Selecting Your Waistcoat Fabric
Okay. We'll get the technicalities out of the way ... you can call it a vest (most do), but it's not a vest, it's a waistcoat ... and it's not pronounced ˈwās(t)ˌkōt, it's pronounced ˈweskət. So, just so we're clear, if you insist on using the term vest (which is perfectly acceptable), whenever you see the word 'waistcoat,' think 'vest.' And we'll be on the same page!
In the 1850's, American men started wearing "ditto suits" or suits sewn with the exact same fabric for the suit jacket, the waistcoat, and the trousers.
This practice of choosing a waistcoat fabric that exactly matched the suit coat and trousers saved time and simplified the tailoring process.
As a result of the perceived ease in ordering a ditto suit (as waistcoats with suits were prominent in the 1800's and selecting a waistcoat fabric could be a thought intensive process), the ditto became a less formal choice, and was general worn for business, travel or street wear.
Examples of "ditto suits," using the same fabric for the jacket, waistcoat and trousers.
Before the ditto suit, most waistcoats did not match the suit jacket and trousers at all.
Compare the practice of using the same for the entire suit, as shown above, with the practice of choosing a fabric for the waistcoat that contrasts the suit fabric...
While the general rule for selecting a contrasting waistcoat is to choose a fabric with obvious color and design variation, your eye will be the ultimate decision-maker on what looks good and what does not.
One of the benefits to contrasting the waistcoat with the base suit fabric is that the same waistcoat can be used with multiple suits, yielding more suit ensembles ... a plus when overall cost and closet space are important factors in building your wardrobe!
Now, wasn't that a fun break from vintage and antique women's clothing?!
...so go make something beautiful!
(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥
Much of the source material for this article was found in Marybelle I. Bigelow's Fashion in History: Western Dress, Prehistoric to Present. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing 1970