How to Buy or Rent a Tuxedo

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Men's formal wear carries its own array of decisions, styles and accessories. You may wish to invest in a tuxedo if your lifestyle calls for debonair dress several times a year. If you're rarely coaxed out of your blue jeans--and especially if your waistline tends to expand and contract--a rented tuxedo should fit the bill. The rule of thumb is that if a lady wears a floor-length dress, the gentleman should wear formal attire, and that style is dictated by time of day and level of formality.

Give yourself enough lead time. Reserve rented formal wear or order a tailor-made tuxedo three months prior to an event to guarantee availability.

Do a search for tuxedos online. Many have a photo gallery to demystify the process of ordering a tux. Afterhours.com and Menswearhouse.com both allow you to choose the elements online, then go to a store for a fitting.

Consult with the salesman when considering the wide range of options. Jackets have a notch, peak or shoulder lapel. They can be ultra-formal full dress tails, a cutaway jacket suitable for formal events before 6 p.m., or a tuxedo jacket, appropriate for any formal affair. Shirt choices include a laydown, wing and cavalier collar, finished off with a bow tie, ascot or laydown tie.

Choose colors according to the time of day and nature of the event. Gray is traditional before 6 p.m., and black for all formal evening affairs. You may wish to consult your date for the evening, and coordinate cummerbund or vest as desired.

Secure a knowledgeable specialist's help when gearing up for a wedding. Tuxedo selection should be guided by the color of the bride's gown and bridesmaids' dresses. Wedding-party rental specials may include a jacket, trousers, vest or cummerbund, shirt, suspenders, cufflinks, studs and tie from $50 to $100 or more. Or with a certain number of groomsmen's tuxedos, the groom's tux may be free.

Ask groomsmen who don't live locally to get professionally measured and forward the details at least three weeks before the big day. Try-ons and last-minute tweaks should happen a few days ahead.

If you're buying a tuxedo, expect to pay at least $700--far more for a custom-made or designer brand. Prices range according to the style, options and fabric chosen.

Make sure everything fits by trying on your tux in advance of the event. Wedding parties in particular need to find out ahead of time if all the groomsmen received the correct sizes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Double-check when to pick up and return tuxedos and accessories if you're renting. The best man in a wedding generally takes care of collecting and delivering them.
  • If you're buying a tuxedo, choose a style that will fit right in at weddings, gala evenings and any formal occasion. Steer toward the classics so it won't go out of style.
  • Have measurements taken professionally. Having your spouse or friend measure you is a recipe for disaster.

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