Your Guide to Convention Formal Wear

Convention Week is here, and the packing has begun.  This is always a logistical nightmare.  Will I remember to bring socks that match my slacks?  Did I pack matching belts for my shoes?  Does my tux still fit?   Praise!  It DOES!!

Even though I love an opportunity to wear the tuxedo, formalwear can be tough.  Reputable national renters offer a dizzying amount of options, and several of said options will make you look truly foolish.  Styles change, and I can never keep up with how many pleats on a tux shirt are fashionable and how many are outdated.  And Joan Rivers has made a very successful career out of pointing out to us that not every tuxedo on the red carpet need be emulated.  Especially for our youngest Brothers, who are perhaps donning a tuxedo for the first time, this can all be a little confusing.

So how do we decipher all of this and decide what to wear to the Convention Banquet?  First, we need a starting point.

Let’s agree that, traditionally, the tuxedo consists of a jacket with satin facing on the collar and buttons, uncuffed pants with a satin strip down the side, a white shirt and black accessories.  It is black or midnight blue, and is the most common option worn for events with a Black Tie dress code.

From here, it can get tricky.  So, I called on a friend for some professional advice.

I’ve had the great pleasure to work with Mr. Bobby Gulati of Raja’s Fashions in Bangkok, Thailand on two occasions.  He has fashioned for me some of the most comfortable and best looking suits I’ve ever owned.  You can read about the experience on my personal blog.  Bobby has become my go-to advisor for all things haberdashery, so I asked him a few questions about formalwear to help demystify the situation.  Here’s what he says:

DSC00374

Bobby, what’s the key to looking great in a tuxedo?

The key is being yourself!  Choose a style of tuxedo that most reflects you.  A conservative personality should choose more classic notch lapels.  The fashionable ones opt for peaks and thinner lapels for a more modern look. Try to match something with your date like the bow tie and handkerchief or vest to complement each other. Make sure your hair is well groomed, the garment is pressed, and your nails are clean and well-cut.  We need you looking good when you are toasting your well-held champagne glass with your friends and date.

One last thing: invest in some nice shiny patent leather shoes! It’s the icing on the cake.

What’s the biggest mistake men make when donning formalwear?

Stay away from loud colors and leopard jackets. Stick only with black or a midnight blue color.

If you rent, use a reputable establishment that takes care of its garments and offers contemporary styling.  Get measured by a professional and ensure that the tuxedo fits ahead of time.  But, especially if you’ll have occasion to wear it more than once, buying is a good investment.  You can easily order a nice tuxedo nowadays without creating a hole in your wallet.

Waistcoat, cummerbund, or other?

This should again reflect your personality and the occasion . A very formal occasion calls for only solid black tuxedos and black or solid colored accessories (bow ties, vest, etc). Fancy dress balls call for more fun stuff; feel free to go an extra mile with colors and patterns, but this should be done in good taste.

I have a wasitcoat with the Texas state flag printed on it.  Can I wear it, respectably?

No, not unless it’s a fancy dress ball or you are representing Texas!!  But, if it’s a fun occasion, go for it! You will not go unnoticed, and it’s a great way to approach and be approached.  People will notice it and pass a comment.

What is an acceptable alternative to a tux when the event is Black Tie Optional?

A simple dark suit or black with a subtle black pattern. A black tie or a tie to suit the occasion.

I hope this helps, and will leave you with two tips:

  1. The pleats on your cummerbund face up.
  2. Any member of the Central Office staff or Alpha Tau Delta can help you tie your bowtie.  Don’t panic.

But now I want to hear from those who have been doing this a lot longer than I.  Brothers, what are your tips for looking great this Saturday night?

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