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Make it a perfect fit! Five tuxedo mistakes

When the big day comes, grooms, you want everything to be  smooth sailing. Help make sure your tuxedo isn't an issue with these shopping tips from
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When the big day comes, grooms, you want everything to be smooth sailing. Help make sure your tuxedo isn't an issue with these shopping tips from

After spending three years behind the counter at a tuxedo shop, I can tell you that there are exactly no good reasons for you to call your tuxedo shop on the morning of your wedding. None. Saturday-morning calls from grooms always fall into the "My (fill in the blank) doesn't fit, help me, help me, please help me" variety. Sadly, the morning of one's wedding is neither the time to find out what doesn't fit, nor to alter the train wreck that's about to happen.

Waiting too long to pick up — or try on — their tuxedos is just one of a handful of common tuxedo mistakes grooms make. Here are five others. Follow these tips to avoid them — or remember to keep the phone handy come Saturday morning.  Mistake 1: Using a shop that doesn’t measure up Buying or renting, Charles Burkhalter says to make sure the shop you choose has a good reputation. "Clothes have to fit properly in order to look their best," Burkhalter, VP of creative services for Lord West, makers of Perry Ellis formalwear, says. "And it's important to go to a reputable place to be fitted properly." Experienced shops, Burkhalter points out, know how to keep you from swimming in a jacket, or wearing pants that are too short, too tight, or both. Don't know a good store in your area? Burkhalter suggests asking friends and family for recommendations.

Mistake 2: You forget that it takes two to tango Marc Atkin, president of Mr. Tux, a 44-store tuxedo company in New England, says grooms don't always remember that the tuxedo they're selecting must be built for two. "The most common mistake the groom makes is picking a tuxedo style without the bride's input or blessing," Atkin, who runs the 52-year-old family business, says. Failure to do so in a timely manner will lead to the sort of premarital meltdown that everyone wants to avoid. "Suddenly we're changing the whole wedding party's style of tuxedos the day before the wedding, and dealing with a very emotional bride," he says. And nobody wants that.

Mistake 3: You buy on the fly "If you're going to buy a tuxedo," Dan McCampbell, VP, men's fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue, says, "plan ahead. Most men only own one tux, so you need to think about the quality and style of the suit." McCampbell suggests choosing a classic style from name brands like Zegna, Hickey Freeman, and others, and using a top-notch tailor to ensure a perfect fit.

After that, take a good, long look in the mirror. "You need to decide what's best for your body type," McCampbell says. "If you've got a shorter, rounder face or heavier body type, you should probably choose a peak-lapel jacket. The lines bring the body up, and accentuate height." Taller, thinner men will want to choose a shawl lapel in a three-button or one-button silhouette. And remember, comfort counts. "Make sure you look at the fabric," McCampbell says. "A year-round weight, like worsted wool, is a good choice. Fine wool breathes better and doesn't wrinkle as easily." Prices for a good tuxedo, McCampbell says, start around $600 and head north.

Mistake 4: Your rental isn’t made from the right stuff High-end fabrics, says Donna Simonelli of Fabian Couture Group International, makers of Fumagalli, Lubiam, and Geoffrey Beene tuxedos, are available in rentals, too. It's just that many wedding parties don't know about it. "People tend to look through books and select tuxedoes on image, not by the way they feel and fit," she says. "Very often there are more options than what they're looking at." Simonelli, whose background with Fabian includes customer service, design, sales, and marketing, says the difference between looking good and looking great may be hanging by a thread. "The super 110's and 120's (number of threads per inch) are available on more and more tuxes," she says. And higher thread counts, she says, add up to a better experience all the way around. "Traditional tuxedos have 70- and 80-thread counts. The higher thread counts are lighter, and there's no comparison in how they look, how they drape (hang), or hold up through the day. These are wonderful garments, and wearing a tuxedo shouldn't be a chore."

Mistake 5: You save a couple bucks, but end up paying for it Quality costs, but it counts, and here's why: "You're not going to be the first one wearing that rental tuxedo, but you don't want it to look that way," says Nancy Haboush, president of Mr. Neat's Formalwear, a 20-store chain in Colorado and Wyoming. "Designer labels, like Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, or Claiborne are all going to cost a bit more than a generic or private label, but they're worth it. These designers make a better tuxedo, and they look great even after it's been rented more than once." The difference in quality shows up in the price, with generic labels running around $60–$80, depending on where you live, and designer labels running from $90 to $175. Haboush also says to make sure you put your best formal foot forward.

"Great shoes aren't free," she says. "If your tuxedo company is throwing in the shoes, stop and think, 'How can they do that?' If the shoes are free, they probably look free. Great-looking shoes cost money, and you should gladly pay for them. Your feet will thank you."

Haboush says price matters down the road, too. "It's your wedding day. There are lots of places to consider saving money, but what you wear is not the place. That's the only thing that lasts — the pictures, the memories, the way you looked and felt that day. They're all tied in to what you were wearing." Make no mistake about it.

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