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How to style a women's waistcoat this fall, according to stylists

This versatile menswear item will complete your wardrobe.
Illustration of different Women wearing waistcoat in different styles and colors
TODAY Illustration / & Other Stories / BCBG / Anthropologie

Vests are typically reserved as a garment for the fall season, but this waist-length piece can be worn in many different ways to complement an outfit. From weddings to the workplace, the tailored vest can add a dose of glamour to any look.

Traditionally known as a gilet in France, the waistcoat can be defined as a sleeveless upper-body garment worn as a third piece in men's formal wear. However, the modern-day waistcoat has transformed into a one-piece clothing essential for women. As people return back to the office, there is a need for statement-making pieces that can add panache to an outfit.

"We’re seeing a reemergence of '90s fashion this year and waistcoats are definitely a part of that trend," mentioned wardrobe stylist Gianna Nucci. "I also believe people are ready to wear more tailored pieces as we start to wear less loungewear. It makes us feel more powerful and put together."

The waistcoat has evolved from an item of formal wear to a statement piece that can be worn as an add-on or on its own. Whether you want to wear it as a jacket or pair it with a shirt, most waistcoats follow a tailored silhouette and structured design. "Waistcoats are great because they are extremely versatile and can be worn throughout all seasons. You can utilize them as a shirt or layering piece depending on the temperature and aesthetic you’re going for," added Nucci.

What's the difference between a waistcoat and a sweater vest?

In general, sweater vests are more informal while waistcoats offer a more elegant appearance. According to Nucci, "Waistcoats have more structure and tend to be more tailored to the body. The majority of waistcoats are made from suiting-type fabrics while sweater vests are the more cozy, warm option made from the typical knitwear fabrications. While they serve the same function as a ‘vest’ in the wardrobe, a sweater vest is more relaxed and casual than a waistcoat, which is traditionally a dressier piece."

How to style a suit vest

There are many different ways to style a waistcoat or vest. "Style it with jeans, wear it open over a mini dress, mix it with trousers or wear it formally with a suit. The options are endless and they work with all body types," said stylist Melissa Chataigne.

Aside from adding versatility to a look, Nucci shared that waistcoats add an extra dose of coverage to your cozy fall wardrobe. You can wear it during the day or nighttime for different occasions while leveraging more rich fabrics like silk and wool.

For an everyday cold weather look, you can style a waistcoat over a knit tank top, T-shirt, turtleneck and jeans. Or, if you're living in a warmer climate, layer it on top of a casual dress or wear it alone as a shirt. It’s also a great piece to wear under jackets like a leather moto, blazer or denim trucker for a unique layered look.

For evening, simply pair the waistcoat with dressier pieces. Swap the daytime denim for a nicer bottom like leather pants, high-waisted trousers or a skirt. Layer it on top of more formal fabrics like silks, or wear it alone as a shirt for a daring appeal. When in doubt, go bolder with your accessories by stacking rings, bracelets and layering necklaces to complete a stylish night out outfit.

How to style a waistcoat for work

Firstly, don't overlook the power of a well-tailored garment. Suit vests can add a luxurious feel to your look and give your body more shape.

"Inspired by the classic three-piece suit we see in menswear, wearing a waistcoat under a sharp blazer is the ultimate way to exude style in the office with this particular piece," said Nucci. "If that feels too formal for your office environment, simply style it over a classic button-down shirt and wear it with a pant or skirt separate to create a polished and professional look. Sets are also trending right now, so finding a great waistcoat and pant set you can dress up for the office or down for the weekend has never been easier."

Mixing prints and patterns with a waistcoat

As a general rule of thumb, Nucci and Chataigne recommend remaining with the same color palette when mixing prints and patterns. "You want to make sure there is at least one anchor color that creates cohesiveness between the pieces you’re styling," said Nucci. "For example, if you want to pair a plaid waistcoat with a polka dot blouse, be sure that the color of the polka dot matches at least one main color in the plaid."

In addition to color, consider the scale of each pattern and its size. Do they have the same dimension? "If one of them is larger, then the other should be small. Taking both of these factors into account will help create a cohesive visual in your overall look," added Nucci.

Best waistcoats, according to shoppers

Allegra K Waistcoat

A patterned waistcoat can add more proportion to your overall outfit. This one offers a classic slim fit and cinched waist for an asymmetric aesthetic. Style it with a satin blouse with billowing sleeves and a pair of leather pants.

Made by Olivia Racerback Vest

If you're not ready to wear coats and chunky sweaters, this tailored vest will give you an array of ideas to mix and match. The great thing about this nude vest is that you can look professional without adding a blazer.

Abercrombie & Fitch Linen-Blend Vest Set Top

This cropped vest offers a feminine floral motif to illuminate your fall outfit. Wear it with a maxi skirt for a night out or a pair of slacks for work. There are many variables to experiment with using this must-have basic.

Mango Linen Suit Waistcoat

This waistcoat offers the simplest solution for your morning closet conundrums thanks to its neutral tones. The white stripes and straight silhouette offer a classy and elegant look — in other words, this is a piece that is transitional yet trendy. Pair it with beige or white pants for a minimal aesthetic or add it as part of your three-piece suit.

Free People Izi Vest

Bring a hint of sunshine to your monochromatic ensemble with this cropped version. The waistcoat features a back tie detail and open back design for an added dimension. Wear it with a leather jacket or add a leopard print shirt underneath for a more trendy look.

Zara Linen Blend Vest

Substitute your button-down shirt for a linen vest. This warm burnt color will draw attention to your outfit and give you the figure-hugging silhouette you desire with its back strap feature. Also, it matches well with most neutral pieces.

Anthropologie Menswear Vest

Layer this classic menswear-inspired vest over a maxi dress or blouse for a fun contrast. It has front buttons and a low neckline for a feminine vibe. Plus, the posh black color never goes out of style and is an essential separate to match with other ones.

Boohoo Mock Horn Cropped Waistcoat

The great thing about waistcoats is that you can look effortlessly chic without the extra fabric. Match this one with a pair of high-waisted palazzo pants for an evening attire or wear it as an outerwear piece for chilly days.

ModCloth Taking it Back Plaid Vest

If your sweater feels too bulky, reduce the proportions with this plaid suit vest. A pattern can create the illusion of curves while keeping things tidy. Also, the plunging V-neckline adds an extra touch of flair.

DoublefiveWomen Tuxedo Waistcoat

A well-tailored linen vest can turn a pair of jeans or dress into a luxurious outfit. This tuxedo suit has an adjustable strap on the back for a fitted silhouette. Plus, as one reviewer said, "Tops have a way of never fitting both my bust area and my waist, but this vest does a great job."

Pretty Little Thing Plus Longline Waistcoat

Gray is a great hue to warm up an outfit or balance dark tones. This waistcoat has a halter design that makes you feel less constricted and a straight silhouette for an overall boss-chic look. Style it with a pair of tailored trousers and chunky loafers for a more modern take on the trend.

BCBG Esmae Single-Button Vest

For the woman looking to elevate her business look, this single-button vest serves as a great layering piece. The long silhouette and classic design can be worn with most pants for a tailored fit.

Nasty Gal Vintage Distressed Denim Vest

Another black waistcoat to match your basic pieces with, the feminine cut adds sophistication to any look with minimal effort and is a piece that will never go out of style.

Aritzia Desire Vest

This vegan leather vest from Aritzia is the perfect add-on to your fall wardrobe. It features two welt hand pockets, a V-neckline and a glossy finish for a polished look. This one has a very innovative design that feels more ladylike.

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