Ask A Costume Historian: Help, My Brother Wants Me To Be His Suit-Wearing Best Man
by Katie Lennard
I am going to be the best man in my brother’s wedding next summer and he’s told me he wants me in a suit. I don’t relish the idea of going to Men’s Wearhouse, both for body type and fashion reasons. Obviously the ideal solution is an Elie Saab jumpsuit, a la Sarah Jessica Parker, but I don’t have that kind of cash and also my boobs are way bigger. Help, what do I wear?
Hi there, best (wo)man,
I have lots of good news for you, all of which involves you never (ever) having to enter a Men’s Wearhouse.
I wore a jumpsuit to be a bridesmaid for a wedding in Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago and I can say without reservation that it was one of the better decisions I’ve made in the last year. (Other good decisions include night swimming in a Wisconsin lake immediately following said wedding, but I digress.) Based on my experience, I’m going to assume that wanting to wear a jumpsuit to a wedding means you have the following priorities:
1) Maximum comfort while drinking wine and dancing at the same time
2) Looking like what the six year old my friend used to babysit would call a SEX BABE, while also still being grandparent-appropriate.
The first piece of good news is that all of these possibilities are within your reach. This is your year!! There are jumpsuits everywhere right now; we just need to find you the right one.
I started looking for jumpsuits a couple of months ago because I was going to a (different) wedding in Palm Springs and I really like to have location-appropriate outfits when I travel. Having only ever seen photographs from Palm Springs in the ’60s, I decided this meant I needed a really big hat and an emerald green, four-ply silk crepe jumpsuit.
Inspiration #1, above: Palm Springs Country Club, 1939.
Inspiration #2: Dorothy Dandridge, as if you needed to be reminded. Check out the slim leg of her pants!
I should also mention that I’m a Ph.D. student, so the million-dollar Catherine Malandrino Jumpsuit of my Dreams was slightly out of my budget. Also, as with your Elie Saab ditty, there was no way my boobs were going to fit into such a thing even if money started falling from the sky.
Around this time, the bride of the Wisconsin wedding talked me into wearing a jumpsuit to her wedding instead, in navy so as to coordinate with the other bridesbabes. So let’s talk through a few of the good options that I found on my hunt. If anyone else has a favorite jumpsuit, please put that sucker in the comments — I’m focusing on curvy figures here, but ladies of all shapes should get to wear the zenith of formalwear.
(One caveat: if you’re looking for affordable jumpsuits, they’re probably going to be mostly synthetic fabrics, and a lot of them are going to be a jersey knit. This is not as great as four-ply silk crepe, but you can still look like a boss in a poly blend. The key here is to try to get a heavyweight jersey that hangs nicely so that your jumpsuit isn’t too tight in the wrong places. You might also want to try a couple different sizes of whatever jumpsuit you buy, since the torso length on these things is fickle. This is especially true of jumpsuits that are not knit, in those cases you may want to order a size larger and have it tailored to fit your waist.)
Jumpsuit 1: ASOS, $85.74
This one has one of my favorite features: the skinny leg with a cropped ankle. It’s going to look hot with the wedge heels you should buy (more on that later). The blue is super, since it won’t veer too far from suit territory, but you get a little splash of color. This one is a “breathable woven fabric” which is probably code for a poly-blend. As long as it’s not too shiny in person, you should still look great — just be sure to wear a lot of deodorant.
Jumpsuit #2: Nordstrom, $98
This knit jumpsuit is a great option for big boobed ladies because the wide legs even out our breadth up top, and it even conceals a bra! The faux-wrap front is very flattering, thanks to that V-neckline, and the bow at the waist means that you don’t need to deal with a belt.
Jumpsuit #3: ASOS, $95.27
This one takes you out of the seventies with the modern vibe of its short kimono sleeve. The simple cut puts you on the groom-y side of things, while the waist tie draws attention to your figure. I would wear some really big earrings with this one!
Jumpsuit #4: Nordstrom, $160
And this is the jumpsuit I wore. It looked much more expensive than it was, which is always a plus. This picture is terrible, but believe me when I say that this draped front looks amazing on big boobs; plus, it comes in plus and petite sizes! It also has pockets, which is useful: at various points in the ceremony I had to store some vows, a hankie, and a reading. I used my own belt. Try this one if you’re feeling fancy.
Okay. Now that you’ve (hopefully) got the jumpsuit settled, you need to style the hell out of it. To really sell the jumpsuit as eveningwear you’re going to need excellent shoes, jewelry, and great hair.
For shoes, I recommend these wedges, which not only made me over 6’ tall, but also were absurdly comfortable. You can probably find them on sale somewhere (I got mine at Nordstrom Rack) and stash them for next summer. And of course, keep in mind where this wedding is going to be — I went with a wedge because I knew I had to walk down a big grassy hill, but if you’re not outdoors, any heel will be great.
For jewels, this is an excellent time to ditch the dinky bridesmaid-y pendant on a chain look and go big. I went the dangly earrings and huge bangle route, but a big necklace would be totally appropriate for these guys — especially if you’re not carrying a bouquet.
Oh, best (wo)man, you will not be disappointed by your decision to wear a jumpsuit to this wedding. Elderly women are going to tell you that they admire your moxie! Admirers of all genders will follow you up and down stairs to get a peek at your cute butt in such a sassy pair of pants! So buy some control-shorts, tease your hair, and throw back those shoulders with pride. You’re going to dance your tail off and maybe, just maybe, you’ll have to go skinny-dipping after the wedding — because nobody swims in a jumpsuit.
Katie Lennard is generally better at dressing other people than herself. She has a degree in shopping (seriously) and now spends her time reading and writing about costume history.