How It Should Fit: The Waistcoat

December 16th, 2014

Continuing with our “How It Should Fit” series for Menswear 101, today we take a look at the waistcoat (otherwise known as the “vest”).

Here are the basics on how it should be cut, feel free to review with your tailor.


    The Body

    The waistcoat is the slimmest garment in menswear. It’s cut with very little tailoring allowance and is meant to sit very close to the body. A well-tailored waistcoat “skims” the torso without feeling tight or showing any fabric pulling. There is typically an adjustable “cinch” at the back of the stomach to loosen after a big meal, or a few beers, or just when sitting for some of us.

    The Length

    The most important element of a proper fitting waistcoat is the length. It should fully cover the entire waistband of the trouser and never let any shirt fabric show in between. This means the trousers also need to be sitting on the natural waist. Gentlemen often leave the last button of a waistcoat unfastened to allow more room at the hips for movement and sitting.


    The Button Stance

    This is partly a matter of personal preference, as some men prefer to show more waistcoat under a jacket. Old school vests used to ride quite high toward the neck. In my opinion, with a modern suit roughly 2-3 inches of waistcoat should be visible above the button stance of a closed jacket.

    Number of Buttons

    In design school our professor once taught us that a waistcoat should not have an even number of buttons, as this can visually “cut the torso in half”. This always stuck with me. However, on taller gents I find that the standard 5-button front is not enough to cover the vertical space (too much fabric between the buttons looks cheap, in my opinion). Therefore, for guys above six feet tall I typically recommend seven buttons for balance, as seen here.


    The Neckhole

    As with the suit jacket and overcoat, the collar (or neckhole) is the foundation of the garment. It determines how the fabric will drape over the body. The neckhole of a waistcoat should hug nicely around the back of the shirt collar, without riding up or gaping. I find that the neckhole on most off-the-rack waistcoats is often too large relative to their chest/body size. This creates a gap around the shirt collar and allows the vest to shift around rather than remaining in place. The good news is, this is an easy fix for your tailor.


    Thanks, as always, for reading.

    Yours in style,

    Dan Trepanier

    Photography by Alex Crawford. Styling by Dan Trepanier. Modeling by Will Howe

    • Male Extravaganza

      Thanks for the tips! I have always wondered how to wear a Waistcoat and how it should fit. This article did help me a lot!!

    • Calvin

      Interesting theory on the # of buttons to be used on a vest (odd v. even). Care to elaborate on how an even # of buttons tends to “cut the torso in half”, Dan?

    • Steve E

      Which CT shirt have you found a good fit with? Im intrigued by grabbing a few simple white and blue shirts for the rotation? Major work from your tailor?

      • dubs

        I’m no authority, but the sizing system at CT is pretty good. If you know the measurements for the shirt(s) you’re looking for then fit shouldn’t be an issue. I picked up 5 shirts from CT’s introductory offer to try and after a year the fabric has held up very well at my typical stress points.

    • Kolja Kassner

      Thanks for another nice article. Just missing some input about the back of a waistcoat (same vs. different cloth)…

      • Juan Zara

        It depends on whether you’re planning to use the waistcoat exclusively under a suit jacket or sport coat, or you also intend to use it on its own.
        Silk or silk-like fabrics (like bemberg, cupro or any other kind of viscose,) typically used on linings for the same reason, “slide” more easily, and, therefore, a waistcoat with a silk or viscose back will make it easier to put on your jacket.
        On the other end, it looks far too much like lining fabric to be worn without anything on top of it, in my opinion.

        • Kolja Kassner

          Gracias Juan, sounds good. I like to wear them under a jacket, but suit or even sports jacket unfortunately would mean to be overdressed in my job (tourism in Germany). So I try to dress casual up with a waistcoast only.

          • Juan Zara

            Bitte schön, my friend. In my opinion then, something with a fabric back and maybe patch pockets instead of welted ones would look best for your case scenario.

    • Gavin

      Too many commenters complaining about Dan’s ugly mug.

      • Gavin

        Delete this mistake please!

    • Miguel

      Very nice article Dan, thanks for the tips.

    • BG

      A blogger using their own clothes to dress a model up? I realize the author is going for a more “editorial” decorum, but it’s weird

      • Gavin

        Too many commenters complaining about Dan’s ugly mug!

      • Brock

        Not a model, Will is part of the team!