Guys: Here’s what you wear to an inaugural ball

January 17, 2013

Okay, guys. I know you told your wife/girlfriend/partner that you'd taken care of your outfit for the inaugural celebration by now. Tux rented, new shirt purchased, shoes shined, the works. But we all know you procrastinated. Luckily, everyone expected you to.


For black-tie inaugural events, go classic, not flashy.  (File photo)

Lustre Formal Wear on Capitol Hill will be open all weekend, with tailors in the shop to help you look your best. Men's Warehouse near Farragut Square has stocked up with tuxedos for sale as well as for rent. Georgetown's trendy Lost Boys boutique was expecting a fresh stock of tuxedos and shirts to be delivered Thursday for weekend sales.

General advice: If you're going to a formal ball, don't stray too far from the classic black jacket/black tie look. Don't be the guy in the wacky "colorful" cummerbund-and-tie combo. If you want to let your sense of style and humor show, do it with a cool set of cufflinks, tuxedo studs or a bright and attractive pocket square.

Cufflinks and studs are everywhere, from the basic sterling silver sets at Macy's and Men's Warehouse to the fashionable and expensive sets at Everard's Clothing in Burleith. For something unique, start with the craftsmen at Eastern Market on Saturdays and Sundays, where you'll find cufflinks made from vintage cigar bands, foreign coins, typewriter keys and vintage New York and D.C. bus tokens ($50 and up). Keep an eye out for full sets of onyx and lapis tuxedo studs and matching cufflinks ($175).

Pocket squares can easily add a pop of color to a tuxedo or, at a less formal event, a dark suit. The Mutiny pop-up shop at Redeem on 14th Street has some cool selvage options. Local shirtmakers Hugh and Crye recently unveiled a new line of cotton pocket squares with prints and patterns that would probably look better on a suit than a tux. (You can stop by their Georgetown shop on Saturday to see the selection in person.)

If you're not wearing a tux, you can really make yourself stand out from the crowd. Kelly Muccio, the owner of Georgetown's Lost Boys, says "it's a good time to let loose" and not just add an accessory or two. A couple key tips from the outspoken and always well-dressed style maven:

  • Skip formal shoes and pair your trim slacks with a dress boot. Just make sure the toe's not too pointed.
  • Fitted, casual-looking tux shirts have been in this season, and Muccio suggests wearing one, perhaps from Band of Outsiders, with an edgy pair of jeans, boots, a jacket and tie. "At the end of the night, instead of just loosening up your tie, you can roll up your sleeves, too," she says.
  • Shawl-collar tuxedo jackets have been on runways this year, and have been dressed down enough that they work as separate pieces with a pair of dark jeans.

No matter what you wind up wearing, you can get the finishing touches applied on Monday at the Drive-By Bow Tie event at Nordstrom in Pentagon City and Tysons Corner. From 5 to 8:30 p.m., stylists will shine your shoes, press your shirt and tie your bow tie (if a YouTube video isn't cutting it) while you listen to live music. It's the perfect way to prepare for the big night.

Fritz Hahn has written about bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. A product of Prince George's County public schools, Fritz majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and lives in the District.
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