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Are you looking for formal wear for your boy? If so, here is the complete guide to formal clothes for boys of all ages, from toddler to teen boys. I speak from experience here - I recently had to buy boys formal wear, and noticed that some kids clothing stores were much better than others for this. Unfortunately, many stores don't stock boys dress clothes at all (online or in-person), so it's important to know which stores stock it.
Value for money is important too - unless your boy needs to frequently wear formal clothes, such as ongoing ballroom dance classes, odds are that he's only going to wear his set of formal clothing a few times before he grows out of it. So while you definitely want your boy to look good, you don't want to spend a ton of money doing it. Don't worry, I've got you covered! In this article we'll look at everything your boy might need depending on the event: blazer, dress pants, suit set, and button down dress shirts. In a separate article I look at formal accessories: ties, dress shoes, and belt.
In picking out the formal clothing, you'll need to think about what you need for your boy's formal occasion. A full suit set is more formal than blazer and dress pants, but then again the blazer and dress pant combo is a little more versatile. What you choose will come down to the dress code for the occasion.
Best places for boys blazers or sport coats
Hands-down the best place I found for boys blazers or sport coats is French Toast. It's a U.S. school uniform brand and I've shopped there before for other clothes, but this was my first time buying a blazer. French Toast has a consistently high level of quality in all of their clothing, yet at an affordable price point, which is a combo I love. Best of all, their clothes are styled beautifully and are very durable. You can take a look at their boys blazer here, it comes in sizes from 4 to 20 so they've got you covered. I love that all their sizes are reliably in stock.
Lands' End is another option for boys blazers that look superb, also going from sizes 4 to 20, although their pricing is higher than that of French Toast.
If you're looking for colors beyond basic navy or black, then I recommend Macy's for your boy's sport coat or blazer - they have a range of well-known name brand options in stock in various styles and colors.
For toddler boys, I recommend the blazers at Janie and Jack - they typically go from sizes 6 months and up. Janie and Jack specializes in beautiful traditionally styled children's clothes.
Remember that a sport coat or blazer typically has gold-colored buttons and is considered a step down in formality from a suit jacket. If on the other hand what you're looking for is a suit jacket which typically has same-color buttons as the material (or you want the flexibility of using a suit jacket as a blazer), read on to the next section.
Where to get boys suit jackets
If price is a big concern then your cheapest option for boys suit jackets will be Target - they sometimes stock boys suit jackets under the brand Cat and Jack.
Where to find boys suit sets
If you want a full suit for your boy (dress pants and suit jacket), you'll want to buy a suit set. You could buy them as separates, but I'm always concerned about whether the separates will be the absolute same exact shade of color.
At the low budget end, there are plenty of options for boys suit sets on Amazon.com for all ages from toddler to high schooler. But be aware that although there are some name brands there, many of the more affordable suits for boys are from generic brands and you can't be sure about the quality. Nonetheless if price is a concern and you just need something that will work, then Amazon is the best choice.
For a good quality name brand boys suit set, I recommend the boys formal wear section at Macy's. Be careful to read product descriptions carefully before buying, as some of their items are suit separates and others are suit sets. But they do have plenty of suit sets available.
At Macy's and Amazon you can also get a boys tuxedo. I recommend a suit set unless you have a particular reason for the tuxedo. This is because a boys suit set is so much more versatile - it could be worn to a wedding or formal dance, to a funeral, and (for ages 16 and up) to a job interview. By contrast, a tuxedo would only work for the formal dance or wedding, not for a funeral or job interview. Of course, there may be a reason that a tuxedo is necessary - for example if your boy is in the wedding party and is expected to look the same as the groomsmen. Alternatively if you just have one event on the horizon, it's celebratory (e.g. wedding or dance) and you're only expecting the item to be worn once anyway before he grows out of it, a tuxedo is fine. But other than that, I'd recommend the suit.
Best places for boys button down dress shirts
Finding boys dress shirts is a little more of a challenge than it first looks, because so many of the boys shirt styles tend to have the collars with the tiny buttons that hold them down (the Oxford cloth style of shirt). That's more casual than what you want, and furthermore, those buttons make it more difficult to add a tie to the outfit. So I suggest skipping that type of shirt and going for one with a traditional formal collar. For that, I have different recommendations here depending on the age of your child.
For ages 4 to 13, I recommend the boys dress shirts at French Toast. We shopped this style and love it: these shirts are beautifully styled, crisp and easy to iron and take care of. The collars always look great. The fit is perfect and they even have a small discreet amount of elastic at the neck button to ensure comfort - you can't even see it, but it's there for flexibility.
For boys ages 14 and up, you'll want a men's size small or neck size 14 - 14.5 inch dress shirt (they're equivalent) instead. For the best combo of affordability, brand name and availability, I recommend Belk.com for this. They have plenty of well-known name brand men's dress shirts available at ultra-low prices. If you can't find what you want there, try similar brand name clearance shops such as Marshall's and TJ Maxx. If you're wondering why you wouldn't simply get a larger size shirt from French Toast, it's because I found that the French Toast shirts I mentioned tend to be fractionally too short for teens. For those older or taller kids, the French Toast shirts tend to come untucked a bit too easily - which is not a look you want at a formal event! So that's why I recommend Belk, although of course you're free to shop anywhere that stocks men's dress shirts. I just found pricing tended to be higher at the specialty men's outfitters, and you can get the same high quality while saving a ton at Belk.
For toddler boys I recommend a shirt and tie set - this is because it's much easier to find a coordinating set for toddlers than it is to get these items separately. The tie in a toddler set will be pre-tied and will loop under the collar of the shirt, or it will be a clip-on tie. For this I recommend the toddler shirt and tie sets at Amazon.com - you can pick from generic or fancy name brands, so there's something for every occasion and every budget.
Where to get boys dress pants
For crisp boys dress pants at an affordable price point, I like French Toast. They've got several styles of pants in their school uniform section that are perfect as dress pants - we have one of these styles and love the way it looks. Alternatively, if you can't find the size or style you like there, Old Navy has great options for dress pants as well. Both stores go from toddler all the way to older teens. These khaki-style pants (although they come in other colors also) are perfect to pair with a sport coat or blazer.
Although you could technically buy this style of pant from any children's outfitter, in practice I've found that some brands are better than others. For example, the school uniform pants at The Children's Place simply don't look formal enough in terms of their material for anything beyond school wear. That's why I recommend Old Navy or French Toast for more formal occasions.
If by contrast you want suit pants, which are a higher level of formality than the khaki-style pants I just mentioned, go for suit pants in the suit separates at Macy's, Men's Wearhouse, or for the most affordable price point, at Target under the brand Cat and Jack.
Shopping tips for boys formal wear
Shop in person at the store if possible (but here's why it's not often possible)
If you're able to shop in person, this is your best bet so that you can assess the fit. However, most mid-sized cities and smaller just don't stock boys formal clothing, even in the mall stores. They'll stock men's, but not boys.
One exception is that it's worth going to whatever men's wedding outfitter is located in your area. For example, Men's Wearhouse in-store typically stocks suits for small boys that would work well as a ring bearer outfit, so if that's what you're looking for then you may be in luck.
For older boys sizes though, the formal styles simply aren't bought frequently enough in one season to justify the store stocking it at all. I went around a lot of menswear places in person and was told they simply don't stock these items for boys (even if the store normally has it available for men and even if the store normally stocks boys sizes online). Specialty kids clothing stores such as The Children's Place usually stock only casual wear but not formal wear. It may still be worth taking a look at your local Janie and Jack store as they tend towards a more formal traditional look and are more likely to have suits or suit jackets in store.
When buying online, be aware of the return and exchange policies
I found it can be a bit harder to predict sizing accurately for boys suit sets, blazers and dress shirts as compared to their casual clothes. And fit is so much more important for formal clothes. Therefore, if you're buying online, be aware of the return and exchange policies before placing your order. If you have to exchange something out for a different size, can this be done at little to no extra cost, or do you need to pay the full amount of return shipping yourself? Likewise, if something just doesn't work or isn't the quality you want, how easy is it to return it? All reputable online stores clearly post their return and exchange policies on their site, usually under "Customer service", "Help", "Returns", or a similar heading. That way you're not blindsided if you later need to return or exchange something.
If you need to exchange from an online store, talk to customer service
I found that with French Toast, I was able to get a better deal on the exchange of a blazer for another size (well, technically they do exchanges as a return and a new order) when I called up customer service and had them process it instead of me using their automated system on their site.
With any online clothing store, if you need to process an exchange, call up via voice call. Most likely they'll be able to do something at their end to waive the return shipping or at least make it a nominal amount. This is because you're exchanging it - you're still shopping with them, it's not a flat return. Just ask nicely if there is anything they can do to ensure you're not out of pocket with the exchange, or that at the very least any shipping charges in both directions are nominal. Often they have discretion to do exactly that, so it's worth a try. At most stores the automated online return system is designed for a straight return, not an exchange, and so you can usually get a bit better deal on an exchange.