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Three things to consider when buying a waistcoat

It’s been a while now since waistcoats made their way back into the good books of men’s fashion. In fact, you might already own a few. Or, you might like the look and be considering trying it out. If you’re thinking of getting a new waistcoat, here are three things you should consider above all else.


Traditionally, the waistcoat is intended to be worn long enough at the front to cover the waist thus, resulting in a continuous vertical line stretching from the ankle, all the way to the face. This not only draws the eye to the face but also has a visually slimming effect, especially when the waistcoat’s colour is identical or even close to the trousers’. 

A waistcoat that reaches above the trousers’ waistline will obviously leave that part of the shirt where it’s tucked in the trousers exposed. Depending on the intensity of the contrast between the colours of the shirt, waistcoat, and trousers, the focus is very likely to shift from the face to the waist – and result in a visually wider waist too. 

If the waistcoat happens to be too short, it’s best to combine it with a shirt in a very similar colour. If it’s long enough to reach considerably below the waist, it’s probably a size too big. 


Like suit-jackets and sport coats/blazers, finding a waistcoat that fits perfectly can be challenging. The perfect waistcoat isn’t merely one that’s wide enough for the front buttons to be fastened. A waistcoat should fit close to the body without being tight.

One sign of a waistcoat that’s too big for your size are gaping armholes. If that’s the case, you should either go for a smaller size or have the waistcoat taken in. On the other hand, if the front doesn’t lie flat along the chest but ‘pops’, then the size is too small.


How easily a waistcoat can be combined with other pieces depends a lot on its colour/s. Waistcoats are ideal for wearing as an extra layer to keep warm, especially when wearing a sport coat/blazer, which offers little warmth at the front. When worn this way, a waistcoat could also add texture and/or contrast to an outfit, depending on the look you’re after. However, a waistcoat can also be worn as a substitute to a jacket, such as in the warmer months, without minimising on elegance.

One in solid navy, charcoal, brown, or black will match most pieces in your wardrobe and will lend itself easily to a casual outfit, as much as a dressier one. These are the colours to start off with before going for more unusual colours and fancier designs, that might be more interesting that one in a neutral colour but will nonetheless, limit your options and are typically best worn as the focal piece of an outfit. 

Final word 

Now that you’ve got the length and fit right, as well as a colour that works well with the other pieces in your wardrobe, did you also know that there’s one cardinal rule to follow when wearing a waistcoat? Yes, there is one. Essentially, it concerns the last button, which just as in the case of a suit-jacket/blazer/sport coat, should never be worn fastened. Doing so will cause the waistcoat to balloon when you’re seated – and the sight of puffed fabric is never a flattering one.

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