Q And Answer: What Should I Wear To The Prom?

March 26, 2010

Q and Answer: What should I wear to the prom?

Matt writes: So, I’m a high school senior, and I’m having trouble thinking of ways to out-do my peers at the prom.  Help me out?

The prom is one of the most difficult events for which to dress.  A lady is expected to be buying a dress for the night, not to mention shoes and accessories and an expensive hairdo.  A fella, not so much. So: what to do?

Most proms are black-tie affairs, and I don’t see any reason to buck that.  Attempts to dress it down, with say a black suit, are unlikely to look anything but slightly dumpy.  At my own prom, a few friends wore matching Run DMC-style Adidas sweatsuits, with matching sneakers and hats.  That was kind of good.  But they also didn’t have dates.  I suppose the O’Jays tux is always an choice, but prom is important.  Why make it a joke?

The default option is to rent a tuxedo.  We have a pretty extensive black tie guide that can guide you if this is what you choose, but the results are unlikely to be pretty.  It’s nearly impossible to find rental tuxedos that are anything other than polyester-blend monstrosities, and since you can’t alter it, it’s unlikely to fit well.  Every piece of your wardrobe will end up being slightly off, and the result will be an outfit that would best be described as barely passable.

So what are your other options?

We mentioned Indochino in a recent post.  With the current coupon, an Indochino custom tux would only cost you about three or four hundred dollars.  That’s a lot of scratch for most high school students, but it also means you’ll have a tuxedo for life (if you’re done growing).  I wore the dinner jacket from my senior prom to an evening wedding a year ago – almost ten years later.  The durability issues you might find with lower-end made-to-measure are minimized in a tux, since you won’t be wearing it very often.

If that seems like a lot to you, go vintage.  Tuxedos from the 30s through 60s will look just as sharp today.  Avoid anything newer, as you’re likely going to end up with polyester.  Remember to tie your own tie, and look hard, starting now, for something that fits you – and budget $50-100 for tailoring once you’ve found what you want.  Don’t try to buy separates (unless you live somewhere warm and want a white dinner jacket), and try to match the elements aesthetically.  A narrow-lapel 60s tux with a smaller bow tie, and so forth.  And tie your own bow.  A new or new-er shirt from someplace like Brooks Brothers or Jos. A. Bank will work fine.  Your tux can come from eBay or, if you’re lucky enough to live in a cool city, a vintage store.  You should be able to find something for less than $100, with enough careful looking.

Besides that, we recommend bringing a pretty girl.  That really jazzes the whole thing up.