Three-piece Versus Two-piece Suit: When, Why and How

February 27, 2023

Three-piece Versus Two-piece Suit: When, Why and How

There are two things that every gentleman should know — how to tie a Windsor knot and when to wear a three-piece suit over a two-piece.

Ok, maybe there are more than just two things that every gentleman should know but you take our point! Here, we’ll give you a lowdown on everything you need to know about two-piece suits vs. their three-piece cousins.

What is a two-piece suit?

Let’s start with some definitions so we’re all on the same page.

A two-piece suit is probably what most people think of when they think of a “suit.” Comprised of a jacket and matching trousers, but these are not really the only prerequisites for a two-piece suit. In the right scenario, a waistcoat with trousers can make the perfect look too!

man with dog in 2 piece suit

Coming in a variety of colours, styles, and patterns, two-piece suits can do it all. They can be two- or three-button (and in some rare cases, single-button). They can be single- or double-breasted, and come in any fit, colour, and design you can imagine.

Just at home in the office or in the bar after work, a two-piece suit is the choice for all — well, most — occasions. Where they fall down is that they are sometimes just not quite formal enough. Be sure to check out our Separates Collection for our 2 piece suit options.

But lucky for us…

What is a three-piece suit?

That’s where the three-piece suit comes in. A three-piece suit is much the same as a two-piece but with the addition of a waistcoat (sometimes called a vest by our friends across the pond).

Three-piece suits tend to be single-breasted, slimmer-fitting, and are usually of a more typical colour and pattern, such as blue or grey. However, this is of course a huge simplification and three-piece suits exist for every kind of gent and every kind of style. 

Three-piece suits tend to have a more formal and classy look than two-pieces, making them the perfect choice for when you’re trying to step up your game a bit.

Where the three-piece excels over its two-piece counterpart is in its versatility. That is due to one key factor — you don’t have to wear the waistcoat! 

Pretty much every three-piece suit works just as well as a two-piece. Fancy a more casual look? Leave the third piece at home. Looking to up the formality? Slap that sucker on and hit the town.

When to wear a three-piece suit over a two-piece

As we’ve already said, three-piece suits are typically more formal than two-pieces. The addition of the waistcoat takes the refinement up a notch and gives a more formal air to your dress. In addition, the slimmer fit and body-hugging nature of the waistcoat provides a slimming effect and adds a touch of elegance.

Typically, you would be looking to wear a three-piece suit with a waistcoat for more formal occasions. Think weddings, job interviews, and the like. The added sophistication of the additional piece invites formality… and hopefully some compliments!

Grey Wedding Suit

Don’t get us wrong though, a three-piece suit is always a good look and you won’t be out of place wearing your waistcoat to the office or dinner out with friends. It all comes down to personal preference and the kind of vibe you are looking to embody.

Two-piece suits, on the other hand, are far more comfortable in a casual setting. While it’s the case that you can wear a three-piece to pretty much anything you can wear a two-piece to, the same is not true the other way around. Some functions require the extra formality of a waistcoat, so just make sure you know what the dress code is before you head out without all three pieces.

How to wear a three-piece suit

Now, we don’t want to teach you how to suck eggs but we thought we should offer a few tips for wearing your three-piece suit. The first couple apply to all suits though, really!

  • Follow the sometimes, always, never rule — When it comes to buttoning up your suit, the sometimes, always, never rule is your friend. In short, sometimes do up the top button, always do up the middle, never do up the bottom. Got it? Good.
  • Match your shoes, shirt, tie, and accessories — It probably goes without saying but making sure you have the right shoes, shirt, tie, and accessories is crucial. Find tones that both match your suit and your own colouring.
  • Leave that bottom button undone — In an extension of the sometimes, always, never rule, it is good sartorial practice to always leave the bottom button of your waistcoat undone. This allows the end of your tie to be seen and affords you some extra space to breathe!

  • Now you know everything you need to know about three-piece vs. two-piece suits, why not head over to Tweedmaker and check out our range of tweed, linen, and wool suits? We’ll see you there!