The Joys of Wearing a Waistcoat or a Gilet

As Spring is almost upon us (and Autumn not long gone), is it ever OK to wear a waistcoat or a gilet?

I have always loved waistcoats – they hide a multitude of sins without obscuring the garments underneath and usually require less washing. They are pretty versatile; they can be styled for a smart or casual look. They add an extra layer of warmth without being bulky and can also be quite a statement piece, a fun yet sophisticated impact to an outfit.

The waistcoat was first introduced to the Western World by Charles II, with Samuel Pepys in 1666 noting the King’s proclamation of setting a fashion for vests. Since then, over the centuries, waistcoats have veered between ornately decorative or gravely serious – and, historically, only the prerogative of men. As a garment for women, the reasons for wearing one are perhaps more varied.

In the 19th Century, the French romantic writer George Sand (a pseudonym for Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dudevant) wore one whilst walking in Paris. She wore a grey overcoat with matching trousers and waistcoat, giving her an exhilarating liberation, not usually known by women. Katherine Hepburn was once denied entry into Claridge’s for wearing trousers and a waistcoat – she refused to change.

In 1820s, the ladies known as the Ladies of Llangollen (Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby) caused an uproar by running away together, escaping Ireland, and eventually settling in Wales. This possibly launched the premise of the waistcoat having a significant meaning in the LGBT+ community. In the 1920s, waistcoats became a common sight, worn with both trousers and skirts, representing defiance of convention and the restrictive societal pressures surrounding gendered clothing and presentation.

Now, the waistcoat is for absolutely anybody, for both casual and formal wear and has endless possibilities for styling.

The Nila Rubia waistcoat is remarkable. It’s made with jacquard wool (a traditional weaving method) and is reversible – that’s two waistcoats in one! Even better, it has pockets on both sides. The length is generous, meaning that it will look brilliant with long or short tunics, skirts, dresses, trousers… The style of this waistcoat works well for both petite and curvaceous body types. I’m officially in waistcoat paradise with this beautiful piece.

I have always had mixed feelings about the gilet, particularly the padded style. To be candid, maybe this is because I have always felt too fat for one – worrying that I would look like the Michelin Man mascot! But… There was always the issue of what to wear during the milder seasons. In Spring and Autumn, a lightweight jacket can be perilously thin, whilst a heavy winter coat too hot and bulky.

This conundrum, for me, has been solved since our Cofur gilets arrived. They are made from quilted, recycled sarees, with double buttons down the front and (of course) pockets. In such beautiful colours, I couldn’t help but try a few on. They are a beautiful, fabulously functional extra layer you can add or take off at a whim, perfect for the in-between weather, keeping your body warm without the worrisome bulk. Gone are my gilet doubts, they look positively magnificent!

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