The waistcoat, or vest is a close-fitting sleeveless garment originally designed for men. It usually has a front opening with buttons and occasionally with zips down the front to the waist. Vests are produced in either single or double-breasted styles.
It was originated in Persia and they first became fashionable in the middle of the seventeenth century long before the suit as we know it existed.
The waistcoat was first mentioned in the court of King Charles II. Initially waistcoats were designed to be worn underneath a suit or a jacket, forming the so called three piece suit. In 1666, the King proclaimed that the garment should be recognized as proper court attire. The new style was noticed by Samuel Pepys in 1666: “The King hath … declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter,” he wrote in his diary. “It will be a vest.”
Going in the the 18th and 19th century and the first 200 years of vest’s history, the waistcoat was worn in bright colours with ornate decoration. The rise of dandyism in the mid-19th century, vests became tailored in a plainer, tighter fashion.
During the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, ornamentation was out: a more utilitarian, but still elegant, fashion began to take its place. At this time, the waistcoat was worn with a frock coat and trousers.
In the 20th century the three piece suit became the official business attire.
We meet various vests nowadays. Some of them are formal, some casual, while we meet vests in various textures, like waterproff ones, coated ones, padded vests for warmth, leather vests in biker’s style or cowboy style, or even heavy duty ones like tactical, utility vests with useful rings and pockets.