Vestlove: Slip into the evocative, wide-ranging and time-traveling style of the vest

by DGO Web Administrator

The vest is one of our oldest and most widespread styles of clothing. This versatile, simple, unisex garment has resonated throughout history, appearing everywhere in slightly different versions suited for many occasions and activities. This staying power has proven the vest to be an ever-appropriate classic and worthy of praise in this week’s Style Fetish.

Vests exist from Middle Eastern sheepskin and felted wool, silk brocade Asian mandarin, intricately constructed woven alpaca from South America, Renaissance-style doublets, early-American fringed buckskin jerkins, embroidered Spanish boleros, traditional menswear from almost any era, and more. These historic and exotic vests look amazing and are an interesting reference when worked into your contemporary style.

Vests are also a functional piece to have when the weather changes. Core-warming vests are a great option before having to break out the huge winter coat and for wearing inside instead of a cardigan or jacket. They can be of a thicker, heavier material like leather and still not feel bulky. Vests are also made in reversible styles for even more versatility.

Extend the season of your summer clothing by topping a tee or dress with a vest. Or, a sleeveless dress can be vest-styled and warmed-up by layering it with a shirt underneath.

Vests are inherently flattering for women and menIf you are feeling a bit fleshy in the torso, wear a vest in a thicker fabric. This will control and smooth out curves and bellies and lock down any extra jiggle (while controlling boobs, if you have them). If you’d like to add some bulk to a slim form wear a thick knit sweater vest or a lighter-color plaid or patterned menswear style suit vest.

Add vintage interest and style with a vestThe fancy brocade “gambler” waistcoats, Old West-style WahMaker brand canvas and suede vests and traditional menswear suit vests I have seen on Durango men and look amazing and relevant in our historic city. I keep seeing the leather-vest-with-Carhartts guy and I can’t stop staring! Steampunk styles practically demand a vest or waistcoat on men and women. Ladies, the corset-styled vest tops out there are cute, flattering and work for real life and costuming. Don’t forget the 1980s strong-shoulder retro-futuristic “Flock of Seagulls” type that may be useful for the next Snowdown, “Intergalactic,” in January.

My favorite fashion era, the 1960s, rocked a ton of vests and they were almost all reclaimed styles. These bohemian hippies wore fancy antique velvet Edwardian suit vests, fringed suede old west styles, sheepskin Afghanistan vests and embroidered Latin American folk wear styles.

The 1970s continued the trend and merged biker leathers with a counterculture hippie aesthetic inspired by “Easy Rider” and the slim-cut vest ruled the “Saturday Night Fever” and “Soul Train” dance floors. The film “Annie Hall” popularized the gamine style of menswear on women and the look is still relevant.

Do it yourselfAny jacket minus arms equals vest! I recently caught Durango fashionista Danielle in her long chinchilla coat from which she removed the arms, making it a long, gorgeous, duster-style vest coat.

This method is great for when the vintage jacket arms are just too tight or too short. Cut the arms off a denim jacket, or a style more unexpected like a fitted blazer or a sweater.

Make a vest yourself from scratch. The style couldn’t be simpler: Three pieces of fabric with only four seams.

Extra rock ’n’ roll points for customizing your vest (see Style Fetish column about do-it-yourself denim from the 8/25 issue of DGO for tips!)

Heather Narwid owns and operates Sideshow Emporium, a vintage and modern clothing store for men and women. Sideshow is located in Durango at 208 County Road 250 (West of Bread and North of Rocky Mountain Pawn at 32nd Street, in with the Vault and Core Value Fitness)and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. Call her at 739-4646 and ask her anything at [email protected].


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