How to Dress Formal | Men’s Vintage Attire

Formality is an essential part of every man’s life. It is (usually) part of our working life, our social life, and of course, our intimate relationships. Thus, it is of vital importance that the modern man knows how to dress formal.

Unlike other types of clothing, elegant apparel has suffered only minor changes in recent years. Aside from the fabrics, the cuts, and how tight it is worn, not much hasn’t changed in this century compared to the previous one. A great opportunity to try some vintage/ retro outfits!

This is why, in this edition of men’s outfits, we give some popular models of how elegant dressing can shine. We hope to help you decide which style best suits your needs, while also encourage you to try some variations of these.

We would also like you to check out our elegant vintage reviews to know more about attire available online, as well as our vintage accessories section, where you can know how to give your outfit that final touch.

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Unpopular opinion…. Men’s Elegance is diverse!

Most men, when listening to the phrase “formal wear”, instantly think about the traditional looking suit, with the dress shirt, the shoes, and the tie.

Even though a lot of formal outfits resemble this, there are lots of different alternatives out there. In our suggestions, we tried to incorporate all kinds of formal apparel; coats, waistcoats, bows, hats, ties, pants, and shoes, all of which can be combined in endless ways at your desire.

And with that said, onto the first outfit!

#1: Classic British Hipster

Our first outfit has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, especially among the younger generations. The British hipster outfit combines a lot of vintage elements but can be modernized easily.

We present you with the casual version but can be formalized easily with some minor changes

Starting with the feet, some semi-formal shoes like the wingtips or Derbys will do the work. The casual aura is embraced fully with the pants, which could include some modern fashion pants like dark jeans (shown in the picture) or similar slim-fit trousers.

The top is where everything shines. The dress shirt (which rolled up looks more fashionable) plus the bow tie makes up the core of the elegance, while the waistcoat and the suspenders give it that vintage look. Remember all of these should fit well or tightly. The last touch is the beret hat.

A more classic variation of this outfit includes some oxfords (fully formal), quarter brogues, or some flashy set of monk shoes. Also, a set of pleated or flat front pants instead of jeans.

Remember to pay attention to the colours, as there should be good contrast between the shirt, waistcoat, and suspenders, while also combining these with the colour of the pants and shoes.

Watches and pocket watches look great on it!

You can shop build this outfit with these options: Shoes, Jeans, Waistcoat, Suspenders, Bow tie

#2: Full Wedding Tuxedo

We now present you with a full formal outfit, excellent for very special occasions, namely weddings or inauguration of some sort.

The idea is to have a full-body outfit in which the coat, pants, and waistcoat are all part of the same set, so the colour and patterns on them match perfectly. The long tailcoat is essential and adds uniqueness and elegance to the whole. Remember that proper fit is important too (Oversized clothes look very unstylish).

We want to accentuate formality as much as possible, so the preferred shoes would be a matching colour oxfords or.

The shirt should contrast with the rest of the outfit (white shirts are always a safe bet) and the tie should contrast the shirt while matching the primary colour. As you can see from the picture, a matching beret is a very nice addition. A luxury watch is also great too.

You can shop for this type of outfit here: Full Tuxedo, Beret, Tie

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#3: Early XX Century Middle Class Outfit

Next, we have the classic middle class formal outfit, which not only was common one hundred years ago, but it was the primary sight in big urban cities. Fast forward to today’s age and it has become a fashion relic that is a rare sight but it still is warmly welcomed.

Just like before, we have the full 3 piece suit, but instead of having the long tailcoat, we go for the standard suit jacket in combination with the waistcoat and the pleated (maybe even cuffed) pants.

The whole set fits a little more loosely than the previous outfits and the jacket is buttoned.

Oxfords or quarter brogues are ideal, as well as a plain tie and a white dress shirt.

Accessories play an important role in this one. The combination bowler hat and walking stick is the core of the outfit and it’s what makes people’s heads turnaround. An alternative for the walking stick on a rainy day is an umbrella, and in winter the gloves are a nice addition too.

Here you have some options for you to rock this classic vintage outfit: Bowler Hat, Stick, 3 piece suit

#4: Formal Top Hat Tuxedo Outfit

Formal outfits do not necessarily have to consist of the standard 3 piece set. You can combine pieces of different sets and colours and still manage to create something dazzling.

With this tuxedo outfit that is precisely achieved. The long tailcoat, the pants, the waistcoat, and even the dress shirt and tie, are all independent from each other and cover a wide variety of colours.

Properly combining pieces like this can get tricky and may require you to spend some time analyzing the pieces at hand.

As a general rule, avoid mixing very flashy colours or exotic patterns, different tonalities of the same colour, black and white combinations, and similar patterns may do the trick.

In the picture, you can see that the darkest colours are on the outside (tailcoat and pants) and a very discrete pattern on the pants. As you go deeper into the outfit, the colours gradually light up (waistcoat then dress shirt) and the dark tie contrasts well.

The top hat is an excellent addition to outfits that have a tailcoat. Be sure to match the colours of these two as well as the colour of the shoes. The walking stick also looks great with outfits like this.

Here you can find some part of this outfit: Top hat, long tailcoat, dress pants

#5: 1960s White Tie Tuxedo

There probably isn’t a more elegant option than a white tie tuxedo. Reserved only for the most special occasions, you can be sure that if you wear it properly, it will look staggering.

Most variations of the white tie tuxedo look fairly similar. Only small variations in the tailcoat and the pants change from one outfit to another one. We now present you with a look that was popular in the 1960s but it’s very similar to recent outfits. You can try any of these by knowing about one.

The 1960s white tie tuxedo (and all tuxedo outfits) require the most formal shoes; oxfords or leather court pumps will do the trick.

A full 3 piece tuxedo with a long tailcoat with certain traits is needed. The tailcoat has to be very long and reach near knee level and the waistcoat has to be plain white. The pants are black pleated trousers.

Finally, a white dress shirt with a detachable wing collar is needed, along with a white bow tie. If you wish, you can add a top hat and a walking stick for a fully vintage outfit. Another super elegant addition would be a pair of white gloves.

Overall it is an impressive outfit worthy of only the most exclusive events!

You can build your white tie tuxedo with: tuxedo, black oxfords, white tie, white dress shirt, gloves

Other clothes that go well with formal

Without slight variations, formal wearing can become repetitive and tiring. It is important then, to mix some trends here and there and/or try some new clothes that go well with formal apparel.

For example, instead of the traditional suit jacket or the tuxedo, you can try an overcoat. Instead of wearing the traditional waistcoat and tie, you can go for a sweater on top of the dress shirt and tie, or even the turtleneck which works great in cold environments.

For the shoes, if you wish to go for a more casual look you can try some loafers which go great with slim pants. If you don’t like slim you can try cuffed or wide-leg pants. We also said that for semi-formal dark jeans or trousers can look nice.

As for hats, fedora hats and newsboy are good for semi-formal outfits and the derby hat when going fully formal.

Remember to check out our men’s accessories to know exactly how to best complement your outfit.

Men’s formal attire ages like wine!

Elegant vintage clothing seems to never fade away. You can always see a guy with a vintage look at parties, weddings, or other formal events. Usually, the guy is drowning in compliments.

Formal vintage apparel has become fashionable too and in coming years it will only become more so. You will always look great when trying the outfits presented here or similar ones!

We hope you found the information here useful and as always we encourage you to check out our other posts. You will find all you need to know about vintage and retro clothing here at Vintage Shape!

Take care, and don’t forget to leave your comments and suggestions down below 🙂

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4 thoughts on “How to Dress Formal | Men’s Vintage Attire”

  1. Thank you so much for this interesting and veye helpful article, this is very easy to understand and it’s so straight forward. Your fashion sense solely depends on your personality and it is good to dress well cos it’s how you’ll be approached. Thanks for this vintage ways of dressing, I’ll use them

  2. I love the vintage feel of the photo you use at the top of your article.

    I use to automatically think of men’s formal wear as dressing in a suit or tuxedo, but I like how you talked in depth about the alternatives to men’s formal wear. 

    All of the alternatives you suggested are very helpful. I plan on suggesting to my husband to read this post and look into getting him loafers and slim pants to add to his formal wear.

    Thank you!

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