I never thought I’d be a waistcoat girly until I realised it was exactly what was missing from 80% of my outfits. It’s safe to say that in 2023 – taking heaps of inspiration from the Ellaby sisters – I’m well and truly in my waistcoat era. Albeit perhaps 18 months later than I should have been, but we move.
It’s no secret that fashion is cyclical and nothing epitomises that quite like the denim waistcoat, growing in popularity during the 60s and 70s among the hippie scene and punk rock cultures, seeing a resurgence in the 90s and early 00s spotted on celebrities and ‘it girls’. And no doubt after the Barbie movie and Margot’s iconic Western look, we’ll be seeing them even more.
The ‘quiet luxury’ trend has seen cotton and linen waistcoat sales soar – you can’t scroll through Instagram for more than 20 seconds without seeing a well-dressed woman in a waistcoat, but there’s something about the laid back vibe of a denim number that has me in a chokehold right now. That’s not to say I haven’t got a few of the more tailored styles waiting in my basket until payday, mind you. Waistcoat era. I’m in deep. I even had my mum crochet me a custom number for Tramlines this summer.
The humble waistcoat is the layer you didn’t know you needed. Post-pandemic, casual and relaxed styles have become more prevalent, with denim waistcoats fitting perfectly into this fashion trend, offering a laid back look. This particular waistcoat is from Michelle Keegan’s collection with Very. Coming in at £30, it’s made from 100 per cent cotton, making it lightweight yet durable. Its classic washed blue colourway boasts timeless appeal and the flattering v-neckline lends itself beautifully to every outfit. Not to mention its gorgeous tortoise shell finished buttons down the front which elevate the overall piece.
Over the past few months I’ve discovered that the waistcoat is amazing for throwing on over tees and dresses for a cool and casual finish that still feels carefully considered and chic. There’s just something about it that immediately makes an outfit more interesting and like you’re the kind of person that has their shit together and wears matching socks. Equally, it works as a top in its own right, making for a dressier or glammed up look – paired with tailored trousers or double denim, it really offers endless styling combinations. Here are some of the ways I’ve been wearing it recently:
Oversized tee and leopard print
A go-to street style look, I love throwing the denim waistcoat over a distressed or oversized vintage-looking t-shirt. This Motorcar Club tee is from H&M and costs £12.99, and they have some great designs in at the moment. Equally, band tees work really well for this outfit, and you can play around with fits and colours to suit your personal style.
While this could be teamed with jeans or even a denim maxi skirt, I love wearing these leopard print trousers which have been in my wardrobe for years. I paid a fiver for them originally, and their cost per wear is a fraction of a penny at this point.
The tee provides a laid back vibe while the waistcoat’s rugged charm contrasts with the bold patterns elsewhere in the outfit. My trusty Adidas Gazelles add a dash of sporty nostalgia, completing the look with a Uniqlo crossbody bag for a comfortable ensemble that exudes urban chic vibes perfect for adventuring through city streets in search of the perfect chai latte.
Wide leg tailored trousers
Ideal for date night, transforming the waistcoat from an additional layer into a buttoned-up top creates a focal point for this outfit. Paired with wide-leg stone coloured trousers, it offers a sophisticated and tailored look that’s confident and elegant. This pair is part of a co-ord from Little Mistress that have since sold out, but cargo trousers or similar wide leg silhouettes will slim the waist and elongate the legs making you appear taller while remaining bang on trend. I added a pair of beige heeled sandals for this holiday outfit, but a pair of suede tan boots would give it a more western feel a-la Barbie – or go all out with cowboy boots, if you dare.
For this look, I buttoned just the top two buttons and let the bottom fall naturally – an intentional styling choice that gives this fit a little bit of spice (and allows extra room for pizza).
Midi dress and sandals
A midi dress is already an effortless outfit pick for a throw-on-and-go kind of day, but if you want to look like you’ve really made an effort, the addition of a waistcoat adds a nice contrast in colour, defines the waist and adds an edge to the feminine flair. I love how the blue pops against this pink FatFace dress, but I’ve equally loved wearing it with patterned pieces like my leopard print puff sleeve dress from H&M, too.
Made for summer adventures, I added my Dr Marten Blair sandals and stripped back on the accessories, opting for some simple gold jewellery. No need for a bag – the dress has pockets – read more about that here.
You’d be surprised at how much warmth this sleeveless layer provides, too. For those cooler evenings, it’s a great way to take a dress from day to night with just one change. It keeps the heat in really well and provides a little bit of comfort on days when you may feel self conscious – we all have those little body wobbles, and a waistcoat that disguises bloat on the days you’re not feeling 100% on your game can be the confidence boost you need.
For an all-denim look, I love to wear the Very waistcoat buttoned all the way up with a long denim maxi skirt for a monochromatic, head-turning outfit. The key to successfully rocking double denim is all about balance and contrast, and this waistcoat and skirt combo is a match made in heaven.
One of the key styling tips for pulling off double denim is making sure that both denim pieces fit well and flatter your body shape. Well-fitted denim looks more deliberate and therefore works a lot better than ill-fitting or baggy pieces. I love that the length of the maxi skirt juxtaposes the length of the waistcoat, making me appear taller and my waist slimmer. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s an intentional co-ord, but the skirt is actually from New Look.
I kept the rest of this look super simple with some classic white Adidas trainers, tying my hair into a slick back ponytail for a clean, minimalist finish, demonstrating how denim-on-denim is no longer fashion’s biggest cardinal sin.
So, how will you wear yours?