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Here at Kempt HQ, we often receive letters from our readers—most of it adoring fan mail, but every so often we get an inquiry from a wayward soul that we feel compelled to answer…

“Loyal reader here. I’m getting married in October. Church Wedding, but mainly an evening cocktail party reception. I want a classy 3-piece suit, but am struggling to find something that looks formal enough for a groom but doesn’t make me look like a used car salesman…” —Adam, Chicago

Choosing a suit for any occasion can be tricky, but throwing in an extra piece—and adding the scrutiny of the nuptial spotlight—only makes things trickier. Luckily, dear reader, you’ve turned to the right place. Because we’ve got some guidelines on how to make the right choice, as well as a few good leads.

Allow us to guide you to the promised land of three-piece bliss.»

First, let’s get the basics out of the way: the jacket and pants should fit how you normally like any suit to fit: hugs the shoulders, gently follows the contours of your torso when buttoned, a peek of cuff at the sleeve, slight to no break in the pants… the usual.

Now we can get to the real issue: the waistcoat. It can make or break your entire vibe—essentially, it’s what’s fueling your fear of turning into a used car salesman (or worse, when your jacket’s off: a blackjack dealer). But if well-chosen, you’ll be spending your big night basking in a dapper, newlywed glow. Not to mention, you’ll have something you can use to start experimenting with under an odd jacket or without a tie on a particularly rock-star-esque night.

You want to shoot for something with about five buttons (give or take a button depending on your height—this Ted Baker suit sports a six-button waistcoat). It’s the supporting cast member in your ensemble, so it shouldn’t be stealing the scene when you’re all buttoned up (this LBM number stays very hidden). If you’re showing more than one button above your suit, we’d suggest unbuttoning the topmost. (It’s always fair game to unbutton the bottom one.)

Avoid anything too boxy in the body or wide in the shoulders—you’ll want to give your shirt’s collar and shoulder seam room to breathe on either side (the J.Crew Ludlow line has a good example and is never a bad place to start, suiting-wise). You want the waistcoat to really hug your form—feel free to cinch in the adjustable tabs a bit. If you’re not afraid of a little pattern, here’s a Banana Republic windowpane or this Ralph Lauren glen plaid.

Which reminds us: it should all match (pattern, material, color) for the wedding, but if you’ve got a navy suit that could take a little shot of gray sometime down the road, it’s not a bad idea to think about how you’ll mix this into your existing suiting. (Or even a pair of jeans.)

And don’t forget to brush up on your toast. Cheers.

—N.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Najib Benouar