A waistcoat is a sleeveless, collarless garment that usually is held closed in the front with buttons and worn over another shirt. The term waistcoat is used in Europe, while Americans refer to the garment as a vest. A waistcoat is a versatile piece of clothing that can be dressed up or down.
Choose a waistcoat in an informal fabric, such as denim, cotton or linen, if you want to incorporate the garment into a casual look. Layer your waistcoat over a simple, solid-colored crewneck or V-neck top to add another element without looking too dressy. Keep your waistcoat unbuttoned for a more relaxed look, especially if you're pairing it with a fitted top. If your top is more billowy and loose fitting, button up your waistcoat to add some structure to the outfit. Wearing an unbuttoned waistcoat with a loose top can risk looking sloppy. Wear jeans or other trousers in a casual fabric, and then finish the look with flat shoes.
Transform a basic outfit into something more trendy by adding a waistcoat in a contrasting fabric or brighter shade. Wear a waistcoat in a sturdy fabric, such as tweed, denim, corduroy or even leather, over a top or dress made of a lighter, more delicate fabric such as chiffon or cotton. The different fabric textures will give a simple outfit a more eclectic look, especially if you wear shoes that are a similar fabric to the waistcoat. You also can make an outfit instantly trendier by layering a bright-colored waistcoat over it. It functions as a bright accessory, but it is trendier than just adding a necklace.
Add instant sophistication to a business or work outfit with a waistcoat. Work outfits for both men and women often consist of a blazer, a long-sleeved, button-up shirt and a coordinating bottom. If you want a fresh look without sacrificing sophistication, toss out your blazer and replace it with a buttoned waistcoat in a dark, solid color worn over your work shirt. Pair the outfit with a bottom made from a fabric that matches your waistcoat. You'll still look groomed without being as confined in a blazer.
Select a waistcoat in a rich fabric, such as satin or velvet, to add some personality to an evening look. You also can choose a waistcoat in a more casual fabric for evening, but make sure it has some type of embroidery or beading to differentiate it from daytime waistcoats. Layer your waistcoat over a solid-colored ensemble, such as a suit or dress, and pair it with dress shoes that coordinate with the colors of the waistcoat. If you wear jewelry, choose rings, bracelets or earrings that are not worn too close to the waistcoat. You want the waistcoat to be the main visual element of the outfit. If you add bright or chunky necklaces or pins near the waistcoat, you will look overdone.