A waistcoat (sometimes called a wescot [Annals of Iowa, Volume 6 January, 1904 No. 4 [http://iagenweb.org/history/annals/jan1904.htm] Accessed 31 Jan 2008.] ,
vestor a vestee in Canadaand the US) is a sleeveless upper-body garmentworn over a dress shirtand necktie(if applicable) and below a coat as a part of most men's formal wear, and as the third piece of the three-piece male business suit. Once a virtually mandatory article of men's clothing, it has become uncommon in contemporary dress in the English-speaking world, although it has returned to fashion as part of businesswear in Germany. Waistcoats have now become a popular item of clothing amongst the youth of Britain as style icon Kate Mossand the members of indie band Razorlightwear them over casual shirts and jeans for a day-to-day fashionable look.
Characteristics and use
A waistcoat (as distinguished from other vests, such as the tank top), has a full vertical opening in the front which fastens with
buttonsor snaps. Both single-breastedand double-breastedvarieties exist, regardless of the formality of dress, but single-breasted examples occur far more commonly in all cases. When producing a three-piece suit, manufacturers cut the waistcoat from the same material as the jacketand trousers.
white tieand black tiedress the waistcoat normally matches the tie. However, white waistcoats are sometimes acceptable in black tie (for example, with a white jacket ); and waiters and other servants at white-tie events sometimes wear so-called grey tieto distinguish themselves from guests: the tailcoat of white tie with the black waistcoat and tie of black tie dress. Morning dresspermits more variation. Less strict modern formal dress (seen for example at weddings) often permits colored bow ties in otherwise black or white tie dress, and the waistcoat may match these as well.
wristwatches became popular, a gentlemanwould keep his pocket watchin the front pocket of his waistcoat, attached to one of the buttons with a watch-chain and fob. This remains acceptable, though uncommon. Wearing a belt with a waistcoat counts as bad form; instead, one should wear braces ( suspendersin the United States) underneath it.
The waistcoat is one of the few pieces of clothing whose origin historians can date precisely. King Charles II of
England, Scotlandand Irelandintroduced the waistcoat as a part of correct dress during the Restoration of the British monarchy. Samuel Pepys, the diarist and civil servant, wrote in October 1666 that "the King hath yesterday in council declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter. It will be a vest, I know not well how". This royal decree provided the first mention of the waistcoat. Pepys records "vest" as the original term; the word "waistcoat" derives from the cutting of the coat at waist-level, since at the time of the coining, tailors cut men's formal coats well below the waist (see frock coator morning coat).
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, men often wore incredibly elaborate and brightly-coloured — even garish — waistcoats, until
fashionin the nineteenth century restricted them in formal wear, and the development of the suitdictated that informal waistcoats become the same colour as the rest of a man's outfit.
French Revolutionof 1789, anti-aristocratic sentiment in France (and elsewhere in Europe) influenced the wardrobes of both men and women, and waistcoats followed, becoming much less elaborate. After about 1810 the fit of the waistcoat became shorter and tighter, becoming much more secondary to the frock-coat overcoatand almost counting as an undergarment, although its purpose and popularity were larger than ever. With the advent of dandyismin the early 19th century, the waistcoat started to change roles, moving away from its function as the centerpiece of the visual aspect of male clothing, towards serving as a foundation garment, often with figure-enhancing abilities. From the 1820s onwards elite gentlemen — at least those among the more fashionable circles, especially the younger set and the military— wore corsets. The waistcoat served to emphasize the new popularity of the cinched-in waist for males, and became skin-tight, with the overcoat cut to emphasize broader shoulders, a pouting chest, and a nipped-in waist. In the absence of a corset, men's waistcoats often featured whalebonestiffeners and were laced in the back, with reinforced buttons up the front, so that one could pull the lacings in tight like a corset to mould the waist into the fashionable silhouette. Albert, Prince Consortof Queen Victoria, had a reputation for his tight corsets and tiny waist; although he lacked popularity during his early years as the husband of Victoria, men followed his style, and waistcoats became even more restrictive. This fashion remained throughout the 19th century, although after about 1850 the style changed from that of a corseted look to a straighter line, with less restriction at the waist, so that the waistcoat followed a straighter line up the torso. Toward the end of the century, the Edwardianlook made a larger physique more popular due to the popularity of Edward VIIand his large figure.
The waistcoat remained a required part of men's business clothing, and even casual dress, until the mid-twentieth century. Part of its popularity stemmed from the fact that it added an extra layer of warm cloth between one's body and the elements, but the strict rationing of cloth during the
Second World War, the increasing popularity of pullover sweaters and other types of heavy tops, and the increasing casualness of men's clothing in general all contributed to its decline. In the United States the waistcoat began declining during the 1940s when double-breasted jackets became popular, and by the 1960s they had become a rarity. The waistcoat remained visible in the United Kingdom until the late 1960s. During the 1970s the waistcoat once again became a popular and fashionable garment with many businessmen and youngsters wearing it along with the rest of their suits. Movies like " Saturday Night Fever" helped popularise the waistcoat as a fashionable piece of dresswear. The three-piece suit quickly became associated with the discoculture. The backlash against disco quickly led to the demise of the popularity of three-piece suits: men such as Steve Dahl, who disapproved of disco and organized a campaign to get rid of anything associated with it, criticized waistcoats as "effeminate". By 1983 waistcoats had become a rare sight. Today one rarely sees a business suit worn with a waistcoat in North America, although it remains popular among conservative-minded businessmen in the rest of the world. Some of the last professions with "de rigueur" waistcoats included banking, law, governmental agencies, and the professoriate, which considered that a waistcoat added an element of maturity, stability, and "gravitas" to its wearer. Nowadays many regard waistcoats as stuffy and affectatious. Professional snookertournaments, though, usually require that participants wear a waistcoat: in this case without a jacket.
In Germany, the waistcoat has made a surprising return to popularity since approximately 2000, in a country where casual and
smart casualdress had previously come to predominate even among white-collar workers. It has once again become a common part of business attire: many German politicians wear waistcoats, such as Left Party member Oskar Lafontaine. Many commentators see this as part of a general return to more traditional norms of dress, deportment and working-patterns in the workplace, attributed to Germany's sustained period of economicuncertainty.
Popular opinion once claimed that one could identify a man as a "real gentleman" if he left the lowest button on his waistcoat unbuttoned. This allegedly originated from the habits of King Edward VII while Prince of Wales: his ballooning waistline caused him to leave the bottom button of his waistcoat undone. The story goes that his subjects took this as a style-indicator and started doing it themselves. Others consider the practice to derive from the habit of undoing the lower button to stop the waistcoat riding up when on horseback.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Waistcoat — Waist coat, n. (a) A short, sleeveless coat or garment for men, worn under the coat, extending no lower than the hips, and covering the waist; a vest. (b) A garment occasionally worn by women as a part of fashionable costume. [1913 Webster] Note … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
waistcoat — (n.) 1510s, from WAIST (Cf. waist) + COAT (Cf. coat) (n.) … Etymology dictionary
waistcoat — ► NOUN Brit. ▪ a close fitting waist length garment with no sleeves or collar and buttoning down the front … English terms dictionary
waistcoat — [wes′kət, wāst′kōt΄] n. 1. Brit. a) VEST (n. 1a) b) a similar garment worn by women 2. a somewhat longer, heavily ornamented sleeveless jacket formerly worn under a doublet waistcoated adj … English World dictionary
waistcoat — UK [ˈweɪs(t)ˌkəʊt] / US [ˈweɪs(t)ˌkoʊt] / US [ˈwes(t)kɪt] noun [countable] Word forms waistcoat : singular waistcoat plural waistcoats British a piece of clothing without sleeves that is usually worn over a shirt … English dictionary
waistcoat — noun (BrE) ⇨ See also ↑vest ADJECTIVE ▪ embroidered ▪ leather, satin, velvet, etc. WAISTCOAT + NOUN ▪ pocket … Collocations dictionary
waistcoat — [[t]we͟ɪstkoʊt, we̱skət[/t]] waistcoats N COUNT A waistcoat is a sleeveless piece of clothing with buttons which people usually wear over a shirt. [BRIT] (in AM, use vest) … English dictionary
waistcoat — noun Date: 1519 1. an ornamental garment worn under a doublet 2. chiefly British vest 2a • waistcoated adjective … New Collegiate Dictionary
waistcoat — waistcoated, adj. /wes keuht, wayst koht /, n. 1. Chiefly Brit. vest (def. 1). 2. an 18th century garment for women that is similar to a man s vest, usually worn with a riding habit. 3. a man s body garment, often quilted and embroidered and… … Universalium
waistcoat — noun /ˈweɪskəʊt,ˈwɛskət/ A sleeveless, collarless garment worn over a shirt and under a suit jacket. Syn: vest … Wiktionary