Just when you think you’ve found a perfectly fitting two piece suit and are about to put tailoring on the back burner for a while, your A Suit That Fits style advisor suggests you up your style and try a three piece suit.
Every wardrobe ought to include at least one three piece suit for those “grey area” occasions in which a two piece suit doesn’t cut it and a dinner suit is too much. When the morning suit isn’t an option, men’s daytime fashion relies on the waistcoat to create an additional layer of elegance and gravitas. The waistcoat itself is also a highly versatile garment that can be used to smarten a suit or dress up a casual outfit.
Here are our top 10 tips for nailing a three piece suit.
Leave the waistcoat’s bottom button undone
Most people have heard of this waistcoat “rule.” King Edward VII (pictured below) is usually cited as its originator and it remains an inexplicable piece of sartorial etiquette today.
The full reasons behind the rule may never be known, but it’s worth following nevertheless. The convention may prevent wrinkling, bulging and stress to the button.
Wear a single breasted jacket
Imagine this scenario: you just ordered a perfectly tailored, double breasted suit with a waistcoat.
When A Suit That Fits calls you into the studio for a fitting, you realize your waistcoat is entirely hidden by your double breasted jacket.
Choosing a single breasted suit will prevent this unfortunate scenario from occurring.
The waistcoat should cover the trouser belt line
Create a long, even surface of cloth from the top of your waistcoat down to your trouser ankles. A glimpse of shirt between the waistcoat’s base and your belt line will spoil this effect.
You don’t want to look like Justin Timberlake below (his trousers are hanging way too low).
Your waistcoat shouldn’t look too long.
When it comes to a three piece suit, your trousers should be fitted fairly high around your natural waist.
This means your waistcoat doesn’t have to reach down too low, avoiding the look of an overly long torso.
Don’t use a belt
If your trousers and waistcoat are fitted correctly, your waistcoat will cover your belt, which may cause unattractive bulging.
Ideally, your three piece suit should be worn with suspenders, if necessary.
Balance complexity and simplicity
The three piece suit is a more showy “look” than the average two piece so it’s recommended you wear your suit with a solid colour tailored shirt and a solid colour tie.
This draws attention towards the elegant layers of your waistcoat and jacket.
Wear a three piece in the colder months
There’s no doubt about it, a waistcoat provides extra warmth in the autumn and winter!
Wear a 5 or 6 button waistcoat
If this is your first three piece suit, it’s recommended you go with the standard number of waistcoat buttons – usually 5 or 6.
A taller, slender man will do well to have a full 6 buttons. Stockier men might benefit from fewer. Talk to your style advisor in more depth about issues that affect your individual body type.
Make sure your waistcoat has a fitted waist
Your waistcoat, like your jacket, should have a tailored waist. This means it should narrow around your mid-section and fit snugly, but not tightly.
Break up the pieces
While I may have criticized Justin Timberlake’s waistcoat and trousers above, you’ve got to give him credit for popularizing the look of a three piece suit. I can’t think of any man in recent years as associated as he is with the look of a separate waistcoat and trousers. While this look doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially not more traditional dressers, for whom it resemble the uniform of a waiter, I still think he looks good in it.
In the Chicago Tribune, his stylist once gave some great advice about breaking up the pieces of your three piece suit: “It’s all about breaking it up: Wear a brown vest with black pants, wear a black vest with jeans or wear a navy vest with black pants. The minute you treat it as more casual instead of as a matching piece of a suit, it will have a little bit more of a throwaway style to it, which is better.”