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my eveningwear evolution: why it’s easier being me

Today marked a momentous occasion for any man. One of those coming-of-age milestones (no, not of the sexual nature) but rather an event that made me realise that I am indeed encroaching on a new phase in my life in that I may actually be one of these adults I hear so much about… I bought a suit.

This suit is significant to my past suit-buying escapades because it is ‘classic’. It is ‘classic’ because it is made of wool and not polyester, velvet, denim or elastane. This suit is black, like all good introductory suits should be, and is not to be confused with my grey, navy and burgundy ensembles of the past.

This suit is to be my attire for any future formal occasions I may need to attend, such as graduations or if anyone decides to marry or die in the near future. Due to the blackness of my suit, my creative flare will be limited to what shirt and tie colour combinations I choose. And even this thrills me … don’t even get me started about pocket squares.

I didn’t buy the suit because I am going to races, like I did for my last suit. I have a black-tie function next week and I am a guest. Therefore it is not the type of black-tie function where I can give black-tie protocol the finger by arriving in skin-tight burgundy suit pants, black brogues, a short-sleeved white shirt, black bowtie and crushed black velvet jacket. While this particular outfit was nothing short of genius, with the only shame being that The Satorialist himself was not there to personally froth over it, the purchase of this suit suggests that perhaps the times of more “creative” eveningwear is behind me.

This isn’t to say that I am forfeiting my sense of style to succumb to the mundane sobriety that is conventional dress code standards. I will probably never lose my eccentric way of always somehow looking fabulously semi-homeless, and nor do I want to. I just look forward to entering a venue and not holding my breath waiting to be told that I am in violation of several dress codes, or having strangers feel sorry for me because they thought I arrived in costume. This, to me, is what growing up must feel like: to be excited, and not forced, to wear clothes, that, as my mother so eloquently put it, “normal people might wear”.

This got me wondering what the female alternative for buying one’s first conventional suit must be. Is there is an outfit suitable for any formal occasion? If you turned up to a job interview in your senior formal gown you would probably be escorted off the premises by security, and if you tried to wear a happy floral number to most corporate functions your chances of being spoken to or taken seriously may be impeded. Even the staple of the black dress can be unsafe for any occasion, as some designs in the wrong situation can make one appear boring or cliche (or both).  Hence, I’m unsure if there is an item of female apparel that suits the one-outfit-fits-all category (pun completely intentional).

So really, I have a pretty sweet deal. I buy a nice, crisp, neutral suit and alternate the style and colour of my shirts and ties (or lack thereof to be a little bit sexy) and I’m set until I inevitably put on weight or fall in a puddle. Ladies, on the other hand, have to have an arsenal of outfits at the ready. The context of the event is everything, and from there it can be decided what design, colour and accessories (including cleavage) can be added to complete the outfit and deliver the right message. For a man the message is: I am wearing a suit. They are judged on how well it fits and is co-ordinated. For a woman, the message is much more complex. Every detail of the outfit can be analysed to deduce the specific intentions of the wearer. The harsh reality is that a woman cannot have the excuse of not knowing any better when it comes to dressing for formal situations. Character assassinations for misguided formalwear choices are not uncommon – just look at Julia Gillard… or Anna-Nicole Smith.

Whether this is fair or not is hard to decide. On one side, women can relish in the artistry that is formalwear and ensure all the attention is on them. However, guys can spend thousands on suits (after today’s excursion I realised that is not hard to do at all) and receive hardly any recognition at all. A prime example of this is from award ceremonies, particularly the Brownlow Medal, where women compete in no sport other than vying for the most exposure. Activities like this further propagate vanity, bitchiness and glory, and the world of fashion; its industry, economy, media and worshippers can all salivate and scoff accordingly to the peaks and troughs.

But this is all straying from the core message I wanted to deliver: today I bought a nice, black suit. And I am excited.

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