoes in many respects. While these are often touted as "fashion shoes", allow me to set the record straight: overly pointed shoes can and will make you look like a clown. Slightly pointed shoes are okay- spikes are not.<
  • Eyelet number and style also can come into play, though this kind of thing is rarely played with (as many brands seem paranoid to sacrifice fit for the sake of look). Some brands will occasionally reduce the number of eyelets in the shoe to extend the vamp/toe and reduce the amount of visible lacing- leading to a much more clean toe. In the opposite direction, some dress boots (rarely) increase the number of eyelets as if to reference military style boots, having eyelets all the way up to the top of the shoe. These variations are generally just personal preference.
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Sole Material is a VERY important topic. While many casual shoes come with rubber soles which can last seemingly forever, many dress shoes (mainly oxfords) can come with a leather sole designed specifically to be worn in clean, indoor scenarios- basically, meaning shoes you can't go tromping around outside in. The latter are, naturally, much more classic and appropriate for dress wear, but it stands to reason that it is sometimes prudent to sacrifice style for the sake of durability- because you really don't want to pay every few months to have your shoes re-soled.

Brands and Locations

And you thought I was done with variations.

As you will no doubt find if you go shopping even in the most extensive of stores, shoes are difficult to shop for- oftentimes, you have to balance look, functionality, and comfort, all while making sure the price isn't absolutely ridiculous for no reason whatsoever.

With that being said, many different brands carry a variety of different styles, and oftentimes, you have to look around to find your "perfect" shoe. Generally, the most popular of brands are names such as Johnston and Murphy, Giorgio Brutini, Bostonian, Steve Madden, Nunn Bush, and Rockport. These names can do very well or very horribly- but it never hurts to check them out. Many designers also have very solid shoe lines- names such as Kenneth Cole (and by inference Kenneth Cole Reaction), Hugo Boss, and many more. Of course, many other designers carry various smaller lines, including Polo Ralph Lauren, among others.

While I would love to provide you an all-affirming answer to the question of where-to-shop, I cannot honestly tell you where to go. I personally have had shoes by various brands, and even though I've loved certain shoes, that does not always reflect well on either the style or the quality of a particular brand.

Yes, it's a pain. So then, what are you to do?

So, what should I buy?

If you are looking for a traditional dress shoe, you are always safe with a black or cordovan cap toe shoe with a nice heel. Black shoes go well with black or some gray suits, whereas cordovan works well with a variety of colored suits (notably blue suits). Look for a shoe that fits well, looks "slender" (no "fat" shoes), and has a very high quality leather- even shoes with "hard&" leather will tame eventually, but cheap shoes fall apart in seconds.

If you are looking for something to wear casually with dress pants, consider classy loafers. No, Sperrys do not count. Be it a monk strap or a traditional loafer, loafers are a great asset to be worn in a business casual setting, and they are relatively low maintenence shoes. Much like the above, stick with a black or cordovan for best effect.

If you want something to replace the "usual" sneakers, look for brogued wing-tips, boots, or other forms of "semi-casual" dress shoes. Dark brown wing tips have a distinct "boot" look that look wonderful with jeans or other forms of casual pants without looking too dressy. Of course, you can never go wrong with a classy black boot- zip boots or chelsea boots, while sometimes ostentatious, have a very clean and interesting line that can be very fashionable, even in jeans.

For more ideas, http://www.wellcultured.com/fashion/124/a-crash-course-on-shoes I recommend you read Daniel's guide, including some great recommendations on the topic.

No matter what you do, though, as I've said before on many articles about clothing, classic trumps cutting edge fashion. While it seems ridiculous to advocate the status quo in the face of change, there are some styles- many of the above I have mentioned- which do not fluctuate over the years and will last you a long time. Shoes, much like coats and other large purchases, last a very long time- dont buy something that will only be in style for a year. When it comes to dress shoes, classic style always trumps trend- no matter how many times modern trends may try to kick it in the shins with spiked heels.

Ties & company

Fabric

Silk ties are generally of very fine quality, but this also happens to be a drawback, as most silk ties are thin to the point where making a correct tie knot becomes difficult, whether it is the length of the tie, or the hold and size of the knot, prefer larger knots for these.

Colour & Patterns

Generally the "colour cut" that is appreciated for shirts relative to jackets works pretty well for ties relative to shirts, which is why you'll often see a dark tie on a white shirt under a dark jacket.

  • On that note you should always have a black tie
  • Unlike for shirts though, you may make a much fancier choice of tie, colorful ties are quite trendy, a single quick google search will show you.
  • Stripes are often done, but solid colour is still a sound choice

Tying

Because you're not a man unless you can make your own knot. Most knots suppose there are respectively a thinner and wider end to your tie. The perfection of most knots is highly dependant on the length of your tie, and as such you will need to readjust them. It is generally accepted that a good tie has the wide end just above the waistband. Drawn explanations and (possibly) videos might come, I just haven't managed to make a clear video example.

A general assumption is that that bigger the knot, the more formal it is, sidenote, the bow tie note is not that big, but a bow tie in itself is much more formal, more for use with a tuxedo (otherwise it might give a barman feeling).

Normal

  • Keep the thin end vertical
  • Make a full circle around it with the larger end (keeping the wider end below the rest)
  • Slip the wider end behind the whole thing
  • Slip it inside the strip that rounds the thinner end from above
  • Pull on it while holding the knot

Windsor (double)

  • Keep the thin end vertical
  • Make a full circle around it with the larger end (keeping in above the rest (inside))
  • Pass it in front of the thinner end and have it make a full circle around itself from behind
  • Make a thrid full circle around the thin end
  • Slip it behind and in the last circle you made
  • Pull on wider end while holding the lower part of the knot

Bow Tie

I won't lie, this is the hardest of the three, so hard I have been stuck trying to find an explanation for a few weeks now.

Neckerchief/NeckCloth

Pinnacle of formality this is, you might see this once in a while in very uppity weddings and the such. The point being to use a very light piece of cloth, such as a silk scarf, and tie it in the way you would for a tie or for shoestrings (as to make a bow).

Waistcoats

Unless you set your mind on a three piece suit, this would be what you want to read regarding waistcoats.

Fabric

Colour

Keep the color as close to that of the jacket as possible, if you are not wearing a jacket, make sure the colour makes a visual cut with that of the shirt.

Cut

Ironing&Maintenance

Unless you are willing to invest in one no iron shirt instead of a dozen normal ones, it has to be done, no way out of this, wrinkly formal clothes will make you look worse than if you weren't wearing any formal clothes, so get started, you're a big guy, you don't need a trap's help.

Material

To GET:

  • Full sized ironing board
    • small ones are terrible and you'd prefer a sofa arm or a covered table to do the task; on top of that large ones fold and take little place thus.
    • A cover for the board if there is not one already
  • An iron, obviously
    • if you're broke, the cheapest ones do the work, if not, you may get one with better features such as non stick pad and continuous steam on/off switch.
  • A sheet of ironing cover "fabric"(not necessary, helps prevent burning and slides better)
  • Fabric starch (not necessary either, better to learn without, makes it that much easier later)

Getting started

Generalities

  • Ironing can be done dry or relatively humid, but not wet
  • If you do not know the settings to use on a piece of clothing, use the lowest temperature and steam and increase it step by step until you feel it is too hot, finer fabrics require lower temperatures.
    • Temperatures too high will damage the fabric and risks leaving burned traces on your iron, making it harder to use for less results.
  • For an easier time, keep the clothes you want to iron on hangers after washing them, they will "breathe" a bit and the fabric will slightly straighten itself naturally.
    • Shirts should hang from the yoke of the shirt (i.e. the shoulders) correctly. While there are always exceptions, properly hanging shirts have the wire (or wood) of the hanger under the very middle of the shoulder and have the shirt tag in the very middle of the hanger.
  • Pants should be hung evenly on the pleats/creases. By ensuring that clothes hang correctly, they will hang better on you (no pun intended)- which is exactly what you want.

Shirt

  • Easiest to fuck up, start with a shirt that is not indispensable.
    • make utmost use of the corners of the board, most will have some kind of use for a specific section
  • check tag for instructions and others
  • set iron on appropriate heat
  • unbutton shirt
  • unfold collar, flatten collar, iron collar, fold collar, flatten collar, iron collar again
  • do one sleeve
    • lay the sleeve flat on your ironing board, set the lower seam on the edge, and use your hand to hold it down
    • iron over the seam only to set it right (and to the corresponding edge of the cuff)
    • pinch the fabric on the other side of the sleeve and pull to ensure the fabric is flat on both sides of the sleeve
      • keep checking for wrinkles and act accordingly
    • iron the cuff
    • pull on the cuff and iron from it to the armpit on the lower part (where the seam should be)
    • then go from armpit to shoulder
    • keep pulling on the cuff while now holding it slightly above the board, slowly slide the iron from shoulder to cuff (with a slight outward movement to set the upper edge)
    • still with the cuff in the air, iron under and then over the pleats
    • repeat on the other side.
  • continue through the shoulders to the other sleeve
    • transition is easier when done on a corner or the smoothened-edge square part of the board
  • take care of the back
    • flat on the board, what else
  • do both the front sides

Pants

Pants, unless pleated, are relatively easy to Iron, as the legs make up for most of it.

  • Hold your pants by the bottom so that all seems on the legs are touching
  • lay them flat on your ironing table, keeping the seams as much as possible together along the pants
    • you can either do both at the same time, or leg by leg for better results
  • In both cases, start from the tip of the pants, press it strongly and with a lot of steam to set the fabric the way you want
  • then hold the tip and gradually do both sides of the seams from bottom to top
    • leave a certain space on the top, it'll be harder to deal with
  • once you are done with that, take all the pockets inside out and iron them
  • keep the pockets out and spread the top of the pants on a corner of the board so that it lays (partially) flat and iron it, shifting it if necessary.
  • put the pockets back in

Ties

Ironing a tie is nothing short of a detail, unless you treat your ties like a goat treats its se.cx, you won't need to do that, now if you do, here's how you're supposed to do it.

  • set the iron to low temperature
  • or set it higher and use a piece of fabric (napkin) between the tie and the iron to prevent burning
  • use a bit of steam, but keep it low.
and you're done!

Waistcoat

While not quite recommended, it isn't too dangerous to iron waistcoats yourself.

All you are required to do is (beside moving the back strap out of the way) to keep the edges ironed sharp, and then the flat surfaces are easy; you might, however, have seams in the middle of the front (and possibly back) of your waistcoat, in which case you will have to iron following the threading (to prevent regular wrinkles from appearing around them), and then go towards the sides.

Women

A Crash Course(for now)

Generally speaking, men have it easy: there is one acceptable form of dress for various levels of formality, and it boils down to {trousers:shirt:tie}, whether that’s chinos->oxford shirt->necktie or tuxedo. Women’s clothing is a great deal more tricksy, simply because it’s FAR more open-ended. Depending on the situation, trousers, a skirt, or a dress could all be equally acceptable, and there are literally dozens of different styles of each. Here are some hints:

The Basics – The Three Golden Rules

To begin with, there are 4 basic traits to any piece of women’s clothing: shortness, tightness, revealing-ness, and flashiness (which encompasses things like bright colours, loud patterns, spangles, sequins, etc, and all things frou-frou (for a working definition of frou-frou, find any picture of prom dresses from the 1980s)). The #First Golden Rule is this:

    • Unless you know EXACTLY what you’re doing, for the love of sweet Raptor fucking Jesus, pick ONE of these traits per item/outfit!
    • If the item/outfit in question is not particularly outstanding in any of these traits, you can probably get away with two (i.e. a short tight dress, or a tight revealing top, or a short flashy skirt).
    • DO NOT wear an outfit composed of entirely items that meet these rules – if you’re going to wear a tight revealing top, don’t wear a really short or really flashy skirt. You will, in many if not most cases, just look cheap, tacky, and/or skanky. This is particularly true if the items in the outfit clash or have incompatible flashiness (gold lame and fur, for instance).
  1. The Second Golden Rule is this:
    • Context shapes the acceptability of your outfit. Ignore it at your mortal peril.
    • For instance, an outfit made up of a very short skirt and tight revealing top might be perfect to go clubbing in. It would probably not be acceptable to wear to work, and almost certainly NOT acceptable to wear to a funeral (unless you have WAY cooler friends-and-relations than I do!).
    • The following rules assume that you work a relatively normal, people-facing job in a service industry. Obviously, if you work as, say, a belly-dancer, an actress, a model, a lounge singer, a stripper, or a prostitute, the standards of acceptable dress are very different.
  2. The Third Golden Rule:
    • Find clothing styles that suit YOUR OWN body: get a friend or personal shopper to give you advice if necessary.
    • Don’t buy/wear something just because it’s fashionable, you pathetic sheep.
    • Women’s clothing varies wildly in cut and style: not every style will suit the shape of any particular woman. #*For instance, “Empire-style” waists are just below the breasts (think of the film version of a Jane Austen novel): women who have ample bosoms will NOT look good in an Empire-waisted dress. If you don’t already know your body shape, find out. Ask for honest advice from a friend you TRUST, or hire a personal shopper to give you some advice.
    • Dress to emphasise the good points of your figure and minimise the bad ones: the idea is to produce a silhouette that’s relatively balanced. There are a wide variety of books and websites that can help you do this – go google “Trinny and Susannah” or “Gok Wan” as a start (NOTE: yes, all three of them are annoying as fuck. They have a point, however).
    • The “house style” of different major stores flatters different types of women. If you can, go on a shopping trip with your trusted friend. Take note of which stores sell lots of stuff that looks good on you, and SHOP THERE.

Clothing for work

My first job in the public sector, I was told that the dress code was, “Don’t come naked”. This is true, and often useful, but really doesn’t cut it.

For work, the ideal is to dress in a way that’s comfortable for whatever you’re doing, makes you feel/look good, but that also doesn’t look out of place with your colleagues/get you in trouble.

Obviously, if you are a student, working outdoors, in a highly casual environment, or where you aren’t dealing with the public, you may be able to get away with wearing jeans and a T-shirt (as, for instance, I could in my first public sector job on Fridays). If this is the case, your clothes MUST be ABSOLUTELY clean and well-maintained – no throwing on the ratty jeans you painted the house in or the ripped T-shirt you went on the piss in the weekend before – and, ideally, pick up some plain T-shirts rather than T-shirts for band tours or uni orientation or something.

  • In fact, your clothes ALWAYS have to be clean and well-maintained: consider learning how to sew, at least to put on a button or mend a tear.
Most people, however, will be working in a job where they deal with people outside their immediate colleagues. In that case, you will almost certainly have to wear something more formal than jeans. Some tips:

Unless you work in one of the jobs mentioned above, it is NEVER acceptable to show the following at work:

  • undergarments (other than a bra strap)
  • your breasts
  • your midriff (belly buttons and a couple of inches either side of it, if you’re unsure)
  • significant amounts of thigh (if you’re flashing people when bending over or sitting – NO)
Basically, not everyone is going to want to see your tits/ass

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