Ask Esquire: What Do I Wear To The Fancy Ball (If I Am On A Budget)?

Poor you.
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Super duper hypothetical: Let's say you got an invite to the ABS-CBN Ball (formerly known as the Star Magic Ball), the star-choked mega party, where all the beautiful faces of TV and film get gussied up for a night of, as reports describe, friendship. 

What are you gonna do (after you pee your pants)? 

Well, you'll probably realize that you have nothing to wear to see your famous friends like Piolo, James, and the whole cast of It's Showtime at the ABS-CBN Ball.

Maybe your best man suit from eight years ago is on its last legs or perhaps sweatpants are the only kind of pants that fit you right now.  

With a mix of worry and hope, anonymous fans ask: Is it possible to put together a ball-worthy but inexpensive look that will not make me look like the assistant? 

If Coco Martin can play an immortal probinsyano for three years, anything is possible. 

For this, we look at fast fashion stores, the very places to visit if you need an entire rig right now and for less. In particular, we turn to the websites of popular high street chains in Manila and see if we can get all the essentials, the jacket, trousers, tie, shoes, and a few extras, from one source (an extra challenge).

Now, these are all based on their online portals, so in-store availabilty and final prices may change. And, of course, you can mix and match as you please. Let's go:

Uniqlo Is For No-Nonsense Basics for the Ball


Navy Kando Jacket (P2,990)

Shopping for clothes can be accomplished through the process of elimination: The Easy Jacket is too casual, the Wool Jacket a little thick, but the Kando Jacket hits the spot of possibly passing for very formal.  

Navy Kando Pants (P1,990)

You must get a matching set, as in jacket and pants in the same color. Both of the above, says the website, is in the shade of 69 Navy. But, you may want to check out, too, the Ezy Ankle Pants (also in 69 Navy). If you're not tall, the cropped style skims the top of your shoe, so there will be no need to have it altered.  

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Super Non Iron Slim Fit Long Sleeve Shirt (P1,490)

Since we are doing a no-nonsense look, only white. 

Italian Saddle Leather Belt (P1,490)

Just something a little extra to match your black lace-up.     

Supima Cotton Pique Socks (P197)

It would be a sin not to grab socks, because Uniqlo make really good ones! Of course, the color should match the trouser, never the shoe.  


So How Much? P8,157 for five items. 

Will This Work For the ABS-CBN Ball? Uniqlo is the great equalizer. Everyone shops here because the pieces are staples and also not terribly expensive. That said, there's not very much here for very formal dress. The Kando is more of a work suit, but in navy (and in the low light of night), it just might do. We couldn't find a tie and a shoe, so you'll need to get that somewhere else.  

Zara Is For Making A Statement on the Red Carpet

Tuxedo Blazer With Shawl Collar (P6,595)

Because we're at Zara, purveyor of right-this-very-minute trends, might as well raise the stakes and reach for the tuxedo. This one gets an extra boost with that soft satin shawl collar.   


Tuxedo Trousers (P3,295)

Match it. Duh.

Shirt With Tuxedo Collar (P2,495)

You will need a special shirt for the bow tie below.  

Large Silk Bow Tie (P1,695)

Size says you are serious.


Black Leather Double Monk Strap Shoes (P4,995)

We'd prefer a plain leather loafer, but all they have (on the website, at least) were tassel loafers. A DB monk is a good alternative. To complete the suave vibe, skip the socks.  

So How Much? P19,075 for five items. 

Will This Work For the ABS-CBN Ball? It's easy to go ham at Zara, because there are just so many pretty things available, but concentrate. Zero in on what you want (maybe this tux) and do not let the Givenchy-esque jacquard suit distract you. We wanted to add a ring and even just a pair of socks, but the total was getting serious. That's the price you pay when you shop last minute.  

Mango Is For Sensible Stuff

Slim-Fit Suit Blazer (P5,995)

Yeah, this is death-black, but before you say boring, check out the piece that comes with it... 


Slim-Fit Suit Gilet (P2,995)

Which is a gilet or a vest, making this rig a natty three-piece. You like? 

Slim-Fit Suit Trousers (P2,495)

A note for all off-the-rack suit pants: You will most likely have to take this to the tailor to chop off the extra length. Factor this into your schedule (a neigborhood tailor can do it within the day).  


Regular-Fit Tailored Cotton Shirt (P1,995, on sale)

White—what else? 

Button Cufflinks (P1,195)

What else? Well, this shiny cufflinks that mimic the sky or water.  

Tie MCH (P1,995)

Green is an unexpected choice. And the foxes are, well, foxy. 


Leather Oxford Shoes (P6,495)

The cap-toe is a most formal style. The mirror-finish takes it to the next level.  

So How Much? P21,970 for seven items.

Will This Work For the ABS-CBN Ball? Mango is more classic than that other Spanish high street label. If you are older and have graduated from chasing trends, this is the fast fashion shop to visit. They, too, have all you'll need for a head-to-toe formal 'fit. And if you are really strapped for cash, you can always nix the vest and extras. Stick to the basics. Good luck!


Ask Esquire: What Do I Wear To The Fancy Ball (If I Am On A Budget)?

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Clifford Olanday
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