Whether you want to channel Steve McQueen in a suave three-piece, look like a country gent in tweed, or channel your inner dandy with a pop of colour and brogues, there’s a waistcoat for every style. There seem to be no style rules, or are there? Here are answers to six of the most frequently asked waistcoat-related questions to help you break the mould, while keeping to the rules.
How long should it be?
Well, the clue is in the name. However, it’s worth checking out, it’s a bit like a tie; too short and you can look like a schoolboy and too long and you can look sloppy. The waistcoat should reach your waist, and standing straight it should just cover your waistband. There should be no tie or shirt sticking out underneath. If you’re going for a more formal look, then the belt should be covered too. Alternatively, consider wearing braces to avoid a belt buckle bunching underneath the waistcoat.
Loose or tight?
In one word: fitted. They streamline the torso, emphasise the waist and can make you appear taller and in better shape, so make the most of these benefits. Avoid baggy Waistcoats unless you are going for an extremely casual look. Corsets used to be worn under waistcoats to really
enhance a small waistline and emphasise broad shoulders but there’s no need for extreme measures. A closely fitted waistcoat that skims the torso is the goal. If it digs in,
pulls at the buttons, rides up, or crinkles the shirt underneath, then it is too tight. Use the cinch at the back to adjust the tightness as required, but avoid having to pull it too tight to avoid the material bunching
How should it fit around the shirt collar?
A Well-fitted waistcoat will fit loosely underneath the back of the collar, but will avoid touching the front tips of the collar. The shoulders should sit flat against the body. If there is gaping around the collar or shoulders, then it is too big.
Do I have to do all the buttons up?
A gentleman always leaves bottom button of his waistcoat undone. The practical reason is that it allows more movement and is more comfortable. The real reason is a mystery, but is often attributed to King Edward VII becoming a little portly and having to leave his bottom button undone. His courtiers, either thinking that it was the new trend or wanting to spare his embarrassment, followed suit, thus setting a fashion rule that has endured since the early 1900s. Some are now questioning the rationale behind this rule, and a brave few are flouting it by doing up every button. However, to avoid being seen as ignorant of the tradition, it’s best to button up whilst leaving the bottom one lindone, unless you are wearing a double-breasted waistcoat.