A Midsummer Night’s Wardrobe…in Paris

Rick B. asks: My wife and I have decided to take a summer trip to France, but I (well really, my wife) refuses to explore another foreign destination with me looking like an “American dude in Paris;” aka, a classic tourist target (“ No dear, you can’t wear a football jersey to the Lourvre”). We are pretty active and make the most of our days visiting museums, wineries, etc. What would be some wardrobe essentials that I would feel comfortable in and also not embarrass my wife in?

Tom: Conformity is usually looked down upon; but if your individual style is a baseball cap and a logoed-tee, then a little conformity may not be a bad idea. Showing up to a Parisian café in leather flip-flops, tan shorts and a blue, short sleeve chambray shirt is tactful, not uniform; and I assure you, she will appreciate it. Don’t have a lot of time to mull over your wardrobe? Two things to keep in mind: weather and occasion. Summertime in France can be warm in the day and cool at night. A lightweight linen blazer and a gingham shirt are the perfect pair for looking casual at the winery and saying cool during the warm summer day. Add a tie to the mix and you’re ready for a stargazing dinner at Lasserre in Paris in cool night air (Quick tip: Linen blazers look good wrinkled, so don’t worry about keeping it pressed).

Leave the backpack at home, or at least in the hotel room. Buy your wife a bigger purse to carry the city map and cash (she’ll love that one). Besides, many travel companies offer pouches designer to hold cash, I.D. cards, and passports that go underneath your clothes in order to avoid theft.

For lighter fare days when museum hopping and sidewalk cafés are on the agenda, patchwork plaid shorts, leather flip-flops and either a linen shirt or summer polo are great. My best advice? Leave all your logo-printed shirts at home, unless you’re planning to sleep in them (or sleep in the other room).

Best Regards,


I Can See Clearly Now…

Alan D. asks: My wife and I think we’re about ready to pull the trigger on a complete closet remodel, and we’ve met with a couple of those closet organizing companies. When they explained the process, both talked about making a list of what we’d be putting back in the new closet (like a complete wardrobe inventory). They mentioned that this would be a great opportunity to evaluate what clothes we really wear and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. I was hoping you could help me figure out what I should keep vs. toss, and give me some kind of blueprint so I can plan what I need to add to my wardrobe in the future. Can you help me?

Tom: We suggest a simple 3-part process for evaluating your wardrobe. First, separate the items you really enjoy wearing that look good on you and are in good condition. These will all end up back in your new closet. Second, separate the items that you would enjoy wearing again except that they need a repair or alteration. Things like replacing a missing button, repairing a pant hem, taking in or letting out the waist of a favorite trouser to make it comfortable again, or having the sleeve length adjusted on that jacket where your shirt cuffs don’t show. Most if not all of these will move back in to the new closet. And third, put aside those old favorites that you know should be retired and donated to charity – or possibly taken outside and burned in your driveway. Make a simple list to tally what you’re planning to give away and attach your list to the donation receipt from your favorite charitable organization. Your Tom James person will know the names of several local charities that could really use your discarded clothing, and he/she can arrange to pick the items up from your office or home to expedite your donation.

BTW: your donation pile should include any trousers or coats with “shiny” fabric (they’re worn out), shoes that are beyond resoling or have really square toes, and anything you’re not comfortable wearing any more .This pile should include any 4-button coats (2 button coats are now the norm) or those “Italian” jackets where the front of the coat buttons down where your zipper starts. Triple pleated pants or any pleated trouser with really baggy legs are all but extinct in fashion, and “shrunken” khakis or jeans that are way too short need to be moved out. Be sure to include “cracked” belts, denim shirts, and any sweat pants with elastic at the bottom. And if you want to be perceived as current, think about retiring your collection of those Tommy what’s-his-name silk “camp shirts”. If you have neckties wider than 4” at the large end, or ties that have a prominent food stain, let them go. In short, anything you’re tempted to wear that looks like you might have purchased it in a museum or thrift store should be part of this third group.

And if you’re thinking that we’ve just added another page to your Honey Do list, fear not. We do this for a living and would be happy to meet with you at home to work on this. It usually takes about 90 minutes for one of us to do the following:

  1. Call out any and all clothing items that have no future in your wardrobe – worn out clothing or “shrunken” old clothes should be discarded, not altered.
  2. Separate the items that only need a repair or alteration to put them back into the rotation – as long as they look reasonably current and the fabrics are in good shape.
  3. Re-assemble the outfits (“ensembles”) to help you remember what goes with what, and take digital pictures of your best combinations to help ensure that you wear what you already have.
  4. Suggest what is needed to fill in any holes in your wardrobe, especially items or pieces that will complete an outfit (an odd trouser, a new shirt or tie, maybe even a new pair of shoes), and help you update and replace any wardrobe “staples” that end up in your donation pile.

I hope this is useful. Walking into a neat organized closet is one of life’s little pleasures, and knowing that you actually wear all the clothes you own is empowering. Have at it….

Best Regards,


Three Rules of Thumb for Proper "Business/Casual" Dress

Client: I’m a consultant with several partners and an office full of associates who spend a lot of their time in front of our clients – and some of our clients prefer to work with us in our office or conference room. Supposedly we have a “business/casual” dress code, albeit unwritten, but my partners and I would much prefer if our associates would consider dressing more “business” and less “casual”. Is there anything you people can offer that would give them another point of view about the merits of dressing better? If it comes from us, they think we’re just being old school and don’t understand the culture of today’s business environments. But if it came from a third party, maybe another point of view would be taken more seriously. Can you send me some information or at least point me in the right direction?

Tom talks: In spite of our efforts to provide our clients with up-to date business/casual clothing options, we hold to three rules of thumb that are hard to refute. Here they are:

1) Your clients have an expectation or image of what you should look like the first time they meet you – and more often than not, it includes the idea of being dressed in formal business attire (coat and tie). Think about it – when you go to see your physician, you’re expecting to find him wearing a white lab coat with his name on the pocket. And if God forbid my house were to catch fire, I hope it doesn’t happen on ‘casual day’ at the firehouse. I want those guys jumping off the fire truck dressed like they came to fight a house fire – the coat, the helmet, the mask, etc – not cutoffs and tank tops. So embrace the concept of a uniform for business, decide what is appropriate for what you do and whom you serve, and dress accordingly.

2) It’s easier to explain being overdressed than being underdressed in any business setting, whether you’re meeting in a client’s conference room or for dinner after hours. If you’re the only man at the meeting in a coat and tie, even a casually dressed audience will assume that a) you mean business, b) you just came from a more serious meeting with a more important client, or c) you have “an engagement” after your meeting ends, and have dressed for that event. A man I met on an airplane once told me about the time he traveled from Chicago –dressed in a suit and tie — to meet a prospective client in the Silicon Valley. He was teased for being overdressed, and his response was “I want you to know how important your business is to my firm, and I only get one chance to make a first impression. My partners and I treat every contract with a degree of formality that speaks to our attention to detail. Now do I still get to wear my necktie?” He went home to Chicago with a new deal in hand.

3) Your self-image affects your confidence which can affect your performance, so if dressing well has even a slightly positive impact on how you think you look, you can’t possibly lose. And what if more formal business dress gave you the edge in performance? Today’s business environment is fiercely competitive, and companies spend real money on presentation materials, technology, lobby décor, even conference room chairs. Your personal appearance, which includes grooming and clothing, should add to the image of your firm and not detract from it. Keep your khakis and logo shirts for the company picnic – and dress for your clients like you’re worth what you are charging.

Best Regards,


How To Dress While Losing Weight

David C asks: After promising my wife (and my doctor and my tailor) that I would lose some weight, I’ve finally started to do something about it with the help of a nutritionist and a personal trainer. I’ve been losing about a pound a week for the last three months and I’m down two holes in my favorite belt. My wife says I now have “back pleats” in my suit pants, so my well-tailored clothes don’t look so well tailored these days. I’m committed to my short term goal to lose 10% of my body weight, so when I’ve lost 24 pounds – halfway there– I thought about buying a week’s worth of new clothes that fit the new me. But I’m afraid that if I keep losing weight these new clothes will end up looking like what I’m wearing now – plus I’m not sure if I should have things altered now or wait until I’ve lost more weight. Any ideas?

TOM Talks: First of all, congratulations for losing weight. Sounds like you’re on your way to looking better and living longer. I’m sure your wife is thrilled! The good news is our clothing has the allowance for up to a 30 pound weight variance. Typically ten pounds is equivalent to about a 1”. So that is 3” (or 30 pounds) to work with on your weight loss. Once you surpass 30 pounds, the suit needs to go.

Here’s a strategy: Now that you have lost the first 5% of your body weight (e.g. 240 down to 228), plan to alter 5 of your favorite outfits – clothes that are relatively new and not on their way out of fashion. I see men wearing their bigger clothes all the time and have no idea how they stay motivated. Once you get these outfits altered, people start to notice and this will keep you excited about moving closer to your goal. This will also tide you over and since it’s likely that only the trousers will need adjusting, the alterations will not be expensive. When you hit 10% of your body weight lost (e.g. 240 down to 216), then go ahead and have your 3 of the original 5 (favorite )outfits re-altered to fit your new size — then order 2 new outfits to fit the new you (be sure and get re-measured top to bottom). Here’s your opportunity to update styles and get new clothing with a trimmer silhouette in the coat and flat front (no pleats) trousers. When you finally hit your goal weight (e.g. 240 down to 200), I recommend you celebrate with a special trip/outing with your wife. Be sure to give me 5 weeks advanced notice so we’ll have time to make you a new outfit for the event. Now is when you should order 3 to 5 new outfits using your new “fighting trim” measurements, and also re-alter the two new outfits you purchased when you hit your 10% goal. You’ll end up with a good rotation of new clothes that fit you properly, and your styles will be up to date.

Best Regards,