Simply the Vest
High summer seems like a good time to complete my trilogy of blogs on warm clothing. I’ve done cardigans and dressing gowns, now, as you have guessed from the picture of style icon Rab C Nesbitt, it’s the turn of the vest.
For years I disdained vests. They were for children – wool in winter, aertex in summer – and once I had reached the coming-of-age milestone of getting a bra I wanted nothing to do with them. How I mourn those lost years! How could I have willingly put myself through those chilly winter, autumns and springs?
I now can’t remember what drove me back to vests – an over-airconditioned office? The realisation that a jumper felt much nicer with a T-shirt under it? Enter one of the earliest, high-spec Next catalogues, featuring a very neat lace-trimmed number that wasn’t so long you had yards of fabric to tuck into your jeans – and I knew I was home, clothed in the garment I was born to wear.
To be honest, I’m so ‘nesh’ that I was probably born to be rubbed all over in goose fat and sewn into my undergarments for the winter, but we’ll draw a veil over that.
Then there is the question of whether the vest is categorically an undergarment that should remain out of view (setting aside the fact that in the US a vest is a waistcoat, and in French ‘veste’ means jacket). As your friendly fashion fascist, I maintain that a small amount of lace may be permitted at the neckline, and for men (though if you want a small amount of lace at the neckline, guys, that’s absolutely fine by me) the American style of having a white vest visible under a checked shirt is acceptable. (Note: unless you are Rab C Nesbitt himself, such a vest has to be clean, with the neckline not stretched out of shape – I’m talking to you, Only Connect contestant with a brain the size of a planet but without a clue).
The vest nearly went the way of the sock suspender, doomed to extinction, when the classic US screwball comedy It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, was released in 1934. When Gable took off his shirt to reveal that he was bare-chested underneath, vest sales plummeted. What a tragedy it would have been if they had passed into extinction. In fact, it’s occurred to me that Bruce Willis ought perhaps to have received some sort of honour for services to vest conservation, given that he spends most of Die Hard in his vest. (But can you think of a screen goddess ever being seen in her vest? Yet another symptom of inequality!)
If you’re not already a convert, I hope I’ve persuaded you of the life-changing power of a vest (or rather, two vests – one to wash and one to wear). I’m already looking forward to a winter spent in the company of my greatest-ever holiday trophy. Monoprix, France’s answer to Woollies (as was), inexplicably sell fabulous wool and silk vests in various styles. I’ve bought a beautiful lace-trimmed, long-sleeved charcoal-coloured one, and now feel prepared for anything.
Here endeth my trilogy of warm garment blogs – and I hope and pray that it will be a good few years before I feel moved to write one on knitted bedjackets.