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On double-breasted waistcoats

28 August 2008

It’s always nice when fashion coincides with personal taste. Makes you feel like the whole world is coming around to your way of thinking. Waistcoats are current example.

Patterned waistcoats are an abomination, unless you’re going to the races. And even then you’d be better off in smart three-piece tails. (Perhaps in pale grey, to set oneself apart.)

Waistcoats, equally, need to fit well. If your trousers are worn on the hips, as most are today, the waistcoat must be long-fitting. No shirt material should ever be exposed between waistcoat and trousers. For that reason and because of the unsightly bulge, belts should also be avoided.

Lastly, waistcoats should if possible be made to measure. They are the hardest piece of clothing for a tailor to make and ready-to-wear will rarely fit well. To illustrate: I recently had a suit made by my tailor in Hong Kong, the first I have had from him without a fitting out there first. I was pleased with the result, but he refused to make a waistcoat in this way, remotely, without being able to see it on me and adjust it accordingly. Good for him and his principles. He’ll have to wait until I am out there in November to make the third piece in the three piece.

That waistcoat will be double-breasted. And this is the central point of this posting. Double-breasted waistcoats are not just for weddings, white tie or the whimsical. They are a regular alternative in the three-piece suit, and to my eye always look cleaner and smarter. The long row of buttons up the front of a single-breasted waistcoat can look rather bulky, and lead to a rather high, 1960s-style fastening.

The double-breasted waistcoat, by contrast, has a low, sweeping line that creates a clean V behind the jacket front. There is no cluttering of buttons.

Even though the height of a waistcoat should be no more than an inch (probably a single button) above the top button of the jacket, the prevalence of three-button jackets means that in reality two or three will be exposed – as usually only the jacket’s central, waist button will be fastened.

One or two-button jackets will permit waistcoats with deeper Vs and therefore fewer buttons, but the ratio between jacket and waistcoat buttons is likely to be even more disproportionate (one to three, say, rather than three to five).

Colour and material, of course, are paramount. A double-breasted waistcoat is unusual and should be done in plain (usual) tones and wools. I’d recommend dark grey worsted, navy being a little dressier.

Given the recommendations of The Waistcoat Theory (see previous postings), there is a good chance this waistcoat will end up being worn without its jacket, which is all the more reason why it should be able to shine on its own. And we wouldn’t want to be too fashionable, would we?