President Trump is not someone who hides his discomfort well. That comes through in his tweets, obviously, with his disdain or frustrations often only thinly veiled. At times, too, it comes through in his physical presentation, with Trump looking agitated or out of sorts.
That was the case Monday evening, when the president and first lady joined Queen Elizabeth II and her family for a formal dinner at Buckingham Palace. Photos show a sullen-looking Trump standing next to the queen, hands at his side, a frown on his face. He looks uncomfortable, and one would be forgiven for assuming that he was.
Photos of that meeting also made the rounds on social media for another reason: Trump’s formalwear didn’t quite appear to fit as one might expect. Charles, Prince of Wales, was similarly attired, in a jacket that appeared to be proportional. Trump’s, on the other hand, appeared to have some sort of apron, a splash of white fabric that didn’t quite seem to work. Bette Midler recommended the president fire his tailor.
It was one of several recent sartorial questions about the president that have bounced around the Internet. In an effort to understand what Trump’s doing — and what he’s doing wrong — we turned to Ezra Lizio-Katzen, owner of the Washington menswear boutique Ezra Paul. Lizio-Katzen has, in the past, written about Trump’s fashion choices, so he seemed like a natural fit to provide insight into the president’s attire.
Trump’s outfit for the dinner consisted of five pieces: The black jacket (known as a tailcoat), a white shirt, a white tie, a white vest and black pants.
So what was the problem?
The vest, Lizio-Katzen said, is supposed to be shorter than the front of the tailcoat.
“People wear their pants much lower than they used to,” he said. “So even though a vest should be a certain length, if you wear your pants too low, then you get an unsightly gap between the pants and the bottom of the vest where your shirt shows.”
With a regular suit, that’s not necessarily a problem, because the jacket will cover the bottom of the vest. With a tailcoat, though, the front is cut shorter. The choice, then, is either a too-long vest or a visible shirt. That said, Lizio-Katzen said that this case appeared to be “exceptional” given that several inches of Trump’s vest is showing. (The jacket, he said, was properly tailored.)
Again, Charles’s tailcoat and vest are properly proportioned, perhaps in part a function of his wearing this sort of formalwear more regularly. Part of it, too, is that Charles probably wears his pants higher — a function largely of the difference in size between the two men.
“Generally people with [Trump’s] proportions wear [pants] lower, particularly in the front,” he said. Men with larger stomachs will often wear pants below their bellies. In this case, that appears to have meant the need for a longer vest.
Consideration of Trump’s physical proportions brings us to his pants.
On Sunday, Trump visited a church in Virginia. He came directly from his golf club in Sterling and appeared before the congregation in long, oversized tan pants.
Around Memorial Day, Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery with the first lady. Again, his pants appeared to be far looser than one might expect.
This, too, ties back to Trump’s size, according to Lizio-Katzen. He assumes that Trump buys suits off the rack, rather than having them custom made, which is where the problem originates.
In his essay about Trump’s suits written in 2017, Lizio-Katzen noted that Trump wears larger jackets in a likely effort to look broader in the shoulder — and therefore less disproportionately wide in the middle. Buying suits off-the-rack, though, has a ripple effect of the suit fitting awkwardly. (He made the accompanying animation to show how a slimmer suit would look.)
“Because he’s wearing a suit size probably two sizes, at least, too big for him in order to not make it look like he’s got a big stomach and instead make it look like he’s just a big guy,” he explained, “the pants that come with that suit are likely too big for him, especially if he wears the pants below his stomach.”
“That’s why they’re baggy like that. When you make a suit, everything’s extrapolated. So if they grow it, the pants keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” he added. The suit designers naturally assume someone wearing a bigger suit jacket also has much bigger legs. In this case, Trump doesn’t.
A preference for baggy pants is to some extent a function of age and style, he said, with men in recent years generally preferring a trimmer fit. Even buying a suit off the rack, though, the pants could be taken in and shortened to some extent.
Especially pants like the ones Trump wore to the church, which weren’t part of a suit.
“That one I can’t really explain,” he said. “They need to be tailored.”
Trump’s long ties are an established part of his aesthetic by now. (He has, at least, apparently stopped using Scotch tape to hold the tail of the tie in place.)
“That’s not an acceptable length for a tie,” Lizio-Katzen said. “Nobody wears them that long.”
The tie “should be flirting with the belt buckle,” he explained. “It should be a little shorter than your belt or longer, but his is into his fly, and that’s never really the proportion.”
In his book released last year, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie wrote that Trump told him to wear longer ties, too, to look thinner. Lizio-Katzen doesn’t ascribe to that — or to the idea that heavier people shouldn’t wear horizontal stripes, or that pinstripes are slimming.
“I don’t know that our eyesight gets cheated that easily,” he said.
We asked Lizio-Katzen what advice he might offer Trump. His response was blunt.
“My advice would be go on a diet, honestly,” he said. “It’s like Chris Christie. I can’t make the suit look good on Chris Christie, either.”
Trump is “doing the only reasonable thing he can, which is just looking like he’s a big guy,” he added, instead of simply looking like he’s overweight. It makes sense to wear jackets with broad shoulders, but Trump “really needs to make those pants trimmer ... more flattering and shorter.”
And, apparently, to avoid formalwear with tails.