Have you ever wondered whether or not you could pull off a three piece suit? Well, my friend, you’re in the right place!
A fitted three piece suit is an extremely flattering outfit, especially for shorter men.
If you nail the fit and get the details right, your three piece suit will make you look taller, leaner and more handsome.
Benefits of 3 Piece Suits
If you’ve read my free Dress Taller guide, you already know that short men should avoid cutting themselves in half visually (see rule #4).
What does this mean?
It means that you shouldn’t wear outfits that have a very light top and very dark bottom (or vice versa).
Wearing a suit is a great way to avoid this type of contrast because it ensures that most of your body is covered in the same color fabric.
But what happens when you take your jacket off? It’s a whole different look:
These outfits are pretty similar – white dress shirt with dark blue trousers – but the absence of a matching jacket creates stark contrast between my upper and lower halves.
There’s not much you can do to avoid this besides avoiding lighter colored shirts, which isn’t very practical, considering the versatility of a crisp white dress shirt.
But the vest changes everything. If you’re wearing a three piece suit, you’ll maintain that streamlined silhouette even when you take your jacket off.
Another great benefit of wearing a vest is that it covers your tie. So if your tie is too long (which is often the case for men under 5’8″), you can just tuck it in, and you don’t have to worry about the excess length poking out from under your jacket.
Plus, unlike with shirts and jacket, you’ll never have to get the sleeves shortened (because vests don’t have sleeves…).
Wearing 3 Piece Suits
Here’s the deal:
If you’re going to wear a three piece suit, you do have to keep a few small details in mind. If you don’t, you might end up looking like a teenage valet at a cheap Italian restaurant.
But if you do, you’ll look like the guy who tosses his Tesla keys and a twenty dollar bill to the valet at a fancy steakhouse.
Okay, okay…this photo wasn’t taken at a fancy steakhouse, and I’ve never given a $20 tip to a valet (in fact, I usually park my own car…which is a Nissan).
But still, these three tips will help you achieve that “baller status” look:
Tip #1: Your vest should cover your shirt
No part of your shirt should be visible below your vest. Your vest should completely cover the waistband of your pants, like this:
Remember: it’s better to wear a vest that’s just a little bit too long, rather than one that’s just a little bit too short.
Also, traditional menswear enthusiasts may tell you than you should never button the bottom button of your vest.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule (like it is for suit jackets), so do whatever you prefer. I like the way it looks when the bottom button in left unfastened.
Tip #2: Use the same fabric for the whole vest
You’ll often see vests where the front is the same wool as the suit, but the back is made from the same material as the jacket lining (typically a silk-like material such as Bemberg or some other type of rayon).
There’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s actually very functional since it provides a smooth surface for your jacket to slide over (as you take it on and off).
But if you want to maximize versatility and get all of the heightening benefits from your three piece suits, I recommend making the entire vest from the same fabric, or at least using a lining in the same color.
This way, you’ll look great from all angles, and you’ll maintain that streamlined, easy-on-the-eyes silhouette.
Tip #3: Make sure your shirt sleeves fit
We’ve all been guilty of wearing that shirt that doesn’t really fit under a suit jacket. Sure, the sleeves are a little too long and baggy, and you haven’t yet gotten around to getting it tailored, but it’s okay because you’ll just keep your jacket on, right?
When the jacket comes off, though, ill-fitting sleeves are going to be very noticeable, and the pirate shirt look doesn’t flatter anyone (especially shorter men).
Luckily, slimming up the sleeves of a dress shirt is a relatively cheap and easy alteration.
See also: Men’s Dress Shirt Alterations
Every man has a few shirts that he only wears under a sweater or jacket.
But if you’re going to incorporate waistcoats or three piece suits into your wardrobe, you better take all of those ill-fitting shirts to the tailor.
Remember: your sleeves don’t have to be skin tight. They should be roomy enough to roll up, to flex your muscles, or to wear a watch or bracelet underneath.
Putting It All Together
Here’s the bottom line:
When worn properly, a three piece suit is one of the most flattering outfits a short man can wear.
Pretty sharp getup, eh? If you don’t yet have a three piece suit in your wardrobe, I highly recommend making sure your next suit purchase includes a vest.
If you already wear three piece suits, well done, sir. You’re a gentleman and a scholar.
Do you wear three piece suits? Leave a comment below!
Logan Connor says
Excellent review and advice. I love the vest with the same fabric of the pants and jacket on the back. That shiny satin look should’ve died with the 90s. I am 5’8″ and I have two three piece suits. I mainly wear them when its cold and I need the warmth but sometimes I wear the pants and vest with a tie alone and still looks good, thanks for the post……..
Dexter Smith says
Loved the article Brock, as a shorter guy that usually worries over matters of this, it really helped me find some ease, inspiration and confidence.
Debbie Bollhoefer says
My husband is 5’6 and needs a smart 3 piece suit. He has never had a great fitting one. Where should we go?
This video might help (I’m around his height) – https://youtu.be/CLFBsw_Jjes
Anika Raut says
Thanks for sharing this post and shedding light on how to wear a charcoal three piecebepoke Suit. It is great to see how each step is carefully followed to design custom tailored suits as per our requirement. Good job. Looking forward for more such articles from you.
Toby Paltridge says
Great post. I have been wanting to start wearing vests/waistcoats for ages but keep putting it off. This post has given me the kick I needed. I also think it is possible to wear the vest over a shirt and with jeans as part of a high-low look. Like Elijah Wood is doing in your first pic.
I’ve always steered clear of a three piece suit, but now I think I may have to give it a second chance. Your photos prove your case for sure. I actually like wearing a sweater vest in the winter and like the look and this look really isn’t much different. I do appreciate you pointing out that done improperly you would look like a valet instead of the guy in the Tesla. As always, thanks for the awesome advice. Keep it coming.
Terry Christensen says
I am amazed at how much a suit vest adds to the “taller” look as you modeled your 3 piece suit! It is so visually effective. I had really never noticed this phenomenon before because here where I live in the southwestern part of the U.S., you just don’t see men wearing 3 piece suits very often. It may have something to do with the warmer climate. I don’t know.
At great posting and a real eye opener for me.
Khoi N. (@lifeaskhoi) says
Suit game strong! Good timing. I’ve been on the market for a charcoal 3 piece. But I’m holding off till fall. Thinking Oliver Wicks, Suit Supply or Black Lapel.
Isaac Munoz says
Fantastic article! Thanks for the inight.
What brand, style, and color shoes are you wearing in the last picture under “Bringing it All Together”? Same question for the picture where you contrast a streamlined look with the yellowish leaves on the ground?
Thanks! They’re from Shoe Passion: