Q: Why is the bottom button of my suit coat supposed to be left undone?

A: It may seem like the kind of rule that sprang from a long-standing convention of style whose origins and rationale have been largely forgotten today, such as the stripe on tuxedo trousers or the band on a fedora, but that's not the case here.

The lowest button on a two- or three-button suit coat is generally left unbuttoned for functional reasons: to allow your comfort when you sit, to avoid bunching up when you move your arms, and to accommodate any girth that may have accumulated since your youth.

Alternately, many coats are designed with a single decorative button. These are to be worn open-buttoning the coat could pull and misshape the fabric.

Q: What's the difference between hand-sewn and machine-sewn seams?

A: Hand-sewn seams are created by a single thread running through fabric like a wave. Done right, they lay smooth and do not pucker. Hand-sewn seams handle stretching well, and spring back into place after movement. Hand stitching is advantageous in curved areas like armholes, collars, and waistbands.

Machine-sewn seams use two threads crossing over each other through the fabric. They are sturdy and more precise than hand-sewn seams, but the extra tension created by having two threads pulling in opposition can lead to puckers in the fabric on curves. Machine stitching is advantageous in straight-seam areas like trouser legs, where it can be more durable and cleaner than hand stitching.

Q: What's the best way to iron a dress shirt?

A: Ironing carefully will ensure your shirts look their absolute best each time you wear them. Use the lowest temperature that is effective. Turn on the steam setting if necessary. Thicker fabric will require more heat and steam than thin fabric.

Iron the back of the shirt first, from the center to the sides. Iron the sleeves next, followed by the cuffs. Turn the shirt over and iron each side of the front, taking care to iron between buttons instead of running over them. Iron the collar last. Hang (or wear) immediately to avoid getting new wrinkles in the fabric.

Q: What essentials do you recommend packing for vacations?

A: When you're heading out for a vacation, it's easy to over-pack as you try to anticipate every possible weather condition or activity. Instead of trying to fit everything you might possibly need into your carry-on bag, consider this list of a few travel essentials that can help you keep comfortable in unexpected situations.

Even if you're going to a warm climate, bring a light sweater in case of a change in weather. Bring a blazer for evening breeze protection (if you're wearing the sweater, you can gallantly offer the blazer to your travel companion). Pack at least one dress shirt for evenings out. Bring dark jeans and comfortable shoes (that aren't sandals). And of course, bring your sunglasses.

Q: My wife says I should buy flat-front trousers, but they're uncomfortable-too tight, and not just at the waist! Is there any compromise?

A: Yes, there's an excellent compromise. Trousers with pleats are generally felt to be more comfortable because they not only offer more room around your middle, they are also roomier at the knee. We can subtly alter the dimensions of even flat-front trousers to provide ample room at the knee, so that you lose nothing in comfort-and keep your wife happy with the trim look of flat-front trousers.

Q: How do I choose cuff links?

A: There are several good approaches to choosing cuff links. You may want to wear cuff links that carry personal meaning, such as an heirloom set or gift from a loved one. Your cuff links can also show support of a group you value, such as your political affiliation, your alma mater, or a philanthropic cause you support. Or, you may choose cuff links as a tribute to your culture or geographical region.

Ideally, the best cuff links have visual appeal on both sides, instead of having one decorative side and one plain side. However, a fantastic design may be worth having a standard swivel on the back side.

Q: When I don't wear a tie, I feel like my outfit looks incomplete. How do I master going tie-less?

A: When you're skipping the tie, you'll need to make sure your shirt is up to the task. Choose thicker fabric to ensure your shirt won't "wilt" without a tie to stabilize it and pull it into shape. If you frequently go tie-less, consider creating a stiffer-than-usual collar for even more help with stabilization. And, of course, a shirt that fits you perfectly will always look better than one that's merely close to fitting you and requires a tie to cover its inadequacy.

Q: Are some suit fabric patterns dressier than others?

A: Generally, the more subtle the pattern and dark the color, the dressier and more conservative the suit. Solid, dark gray or navy blue are the ultimate classics and work well on more-formal occasions. Several classic patterns are nearly as dressy, but create a little more personality in your ensemble. Consider such timeless options as pinstripes, herringbone, or houndstooth.

When you're creating a suit for less-formal occasions, lighten the colors and allow the pattern to be a little bolder. Chalk stripes, windowpanes, and glen plaid are all excellent options.

Q: Which are better, plastic or metal collar stays?

A: Collar stays are inserted into the points of your collar to strengthen the fabric. Over time, even if you remove the plastic stays before they go through the rigors of being laundered, they may bend enough that they no longer have the stiffness necessary to maintain the collar's strong V shape. Metal stays are less flexible than plastic ones, so do not bend as easily. If you're trying out metal stays, consider magnetic ones. They're a great option for collars that don't have stay pockets (such as polo shirts) and occasions when you want to precisely control the collar presentation.

Q: Can I iron my tie? It seems to have permanent wrinkles, but I don't want to take it to the cleaners.

A: You can certainly use an iron to remove wrinkles and restore a fresh look to your ties-but not by pressing them. Here's how:

  1. Turn the iron on high and select the steam setting.
  2. Hold the iron about one inch over the tie and let the steam sink into the tie.
  3. Move the iron back and forth slowly above the tie's surface.

This will release wrinkles without damaging the delicate fabric of your tie.


The clothes you wear tell others about you before the first word comes out of your mouth. Is your wardrobe communicating the right message? Let's work together to ensure your clothes compliment the message you want to send.