Unless you’re an outdoor winter sports enthusiast, it’s exciting to watch the first signs of spring arrive: snowdrops and crocuses pop up from the ground, robins and swallows return and build their nests, and days start to lengthen. As the temperatures start to grow warm and we excitedly pack away our winter coats, it’s important to remember that days may still be cool, and nights will almost certainly remain cold a little longer. One easy way to stay warm without still having to bundle up is to incorporate women’s vests into your wardrobe; adding a vest allows you to layer up without adding bulk.
What we think of as a vest today—a sleeveless garment usually worn over another top—has come a long way from its not-so-humble beginnings when, in October 1666, King Charles II of England announced he would be bringing into fashion a new men’s garment: the vest, or waistcoat, as it was also known. Initially, these sleeveless garments were the same length as the open frock coats under which they were worn. The part of the vest visible under the coat was often made of sumptuous material, such as silk or brocade, and elaborately embroidered and embellished. As fashions changed, so did the vest, and the length gradually decreased until it ended at the waist.
Vests for women began to appear in the late 18th century and were often worn as part of an eveningwear ensemble. In some places, the term “vest” was used in place of “corset,” creating some confusion. Through the years, the popularity of vests for women waxed and waned, but vests truly came into their own in the 1960s and 1970s, when hippie culture highlighted the fringed vest and women began wearing vests as part of their work outfits, along with pussycat-bow blouses. Today, vests come in various lengths, styles, colors, and patterns. Read on for some suggestions on how to style spring’s best seasonal item.
Denim vests can be simple or have embellishments, much like those Charles II and his cronies wore back in the day. Just like jeans, denim vests look good with practically anything, and you can wear your vest open or buttoned. And, yes, you can wear a denim vest with a pair of jeans. Just as if you were wearing a jean jacket , the shades of blue don’t have to match.
If you prefer to not mix your denim colors, switch out your vest for one made of leather or suede. Wear your vest with your favorite plaid flannel shirt, then throw on your cowboy boots (and hat, if you own one), and get ready for some country line dancing.
Fleece is the ideal fabric to help you transition to spring, and a fleece vest is great for when you want a little extra warmth indoors or out without too many bulky layers. Since we’re talking spring here, skip the snowflake and pine patterns; instead, choose your favorite solid, then add a top in a complementary pattern. Similarly, if turtleneck tops are too “winter” for your taste, try a Henley or rugby shirt, or even a ¾-sleeve tee.
Unlike most vests, which are designed to be worn open or closed via button, snap, or zipper, sweater vests are generally pullovers. Sweater vests also tend to be more formal. Worn with dress slacks and a women’s button-down shirt or white blouse, a lightweight wool-blend or cotton sweater vest is totally appropriate for the office. If you’re in the mood to dress up even a little more, swap out the pants for your favorite midi skirt and heeled boots.
For a truly on-trend look, swap out your waist-length vest for a longer vest—think long cardigan without the sleeves. For a sleek, chic effect, stick with one neutral color or tonal combination: black with shades of gray, or cream with camel and brown. Add a statement pendant necklace or a loosely tied fashion scarf to balance the length of the vest. Up the sophistication level with a pair of cute ankle booties and a beret or bucket hat.
Yes, spring is in the air, but winter has a way of returning unexpectedly. Stay prepared for those last-minute temperature changes with a women’s packable vest. Whether your warmth level runs to down or a lighter-weight quilted material, a packable vest will fit easily in your car’s glove box or your bag or backpack. Think of it as security, much like an umbrella is for rain. Life is capricious; most of the time, if you’re prepared, you won’t need your vest, but you’ll be grateful to have it around when you do.
A vest is a useful article of clothing, whether you want to dress up your outfit or add a little warmth as you transition your wardrobe from winter to spring. One last note: every woman should keep a fringed vest in the back of her closet. After all, you never know when you’re going to be invited to a 1960s-themed costume party!