Wednesday, 17 January 2018
The Dressing Well Blog
Kathy Smith

The Versatile Vest (5 Ways to Wear Winter’s Best Accessory)

By Dressing Well Stylist Kathy Smith

For many of our clients, vests are only thought of for very casual activities and are often regulated to the back of coat closet where they rarely see the light of day after fall yard work is said and done. Yet rethinking how vests can add a layer of warmth and style in the winter months is a great way to add a unique touch to your wardrobe for work and play.

Below are 5 fresh ideas for using vests for function and flair this season. We hope a few of these ideas resonate with you. Enjoy!

#1 Keep Them Modern
While oversized down vests that make you look like the Michelin man are passé and should be saved for yard work (if kept in the closet at all), lighter weight down vests in a variety of colors are a modern way to stay warm and stylish. For an even fresher approach, layer flannel shirts and tees underneath and pair them with equally casual bottoms and footwear. You can still get a coat over these vests when needed and those with pockets store gloves and other small cold weather accessories like headbands and beanies well.

#2 Short Over Long Please
The short over long trend is still going strong and vests are an easy way to accomplish this silhouette. Simply pair a shorter vest with a longer top and voila! The key to this look is to have a slim cut pant or skirt on the bottom so that you don’t look bottom heavy or sloppy, especially when choosing this look in professional settings.

#3 Let the Sleeves Steal the Show
Sleeve interest on blouses and sweaters is the rage right now. A vest worn with interesting sleeves keeps you warm while allowing your sleeves to shine thorough. The cold shoulder trend can also be warmed up with just the right vest. Be sure the weight, texture and style of the vest coordinates well with whatever underpinning you pair it with. If you have narrow shoulders, vests also offer a layer of padding at the shoulder line that can help balance your frame well.

#4 Make an Entrance
A long vest makes a grand entrance when worn long and lean. They can be tamed with belts and given even more of a cool vibe when accessorized with things like long necklaces, a variety of scarfs, hoop earrings, a stack of bracelets and funky footwear. While not for everyone, this look can be pulled off by a variety of body types when the vest is the proper scale for the person and it's coordinated with other elements that let the vest be the centerpiece.

#5 Stand Out with Fur
Whether real or faux, my favorite vests right now are those made with fur. They mix well with sweaters and blouses anytime and can look great with sleeveless tops and dresses if you want to make them more edgy and fun, especially after 5. Textured hosiery with tall boots and booties is how I like to style them with skirts and dresses this time of year.

Last Word
When we are helping clients pull together outfits in their closet or at the store, we often look for a great “third” piece to pull things together. A vest easily accomplishes this goal. Add interesting accessories that are uniquely you and you’ll get a fresh outfit that you probably won’t see on anybody else. Added bonus – vests can help you hide extra weight too, particularly helpful if you overindulged this holiday season!

Editor’s Note: Consider donating good quality vests that you no longer wear to shelters. They are looking for all sorts of items, including long underwear, socks, hats and mittens that can be layered with coats for extra warmth. Thank you.

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Kathy Smith

For Kathy Smith, clothing and fashion are an extension of who she is. Raised by a mom who was a professional model, Kathy had a bird’s eye view into styling at an early age as she accompanied her mom on photo shoots and watched as a styling team pulled together an eclectic array of clothing and accessories for her mom to bring to life. She recalls being stimulated by the colors, shapes and silhouettes of the selected fashions and speaks fondly of the impact this experience had on her career path.

Learn more about Kathy »

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Lady J 2018-01-18 15:03

A great piece you didn't mention, a man's vest. My daddy died in 2011; he had 3 a piece suit--vest, jacket and pants. I took the brown vest he had. I paired it with blue jeans and his button up shirt and blue jeans for a cute Casual Friday look. It looks more professional than jeans and tee shirt. I don't have to worry about anyone else having the same outfit. It is also free!

Kathy Smith 2018-01-18 18:53

That is an excellent idea! Using a man’s vest with a pair of jeans or menswear pants add a touch of unique style to your outfit….and what happy memories you must have wearing it! Finishing off an outfit with a third piece like a vest creates a comfortable and approachable casual look.

Dianne Webster 2018-01-18 20:36

Hi Kathy, I have a nice variety of vests (thanks to Sarah!), and you have given me some great ideas on how to expand my options for wearing them. I enjoyed your descriptions and photo images of casual and work-appropriate outfits.

Kathy Smith 2018-01-19 10:29

That is terrific! I know for myself, they are a great way to stay warm and cozy on snowy days, and work as a layering piece when a few warmer days come around!

Pat 2018-01-19 10:24

Thanks, Kathy, for the reminder of how versatile the vest can be. Great way to add light weight warmth (and polish), help camouflage an expanding waistline and maintain a slimming column of color. Rushing out to shop for vests!!


Kathy Smith 2018-01-20 10:22

Thanks Pat! You have hit it perfectly. And using vests in your wardrobe can enhance one's looks from casual–depending on the fabric and feel of the item–all the way to dressy!


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