Friday, January 10, 2014

Winter Vest Roundup

image from J. Crew
I have this one, and love the snap closure on the flap pockets.
In my mother's New England home, there are two wonderful, super-warm, over-sized, reversible down vests, which everyone in our family borrows. They originally belonged to my grandfather, and they are perfect for wearing around the house when the heat is lowered, or for tossing on before heading outside to shovel snow or grab the mail. We all love them, and are always momentarily jealous of the first two people who thought to put them on.

They are great for working around the house, but they are not a style one usually wears out, so for years I thought of winter vests as a silly thing to purchase for life in the city. I had seen some women wearing vests in the fall, but I wondered just how often I would wear one. One day, my mother sported a new down vest -- a simple zip front, slim-profile navy vest without much "puff," which gives it a slim fit. She wore it around the house, but it was also pretty enough to wear out of the house. Seeing how pulled together she looked in her vest, and how it truly went with everything she put on, inspired me to start a hunt for my own.

A couple years after wearing my own vest over everything, I have learned to appreciate how easy they are to wear: Nearly everything I put on all fall, winter and spring looks just as good, or even more pulled together, with a vest over it. From outerwear over a thin sweater, to extra insulation under a winter coat, a vest always seems to work.

I usually look for a couple of things when picking out a vest. First, I really prefer stitching that's either on an angle or diamond shaped to help visually off-set the "poofiness" of a down vest: Diamonds are particularly good at laying more smoothly against the body. Also, if one's waist is smaller than her hips, snaps or a double zipper is useful because the bottom can be opened up. That way, one can choose a vest that fits in the waist, instead of going up a size to find one that fits in the hips. This helps to add a bit of a slimming effect.

Here are some examples of how a vest works into nearly every wardrobe...




images from left: (top row) Brooks BrothersBarbour, and Barbour
(bottom row) L.L. Bean and Madewell
The weekend-casual look is the most common way vests are shown in magazines. This is the way I expected to wear my vest most often. I like that these have a matte look to them -- it makes them look more casual, while adding a streamlined effect. The Brooks Brothers' has a fur collar, but it is removable for days when that seems like too much.



images from left: (top row) Lauren and Orvis
(middle row) Boden
(bottom row) Barbour and Patagonia
Wearing a vest in a slightly more weekend-sporty way is an easy way to add a layer without obstructing movement. The Lauren vest has ribbed side panels, which would visually slim its owner, and makes it extra sporty, and the Boden reverses to a very woodsy check print, which is a fun addition. I like how classic and slim-fitting the Barbour Betty Gilet is with its quilt stitch, flat front pockets and princess seams. This one is what my mother's looks like, and I imagine it would layer well under a coat.



images from left: (top row) J. Crew
(bottom row) Ralph Lauren and Eileen Fisher
Even lady-like styles look good with a puffy vest! A pencil skirt with a ton of texture is perfect.
The big print on the Ralph Lauren, and the big collar on the Eileen Fisher, dress these two styles up a bit.



images from left: (top row) Denim & Supply and H&M
(bottom) Uniqlo
And if one's style is more city-tough, a vest still blends well. The Denim & Supply vest has a great asymmetrical zipper that almost makes it look like a motorcycle jacket. The H&M and the Uniqlo vests are both fitted, but also very simple in that they have horizontal stitching, which makes them both architectural. I really like the matte of the Uniqlo vest.




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