My fiancé and I are having a very small, vaccinated, Covid conscientious wedding. She’s wearing a white dress, but I’d like to wear my dad’s tailored vest to the reception in his honor. It’s pink and gold and has bumblebees. The problem is, if I pair it with a white button-down, I look like some sort of over-committed amateur Shakespearean actor. How do I style this in a contemporary, elegant way? — Abigail, NY
First of all congratulations on your marriage. These rituals are gestures of confidence in the future and optimism in what often seems like a very bleak world. Wearing one of your dad’s favorite clothes is a nice twist on that whole “something old/something new/something borrowed/something blue”.
But I know what you mean by the risks of an embroidered cardigan that looks like kitsch theatrical garb rather than elegant fun. It’s the association in our lizard brain. Gwyneth Paltrow in her ‘Shakespeare in Love’ disguise as a boy is hard to ignore. After all, it was Polonius who stated in “Hamlet” that “clothes often proclaim the man”.
But while clothes are the suits we put on for everyday life (which is “just a stage”), and fancy clothes we wear for our own personal paparazzi moments, that doesn’t mean we want them to make us look like we are about to eat the landscape. Even if love looks “not with the eyes but with the mind”.
I’ll stop with the Bard references now.
So I asked Arianne Phillips, the costume designer behind “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” and “A Single Man” (among many other films), as well as a stylist trying to change how we all think about the red carpet, for her advice. If anyone knows how to keep dress up clothes from looking like they came from the Warner Brothers backyard, it’s her.
She had two words: “Go tonal.”
Okay, to be fair, she had a few more. What she suggested was to buy a shirt (or have one made for you), ideally of fine cotton or cotton piqué, “taking one of the colors from the vest, preferably the predominant base color.” If you can’t match it exactly, Arianne said, keep it in the same family. Add dark, slim pants in black or midnight blue. (She suggests skipping the side stripe of the tuxedo.) And keep your shoes dark for a consistent line.
Then you’re more than ready for your – well, next act.
Your style questions, answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa answers a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send her anytime via e-mail or Twitter. Questions are edited and shortened.