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Surviving The School Formal

Posted on August 17, 2014 by Wendy Gomersall


School FormalA little like weddings – in fact probably more so than weddings – the school formal tends to be dominated by the girls in the fashion arena. Hundreds of dollars are spent on dresses, hair and make-up.  Not to mention the once uber-cool stretch limo.

While in many ways the school formal Australian style is a seen as an adoption of the American “prom” it does have more in common with the English style formal events, no not the stuffy “coming out balls” of yesteryear, but the more contemporary celebrations held today.

And while the girls agonize over their dresses, the young men can be left in a daze of perfume and lace.

But boys, this is your time to shine. Get it right and, rather than damaging your street cred, your reputation will blossom. But get it wrong and it may come back to haunt you.

There are a couple of important tips to getting it right.  First of all, don’t try and outshine the girls, it just can’t be done. Stay away from the lurid colours or the white tuxedo. Go with stylish and sleek. And secondly don’t dress beyond your years, you don’t want to end up looking like your dad.

The boys generally wear a dinner jacket (tuxedo) or a suit and mens tie. Stay away from white tie, it is really too formal for this type of event. In fact I would stay away from tailcoats altogether, they cry out "old school" rather than school formal. A black dinner suit with a white shirt and deep red bow tie looks great. Another look that is particularly good on a young man is a collarless jacket.

A dark shirt looks great under a dark vest and jacket, but lighten the look with your tie. Say a silver, dove grey or purple tie.

Or maybe go for a black suit and shirt, with a coloured vest and matching tie, again purple works well or even deep red if you are feeling bold. Otherwise silver is a safe but classy option.

I would suggest renting a suit rather than buying for a school formal, as there is generally a little more growing to do. But it can be a great taste of things to come, and getting it right now will give a young man confidence later in life.

And don’t neglect your shoes and socks, it would be a shame to get the rest of the outfit right and bomb out with daggy shoes and flouro socks.

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The Formal Shirt

Posted on July 28, 2014 by Wendy Gomersall
Mens Wear

Mens formal wear has certainly evolved over the years and the formal shirt is no exception. From its original construction in a tunic style with a detachable collar and cuffs, to the contemporary turn-down collar style.

Often mistakenly called wing-tip shirts (confused with wing-tip shoes I guess), wing collar shirts are favoured by barristers. However, their popularity as formalwear declined when the dinner jacket replaced the tailcoat as the norm for evening wear. And the detachable wing collar is a rarity now.

Todays formal shirts tend to have either a turn-down collar or a built in wing collar.  Some prefer the turn-down variety as these hide the neckband of the bow tie. Either style is acceptable today.

Formal shirts can be plain or pique.  Pique relates to the weave of the shirt – the finer the pique the more elegant the shirt.  The most popular pique weave is birdseye (or Marcella) which has a fine diamond pattern.  The front panel of the shirt can be pleated or plain. True pleated shirts really look the part, however you can also buy shirts with the pleats woven in. These are great alternative for men who need to wear the shirts regular, say as part of a uniform, as they are much easier to launder.

Cufflinks are an essential finishing touch to mens formal wear.  And studs are an optional extra.  But visible buttons really are a no-no.  If you don’t want to wear shirt studs, then select a formal shirt that has concealed buttons.

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So, what IS a fatboy tie?

Posted on July 11, 2014 by Wendy Gomersall

This type of fat boy probably has little interest to Harley Davidson enthusiasts, and has much more to do with mens formal fashion.

Where the name came from I really don’t know, but fat boy (or fatboy) ties have really taken off in recent years as an alternative to a cravat or regular tie at weddings. You can buy them “untied” or “pre-tied” with matching adjustable neckbands.


The knot of a fat boy is looser and longer and the body of the tie is lavish. Satin, silk or tapestry-style fabrics are perfect. A talented dressmaker could make one to match the bridesmaid dresses or you can buy them in myriad colours. 
Worn with a matching or contrasting vest a fat boy tie lends an air of elegance without the formality of the cravat.

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