On this day in history : 15th October 1666 – Samuel Pepys records in his diary that King Charles II intends to make the waistcoat part of the correct formal attire of English noblemen….
Pepys wrote…. “the King hath yesterday in council declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter. It will be a vest”….
King Charles had recently been restored to the English throne and wanted to distance his Court from the 17th Century French style…. Travellers returning from Persia brought back with them the idea of the ‘vest’…. The warmer Eastern climate did not require a full jacket – a similar kind of vest called a ‘Bandi’ was worn in India…. The fashion for men in Britain at the time was for long coats but was to become influenced by Eastern styles with stiff collars, vests and doublets….
The term ‘waistcoat’ most probably came about as the new style was quite literally cut to the waist…. The Americans still refer to the garment as a ‘vest’….
Men’s clothing was very elaborate during the Renaissance period – silk, satin, lace and trimmings…. Colour was vibrant; dye being incredibly expensive meant the richer the hues the wealthier the wearer…. Waistcoats were often the centre of the outfit – brightly coloured and highly decorated…. This trend continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries – but towards the end of the 1800s it began to evolve into becoming part of the business suit – rarely would a businessman be seen without one…. From the mid 20th century it essentially became an optional part of the business suit and so to some extent its popularity declined….
Nowadays, although still worn when dressing to impress, or at formal occasions such as weddings, the waistcoat is often worn with more casual clothing – such as jeans and a t-shirt….
It is also customary to wear a waistcoat with the bottom button left undone…. Another King can be attributed for this particular trend…. Edward VII was so chubby that he was unable to do the button up – thus setting a fashion that is still with us today….