How It Should Fit: The Waistcoat (or “Vest”)
December 16th, 2014
Continuing with our “How It Should Fit” series for Menswear 101, today we take a look at the waistcoat (otherwise known as the “vest”).
Here are the basics on how it should be cut, feel free to review with your tailor.
The waistcoat is the slimmest garment in menswear. It’s cut with very little tailoring allowance and is meant to sit very close to the body. A well-tailored waistcoat “skims” the torso without feeling tight or showing any fabric pulling. There is typically an adjustable “cinch” at the back of the stomach to loosen after a big meal, or a few beers, or just when sitting for some of us.
The most important element of a proper fitting waistcoat is the length. It should fully cover the entire waistband of the trouser and never let any shirt fabric show in between. This means the trousers also need to be sitting on the natural waist. Gentlemen often leave the last button of a waistcoat unfastened to allow more room at the hips for movement and sitting.
The Button Stance
This is partly a matter of personal preference, as some men prefer to show more waistcoat under a jacket. Old school vests used to ride quite high toward the neck. In my opinion, with a modern suit roughly 2-3 inches of waistcoat should be visible above the button stance of a closed jacket.
Number of Buttons
In design school our professor once taught us that a waistcoat should not have an even number of buttons, as this can visually “cut the torso in half”. This always stuck with me. However, on taller gents I find that the standard 5-button front is not enough to cover the vertical space (too much fabric between the buttons looks cheap, in my opinion). Therefore, for guys above six feet tall I typically recommend seven buttons for balance, as seen here.
As with the suit jacket and overcoat, the collar (or neckhole) is the foundation of the garment. It determines how the fabric will drape over the body. The neckhole of a waistcoat should hug nicely around the back of the shirt collar, without riding up or gaping. I find that the neckhole on most off-the-rack waistcoats is often too large relative to their chest/body size. This creates a gap around the shirt collar and allows the vest to shift around rather than remaining in place. The good news is, this is an easy fix for your tailor.
Yours in style,