The fashion game for prom suits used to be pretty simple. Guys sweated it out over getting the date. They saved up for tickets and dinner, then maybe even threw in a limo if they really wanted to make an impression.
Ladies were the ones who had to stress over getting just the right dress and the gentlemen, well, it was our job to borrow dad’s suit, pull out our old one, or rent a tux for the night. Traditional black and white was the status quo and of course, either the class clown or the surefire prom king would make a statement by wearing a white tux.
Those days are long gone. Now it’s every man’s task to show up to prom in a style unique to him and only him. Taking a fashion-forward approach with standout colors and patterns makes prom a lot more fun for young men today. You get to pick out your style, not show up in a uniform that’s expected of you. In fact, I’d argue the pendulum has swung so far toward fashion-forward, non-traditional suits on prom night that pulling off a classic look (and doing it right) is now the way to truly stand out in the crowd.
So, with that all in mind, you’re still stuck with the same questions that brought you here:
"What Should I Wear to My Prom?"
Let’s get the most important thought (or advice to remember out of the way): This night is meant for fun. It’s a celebration, so wear something you’re excited to walk onto the dance floor in, first and foremost. Because no matter what, if you feel good and have a little bit of excitement about your prom night outfit, odds are you’ll look good doing it.
According to Peak Styles Creative Director, Andrew Taylor, there are two places you can look to start searching for your future prom suit: your wallet and your closet.
“Do you have a lot of button-ups with bold colors and patterns?” he asks. “Or are you just a tee-shirt with some jeans guy? That’ll answer it for you.”
Whether you give your daily outfits attention or not, just getting familiar with what’s already in your closet will remind you what you’re going to be most comfortable in on prom night. If you’re striving to look dapper Monday through Friday already, odds are you’re going to apply that same inspiration to your prom suit choices. And if your day-to-day wardrobe is built toward comfort, don’t abandon that priority in picking a suit fit and style that follows the same.
Next, consider your budget, he advises.
“Do you want to buy a nice blazer and pair it with some pants you already have? Maybe you save that money for some shoes,” he points out. “Or do you have the budget to go with a full three-piece suit that’s bold and match it with some shirts or ties you already have?”
Still not clear what your prom suit can or should look like? Before you go try on a hundred different suits, you can always spend some time browsing the internet for inspiration. Is there an athlete whose postgame suits always catch your eye? Maybe it’s not a specific suit, rather a general style which they have that you want to mirror. Flip through magazines and social media, look at red carpet photos from Hollywood movie premieres and take note of the things you do and don’t like.
The point here isn’t to find the exact coat Lebron wore after the All-Star Game, it’s to give yourself a general idea of your suit tastes. Truthfully, prom suits have moved into the “wear what you want” territory for some time now, so long as it’s formal. That freedom should be fun, just arm yourself with a few rules depending on which route you decide to take. Like, for example:
“I Want a Prom Suit That Will ‘Stand Out’”
Are you set on wearing something non-traditional? This could mean anything from wearing loud patterns to loud colors to loud patterns filled with loud colors. Whatever it is, a traditional solid black suit and tie this is not. Unless your school specifically says prom night is a traditional formal or black-tie optional event, you’re free to get creative with the prom suits.
Proms Suits With Patterns
Patterns are a surefire way to stand out in a suit because there’s rarely another person in the room wearing the exact same thing. This could go from a bold plaid sports coat and slacks to a loud floral pattern covering your entire suit.
Even a black suit, for example, is unique the moment it’s emblazoned with a slightly off-color floral pattern.
And if you take that same pattern on a double-breasted suit of the same color, you’ve added another touch of character to your outfit that will make it different from anything else at prom. Both are similar to the one Taylor remembers wearing to his own prom.
“That was me following my style,” he says. “I was always very dark and solid colors but I liked a little bit of flash — nothing too crazy. From afar, you wouldn’t be able to tell but up close you could see the patterns in the suit, so I played into my own strengths of what I was comfortable in.”
Suggestions For Wearing Suits With Patterns
These are not necessarily hard and fast rules when we’re talking about getting spruced up for prom, but there are some suggestions that can make sure your chosen or preferred pattern actually looks good once you’re dressed up:
-Try not to mix and match patterns
While you may find something that is an exception to this one , more than one pattern on a given outfit can very easily get “too busy” at best and tacky at its worst. Obviously, a plaid coat is going to look bad with pinstripe pants, but this really matters when you start rounding your outfit out with shoes, a shirt, a tie, a pocket square, and so on. Those accessories and garments should be chosen with the intent of helping your focus piece(s) stand out.
Instead, you could…
-Consider just one patterned garment
If you like that floral suit, for example, and want it to stand out, don’t drown it with too many floral patterns on multiple other pieces and accessories. I'd personally argue you shouldn't have any other garments with patterns so you can allow your focus piece to get all the attention. So a patterned coat paired with a solid colored shirt, tie, and pants, for example, that are all complimentary may actually look better on you than the same coat with pants of the same pattern. Or if you want to be real subtle, you could even go with a traditional look from head to toe and a unique, loud bow tie or a pair of custom shoes.
Another bonus is that this is actually a great budget-friendly option, whether you choose to go bold or traditional. A wild and bold blazer can easily be paired with some tapered pants and shoes or even socks that are bold. This is a look that can be pulled off without having to buy an entire suit.
-Contrast patterns with solids
Just like pairing bold colors with neutral colors, your patterns will stay appealing to the eyes when up against solid-colored pieces like a simple white pocket square or a traditional black tie, and so on. All this, of course, given that you’re picking the appropriate colors…
Picking Suit Colors That “Work” Together
Consult the color wheel when trying to figure out which tie or shirt goes best with the loud suit you want to wear. This goes for both patterned and solid designs.
Pieces will compliment each other when colors are chosen with one of two approaches. First, either pick your garment colors based on points in the spectrum that are side by side or choose colors that are direct opposites on the wheel.
So if you want to be draped in blue head to toe, make sure your shirt is a shade of blue that’s not far removed from the blue coat and blue pants you’re going to wear, and so on.
“Can I Wear a Traditional Suit to the Prom?”
Classics are classics for a reason. They stand the test of time and when it comes to men's formal wear, a properly tailored black suit, a crisp white shirt, and a quality tie fit the bill.
You might be inclined to wear something more traditional simply because you don’t want to take a risk with your prom night outfit. And if that’s the case, getting specific about the fit of your traditional, solid-colored suit is what will make it (and you) stand out. No matter how you dress it up, how bold, or how classic your intended look may be, it is nothing without the right fit.
Prom Suit Fit
Wearing a suit that fits well starts with knowing your proper sizes and a few simple rules. You can find your chest size — which you'll need to determine your jacket — by taking a soft tape measure and running it around your chest right below your armpits. If you fall on an odd number you are best to round up. For example, if you fall on a 37-inch chest, rounding up to fit a 38R would be best. Almost all suits come in Regulars (R), Longs (L), or Shorts (S) for jacket length. A good guideline is 5'7" and shorter are Shorts (S), 5'8" to 5'11" are Regulars (R), and 6' and taller are Longs (L). Meanwhile, you most likely already know your pants size, as the pants waist for your suits will be the same as the appropriate waist size you should be wearing for your everyday jeans.
From here, you’ll want to tailor your suit to the precise style you like most. And since every suit should require a trip to the tailor anyway, consider this mandatory. At the very least, plan to have your pants hemmed and if needed, areas of your coat taken in. But the more precise you get with your alterations, the more unique your suit will become.
You can refer to a laundry list of alterations any tailor will offer and how to go about getting them done in time for prom, but no matter what suit, coat, color, or pattern you decide to rock to the big party, consider the alterations the most important part of landing the perfect prom suit.
So take chances if you’re so inclined when shopping for prom suits and pick out something bold. Or stick to the tried and true looks and go the dapper route. But no matter what, have fun with it.
“You gotta play off your own style,” Taylor says, “but if there’s one night where you can get wild and step out of your comfort zone, it’s at a prom.”