June 28, 2011

Finding the Perfect Rehearsal Dinner Attire w/ Julie Rath: Part I

Julie Rath had no idea what she was getting into when she agreed to meet us at the Astor Place Starbucks during our most recent visit to New York. Julie and I had never met in person, only communicated via email and Twitter, and she had contributed a fantastic guest post to The Groom Says back in March. (I'm now a neck-wear aficionado thanks to her.) For this trip, Julie had organized a visit to Michael Andrews Bespoke studio in SoHo (a groom safe haven of sorts), just a short walk from Astor Place.

But there we were, 2Es and I -- 2Es sporting a rather intimidating camera, me sporting what my mother would call a shit-eating grin -- with a somewhat skewed plan for the afternoon. 

Because right across the street is every stylist's dream -- a three-story Kmart -- and that would be our first (surprise) stop of the afternoon. Julie would later refer to it as the "Stump the Stylist" segment, and sure, I guess that was part of it. But I also wanted to see what Julie could throw together on the slimmest of budgets. Better yet, I wanted to see if it was possible to assemble a stylist-approved rehearsal dinner outfit at one of the Always Low Prices megastores. 

"We're doing this!"

Julie, an image consultant, personal stylist and founder of Rath & Co., was all about it, jumping right into the challenge and shuffling through a table piled high with bargain dress shirts. [Tip #1:] Julie recommends that grooms keep their distance when it comes to clip-on ties (of course) and add a pocket square in order to "bump" the outfit to the next level. 

She put me to work as well, telling me to comb the racks for a shirt-tie set that would compliment almost any groom. Somehow we ended up choosing the same combo.

"I DO have good taste!" says the guy in the tattered ball cap.

I couldn't help but pull Julie into a quick round of Yes or No, in which I move through the maze that is 2nd floor menswear and pull questionable items from the shelves, items grooms might consider as part of their rehearsal dinner attire. Julie, in her fashionable wisdom, gives a hesitant thumbs up or an enthusiastic thumbs down.

Thumbs down? Camouflage. Hiking mandals (the man sandals with velcro and bungee cords). Boxers (tend to bunch). Hawaiian shirts. Checks and plaids on short grooms (meaning me).

Thumbs up? Chinos (outside of Kmart, Julie likes Bonobos brand). Linen suits as opposed to Hawaiian shirts for destination weddings. Boxer-briefs. Suspenders on bulkier grooms.

Thumbs way down.

Most grooms can feel lost when it comes to clothing. Grooms who wear jeans and t-shirts on a daily basis may not know how to upgrade their wardrobe. So where do those grooms turn for help?

Well, Julie says [Tip #2:] grooms should look to the setting of the event for inspiration. Look at the rehearsal dinner venue, the season, whether it will be an indoor or outdoor event. And look to your bride! The thing is -- a tie-and-blazer combo is just as suitable as a polo. Your job, groom, is to fit the occasion.

Other places to go for help? [Tips #3-5:] Look to blogs and magazines, keeping an eye out for well-dressed grooms and noting brands you like. Find a tailor (or image consultant) that you trust, who will tell you what colors and styles look good on you. And, once you've done your homework, get to the mall, groom. Go to three different stores and try things on. It's really the only way you'll know what works for you.

After fifteen minutes of browsing, Julie had assembled something that she was (mildly) happy with. The Batman underwear may have been my idea.

(Clockwise from top left:) David Taylor short sleeve plaid shirt; Batman logo briefs; Farah performance dress chinos; and Thom McAn Kendrick Leather Driving Moc in navy.

All in all -- "all" meaning the four items above plus a braided belt for $9.99 and a pair of cotton cushion "fashion" socks for $4.99 -- the outfit comes out to $91.94 before tax. If this was, in fact, Stump the Stylist ... then Julie managed to put together a groom-worthy ensemble for under $100. 

Catch Part II of our attire excursion on Thursday, when Julie gives us a tour of Michael Andrews Bespoke (I might just name our first child after them), presents three Rehearsal Dinner options that are pure class, and shows us why we should actually consider getting our color analysis done. 

Grooms, you need help. Email Julie about scheduling a consultation at julie@rathandco.com. Also visit her website at rathandco.com

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All photographs © Joanna Wilson Photography

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