Suit Yourself: An Essential Guide to Men’s Formalwear

Alton Lane's experts unravel menswear mysteries with a detailed rundown of suiting and tuxedo fabrics.

Someone hands you a book of fabric swatches for your wedding attire, and you start to sweat. The range of choices for men’s wedding formalwear can be overwhelming—how do you decide? What would Don Draper do?

Director Hayley Maybury and manager Neil Fortin of Alton Lane‘s Back Bay showroom are here to help. According to these bespoke experts, when you’re thinking of suiting options for your seasonal wedding, these are the four go-to fabrics to consider.

Wool

According to Maybury and Fortin, you can’t go wrong with wool: Traditionally used in men’s suiting for its versatility, breathability, and drape, wool is the best choice for almost any occasion. Although the very word “wool” usually conjures up images of a heavy suit, wool can in fact be a lightweight, year-round fabric. It has countless benefits—it’s naturally moisture-wicking, breathable, and can help regulate body temperature. Although you might think that cotton would be the best option for a summer wedding, wool not only provides warmth in colder conditions; it also breathes well in warm temps to help keep you cool. There’s a trio of players within the wool family:

  • A good lightweight wool usually features worsted yarns and a porous weave to promote airflow. Depending on the quality, it’s usually also quite wrinkle-resistant, with impeccable drape. Also known as “tropical wool,” this ideal fabric for a summer wedding.
  • Generally, you can’t go wrong with year-round wool. Perfect for indoor weddings, year-round wool still allows for breathability, movement, and drape while still being more substantial than ultra-light tropical wool.
  • Associated with wintry suiting fabrics like tweed and herringbone, flannel is fantastic for insulating body heat, as well as for layering in colder weather. Although rarely used for formal suiting, it could be a fashion-forward cold-weather alternative to a traditional look. Flannel generally gets its thicker appearance from napping or brushing the fabric to allow for a softer and more robust “hand” (i.e., the feel of the fabric). 

Cotton

Although not normally considered a formal suiting fabric, a cotton suit can be the perfect choice for a casual warm-weather wedding. Because cotton doesn’t drape as elegantly as wool or silk, the silhouette of a cotton jacket can be a bit looser and more casual. Even when tailored, There’s a certain rumple that cotton retains that gives the suit a relaxed feel.

  • Seersucker, a thin striped cotton with a signature wrinkle, is a great choice for a relaxed beach wedding. The seersucker suit has a long-standing relationship with bow ties and pastel palettes. Although mostly seen in lighter hues, seersucker in dark navy and black could make for a striking summer-weight tuxedo.

Linen

A natural fabric milled from the flax plant, linen is a summer favorite. Lightweight and breathable, linen allows for the most casual and airy suiting. Because linen has a natural tendency to wrinkle, it’s usually thought of as a more casual fabric, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. A half-lined linen suit with a crisp white shirt can be the perfect warm-weather beach wedding attire. Linen also takes dye beautifully, which means you can find linen suits in vibrant colors, if you’re looking to add visual interest to your wedding wear.

Blends

Blended fabrics are another excellent alternative to your traditional wool suiting. At Alton Lane, a silk-and-mohair blend is a staff favorite for a formal suit or tuxedo. The sheen of the silk and the drape of the mohair allow for a fantastic dinner jacket or tuxedo. For someone looking for the summery lightness of linen—but all those wrinkles that can go along with it—a wool-and-linen blend is a fabulous choice, and it drapes nicely. Cotton and linen also make a nice lightweight fabric when blended. For a more opulent evening jacket, opt for a silk/wool blend: the sheen of the silk takes over the matte hand of the wool. And if you’re looking for something really luxurious, a cashmere-silk blend is the ultimate fabric for you.

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