A sleeveless jacket with front closure and finishing either just below the waist, or similar to a gilet somewhere above the knee. A highly practical garment, some form of waistcoat, in some form or another, re-occurs throughout history and culture and at every level from peasant to King

* Peasants and other agricultural labourers would traditionally cover up their shirt and undergarment with a tabard–a very similar concept–that might be tied or decorated in the style of the village or locality. These were made to be worn until they would hold together no longer.

* In Grand European circles the long waistcoat was very much a rich man’s status symbol, commissioned and worn to display wealth through the high quality fabric, the cut, the elaborate workmanship and decorative embroidery.

* The stunningly beautiful waistcoats that we see displayed as prized historical textiles in museum collection have survived because they were extravagant dress, worn for show and kept in good condition.

* A 20th C gentleman’s three-piece suit consists of a jacket, trousers, and a waistcoat all in the same fabric; the waistcoat adds warmth and formality. Changing the waistcoat to something different, usually much more flamboyant and colourful is the pastime of those who want to assert their own identity within the strictures of formal dress code, perhaps harking back to former styles and the age of the peacock.

* Nowadays, waistcoats can be worn with a suit or on their own, to add a touch of formality, even informality, for warmth or for fashion, by men and women and often in a day to day, very casual manner.

* Both waistcoats and tabards offer great design inspiration, whether it’s an elaborate beaded decoration, a printed motif, or or a fine silk velvet to highly coloured folk art embroidery pattern.

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