The waistcoat was created by King Charles II during his rule in the 17th century. The term ‘waistcoat’ comes from the short cutting of the material used to make them in comparison to the much longer length used for coats. During this period, a gent’s attire was often incredibly elaborate, combining the finest silks, buttons and trims, along with a whole range of embellishments cut from a variety of premium quality fabrics in an array of different colours. Waistcoats were often designed in bright, eye-catching colours and highly adorned, making it the focal point of any gentleman’s outfit.
The nineteenth century saw a significant rise in popularity of the waistcoat, with a slightly more subtle style and a somewhat shorter and tighter design than those favoured by King Charles II. The waistcoat became a staple item for any gent - those who didn’t have one in their wardrobe either couldn’t afford to buy one or weren’t a man at all. Moving into the 20th century, waistcoats served a new purpose - to cover a gent’s braces which were considered underwear and so should not be seen outside the confines of one’s home.
Moving forward into the modern day, the waistcoat began to lose some of its popularity due to the introduction of the slightly less garish belt. The belt negated the need for braces and therefore the waistcoat which was used to cover them. The waistcoat was no longer a standard part of a men’s attire - men started to dress more casually, adopting a less structured sense of fashion.
However, in more recent years, with signature looks from the likes of Tommy Shelby and Gareth Southgate, the waistcoat has once again been popularised. Nowadays, the waistcoat is most commonly worn as part of a three-piece suit, underneath a smart jacket to add some more depth and formality to an outfit. With choices ranging from tweed, silk or moleskin, double-breasted or single, checked or plain - there is now a style of waistcoat to suit every taste. Yet, while waistcoats provide an easy way to smarten up your formal attire, it can be an incredibly difficult challenge to fasten this fashionable clothing item for the perfect flattering fit. In this guide, we are going to explain how to tie a waistcoat properly so that you can comfortably and confidently wear it to any special event.
What is a Waistcoat Cinch?
Most styles of waistcoat come with a buckle or ‘cinch’ at the rear, designed for creating the perfect fit. The purpose of the rear cinch is to tighten the front of the waistcoat and this needs to be done properly. However, while this may look simple enough to contend with, they can often be poorly designed and many people fasten them wrong, leaving their waistcoat far too loose and ill-fitting.
A proper cinch should be designed so that the fabric and metal buckle work well together. For a buckle to perform its function properly, there must be sufficient locking of the fabric and the buckle. In many cases, the fabric used by the designer is simply too smooth, such as a silk-like material. This means that there is not enough friction between the smooth fabric and the buckle, causing the strap to simply slide through and become loose. In other cases, the metal buckles are just poorly made or simply incorrect for the application. So, when buying a waistcoat, make sure you keep in mind the quality of the buckle and the type of fabric used for the strap.
How to Tie a Waistcoat for the Ideal Fit
As well as being many variants of waistcoat nowadays, there is also a wide variety of cinch designs. The most common cinch is the single cinch, which tends to be placed directly in the middle of the back of the waistcoat. If designed properly, this style of fastening should pull equally on both sides, resulting in an even fit around the torso. If the buckle is of poor quality or is not fastened correctly, then this may result in more pulling to one side of the garment and a lop-sided fitting waistcoat.
Another style of waistcoat fastening is the ‘double cinch’ which usually consists of two shorter buckle fastenings on either side of the rear of the waistcoat. This is a much easier fastening to deal with as it will tighten evenly on both sides if done correctly. The user should ensure that they pull both pieces of material at the same time and by equal amounts to guarantee an even fit. Although the double buckle is much simpler to get right, unfortunately they are much less common.
The third style of waistcoat fastening is the ‘missing cinch’, where there is no adjustable buckle fastening on the garment at all. This is often the case when the style of the waistcoat in question would appear not to benefit from adjustment. However, while this is the case, it is almost impossible to get the ideal fit with a waistcoat that has no cinch and therefore cannot be adjusted at all.
How Should a Waistcoat Fit?
So, now you know how to tie a waistcoat properly, lets discuss how your waistcoat should fit. A well-fitted waistcoat should be snug, but not so tight that the buttons begin to pull and that it becomes uncomfortable to wear. It should also be long enough at the front to cover the gent’s waist, without their shirt showing at the bottom. The back and sides should be cut a little higher and may reveal some shirt underneath. This means that it is also important to consider the fitting of your shirt. Your shirt should be fitted enough to be able to be tucked in tightly to avoid the fabric ballooning from under the waistcoat. The shoulders of the waistcoat should lie flat and should be cut below your collar.
It is crucial that your waistcoat fits you well, especially if wearing it with a jacket. If your waistcoat is too tight or too loose then it can ultimately affect the fit of your jacket as well. So, next time you choose to wear your waistcoat for that big event, make sure you fasten it properly to get the ideal fit.