How Do I Wear a Family Heirloom Without Looking Like I’m Wearing a Costume? My fiancée and I are planning a small, vaccinated, Covid-aware wedding. She’s wearing a white gown, but I’d like to commemorate my father by wearing his bespoke waistcoat to the reception. It’s pink and gold with bumblebees on it. The trouble is that when I wear it with a white button-down, I appear like an overworked amateur Shakespearean actor. How do I style this in a modern, elegant manner? — Abigail, New York
First and foremost, congratulations on your wedding. These rituals are expressions of hope for the future and optimism amid what appears to be a very bleak environment. Wearing one of your father’s favorite outfits is a nice variation on the old saying “something old/something new/something borrowed/something blue.”
But I understand your concern about an embroidered vest appearing to be tacky theatrical attire rather than exquisite fun. It’s the lizard brain’s association. Gwyneth Paltrow as a guy in “Shakespeare in Love” is difficult to ignore. After all, it was Polonius who said in “Hamlet” that “apparel often proclaims the man.”
While clothes are the costumes we wear for everyday life (which is “but a stage”), and expensive clothes are what we wear for our own personal paparazzi moments, we don’t want them to make us look like we’re about to eat the landscape. Even if love looks “not with the eyes, but with the intellect.”
Given this, I sought assistance from Arianne Phillips, the costume designer of “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” and “A Single Man,” among many other films, as well as a stylist attempting to revolutionize how we all think about the red carpet. She knows how to keep dress-up outfits from looking like they came straight from the Warner Brothers backlot.
She had two words: “Go tonal.”
To be fair, she did have a couple more. She recommended purchasing a shirt (or having one made for you), preferably in a fine cotton or cotton pique, and “lifting one of the colors from the waistcoat, preferably the major backdrop base color.” Arianne said that if you can’t match it perfectly, keep it in the same family. Dark, thin trousers in black or midnight navy are a good choice. (She advises you to forego the tuxedo side stripe.) Also, keep your shoes dark to maintain line continuity.