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3 ways to style sweater vests in 2021, according to stylists

The throwback style will work for any occasion this fall.
Illustration of Soulin Omar wearing white Balenciaga triple s sneakers, Yoyo Cao wears a white sleeveless wool top with printed polka dots and Lois Opoku wearing Zara complete look
TODAY Illustration / Jeremy Moeller / Contributor / Getty Images / Edward Berthelot / Contributor / Getty Images / Jeremy Moeller / Contributor / Getty Images

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From bucket hats to overalls, it's no secret that old-school trends are back. The latest garment in the spotlight? Sweater vests. When sweater vests come to mind, you're probably thinking of the classic argyle styles of the '90s, but they've been given a new life since then.

Whether you're wearing a sweater vest as a casual weekend look or dressing it up for the office, it's important to make sure you're wearing the right style and cut for your body type. Stylist Melissa Chataigne's number one tip for wearing sweater vests: balance your proportions.

"If you are on the bustier side... you want to make sure it's not pulling or tugging around the bust line and that it's a little bit longer, especially if you're plus-sized," she explained. She also recommends going for a sweater vest that has a deeper V-neck if you have a bigger bust because it elongates the torso.

If you have a shorter torso, keep your look balanced by making sure that the waistline of your sweater vest lands at the shortest part of your waist so that it's not too big on you, Chataigne recommended.

Her final tip? Pick a sweater vest style that's going to last you a long time. "When selecting anything that's going to be in your closet, I always believe you should stick to something that's going to have longevity [and] you can wear it at least three ways. Look into your closet and see what colors you wear most of the time. Your closet should be 20% trends, 80% longevity," she said.

How to style a sweater vest for an everyday look

"When I think of sweater vests, I think of Benetton circa 1980s," celebrity stylist Amanda Sanders told Shop TODAY. "It's definitely a throwback."

If you really want to lean into that vintage style, Sanders recommends pairing it with a pair of oversized jeans. Since it's still warm out, you can easily wear a sweater vest as a shirt without worrying about being too cold.

Once the weather gets cooler, you can opt to wear a sweater vest over a T-shirt to fully embrace the nostalgic style. You can ever take it one step further by opting for a brightly colored vest, according to celebrity stylist Stacee Michelle. "A lot of the bright colors for the season are also going to be in the vest silhouette," she told us.

How to style a sweater vest for a night out

"The granny-chic style, grand-millennial, whatever you want to call it, is all upon that '90s trend wave that's been hitting fashion for the past year and a half," Michelle said. "The sweater vest fits right in with that trend."

A sweater vest will pair easily with several types of dresses. "If you have some of those romantic, frilly dresses, you can put a cropped vest over [the] top for a new layered look for fall," Michelle suggested. This look can be paired with boots for a quick outfit that makes it look like you tried much harder than you did.

If you want something more sleek, Michelle recommends wearing a sweater vest over a slip dress. Sanders also suggested wearing a sweater vest over a long-sleeved dress to "jazz it up and add more color or texture."

How to style a sweater vest for the office

There are so many ways to style a sweater vest for the office. Chataigne recommends pairing it with an oversized white blouse, wide-leg trousers and kitten heels or mules. For Chataigne, it's important to make sure that your look is balanced, so if you choose to wear an oversized blouse, balance it out with a smaller sweater vest "so you're not swimming in your piece," she explained.

For a classic preppy look, Sanders recommends pairing your sweater vest with pearls, a blazer and a pencil skirt or dark skinny pants.

Creating office-ready looks with sweater vests is easy because they work with basics. "The way you can refresh that look with what you have in your closet is to pair it with a white button-up and a pair of jeans," Michelle said. Go with loose-fitting denim if want to fully commit to the trend or stick with some basic skinny jeans if you're not quite ready to let them go yet. A white button-up is simple and won't "overwhelm the sweater vest look," according to Michelle.

She also suggested investing in a fitted turtleneck in neutral colors like black, nude and white, if you haven't already. "That's a great base for anything in your closet in the fall season. You can pair that underneath your vest with jeans and ankle boots for a real polished look," she said.

Another way to work with what you already have is pairing a sweater vest with an oversized button-up and leggings. "We all have plenty of leggings from our work-from-home days, so an easy way to try a sweater vest is to wear a button-up underneath. It's going to still look professional but also hide your leggings a little bit," Chataigne said.

Stylist-recommended sweater vests to shop

A New Day Crewneck Tank Sweater Vest

This crewneck sweater vest suggested by Chataigne also tackles the cable knit trend for fall. A ribbed waistline and small slits at the sides give the style a little something extra and make it work for everything from skirts to jeans. It comes in two cool colors (cream and gray) and is also available in plus sizes up to 4X.

BP. Crop Sweater Vest

With a button-front design, you can opt to leave this vest open and show off your layering underneath or close it and keep true to traditional sweater vest style. Chataigne also noted that sticking with colors like this earthy green is ideal because it "never goes out of style and you can use them again season after season."

H&M Ribbed Sweater Vest

Similar to the sweater vest from Target, this rib-knit sweater vest features side slits that are higher and a deep V-neckline. As per Chataigne's suggestion, this is an ideal option for someone with a larger bust.

Abercrombie Oversized Sweater Vest

Michelle recommended this oversized sweater vest from Abercrombie, and the modeled look combines the in-office style tips from herself and Chataigne. Despite it being modeled with sneakers on, you can dress it up with a mule or kitten heel like Chataigne suggested.

Zara Basic Knit Vest

A basic knit vest is one of those pieces that can easily become a staple item in your closet and last you season after season, like Chataigne recommended. This simple knit vest features a V-neckline and button-front closure.

Lioness Cobain Vest

This varsity-style vest suggested by Michelle is probably one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of a sweater vest. This classic option works well on its own but is a strong contender over a T-shirt for that deep vintage style.

SHEIN Cable Knit Ruffle Trim Sweater Vest

This sweater vest suggested by Michelle combines a few fall trends: sweater vests, bright colors and cable knit. "Most of them are going to be in cable knit. They definitely updated the trend this go-around versus 20 years ago with more intricate cable knit patterns," she said.

Eloquii Long Sweater Vest

Paired with a long button-up, leggings and tall boots, this sweater vest could easily create a staple outfit for fall. Suggested by Michelle, this tunic-length sweater vest also comes in black. The neutral colors make it a perfect match for anything in your closet.

Cropped Houndstooth Sweater Vest

Michelle recommends this sweater vest with a houndstooth pattern if you're going for more of a menswear style. To complete the look, Sanders suggests pairing this style with boyfriend jeans and sneakers or fitted jeans and a fitted shirt, depending on what you prefer.

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