How And When To Wear A Three-Piece Suit

The three-piece suit is timeless and sophisticated. Whether you're attending a formal event, a business meeting, or a wedding - knowing how to wear and style this classic suit is essential.

How And When To Wear A Three-Piece Suit

In this article, we'll discuss 3-piece suits vs. 2-piece suits; briefly explore the history of vests and waistcoats; and look at the keys to successfully wearing a three-piece suit, including how and when to wear it, and of course, what to wear it with.

Three-Piece Set And Two-Piece Set

What is the difference between a three-piece suit and a two-piece suit? As the name suggests, a two-piece suit consists of two pieces: a jacket and pants.

So what is a three-piece suit? It contains a third element - a vest or waistcoat if you prefer. This vest adds an extra touch of formality and sophistication while allowing for greater personal expression and personal style.
How And When To Wear A Three-Piece Suit

Vests and waistcoats: A Brief History

The word vest comes from the Latin vestis, and the French and Italians use veste to mean jacket and robe respectively. King Charles II of England introduced it to Europe in the mid-1600s to formalize aristocratic dress.

The first iteration of this vest was reminiscent of a dress seen in Persia. This is a knee-length or "skirt" coat, usually with elbow-length sleeves, worn under a tunic or coat. The vests of this period are very ornate, with intricate embroidery and decoration.
How And When To Wear A Three-Piece Suit

British Vest
English skirt coat, 1747, Metropolitan Museum

Over time, skirts were shortened, sleeves removed, and the overall garment became more subdued, practical, and suitable for the masses—including women, who often wore vests as part of their riding attire. In many cases, elements featuring fine fabrics and embellishments remain only visible under the coat. Those never-before-seen panels are made from cheaper fabrics.

The waist-length coat that eventually became dominant was called a vest. Its popularity has waxed and waned throughout history.
How And When To Wear A Three-Piece Suit

French vest, 1815
French vest, 1815, Metropolitan Museum

So, will three-piece suits be a thing in 2023? Yes! Vests (exclusive to North America) and three-piece suits are appearing on runways, red carpets, and in fashion circles.

Not only men’s three-piece suits, women’s three-piece suits are becoming increasingly popular as well. Designers continue to reinvent this classic suit, offering modern variations and innovative styles, ensuring it remains relevant and elegant.

How To Wear A Three-Piece Suit

For a sophisticated and well-fitted look, consider each piece of a three-piece suit in turn.


As with any suit, the pants must fit you right. If you take off the jacket during an activity, you want your waist to sit comfortably underneath the vest.


The vest should fit snugly but not be too tight. It should cover the waistband of your pants but not extend too low, and can be made from the same fabric as your suit, or in a complementary fabric and color. Vests should be buttoned up; and never left open.
How And When To Wear A Three-Piece Suit

Three-Piece Suit + Vest


To complete a three-piece ensemble, just add a jacket. It should fit nicely over the shoulders, leaving comfortable room for the vest and shirt, and the sleeves should end at the wrists. Just like wearing a two-piece suit, sometimes button the top button, always button the middle button, and never button the last button.

What To Wear With A Three-Piece Suit
What are the rules for three-piece suits? Once paired with the mandatory fourth piece of clothing, a shirt, there are no hard and fast rules. Once the basics are in place, there are huge opportunities to accessorize. But be careful not to be overzealous. Start with three beautiful accessories, then decide if you have room for more or if you should go with less is more.


A classic option to pair with a three-piece suit is a button-down shirt in a light color, such as white or light blue. Those who like something a little different can try turtlenecks.


Three-piece suits are most commonly worn with a tie, but virtually all tie options are available. If you do choose a tie, make sure it is the correct length. When wearing a vest, the tips and tails of the tie should be hidden; never extend beyond the vest.

How And When To Wear A Three-Piece Suit

Can I wear a three-piece suit without a tie? Can I change my bow tie? Yes Yes. It all depends on the dress code and the look you want to create in it. A bow tie will work with a three-piece suit, or a bow tie if you prefer. Wearing a three-piece suit is already a statement—feel free to continue showing off your personality and style!

Pocket Square

A pocket square also looks elegant with a three-piece suit. If you plan to wear all three pieces of your suit for all or most of the event, the best place to put your pocket square is in your jacket pocket. If you anticipate taking off your jacket almost immediately or not wearing it at all, you can place the pocket square directly into the breast pocket of your vest. As always, your tie should complement, but not match, your pocket square.


Belts are often omitted when decorating a three-piece suit due to the risk of wrinkles or creases. Use your judgment - if it won't be a hindrance, or if it's necessary to pull your pants up, then wear them.


It’s up to you to decide what shoes to pair with a three-piece suit. Traditionally speaking, oxford or brogue shoes that complement the color of your suit are best. Start with the ones you would normally wear with a two-piece suit, then try more formal options. You can also try some less formal options if you're wearing just a vest and no jacket. (See "Casual settings" below.)


Layer on other accessories depending on your needs - such as cufflinks, wrist watches, or even pocket watches. Just knowing when is enough. When something feels like it's too much or out of character, trust your instincts.

How And When To Wear A Three-Piece Suit


When To Wear A Three-Piece Suit

Three-piece suits are suitable for a variety of occasions, including:

Formal Event

Formal events, evening parties, and other upscale occasions require a three-piece suit to enhance your presence and ensure you are well-groomed.


Can I wear a three-piece suit to a wedding? This is a common question, and for good reason: Don’t steal the groom’s thunder. Generally speaking, it is acceptable to wear a three-piece suit to a wedding. If you're unsure about the groom's attire or the formality of the event or venue, ask.

Business Settings

Meetings with top management or important clients often require a formal and professional appearance. Make a lasting impression with a well-tailored three-piece suit.

Casual Setting

A three-piece suit without a jacket, or even just a vest paired with a crisp shirt, dark-wash denim, and edgy shoes, is a great option if you want a more casual look.