A vest is to outfits as an extraneous tiny spoon is to a dinner place setting: It’s not always entirely clear when or how you should use it. Historically, I have avoided purchasing vests for this very reason, despite the fact that I often find them compelling on other people. They intrigue me not only from an aesthetic POV but also from a conceptual one, because I like the idea of having a sleeveless layer to play with–something to artfully frame the sleeves of a festive sweater. As soon as I try one on, though, this nebulous fantasy dissolves into a confusing terrain of unfamiliar shapes and proportions.
Enter: Paris Fashion Week street style, my night in shining armor, my crimson-caped superhero, my answer to the relentless question of how the heck to wear a vest. This season’s batch of photos had plenty of great ideas when it comes to styling autumn’s most elusive layer. Keep scrolling for a rundown, and check out the rest of the photos in the slideshow above.
Idea #1: Wrap and Belt It
Turns out a belted vest delivers the same satisfaction as a particularly crunchy chip. I mean, just look at it! A feat! The secret to this snap, if I had to surmise, is that the vest is slightly oversized which allowed the wearer to overlap the edges slightly before belting it, thus creating a wrap shirt effect. Takeaway: Buy a vest that is one or two sizes too big and replicate posthaste.
Idea #2: Wear It as a Top
Who says a vest needs to be worn over another piece of fabric to fulfill its true potential!? Clearly, as evidenced en Paris, they also look exceptional when deployed as a sleeveless top. You can opt for a more fitted iteration like this street style denizen did, or wear an oversized version for a cool boxy vibe. Recommended for earlier in the autumn season–just like Winesap apples!!! (Okay, I don’t actually know if Winesap apples are better in early Autumn, but I do know that I bought five at my local farmer’s market last weekend and they changed my life.)
Idea #3: Reinterpret What a Vest Even IS
Maybe a vest can also be a taupe cotton camisole that you once purchased to wear under a see-through shirt but you came across randomly when getting dressed on a recent Wednesday morning and thought to yourself, “Hey! That could work as a quasi-vest!” And you would be correct, because when layered over a printed turtleneck and paired with similarly-colored pants it works like a quasi-vest and then some.
Idea #4: Wear It as a Bra
While the “bra vest” in this outfit looks like it is attached to the dress and is therefore not technically a vest, it’s still a vehicle for great vest styling inspiration because the silhouette is virtually the same. You’re gonna need a slightly cropped vest, unattached to a dress or otherwise, to run with what I’m envisioning, but an alternate solution is hemming (or simply scissoring) an old one that you’ve never worn for the reasons I listed in my introduction. Step two is layering said cropped vest over whatever top or sweater strikes your fancy. Step three is the triumph of stepping back and looking in the mirror at the work of art you created.
Idea #5: Use It as a Transitional Weather Suit Opp
Like any reasonable human, I’m a big fan of three-piece suits, but the problem with a three-piece suit is that they frequently obscure what is arguably the most interesting component of the get-up: YOU GUESSED IT. THE VEST. I love the idea of wearing one sans blazer, so as to properly give the vest its due. This is also a great styling hack even if you don’t have a three-piece suit but do have a vest and trousers with similar coloring.
Are you a wannabe vest proponent or a seasoned pro? If you are the latter, please dispense your styling tips below.
Photos by Matthew Sperzel.