- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2005

After losing ground to the casual Fridays approach, suits are finally making a comeback. After a long hiatus, men’s suits are now being embraced in the workplace, yet, judging from the questions we are receiving, are presenting challenges to some men who have simply forgotten the basic “dos & don’ts” of wearing a suit. For those of you who want to shed your casual look and get back to business, here are a few tips to follow:

*Single-breasted suits are always appropriate, and come in a variety of styles, including the classic two-button, as well as the more contemporary three- and four-button styles. The three-button suit is very popular right now, but all are fashionable. On a single-breasted suit, the bottom button should always be left undone. On a three-button single-breasted suit, you may choose to button the top two buttons or the middle button only.

*A suit should lie smoothly and comfortably on your body, and should not pull across the back or the chest. The collar should lie flat against your shirt collar without any gaping between the two.

*Color has made its way even into the most professional, tailored outfits, but should be added with care. The best way to add color is with a tie or a colorful dress shirt, while taking a conservative approach to the suit itself. This way, your suit will travel with you across seasons, and you can make easy updates by keeping up with trends on the less expensive and more rapidly changing fashion items.

*Loosening your shirt collar and tie looks sloppy, not trendy. Edgy new looks are pairing t-shirts and sweaters, which is great if that is the look you want, but if you are going the traditional route, then do it right. This also means wearing a long-sleeve dress shirt.

*There are many ways to tie ties, and the width of the knot you choose should be proportionate to the width of your collar. The necktie should have a small indentation under the knot when tied properly, and the tip of the tie should just cover your belt buckle.

For more suit tips, let’s get to this week’s questions:

Dear Jordan,

My job involves many public speaking engagements in various conference rooms whose temperatures are beyond my control. I often become quite overheated in my suit. Is it acceptable to remove the jacket during a presentation?

Jeremy - Washington, D.C.

Dear Kristof,

It is not professional, and you should never remove your jacket during a business presentation. Keep in mind, if you do take your jacket off you might have a worse fate of exposing a wrinkled and sweaty shirt. If the heat is interfering with your ability to present, find out if you can get the AC turned on before your presentation. Also, remember that cotton dress shirts will breathe more easily than polyester.

Dear Jordan,

I don’t see a lot of double-breasted suits these days. I prefer them, but don’t want to invest in a new suit that is already out-of-date. Are people still wearing them?

Mike -Bowie

Dear Mike,

Single-breasted suits are more popular these days, but double-breasted suits are by no means out of fashion. Typically, however, they are a bit dressier than single-breasted suits, and also may present additional challenges depending upon physique. If you tend toward the short or overweight sides, a double-breasted suit will only emphasize these features.

Dear Jordan:

I couldn’t believe I was the only executive at the corporate awards banquet not wearing a black cocktail dress. Instead, I wore a conservative style red chiffon and felt very out of place. Are there women out there wearing color?

Terry - Annapolis

Dear Terry:

While some fashion trend services are screaming “black is out” from the hilltops, you’ve discovered that the reality is quite a bit different. But take heart, Americans really are embracing color. It’s on the streets and in the storefront windows. Next time you wear that red dress, know that you stand out like a rose, not a lobster.

Dear Jordan:

My wife says I should pitch any suits I’ve had longer than five years. Is this a good rule of thumb? Are the fashions that different?

Dan - Chantilly

Dear Dan:

I don’t think there’s a specific rule of thumb. A nice, conservative suit can see you through many years as long as it retains its shape — and still fits! If you tend to buy trendy pieces straight off the catwalk, then five years might be too long. There are no hard and fast rules, so evaluate each piece individually.

Ms. Jordan Speer is the senior editor of an apparel business magazine and has been writing about the industry for more than nine years. Send workplace or corporate fashion questions to [email protected]

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