How to wear a double-breasted waistcoat

Does your wardrobe feature a double-breasted waistcoat or two? It’s surprising how many gentlemen have only got the single-breasted version – or, indeed, no waistcoats at all. But our message today is that it’s a versatile and stylish part of your formal and business attire, and that it’s time to bring it to the fore. 

We’ll be describing what this garment is, before going into its styling, fit and when you should wear it. You just might discover an exciting new way to express your sense of taste and refinement.

What exactly is a double-breasted waistcoat?

Unlike its single-breasted sibling, the double-breasted waistcoat normally features a second row of buttons and a lapel, transforming it from a mere mid-layer to the star of the show. A small proportion of single-breasted waistcoats do have lapels – we’d say that the pointers in this guide apply to those, too. Similarly, you might have a double-breasted design that has no lapels. The extra row of buttons will keep the busy-ness alive, so again, stick to these guidelines.

Choosing the right fit

The adage “fit is king” could never be truer than when it comes to double-breasted waistcoats. The key to its mastery lies in ensuring it moulds to your torso snugly, neither billowing like sails nor constraining like a corset.

The perfect length should just cover your waistband, ensuring the elegance of your silhouette remains uninterrupted. Anything shorter and the most creased part of your shirt – the part above the tucked-in waist – starts to become visible, especially when you bend or move. That’s a definite no-no. If it’s much longer than the waistband, you’ll just look a little dated because of the classic styling of the garment. It’s a fine balance, but get it right and you’ll nail the smart and contemporary look.

Beneath the suit

The art of wearing your waistcoat under a suit requires thoughtfulness and an eye for detail. Opt for a jacket and shirt combination as refined and minimalistic as a blank canvas, granting your waistcoat the centre stage it duly deserves.

An overly complicated or patterned suit will challenge your waistcoat’s authority, plunging you into a cacophony of fabrics battling for attention. Remember, the double-breasted waistcoat commands respect; don’t erode it by creating too much noise.

A simple, single-colour suit lets your double-breasted waistcoat do its work. It’s really that simple.

Coordinating masterclass

Concerning colour and collaboration with your ensemble, think of your waistcoat as the lead, with the suit being the supporting cast. Embracing contrast with discernment can take your style credentials to new heights.

Consider pairing your waistcoat with separates for less formal occasions – perhaps charcoal trousers with a navy waistcoat, crafting an aesthetic that blurs formal inflexibility with casual mastery. Pairing light with dark or warm with cool can also get results. Two browns can give a particularly earthy look that can’t possibly overwhelm.

When it comes to shirts and ties, simplicity reigns supreme. As with the suit, let your waistcoat be the main attraction, from which all else takes cue. A beautifully ironed white shirt is usually all you need, but with a plain tie, or perhaps one with a very subtle pattern, you can dial up the formality a notch. Always bear in mind that there are buttons and lapels to complement, not to compete with.

Buttoned up or open?

One unspoken rule separates the sartorially enlightened from the novice: a double-breasted waistcoat is always to remain buttoned up. Unbuttoned, the garment loses its shape and majesty, straying towards informality that we aim to rise above. Because it has wider front panels, there’s no real benefit to having it unbuttoned anyway – they’ll still overlap.

That doesn’t necessarily mean every button must be done up. It’s OK to leave the bottom one loose. It’s both a traditional look and a practical measure to keep you flexible, especially when you’re standing and sitting regularly.

Navigating formality with ease

While steeped in formal origins, double-breasted waistcoats have since become a slightly more casual piece of smart wear. No longer restricted to weddings or white tie affairs, you’re free to embrace them in work environments or dressing up for a restaurant.

All this makes the double-breasted waistcoat one of your most versatile pieces. Having one in your wardrobe gives you breadth and preparedness for any eventuality. While it’s normally most comfortable in its natural habitat – under a suit jacket – you’re bound to turn heads when you slip the jacket off and reveal the taste and elegance of your collared, buttoned-up underlayer.

A contemporary classic

Donning a double-breasted waistcoat is far from merely wearing another layer; it’s an art form – an expression of personal style influenced by traditional principles. But most of all, it’s uniquely you. Expect to be the only one in the crowd exhibiting this particular look. And if you stick to these guidelines, the only reaction will be admiration. Find the one for you in our collection.