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How to style a waistcoat for maximum chic

Here's how to wear the tailoring classic in 2024...

Mandy Bork rocks a denim waistcoat alongside dark blue jeans © Getty
Orin Carlin
Content Writer
Updated: February 28, 2024
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Rivalling seasonless silhouettes such as the oversized blazer and the crisp shirt, the waistcoat has carved itself out as an unexpected womenswear tailoring classic.

For men, the design remains an unwavering part of the formal dress code, dating back to the 17th century when King Charles II decreed it to be part of an Englishman's correct dress. 

But if its thriving presence among the street style set is anything to go by, the waistcoat spells fresh, off-duty elegance. 

Luisa Spagnoli SS24 model wearing electric blue plunging waistcoat with matching blazer and trousers © Spotlight
Luisa Spagnoli SS24

Recent runways tell a similar tale, with the piece cropping up in the SS24 collections of several key designers

However, the kernels of traditional formalwear remain a constant source of inspiration – three-piece suiting, monochrome in particular, was front-and-centre, even if the silhouettes had a certain fluid languor. 

MORE: How to style dungarees in 2024

READ: 20 blazer outfit ideas to copy ASAP

Staud SS24 model wearing blue three-piece suit © Spotlight
Staud SS24

Powdery blue, warm biscuit and other such soft tones give the piece an airy, daytime feel, especially when teamed alongside relaxed-fit trouser shapes. Predictably, darker shades in luxe finishes – satin or velvet, for instance – feel more festive, but don't banish them to the depths of winter. A waistcoat in an interesting finish can work beautifully for an elegant spring/summer soirée.

Hello! Fashion shares the best ways to style a waistcoat: 

Dani Schulz wearing a tweed waistcoat alongside pink wide-leg trousers © Getty

With coloured leather trousers...

This bouclé waistcoat is hitting a level of cute that we didn't even know existed. Combining interesting textures is a sure-fire way of taking your 'fit to the next level, and the colour on these leather-effect trousers is pretty without verging into overly saccharine. 

Helena Bordon rocks a mini dress-length waistcoat with sheer tights and minimalist heels © Getty

With sheer tights...

The soft, subtle elegance of a low denier is nothing new, but irrespective of the fact, sheer tights are having a serious moment this season. This look fuses a classic argyle with a contemporary mini silhouette, and the style impact is palpable. 

A Copenhagen Fashion Week guest wears a grey waistcoat with a semi-sheer blouse © Getty

With a high-drama blouse...

Dispelling the notion that a waistcoat ought only to be worn with a shirt silhouette, this look advocates the whimsical, puff-sleeve blouse, and we have no notes. Exemplifying smart-casual cool, the relaxed-fit jeans silhouette works well juxtaposed against the crisp welt pocket.

A Milan Fashion Week guest teams a cream waistcoat alongside a skirt-trouser combination © Getty

With a pleated skirt and trousers...

Trinny and Susannah would be thrilled to see the resurgence of the skirt-trouser combo, and this has to be the chicest take I've seen so far. Monochrome is a nice way to play it, especially in a luxurious neutral, and while there are a lot of tailored elements here, it feels like a calculated busy.

Maria de la Orden layers a waistcoat over a white shirt © Getty

With a classic white shirt...

A well-fitting white shirt will never let you down when it comes to do-it-all layering. I love the idea of a neutral base with a spirited print over the top, and the pop of orange featured here is utterly joy-inducing.

Mandy Bork rocks a denim waistcoat alongside dark blue jeans © Getty

With dark denim jeans...

Co-ordination, both in texture and colour, can be really effective. This waistcoat 'fit is a case in point. Dark denim to me always looks smarter than its lighter counterparts, and I love the easy, off-duty appeal of the cream Dad sandals.

Alexandra Lapp wears a pinstripe waistcoat with a matching blazer and trousers © Getty

With pinstripe separates...

Lean into workwear and champion the classic pinstripe via a modern three-piece. The blazer-waistcoat layering moment adds dimension, and the flattering silhouette of a high-waisted, wide-leg trouser works really nicely with luxe, pointed heels peeking out underneath.

A New York Fashion Week guest styles an orange waistcoat alongside fluid, dark trousers© Getty

With billowy trousers...

This burnt orange waistcoat feels more utilitarian than most styles, lending itself to cool gathered pocket detailing. The wide-leg silhouette is really the sartorial gift that keeps on giving, and this dark, floor-length pair works well alongside the one-button styling.

A Copenhagen Fashion Week teams a pinstripe waistcoat with a leather blazer© Getty

With a trend-centric focal point...

Amp up a classic design such as this charcoal grey pinstripe waistcoat with a trend-focused accessory. 3D florals have bloomed over the past couple of seasons, and a corsage adds an element of springy vibrancy.

Xenia Adonts wears a black waistcoat over a wide-collar shirt © Getty

With a wide-collar shirt...

Steeped in 70s cool, the XXL collar is great for creating sharp, interesting lines around the neck area. What works beautifully here is the colour and fit contrast - the black waistcoat feels compact, whereas the fluidity of the off-white shirt - especially with the elongated sleeves - has an air of nonchalance. 

Emili Sindlev styles a waistcoat over a white T-shirt © Getty

With an everyday white tee...

A white T-shirt is worth its weight in style gold. Wear yours under a geometric patterned waistcoat for an easy, unfussy layering moment alongside a splash of light-wash denim.

Yoyo Cao styles a red waistcoat with a shirt and tie © Getty

With a shirt and tie...

Oversized blazer devotees will adore this warm-weather take on dopamine dressing, with a focus on energising red - one of the hottest colour trends of the moment. Style an androgynous shirt-tie combo with a waistcoat and shorts for guaranteed impact. 

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