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When To Wear A Three Piece Suit

The three-piece suit. It is classic. It’s iconic. Hell, it’s downright cool—if worn in an appropriate setting. When to wear a 3 piece suit is is one of the most commonly asked questions that our stylists receive, so we’re here to make the definitive case on when you’re good to go.

It’s true that three piece suits are formal attire, but not for every occasion. In order to align with modern style etiquitte, you should wear a 3 piece suit primarily at social or celebratory occasions like weddings, anniversaries, dinner parties, performances, and even funerals. Nowadays, 3 piece suits are rarely associated with business attire, and are much more suitable for social gatherings and events.

man wearing modern style thee piece suit

Simply put, a three-piece suit is composed of the usual components of a two piece suit, a jacket and trousers, with the addition of a layered third piece: a vest or waistcoat. Any suit or tuxedo that combines these three elements would fit under the definition of three piece suit. Three piece suits are the epitome of class and are a great way to bring your style up a notch — but only when it’s deemed appropriate. 

Three-piece suits are broken down into three components: 

  1. Suit Jacket
  2. Vest
  3. Dress Pants 

Three-Piece Suit vs Two-Piece Suit: The Main Differences

Really, the difference between a three-piece suit and a two-piece suit is quite simple—a three-piece suit includes a vest (worn over your shirt and under your suit jacket), while a two-piece suit doesn’t. Many two piece suits will come with the option to include a vest (like ours), this gives your suit the ability to transition between a two pieces look and three depending on the occasion.

There are also differences between where you can wear the two variations that are slightly more involved. 

When To Wear A Three Piece Suit 

As mentioned earlier, when considering when to wear a three piece suit, it’s critical to understand the modern standards that determine its appropriateness for certain situations. It’s the perfect suit for a formal occasion, such as a wedding or a luxe anniversary dinner, but less so when worn to work or when conducting business.

The addition of a vest or waistcoat in current style etiquitte is often considered playful, or a novelty—meaning it has little place in modern business attire. However, that same playfulness is perfect for helping pull a wedding theme or venue into your outfit, or add a bit of flair when dining on a special occasion.

Brush up on when to wear a three-piece suit and when not to for a more detailed look into this age-old question.

How To Style A Three Piece Suit

If you want to amp up the traditional style of dressing for a formal event, the three-piece suit can be just the piece to do that. However, many people wonder: is a three piece suit too formal? While they are a sophisticated look, you have to be selective on when to wear a three piece suit.

Here are a few things to consider if you want to know how to wear a three-piece suit: 

#1: Focus on Fit.

When it comes to a vested suit (or any suit, for that matter), fit is the most important element for it to really shine – there’s nothing worse than a poorly fitted suit. When you can, opt for a custom-made suit to be sure you’ll get the perfect fit.

#2: Choose High-Quality Fabrics.

This suit should be worn for special occasions, which calls for formal-appropriate high-quality fabrics. If you wear a three-piece suit made with cheap materials, you’ll end up looking cheap! Choose a suit with a quality fabric like tweed or linen. 

#3: Match Your Colors.

The vest, dress pants, and suit jacket should almost always match in both color and pattern. If the event is less formal, like attending a wedding (that isn’t black tie), you might add a contrasting vest. You can occasionally even contrast your trousers, but reserve this for formal dinners. However, contrasts vest can go wrong quickly, and are often not considered stylish in today’s day and age—so choose wisely.

Remember, lighter is more casual, and darker is more formal. You can also try a different shade of pant or bow tie, just as long as everything still coordinates at the end. 

#4: Choose the right accessories.

When considering when to wear a three piece suit, you should also consider the accessories to accompany it. At the very least, wearing a tie or bowtie is a must. We’d also highly recommend the addition of a pocket square that complements the tie (but doesn’t match it, that’s tacky!). This will help break up the large blocks of color/pattern of the jacket, vest, and trousers.

These pops of color should always be an important consideration in when to wear a three piece suit to ensure your outfit looks balanced and intentional.

Frequently Asked Questions on When to Wear a Three Piece Suit

Are you still not sure about when and how to wear a tailored three-piece suit? These frequently asked questions should put to rest any of your concerns.

Is it better to buy a three-piece suit so you can pull out a two-piece suit anytime?

A three-piece suit will usually cost a bit more than a two-piece suit. That said, if you’re able to afford that extra money, the answer is a definite yes. The reason is that by simply removing the vest from your three-piece suit, you’ll instantly have a two-piece suit. In other words, buy one and you get both.

When can I wear a three piece suit to a wedding?

If you want to try something other than a double-breasted suit, a three-piece suit is a natural alternative. There are so many different factors that help determine its appropriateness for the wedding – location, cultural traditions, your role in the wedding, and many more. If you are unsure if it’s appropriate, contact someone involved with the wedding and ask. 

Should I wear a three-piece suit to my new job?

While you may be eager to strut into your new office dressed to the nines in your new three-piece suits, we would advise against doing this in most modern business contexts. Confidence and cockiness are easily confused, and overdressing in a new professional setting can lead to a loss of respect or even ridicule. Unless the culture of your business allows it, we don’t recommend wearing a three piece suit to work.

A well-dressed man wearing a burgundy suit and a stylish bow tie.

More Suit Guides to Explore

Eager to learn more about how to dress like a stylish man? Here are some more suit guides to help you maximize your wardrobe and make a great impression. 

  1. Three-piece suits also come in different geographical styles – learn about the differences between British, American, and Italian suits
  2. Choosing your suit fabrics is important; don’t catch yourself in a low-quality suit – learn the differences between polyester and wool suits. 
  3. Choosing your suit color is one of the most fun parts of the process, so we’ve created a suit colors guide to answer any questions you may have. 

Piecing Together When to Wear a Three Piece Suit

Now you can confidently decide when to wear the perfect three piece suit to respect the occasion. Remember: other’s perceptions of style are directly correlated to understanding the appropriate time and place for an outfit.

With the proper knowledge in your arsenal, perhaps it’s time to invest in a classy three-piece suit. 

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