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blue waistcoat

5 golden rules to successfully pulling off a casual waistcoat

Posted on: 31st Aug, 2018

Waistcoats are relatively unusual style pieces, often found at formal occasions but rarely in casual company. Ahead of the Goodwood Revival – in which we’re likely to see some top-notch examples of vintage style – we’re taking a quick look in more detail at this often-underestimated garment. When they’re worn smartly (for example, with a light blue shirt of Monarch Azure fabric) they’re the perfect signifier of immaculate tailoring. Meanwhile, when they’re pared down for a casual look, they make for a particularly memorable touch to your personal style. As with many aspects of personal style, though, there are a few tricks to looking good in one!

1. Leave the bottom button undone

This is a rule older than anyone alive, having been distilled from a century of tradition. Whether you’re wearing your waistcoat at a formal event like a wedding or dinner party, or in a more casual setting, you should always leave the bottom button undone. Oddly, no one’s quite sure why. The tradition has a number of supposed origins. Some think it first arose from the reign of King Edward VII, who started undoing his bottom button when he couldn’t fit into his waistcoat, causing his courtiers to follow suit. Another says that the tradition simply makes it easier to ride a horse; a favoured British pastime for centuries.

We can’t make a definitive judgement on where it came from either, but as style experts at Acorn, we’re just going to say: stick with it. Equally, don’t wear your waistcoat with a belt, for broadly the same reasons. Trust us, it just doesn’t look good!

2. Stick with a restrained colour palette

Now we move onto fabric colours for your waistcoat. On the whole, it’s wise to stay within the tones of grey, blue, black or brown – at least at first. These are the most versatile colours, and ensure that you can wear it equally well in formal and informal settings. These also look best when paired with a staple slim-fit, crisp white shirt. As you get more confident with your waistcoat, you can of course start to branch out and pick ones in slightly bolder colours, like blue, green or purple. If you’re planning on doing this, though, it’s still a good plan to stay with the darker variants of these colours, like navy, forest and velvet. The same goes with patterns – ideally, you’ll want more solid hues and designs.

grey waistcoat

3. Pair it up with a classic collared shirt

There’s a reason you don’t see anyone wearing a waistcoat with a round-collared T-shirt. Put simply, it just doesn’t look good. Instead, to project that ideal smart, effortlessly classy off-duty look, partner your waistcoat with a crisp, slim-fitting collared shirt. White is obviously the go-to colour for the ideal desired effect, but if you want to inject even more colour into your outfit you can vary up the colours of your shirt too, with a shade of light blue or even pink. Once again, though, the key is not to have too much going on in your outfit colour or pattern-wise, so be cautious with it!

4. Build up a versatile selection

As we touched on above, one of the most attractive aspects of the modern waistcoat is that it can work in a variety of contexts or settings. Colours and patterns aren’t your only options for styling – much like with cotton shirting fabrics, you can also experiment with different types of fabrics, too. Have a look at waistcoats in silk, tweed, leather or cotton. There are waistcoats in knitted styles, subtle patterns and wool designs, so get comfortable working out which look works best for you, and how you can enhance it with ties, handkerchiefs or jackets.

5. Make sure you get a size that fits you

We can’t stress this one enough. You can’t have a baggy waistcoat – it looks far worse than simply not having one at all! When you’re picking out your waistcoat, make sure you get one that’s tailored and close-fitting. Don’t get ahead of yourself by trying to pick out a waistcoat for a ‘future you’. If you’re planning on losing weight or hitting the gym in the near future, make sure you achieve those fitness goals before getting your waistcoat. Buying one that’s ill-fitting will look awful, as well as being uncomfortable to wear. You’ll know whether it’s comfortable or not, but a good check is to make sure you can move your arms easily without being at risk of ripping the fabric. If it’s pressing in too much on your chest, that’s another sign too!

When you’ve got your waistcoat picked out, here at Acorn Fabrics, we’ve got a fantastic selection of cotton shirting fabrics to help you complement it. Solid fabrics like our Monarch Plain White can always beautifully complement a waistcoat in any shade or style, while our Summer Weights collection can be a fantastic source of lighter colours to experiment with. If you’ve got any questions – or you’d like to place an order – don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01282 698662!