How to Choose the Perfect Suit for Party Season

Andy Barnham/Courtesy Kathryn Sargent

We asked the world’s first and only female Master Tailor.

Gentlemen, holiday season is upon us which means your calendar will soon start to fill up with invites for black-tie events, work functions, and family get-togethers. And while we are always down for a fun party, dressing up for a variety of those in the span of a few weeks can sometimes be a daunting task (especially when an official dress code is not part of the invitation). So if you are planning on soon updating your closet for the holiday season, keep reading carefully. To help you out, we enlisted the help of none other but the world’s first and only female Master Tailor—Kathryn Sargent.

Before opening her own atelier, Sargent worked at London’s Gieves & Hawkes (they have been the official tailors of the British Royal Family since 1809) on 1 Savile Row, rising to the position of head cutter there, the first woman to do so in the entire history of the famed British street, known for its traditional bespoke tailoring for men. So what does Sargent think of holiday dressing?

Andy Barnham/Courtesy Kathryn Sargent

“You want to think more fun and more style,” she said.

And that includes your annual work party, too.

“I think that you have to have a focus on fun and style rather than just wearing stuff that you feel like you're doing a business deal […] If it’s quite a formal environment, I would probably keep it quite formal, but I think there are opportunities to express your personality,” she added. “So you could add more vibrant accessories or you could be more playful in how you put your outfit together. I think expressing some individual style is quite acceptable.”

So what does that translate into in practice?

The easiest way to add some holiday cheer to your party ensemble is not so much to wear something outrageous (Sargent doesn’t recommend going totally off-brand) but to play with colors and fabrics.

A velvet jacket, for example, paired with trousers both in midnight blue could be the perfect choice for a formal party. Dark greens, reds, and blues are ideal for the holidays, according to Sargent. And if you’re invited to a gala that calls for a tuxedo, you can always spice it up a little by adding a more festive accessory.

If you’re celebrating Christmas with family, go for a more relaxed outfit.

“You could wear a smart soft-tailored piece so it doesn't have to have the same structure as a business suit. [Go for] a relaxed blazer or a relaxed sports jacket, which don’t have as much structure in the shoulders and it will be more comfortable than perhaps wearing a formal suit,” she said. In this case, you can also forgo the tie and have an open-neck shirt.

Finally, there’s an unwritten rule in fashion that end-of-year festivities call for wearing sparkle. But if showing up at your office party in a bedazzled jacket is not necessarily something you’d do, then opt for an elegant suit in a fabric that has some natural shine to it.

And don’t be afraid to push the envelope a little. As Sargent puts it: “It’s a party, isn’t it? It should be fun.”