The Large Mans Guide to Formal Dressing

Whether you’re a naturally large guy or you’re just carrying a few extra lbs, dressing smart can be a challenge. Not only can it be difficult to find clothes in your size, but when you do, they don’t always complement your shape, or your taste. In this guide, we discuss some of the most common problems bigger guys face when choosing clothes for a formal occasion, and offer our best advice and tips on how to solve them.

Ditch the Exclusive Stores

Some clothing stores just don’t want to cater to the bigger guy, but we say that’s their loss! Many high street clothing stores and brands don’t carry sizes larger than ‘XL’, leaving out a huge chunk of the menswear market. Stores do this for various reasons, but some have theorized that it is because the stores don’t want larger people representing their brand! So, if you’re tired of searching through the rack only to be disappointed time and time again, opt for brands and stores which are proudly inclusive instead. Some great examples of inclusive stores include Boohoo man, ASOS, Jackamo and Big Man Menswear.

Get the Right Fit

Even on the most perfect body (though there’s no such thing), ill-fitting clothes can make a drastic difference to how someone looks. We’ve all heard the age-old tips: stripes are slimming, ‘wear black to appear smaller’, and while these tips are helpful in the right context, the truth is, it’s all about the fit. Dressing well means choosing styles which complement your frame as it is naturally. It’s not about trying to make yourself look taller, shorter or even slimmer with your clothes.

Shirts

  • Un-tucked

As a general rule, only shirts with a straight hemline should be worn un-tucked. If your shirt has tails, it should be tucked in, however this is totally up to the wearer discretion.

If you choose to wear your shirt un-tucked, you’ll want to make sure the length is just right. Too long and you’ll appear sloppy and informal, too short and your stomach will show when you move. The right length for an un-tucked shirt should be around ½ inch below the base of your belt or in-line with the middle of your fly zip.

  • Tucked

There are many ways to tuck in a shirt, but one thing you really don’t want is the fabric of your shirt billowing and making you look larger. You want a neat tuck, fabric shouldn’t protrude from the front, sides or back of the shirt, but at the same time, you should be able to lift up your arms without the shirt becoming un-tucked. If your shirt is a little wide, you will need to fold the shirt in on itself at either side of your waist. This will prevent the shirt from billowing.

If you want to be really fancy, why not try some dress shirt stays? These are elasticated garters that clip to the top of your dress socks and the bottom of your dress shirt to keep it in place.

Trousers

The same rule applies for trousers as it does shirts: not too long, not too short. Tightness matters too:  your trousers shouldn’t hug your legs, but they shouldn’t be too loose either. It’s also important that you choose a trouser style which complements your leg shape, rather than the fashion of the moment. Straight leg trousers are usually a safe bet for any leg shape, as they help to balance out the top and bottom half of your body as well as the shape of your legs.

If you want to appear taller, choose a trouser with a waistband that sits at your natural waist, rather than below or across your belly button.

When trying trousers on, make sure to do so with your dress shoes on too. Your trousers should sit right on top of your shoes. Fabric should not drape down the back of the shoe, and you should not be able to see your socks when standing up.

Jackets

Jackets  (specifically suit jackets) are one of the more difficult pieces to fit when it comes to formal wear. This is because there are so many places on the upper body the jacket needs to form to. The sleeves and breast need to be the correct length, the shoulders must not be too wide or too narrow, the lapels must sit just right and the waist should taper in just enough so that it is not hugging the body too tight. When it comes to choosing a jacket for a formal occasion, the best advice would be to seek the help of a professional tailor, who can alter the jacket to suit your specific measurements. However since this is not always possible, below are a few tips to help you choose a well fitting jacket by yourself.

  • Shoulders

The shoulders of your suit jacket should end just outside of your natural shoulder (about ½cm  to a cm). This part is tricky to get right, but it can make or break your look. Jackets which extend too far outwards across the shoulders look noticeably ill-fitting, and jackets which are too tight here prevent freedom of movement in the arms.

  • Chest

The chest of your suit jacket should sit snugly against your chest when it is closed. If it is too tight, there will be a noticeable gap between your chest and the jacket when you move.  You should be able to pinch the fabric on the chest when the jacket is closed. If you can’t the fit is not correct and will not allow for adequate movement.

  • Collar

The collar of your suit jacket should sit very closely to your neck but it should not be tight. When you move you lift your arms, there should be no visible gap between your collar and your neck.

Pay Attention to Detail

Detail is key when it comes to making an impression with your outfit. For formal dressing, this means ensuring your clothes are clean and lint free as well as wrinkle free. Use a lint roller to remove any hair or dust that may be clinging to your clothing, and always make sure to iron your clothes properly before you head out.

Simple accessories such as pocket squares, braces, gloves and hats can also make a huge difference to your overall appearance. Choose accessories which flatter your clothes, opting for complementary colours and textures. If you’re not sure which colours will complement your chose outfit, look at a colour wheel for reference.

Socks are also important details, especially when it comes to formal dressing. Though your socks shouldn’t be visible when standing, if your trousers fit right, they will be on show when you sit down. Here you can have fun being a bit experimental, if you want to give your outfit some character while still keeping things formal, choose socks in a contrasting colour. Remember to keep it sophisticated though, socks with printed images, logos or cartoons are a huge no when it comes to formal dressing. Stick to solid colours or traditional patterns only.