Dressing up is fun. Prom is a great opportunity to embrace and customize your own look! A tradition that’s been around for over 100 years – prom is one of the best places to let your fashion sense soar. There are a few guidelines you can follow – but there are so many options to help personalize your style. And of course – you’ll have to decide: tuxedo or suit?
Prom is a formal event that requires attendees to dress their best. Both dress suits and tuxedos are appropriate attire to wear to prom. A suit tends to be the more versatile option – with more customized ways and opportunities to re-wear in the future. A tuxedo is the most classic option worn to the most formal affairs.
In this article, we will go over the characteristics that distinguish a suit from a tuxedo and how each should be worn properly. We will cover attire options that guys can wear to prom – including all of the accessories necessary to complete the look.
Tuxedo vs Suit for Prom: What’s the Difference?
At first glance, it may appear as if suits and tuxedos are the same. But there are differences – albeit subtle to the untrained eye – that differentiate them. Learning the differences between a tuxedo and a suit will ensure that you’ll be dressed properly for formal events for years to come.
Suits and tuxedos are both composed of a tailored jacket and trousers. Each is worn with a shirt under the jacket, but that’s where the biggest similarities end.
One of the most obvious distinguishing factors of a tuxedo is the presence of satin on the lapel and optionally on the pants and jacket button. Tuxedos are also worn with other accessories that a suit doesn’t require. They are also more specific as to which shoes are proper to be paired with.
Thankfully – both suits and tuxedos are suitable for prom, further adding to your options. Although dress suits can be considered formal, a tuxedo will be the epitome of a high-class affair. Suits can be versatile – worn in several ways to adapt to many occasions. On the other hand, tuxedos will always be for the most special occasions.
For most of us – formal occasions don’t come around that often. So when they do, it can be fun to dress to the nines. If your prom is black tie formal – the fanciest of fancy – a tuxedo may be your choice.
The epitome of classic elegance – a tuxedo is going to be the most formal option you can go with for prom attire. A tuxedo is a great choice if you’re into an old-school look. Vintage formal has a tuxedo written all over it.
The first physical difference you will notice when looking at suits versus tuxedos is the presence of satin trim. There will always be exceptions to the rule – especially with the growth of modern fashion – but classically and for the most part, a tuxedo jacket will have satin-faced lapels.
In addition to satin on the jacket’s lapels – tuxedo trousers will often have a satin side stripe down the pant leg and the jacket’s one button will also be covered in satin.
The accessories that one wears with a tuxedo are also a bit more specific than when considering a suit, starting with the shirt. A tuxedo should always be worn with a dress shirt – classically white. In many cases, but not always, the shirt will have pleats, bibs or ruffles.
The cuffs on a tuxedo’s dress shirt can be either barrel – standard fastened with a button – or French cuffs. The latter requires the use of cufflinks.
The other accessories specific to the tuxedo are either a cummerbund – worn around the waist, over the shirt and pants – or a vest. The color of which should match the bowtie.
Ultimately up to the wearer – the traditional neckwear option for a tuxedo is a black bow tie – hence the fanciest of affairs being referred to as such. The reason for a bow tie being the choice over a long necktie is that it doesn’t interfere with the other tuxedo accompaniments.
Shoes are an important finishing touch to any outfit, especially with tuxedos. The most formal occasion requires the most formal of shoes. In this case – shiny patent leather is the classic choice. Although, an elegant pair of evening slippers would also be appropriate and a nice way to include a subtle personal touch to such a traditional ensemble.
There are many options and ways to wear a suit – this is definitely the more versatile choice for prom wear. Suits come in many different cuts and styles, they can be modern or classic, and there’s no end to how you can add your own personal touch.
As for physical differentiators – a suit’s lapel won’t have a satin lining. Instead, it will be the same fabric as the rest of the jacket. A suit jacket can have either one or two buttons – as opposed to a tuxedo always having one.
The pants that come with a suit will be made of the same material as the jacket. And they won’t sport the satin side stripe. The cut of the trousers can vary a lot. To get the most flattering fit, having them tailored specifically to you would be ideal.
The shirt choices that can be worn with suits are almost limitless. Depending on the look you’re going for – classic button-up dress shirts will be a formal choiceUnlike with tuxedos – a cummer bund should never be worn with a regular suit. A vest is optional but by no means required.
Neckwear accompanying a suit – as with most other accessories – will also be more versatile. Choosing an accent necktie can be the central statement piece of the outfit and a fun way to add your personal flare. Though technically an untraditional choice for formal black-tie events – for prom and other slightly less formal events where suits are appropriate – a bowtie can be worn with a suit.
Shoes are another accessory that is fun to customize your outfit. And if you want to get funky – a suit will be the better outfit choice. Appropriate footwear for a suit is going to be a lot more versatile. Dress shoes will class up a suit; oxfords or wingtips would work. If you plan on being front and center on the dance floor all night – trainers can be a functional and fashionable modern look.
If you want something you’ll certainly be able to wear again – on more than one type of occasion – a suit is a choice that will give you that option.
Any color can be worn to prom – though dark suits will be the most popular choice. Traditionally – tuxedos would be worn in black, white, or midnight blue, but it is becoming increasingly popular to find them in burgundy, brown, grey, and other colors. In any case – a tuxedo is going to provide a classic look.
Suits can be found in almost any color – with many coming in patterned fabrics. If a wild, eye-catching, stand-out look is something that appeals to you – there is sure to be a suit to match your fancy. Choosing a well-tailored suit will give you a more modern, cosmopolitan look.
Considering the cost of tuxedos versus suits is another important factor. Tuxedos tend to be a bit pricier than suits – which makes sense considering they’re for the most formal types of occasions. Tuxedos also tend to be made from premium materials more often. There are also additional accessories to account for with tuxedos.
The cost of a suit can vary enormously. Since suits themselves are so drastically versatile – it only makes sense that their prices would be as well. The material the suit is made from will be a key factor in its cost, whether or not the suit is designer.
Another important decision is buying or renting your prom suit or tux. And each choice comes with its own benefits.
Overall – it will be more of an investment upfront if you purchase rather than rent. The cost to buy will be higher for a suit or a tuxedo. The price of a tuxedo can range from $200 and up – average, from $500 to $1000.
Suit costs can range even wider. Suits can be purchased for as little as $100 and up. Some experts recommend spending at least $500 to ensure a quality piece – though it’s easy to increase from there.
Tux rentals can range anywhere from $100 to $500 – so there is a bit of a working range. Suits can be rented for around $50 and up.
The main benefit of owning – rather than renting – a suit or a tuxedo is that you’ll be able to wear it again. One of the most important questions to ask, though, is how often you will be wearing it. There will be many more opportunities to wear a suit again than there will be for a tuxedo.
You should also consider whether or not you’re going to fit in the same ensemble in a year or two. Consider your own age and how much you’ll continue to grow before investing in a suit or tux.
In addition to re-wear, buying your formal wear will allow you to give an outfit tailored specifically to you. This will give you the best fit possible and improve your look.
If you know you’ll be attending at least a few formal events in an upcoming couple of years, it may be more economical to buy. Renting formal wear for multiple occasions can start to add up quickly.
On the other end, you won’t be able to change your look as often. If you want to go with a super fashion-forward bold look – that may be out of season next time you’ll be wearing a suit – renting could be a better choice.
What Do Guys Wear to Prom?
Prom – for the most part – is a somewhat formal affair. Everyone likes to get dressed up to some degree – the fun part is choosing how you want to do so. If you don’t know right away the look you want to go with for prom, there are a few things that can help guide you in the right direction.
For those of you attending with a date. You may want to consider what they’ll wear or choose coordinating outfits together. If you don’t have a date set, you could coordinate with a group of friends. Wearing different yet complementary ensembles would be a great way to make an entrance.
There will usually be posters hanging around that the prom committee puts together with details about the event. Dress code and any theme specifics are usually among these details. If you’re unsure where to start, this can hint at what you should wear to prom.
If prom this year is meant to be black tie formal – you may just want to opt for the tux. Being the most formal of formalwear – a tuxedo will ensure that you look sharp and dressed for the occasion.
For those who don’t want to wear a tux to a black tie event – choose a classier suit and add a vest. Wear your nicest shoes and sophisticated shirt and you can still turn heads at prom.
A semi-formal prom can encompass quite a range of outfit options. Most dress suits would be appropriate to wear to a semi-formal event. Vests, ties or bow ties would work but also be optional.
If your prom is listed as semi-formal, a tuxedo definitely wouldn’t be required, and you might be the most formally dressed guest in attendance. But! Wear it with confidence if you want to go with a tux – it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Prom also comes with a theme – Casino Night, Under the Sea, and Roaring 20’s, to name a few popular choices. If prom this year falls under a theme you’re thrilled about – consider dressing in a look to match.
This could mean wearing clothes to match a specific era chosen or fit into the event. Accommodating the theme isn’t required. If you don’t want to dress to match the theme explicitly, a suit or tux of your preference would also be appropriate to wear to a themed prom.
For many people – prom is the first big event where formalwear is worn. So it might seem intimidating at first. There are some etiquette notes to remember when it comes to dressing formally. But the most important thing to remember is to have fun and wear something you like and feel comfortable in.
There are so many options to choose from, so even if you’re not sure what it is yet – there’s a look out there for everyone. Harness your individuality and choose some accessories you love.
A bowtie is a great way to add individuality to your prom look. An obvious choice for a tuxedo, but bow ties can also be fun with suits. To wear with a suit – choose a bow tie in an accent color or fun pattern to add a little pop of personality.
Like with bowties, choosing a tie can be the most fun part of putting a prom outfit together. Ties come in all sorts of patterns, styles, and materials. Pretty much anything you can dream up can be found in a tie.
A pocket square is another great way to add a little color and personality to your formal outfit. This small piece of cloth is tucked into the chest pocket of the jacket. Pocket squares can match accent or complement the neckwear.
A lapel pin is a great way to add a unique, decorative finishing touch. Lapel pins are often in the form of flowers but can also be found in many other personalized designs.
The key to successfully wearing the previous three accessories together is to make sure that you strike a balance. With the necktie, the pocket square and the lapel pin, it is too easy to come across as tacky or overdone.
Instead – make sure that all three items complement each other somehow. Using complementary colors can be key. Wear solid colors and patterns, and ensure that not all three items are bold statement pieces. If you’re wearing a loud tie, a simple lapel pin and a subtle, complementary pocket square will look sophisticated and well put together.
Boutonnieres are a popular addition to a prom outfit. If you plan on applying a boutonniere to your jacket, this will be in place of the lapel pin. A pocket square can still be worn – just make sure it isn’t anything too obtrusive.
Cufflinks are a nice way to add a subtle, classy element to your look. Cufflinks can add a personal touch without being obvious or looking overdone. They come in many different types – metal, shell, precious stones, and monogrammed, just to name a few.
Cufflinks are a necessity for any dress shirt with French cuffs. Shirts with French cuffs can be worn with tuxedos and suits alike.
If you have a formal watch – this would be the perfect time to wear it. A watch is a classic accessory that can bring an outfit together and serve a purpose. Sometimes considered on the more formal side – a pocket watch is another fun way to add personality to your look.
Traditionally – it wasn’t fitting to wear a timepiece with a tuxedo. Thankfully this isn’t a rule in modern times.
The shoes you choose can bring the whole outfit together, solidifying it as classic, modern, sophisticated or funky.
A tuxedo will require the most formal shoes and will give you the most elegant, high-class look. So many different types of shoes can be worn with a suit that it’s best to choose your favorite pair – whether for form or function. Pick a pair that looks good with your overall look – and one that you can be sure will hold up to boogying down on the dance floor all night.
A dinner jacket is another term you might find when searching for the perfect prom ensemble. Sometimes, a dinner jacket may be synonymous with a tuxedo – this is mostly the case in the UK. In the United States – a dinner jacket is a white tuxedo jacket.
A white tuxedo jacket will have satin facing lapels – just like a black tuxedo jacket – though these lapels can be white like the rest of the jacket or accented in black. Dinner jackets are often a choice for formal events during summer or in warmer climates.
Can Girls Wear Suits to Prom?
I think it’s safe to say that fashion now knows no bounds – suits aren’t just for guys anymore. Girls can easily get away with wearing a tailored dress suit to prom – and look elegant, sophisticated, and fashionable doing it!
Maybe prom dresses just aren’t your style. You can have just as much fun choosing how you want to accessorize a suit. A suit can draw attention to a knockout pair of shoes in a way a dress can’t always manage. You could pick a classic black look or choose a fun pattern or color.
The most important thing about picking an outfit for prom – no matter who you are – is that it’s comfortable and makes you feel confident wearing it!
Which Is Better for Prom: Tuxedo or Suit?
There is no best when it comes to an outfit for prom. The real key is to choose something you know you’ll have fun wearing. Tuxedos and suits are both great options – each has its own personality and will give you a canvas to create just the look you’re going for. The guidelines and information above are a good starting point for understanding everything that goes into putting an ensemble together. The rest is up to you! Most of us only get to go to prom a couple of times at most. If you only get to choose one, which will you wear to prom, a suit or a tuxedo?