Waistcoats are still trendy, and here’s how to style them

In 2023, at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, Zendaya graced the red carpet, turning heads in a striking grey waistcoat. The garment boasted a plunging neckline and a backless design, leaving me speechless. She accessorised with a sleek black leather belt that held the whole piece together. At that moment, I knew – waistcoats had made a dazzling comeback! The ensemble blended contemporary style with a nod to classic tailoring, a testament to the cyclical nature of fashion trends.

Throughout 2023, we saw this sophisticated, timeless garment stage a remarkable comeback in contemporary fashion, and it is already one of the 2024 trends we are looking forward to. 

Before I tell you how to effortlessly integrate waistcoats into your modern wardrobe, let’s take a stroll down fashion memory lane and explore how waistcoats became an androgynous wardrobe favourite. 

History of waistcoats
Image: The Closet Historian

How waistcoats became a staple in women’s fashion

Waistcoats, also known as vests, first appeared in the 17th century as a staple in men’s fashion. King Charles II of England proclaimed it a proper way of dressing, and men adopted it for a more royal look. Originally serving the purpose of keeping individuals warm during colder seasons, it has now evolved into a fashionable outer layer. It has seamlessly integrated into contemporary style, whether paired with other pieces like in a three-piece suit or worn solo.

Think back to the dapper gents of the Victorian era and the dashing looks of the Roaring Twenties. In that era, waistcoats symbolised elegance and refinement. Waistcoats now come in shorter versions that add a touch of sophistication to both formal & casual ensembles.

Over the years, this dapper piece made its way into women’s wardrobes, becoming a sought-after comfortable androgynous fashion item. Actresses like Katharine Hepburn and Diane Keaton made a case for it with their dashing looks. It has become an iconic avenue for women to defy gender norms through style and is associated with this movement. 

Fashion magazine notes that the 1920s was the decade women began wearing pieces made for men and experimented more with gender fluidity. However, with other fashion innovations, waistcoats gradually faded into the background as part of women’s fashion trends shifted towards more casual and laid-back styles like denim and flowy dresses.

Almost a century later, waistcoats are reclaiming their stylish status with more creativity. I enjoy combining a well-fitted waistcoat with a pristine white shirt and high-waisted trousers. It results in an effortless blend of elegance and modern fashion.

How to incorporate waistcoats into your wardrobe
Image: Warehouse UK

How to Incorporate waistcoats into your wardrobe

Waistcoats are trans-seasonal and, as such, will always come in handy regardless of the weather. They are also perfect pieces for layering and are great for pairing multiple pieces for a stylish ensemble. Now that you’re inspired, here is how to seamlessly incorporate waistcoats into your everyday looks. 

With Denim trousers

Even though they are known for formal wear, we’ve given waistcoats a casual chic twist with denim in the past year. Find that sweet spot between comfort and style by teaming a well-fitted waistcoat with your favourite pair of denim trousers to nail this look. Finish the look with sneakers or loafers for a  casual chic vibe.

Over a dress

 

Elevate your feminine charm by layering a waistcoat over a floral summer dress. Pair this with delicate accessories like a dainty necklace, and add a wide-brimmed hat for that summertime romantic aesthetic. Complete the outfit with flat or heeled sandals for a whimsical touch.

With a Maxi skirt 

Waistcoats on maxi skirt
Image: Romi No via Instagram

With the resurgence of maxi skirts, we’ve established that almost everything suits them, and waistcoats are not exempt. A loose-fitting fringed waistcoat worn over a maxi skirt works beautifully— especially for an old country look. Pair it with slingback pumps and a clutch for a modern, sophisticated touch.

With a shirt 

Waistcoat on Shirt
Image: Pindy Gwala

Embrace more power looks this year by incorporating a tailored waistcoat into your workwear wardrobe. Pair it with a crisp button-down shirt or a luxurious silk blouse, and opt for tailored trousers or pencil skirts to maintain a  professional allure. Complete the look with a structured handbag and comfortable pumps.  

Leather waistcoats

Leather waistcoat
Image: Karen Millen

Be a trendsetter by incorporating a leather waistcoat into your street-style ensemble. Layer it over a graphic tee or a distressed shirt and pair it with edgy mom jeans or loose-fitting leather pants—style with chunky boots or loafers for an effortlessly cool and edgy urban look. 

As a monochrome set 

Monochrome waistcoat set
Image: Linh Niller via Instagram

The monochrome waistcoat ensemble has gained widespread popularity recently, particularly appealing to minimalists.

The look, featuring a sleeveless, well-tailored waistcoat paired with loose-fitting trousers or shorts in the same captivating shade, is just gorgeous. The structured lines of the waistcoat and the relaxed bottoms strike a perfect sophisticated balance, offering comfort and style in one cohesive ensemble. Keep it sleek with minimalist accessories and matching heels or chunky sandals. 

With tailored suits 

Three piece suit with waistcoat
Image: Miss Bantu via Instagram

Back to its roots, waistcoats are still perfect on tailored suits. Picture a charcoal grey suit paired with a sleek waistcoat; it creates a polished and refined aesthetic. The waistcoat becomes the focal point, elevating the entire ensemble. The combination projects confidence and modern sophistication, whether matched with a classic white or print shirt. Finish the outfit with polished dress shoes and a pocket square to make a lasting impression on any formal or business occasion.

And there you have it: six diverse and captivating ways to make waistcoats the standout piece in your wardrobe this year. Whether you’re strutting into the office or hitting the town for a good time out, these styles can make you the star of the show. 

Will you be getting on the waistcoat trend? 

Author

  • Omotola Saba

    Hi, Omotola here, the human form of the 100 Emoji and the fashion and beauty writer at Marie Claire Nigeria. She started writing for fun and merged it with her love for fashion, and beauty. She's mostly at home, picking up yet another new hobby, scrolling through pinterest, laughing with her family or at dad jokes, or sleeping.

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