The waistcoat is an underutilized garment in the man’s clothing arsenal. It makes up the three-piece suit for a formal look, can be easily mixed & matched for an “odd” look, and can even be worn to smarten up a casual look with jeans.
In this guide, you will learn about the different waistcoat alterations, their estimated costs, and level of difficulty. Each vest alteration has been broken down under the following categories:
- What Can Be Tailored On A Vest?
- Easy Waistcoat Alterations
- Challenging Vest Alterations
- Expensive & Impossible Alterations
Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read it all.
Learn How A Waistcoat Should Fit
What Can Be Tailored On A Waistcoat?
Unlike jackets, shirts, or even trousers, waistcoats (“vests” in American English) are very straightforward in their construction and there isn’t a whole lot that can be done in terms of alterations. It is, however, good to differentiate between the two different types of waistcoats:
- Waistcoats with lining back
- Waistcoats with “self” back
Most waistcoats have a back panel that’s simply a lining made of silk or a synthetic version thereof. Some, however, are made of the same material all around, meaning that the back panels are identical to the front, fabric-wise.
This will generally not affect the alterations that can be performed, but a self-back waistcoat traditionally signifies a higher quality garment as the fabric is typically much more expensive than a silk backing.
What About The Vest’s Strap In The Back?
The lion’s share of waistcoats is made with an adjustable strap in the back to allow the wearer to add more shape. While it’s always best to take the sides in, if using the strap will result in a sloppy look in the back, a tiny bit of fabric bunching is fine on a waistcoat.
With that said, if you can achieve the look you want without a huge mess in the back, save yourself the alterations cost of taking it in and cinch up. However, some people prefer a tailored look and then removing the strap altogether. This approach is fine but you best be sure that you won’t lose or gain weight!
Easy Vest Tailoring Fixes
1 – Take In Vest Sides
No matter how your waistcoat was made, you can always take in the sides. There are two vertical seams (one on each side) that a tailor can take in when you need a closer fit. As mentioned above, small alterations may not be necessary.
Additionally, if you’re sure that your weight won’t change for a while, you can have the clasp removed.
Estimated Cost: $30
2 – Lower Vest Neckline
If the vest is riding up a bit high, it’s possible for your tailor to lower it for you. This is an “easy fix” only for a really good tailor, so be choosy about who does the work.
Estimated Cost: $30
Tougher But Feasible Waistcoat Alterations
1 – Shorten Waistcoat
A tailor who would attempt this is hopefully as skilled as he is daring. This is an incredibly uncommon alteration and would only be worth trying if the garment were of significant sentimental value to you.
Even then, there’s a chance that even a technically sound job would result in a waistcoat whose proportions were completely off and is thus unwearable. For instance, the pocket placement may end up being incorrect.
Estimated Cost: $100
Difficult, Impossible, & Last Resort Vest Alterations
Unfortunately, the following waistcoat alterations will not be possible. As a result, you’ll either have to replace the vest or forego wearing it. Not all is lost, though. Wearing an odd waistcoat with a suit can add a pop of colour and make the outfit stand out!
Otherwise, if you often encounter the issues below, you might want to consider custom or made-to-measure clothing.
Buying custom or made-to-measure garments sounds expensive but you’d be surprised! Often, it can provide you exceptional value, which is often cheaper than designer brands.
We often use Indochino, which retails made-to-measure suits for as little as $300. You can also have 10% off your order when you spend more than $399 with our code “BESPOKEUNIT“.
What we love about Indochino is their High Street presence thanks to physical stores. Therefore, you can get measured up by a professional rather than having to do it yourself.
Otherwise, Black Lapel is a pricier but more premium option thanks to its fabrics and construction. You can benefit from a $25 discount when using our code “FTOBESPOKEUNIT” when placing your order.
In both cases, the vests are sold as optional add-ons for a suit for between $75 and $100. Occasionally, you can order a waistcoat on its own rather than having an entire suit made for you.
1 – Lengthen The Waistcoat
While a good tailor can sometimes seem like a miracle worker, he is, in fact, not. He can’t make extra material appear out of nowhere.
This is one of our biggest suiting gripes / faux pas we see here at Bespoke Unit. Far too often we see a “shirt band” appear between the waistcoat and trousers.
This problem may be caused by one of four issues:
- Trousers keep slipping down: Get braces or suspenders rather than a belt to keep them in place.
- Waistcoat is too short: Unfortunately, you’ll need to replace it.
- Trousers To Low: When wearing a waistcoat, trousers should be worn at the waist rather than on the hips.
- Trousers To Short: Similar to above, trousers are often worn too low because they are too short. See if they can be altered instead.
Estimated Cost: N/A (impossible)
2 – Let Out Sides
Unlike a jacket, the vast majority of waistcoats are not made with extra material built into their insides (and if they do it shall only be a small amount).
As such, there is no way to let out a waistcoat that fits too snugly. Move on to the next size up, or if it was MTM or custom, insist that your tailor re-make the garment.
Estimated Cost: N/A (impossible)
A Final Word On Waistcoats
Like shirts, waistcoats offer fewer opportunities for a tailor to work his or her magic. Make sure that the fit is as on point as possible before purchasing.
Other Tailoring Guides In The Series
As you may have noticed in the menu above, we have a number of other alteration guides that you can use when assessing the work that will need doing:
- How A Vest Should Fit
- How To Find A Good Tailor
- Trousers / Pants Alterations
- Jacket Alterations
- Dress Shirt Alterations
Alternatively, visit our main suit homepage for many more pages and free resources.