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March of the penguin suits

Stars navigate tuxedo minefields to avoid carpet bombs

Plunging necklines. Corseted waists. Sexy side slits. When it comes to black-tie looks, it seems like women have all the fun and men hardly get noticed at all.

Though the ladies have more elaborate options, gents can still depart from the traditional penguin suit without becoming red-carpet roadkill.

According to ready-to-wear and couture Italian designer Domenico Vacca — who dressed Forest Whitaker, Will Ferrell and Steve Carell for the Golden Globes — navy is the new black.

“Midnight blue tuxes were a staple for Cary Grant and Clark Gable,” Vacca says. “We’re bringing back old Hollywood glamour, but with contemporary touches like soft shoulders and higher arm holes.”

He notes that white tuxedo jackets with black pants (think Sean Connery) and velvet suits (not tuxes) are also in vogue, but single-pleated or flat-front pants are always a must.

“The best bet is a peak-lapel, one- or two-button tux with a flat-front pant,” adds Colby McWilliams, vice president of Neiman Marcus’ men’s fashion.

After that, the rules get a bit more complicated: A spread-collar, double-button shirt is great with a knotted tie, but not a bow tie. The style looks crisper than single-button versions when the tie gets shed at post-parties.

Silk ties are chic with tuxes and act as splashes of color in baby blue, lavender or light pink. Pocket scarves and handkerchiefs make for distinct accents but look florid in anything other than white linen.

As for accessories, cummerbunds and vests can be au courant when paired with bowties only. (Take note: Cummerbunds highlight the midsection. Without a six-pack, it might be best to stick with slimming black.) Shoes should not be an afterthought — especially as the style of pants has become shorter in recent years. Traditional tuxedo loafers in patent leather with a touch of black suede are always a suave bet. When opting for calf leather, buff well.

Obviously, men have myriad choices. They can also make missteps in some people’s eyes — as witnessed by the drubbing from fashion critics that Sean Combs and Jeremy Irons received at the recent Golden Globes.

“Men should be icons of style instead of wearing costumes,” Vacca says.

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