In this article we’ll address how a waistcoat (single- and double-breasted) is supposed to fit. If you need information on the fit of the other elements of suits, we have separate pages for jackets, trousers, and shirts.
The waistcoat (or “vest” in American English) is a fine item. While it’s true that a well-fitting suit will make any man look like the most dapper version of himself, the waistcoat adds an element of handsomeness that you just can’t get any other way.
A properly fitted waistcoat should be snug in the body but not so tight that the buttons pull. It should also be long enough to hit about an inch below the trouser waistband, showing no dress shirt between the two garments.
It’ll keep you a bit warmer in the wintertime, and you’ll be able to take your jacket off indoors and still look “dressed.” In fact, we liken a three-piece suit to the most elegant suit of armor that you’ll ever wear. As such, it’s extremely important that it fit you well.
There are two main elements to the fit of a waistcoat: it’s overall fit in the body, and its length.
How Should A Waistcoat Fit?
In a minimalist garment as a waistcoat, the fit of the body is nearly everything. Like a jacket, it should be snug but not tight. It should lay smoothly against your chest and only have minimal bunching in the back where the adjustable strap cinches you in.
If the buttons show signs of pulling, it’s too tight. If there’s some extra room at the sides (typically around the armpits), your tailor can take it in for you.
It’s particularly important that your waistcoat fit well in your body because it can adversely affect the fit of your jacket if it doesn’t. If you’ve spent the time and money to get your jacket to fit your torso beautifully, there’s no sense in ruining that by throwing a boxy waistcoat underneath it.
Correct Waistcoat Length
A waistcoat’s length is the other hugely important factor regarding its fit. It can be complex because your trouser fit will affect its look.
The rule of thumb is that a single-breasted waistcoat front should end about an inch lower than your trouser’s waistband, and its back should end just at the base of the waistband. The graphics above and below demonstrate this.
A double-breasted waistcoat should finish just below the waistband all around. The point here is that your belt should not be visible when wearing a waistcoat. If there’s a sliver of leather showing in the back, fine, you’ll live. But this cannot be the case in the front.
The reason for this is that covering up the waistband with your waistcoat gives the viewer a single, unbroken vertical line from your shoes right up to your handsome face. Breaking this up will make you look like you’re wearing a kid’s garment, and that does you no favors (especially if you’re on the shorter side of the spectrum).
See our guides for how to dress for your body type, no matter what it is.
Deviations From Proper Fit In The Fashion World
In the past couple of years we’ve seen some shorter waistcoats on three-piece suits. While this rule can relax a bit when we talk about more casual vests with jeans, it’s not advisable when we’re talking about suits. That’s the kind of thing that will change with the winds of fashion, and we don’t recommend jumping onto that particular bandwagon.
Keep in mind that a waistcoat’s length cannot be altered. If it’s too long, put it back. If it’s too short, put it back. If the length isn’t right in a scenario in which the vest was made to order for you, it will have to be re-made. If you can get it right, though, you will look fantastic.
Proper fit is essential for any garment, not just waistcoats. We have a 15-minute guide to the proper fit of each element of a suit to help you get a sense of how everything should fit.
Do you have a suit you love whose fit isn’t quite hitting the mark? Check out our extensive guide to alterations that will let you know what can be done and approximately what it will cost.