If I had a pound for every time my mum saw me put on an outfit and said: “I used to wear that back in my day,” I’d be a rich woman. Waistcoats have been one of the most recent pieces in my wardrobe to attract this comment, clearly keen to remind me that while they are very much back in fashion, they’ve been around a lot longer than me.
The preserve of men’s formal wear for hundreds of years, waistcoats became popularised by women in the 1970s and were styled in a much more casual way. The waistcoat has continued to pepper popular culture since then, from Diane Keaton’s iconic shirt, tie and waistcoat combo in the 1977 film Annie Hall to Monica Geller in Friends and A Simple Favour, where Blake Lively’s character wore a tailored pinstripe blue waistcoat complete with chain and trousers. To die for (quite literally, in her case).
More recently, the waistcoat has become the staple of the ‘off-duty model’ look, getting the sartorial seal of approval on and off the runway. Whether you want to layer it a la Celine FW23 for the ultimate 70s rockstar girlfriend vibe, or keep it lowkey like Kendall Jenner’s streetwear styling, I’m pinning the waistcoat as this summer’s most versatile piece.
Beyond its growing A-list and silver screen approval, the waistcoat’s favourability comes from its versatility. For the office? It’s the ultimate chic workwear piece. Heading for a night out? Wear this alone on top with a pair of tailored trousers for an understated, sexy outfit. Casual weekend plans? Pair with some jeans for a chic yet comfortable ensemble.
I’ve tried and tested the waistcoat with everything in my wardrobe, and I’ve yet to find a look that this doesn’t work with. Not only has the waistcoat earned its status as a staple for your summer wardrobe, it’s also a great transitional piece for the rest of the year which you can layer over turtlenecks and shirts when the colder weather approaches.
Whether you prefer to suit up or want to channel a more free-spirited, retro vibe, below, find all the inspiration you’ll need when it comes to styling a waistcoat this summer…
The office look
This take on the waistcoat and trouser combo swaps out structured trousers for something a bit more comfortable – a must when the office bloat rolls around at 2pm. Opt for a pair of wide leg trousers and mix and match your colours, keeping them in the neutral shade range for a timeless look. Pair with some loafers to dress it up, or flat trainers to keep it casual.
The 90s vintage look
There’s something about this outfit that looks like it would fit seamlessly on the set of Friends or Seinfield. The look is so effortless and contains elements you most likely already have in your wardrobe, including your favourite white t-shirt and high waisted wide-leg trousers. Look for a waistcoat in hues of moss green, rust orange or mustard to capture that vintage feel, and don’t forget a plain gold or silver buckled belt to pull the look together.
The everyday look
A beige waistcoat over jeans is just… so cool. Suede waistcoats are gorgeous and add more of a retro feel but can be a bit harder to come by on the high street, so charity shops might be your best bet on getting your hands on one. Where suede isn’t an option, go for a beige linen or cotton material; you want the waistcoat to hang loosely for that effortless vibe, so avoid anything that’s too fitted. Wear without anything underneath or layer over a white vest top and keep it unbuttoned on less sunnier days.
The festival look
The Canadian tuxedo has had a makeover, just in time for festival season. There’s something so captivating about a double denim look, and this waistcoat just gave us another way to style it in summer without having to don a full denim jacket. Style with lots of gold or silver jewellery (thick bangles are a must for the Americana finish) and a pair of cowboy boots for the ultimate Coachella cowgirl vibe, or dress it down with a pair of white trainers.
The wedding look
Okay hear me out: a waistcoat look for a wedding is an absolute serve. You won’t have to worry about turning up in the same viral Zara dress as three other guests, and as long as you aren’t a bridesmaid who will be banished for not adhering to the dress code, why not?
Wearing a three-piece suit to a wedding is the embodiment of French girl cool, and you’ll have no more worries about standing awkwardly not knowing what to do with your hands, for pockets are a girl’s best friend. Strappy heeled sandals are a no-brainer match for this outfit, or go for a chunkier heel if grass will render you stuck in the mud. If you’re playing it neutral with the suit, don’t be afraid to be extra with your bag; metallic and diamante designs can elevate an otherwise formal-looking fit.
Again, you’ll get a lot of wear out of every element of this outfit, from the trousers which can be restyled for the office to the blazer which can be paired with jeans and a white tee, so it’s worth investing a little more if you can.
The holiday look
A waistcoat might not be the first item that comes to mind when packing for a summer escape, but a white linen version with matching shorts and blazer (go oversized for a Scandi aesthetic) is the ultimate Mediterranean outfit. The lightweight breezy fabric is ideal for scorching temperatures while still looking incredibly chic. Finish the look with a pair of flat sandals and straw bag – we’ve found a great Loewe dupe below.
The night out look
A waistcoat-skirt combo has become my go-to outfit for a night out. It’s polished yet fun, and allows you versatility when it comes to choosing flats or heels. It’s a little bit flirty, but the waistcoat still carries classic sophistication with it. All black is a practical option if many drinks are to be involved, plus both of these pieces make for great staples in your wardrobe to mix and match with other pieces.
If you want something more casual for the daytime, swap for neutral tones and a pair of chunky sandals rather than heels. Feeling a bit more daring? I love wearing a pair of black high cowboy boots with this look.