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Item of the week: the waistcoat

By Rachel Douglass

26 Oct 2022

Fashion

(From left) Image: The Kooples, Na-kd, Na-kd

What it is:

‘Waistcoat’ typically refers to a sleeveless, button-up garment, often seen worn over a formal shirt and necktie. However, as trends collide for the upcoming season, the usually formal workwear piece has taken on a new form, seeing it become popular among the fashion-forward crowd as a trendy outfit addition. Brands and retailers have experimented to create new iterations of the silhouette, modernising the design for a younger audience, which has resulted in its development into a genderless wardrobe accessory. Now, the waistcoat has transcended its initial purpose, seeing versions that vary from fitted tailoring to baggy, androgynous cuts.
Image: Aline Yaneli

Why you’ll want it:

Waistcoats have seemingly appeared from nowhere this season, and have been removed from their stuffy, businessman origins to draw in the style-savvy crowd. As brands experiment with the look, new versions of the traditional silhouette have risen, making it popular among a wide range of fashion-focused shoppers looking to get in on the trend. And their sudden climb to the top hasn’t gone unnoticed. In June this year, for example, British retailer John Lewis reported a 53 percent increase in searches for the sleeveless garment. Its fashion transformation comes as trends from the 90s make a resurgence, as well as the growth in popularity for casual workplace attire, which has seen office garments expand out of their formality.
Image: Babista

Where we’ve seen it:

Like other typical workwear, the waistcoat had a prominent presence on SS23 runways, albeit in a more casual form. Grace Wales Bonner showed the sleeveless look alongside loose-fit, printed trousers, while MM6 Maison Margiela revealed a cropped iteration of the silhouette with a lace-up fastening. In contrast, Boss and Giorgio Armani each presented individual takes on office wear, in which the waistcoat played a part. However, each look presented by the brands drew a modernised twist on the typically formal wardrobe. Ahluwalia also took on the waistcoat with patchwork materials, a similar technique that was additionally applied to Coach’s version of the design, which was sported by rapper Lil Nas X.
Image: Dorothee Schumacher

How to style it:

The waistcoat can work in a number of ways, making it an additional fashionable layer for everything from printed chiffon shirts to graphic t-shirts. You can also twist its office identity by sporting it with a tie and loose-fitted trousers or a leather jacket, modernising the typical workwear uniform. Another option is to pair the look with matching pants or a skirt, completing the suit. To dress the outfit down, place a t-shirt or an oversized button-up under the waistcoat, or wear the design on its own. Tie the look together with layered jewellery pieces and boots.
Image: Elsewhere
Like many office-related garments, this season has seen the waistcoat take on a new, modernised appearance, largely due to clashing trends that have caused a resurgence of the sleeveless silhouette. As brands continue to experiment with its look, the piece has become a fun addition to the SS23 wardrobe.
Image: Na-kd

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