I received this question from an anonymous reader just now. In short, my answer is “buy”.
This is a fairly common question and lots of other blogs and sites have covered this in-depth before. Having personally been in a situation where I’ve rented a tuxedo from the likes of Men’s Warehouse, I eventually decided to buy a tuxedo on eBay.
If you don’t have the time or patience to wait around on eBay to find that perfect vintage tuxedo for a steal of a deal, then you’re going to be reduced to the retail options. If you have money to blow, I’m sure you know where to go buy a fine tuxedo off-the-rack. But if you’re on the cheap end, then here’s probably the best option I’ve found: Tommy Hilfiger’s trim-fit tuxedo separates on Amazon (jacket & pants).
The jacket is a one-button, shawl-collared tuxedo that’s dual-vented and 100-percent wool. Buying the pants and jacket should run you about $300 together. Keep in mind that most rentals will cost you around $200 and will look like crap.
You’ll probably need a tuxedo shirt. There’s a lot of options out there, but if you have the time, then I’d consider getting one that’s MTM — like from BiasedCut. Cufflinks can be found all over the place at different prices. I would just do a quick search on eBay or Etsy for some mother-of-pearl links. For a bowtie, I bought mine from The Tie Bar.
Regarding: Mission Impossible: Suit, shirt, tie & shoes on $500 budget ... in less than a day
Great article, I think that is the way most people acquire their suits. They realize that they haven't worn their old one in years and have gained/lost weight, moved their stuff, moth holes, etc... and don't realize it until the last minute.
Do you know if those are the same suits that are always up on Gilt? I have always been curious, but not enough to pull the trigger and return it.
A friend of mine came to me with a predicament: He needed a suit for a meeting and presentation he had to give. He didn’t have a pair of dress shoes. He didn’t have a tie or shirt. He didn’t even have socks. And the meeting was the next day.
Oh, and his budget was around $500.
In fairness, he’s living out of state for the summer to work on his startup and had moved all of his wardrobe to California, meaning he brought none of it with him when he came to visit Chicago. A company he’s working with found out he was going to be in town and wanted to meet with him, putting him in a bit of lurch.
I tend to agree with Put This On that you can’t really do “cheap/good/fast”, because you end up sacrificing so much along the way. However, I brainstormed what I think ended up being a decent outfit given the constraints. Here’s what I came up with for him over the lunch hour:
The suit I’ve linked to might be different than the one in the store (the link says “sharkskin” but that’s not what I’d call it in store, could be different but looks the same). My friend’s got a more athletic torso, so I figured the “slim fit” line might actually look decent on him without the need to taper the sides. I was pretty close in my estimations. The suit fit pretty well for an off-the-rack, no-time-to-get-altered option. The cuffs needed to be shortened, but he had to forgo that option because of time constraints.
The only alterations that needed to be done were the trousers to hem them to a slight break. The sales associate (evil!) tried to convince him to go with a full break, but after I cuffed the hem under a bit and said to look at the straight line the crease makes to your feet, he was convinced to hem them shorter.
I’ll give Macy’s credit though: they knocked out his alteration on the trousers the same day by 5 p.m. If you need a suit fast, be sure to go somewhere where you can pay for a “rush” alteration service — and make sure they do alterations, too.
The suit came to around $200 on sale and with tax and alterations. Not bad for something 100% wool and slimmer fitting. I suggested he get the cuffs shortened later, but it would look OK overall given the situation.
The Shirt & Tie: Tommy Hilfiger club-stripe tie and white “tailored fit” dress shirt, $50 at Nordstrom Rack
If you need a cheap shirt off the rack and a wide (and somewhat random) variety of brands and sizes, Nordstrom Rack is a pretty good option. I just randomly guessed my friend’s neck and sleeve size and happened to find a white dress shirt that nailed his fit on the first try. For $30, it certainly fell within budget and fit him great.
As for a tie, Nordstrom Rack has a pretty wide selection of stuff, but I went with a Tommy Hilfiger club tie because I knew the knotted fairly well (I have one) and certainly were cheap enough. For around $20, it would work.
Doesn’t need much of an introduction and my friend lucked out they were on sale. I wouldn’t say this falls under “cheap”, but it’s certainly a solid purchase that’ll actually contribute to a larger wardrobe over time.
So, that’s how I’d spend $500 to get a complete outfit — in a single day with zero other alternatives. Obviously, this isn’t ideal at all, but I don’t think at the end of it any one of those purchases were bad. And certainly, it’s better than shuffling into the Men’s Warehouse in a panic mode and buying whatever they throw on you.
Is there a better (cheaper, perhaps) way to spend $500 to get fully suited up? Sure. But within limits, I’d doubt it.
My friend said the meeting went really well and he got several compliments on his suit asking where he’d gotten it. So, that’s a plus.
- It can be done — if you have prior knowledge of what various places carry, who does alterations, how the types of clothes fit and where current sales or discounts can be had. Otherwise, this would be a much more expensive exercise.
- Everything will be a compromise, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad compromise where you lose more than what you gain.
- Maybe traveling in a suit when you go on a plane is a really good idea, as Gay Talese likes to point out.
I’m not regularly a fan of Tommy Hilfiger, but in their latest sale items, these two summer jackets popped up and caught my eye. I’m pretty sure everyone has perhaps a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward the brand and these items, but I think they’re at least interesting and if you’re on the lookout for a relatively cheap F-U jacket this summer, then maybe it’s worth a look.
Blue camo blazer: $63 — I know camo’s divisive (I’m in the “eh, I’ll pass” camp), but for those of you looking for a cotton camo blazer for summer on the cheap, here you go.