How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: The vest is back (just don’t call it a tank top)
- Shane Watson shares advice for embracing this season’s vest trend
- British style expert reveals a selection of High Street stores offering the look
- Says lots of designers have used them in their summer collections to inject quirkiness and colour —but these are a luxury, not a useful little hard worker
Vests have been around for well over a year now. These days they’re called vests — sleeveless sweater if you prefer — and not tank tops, as they were back in the 1970s when I was first wearing them.
Maybe that’s a deliberate ruse to reset our perceptions and banish all thoughts of rainbow stripes and Fair Isle. Anyway, the rebranded vest (chic, no Fair Isle) has been gradually building a fan base and now it’s a favourite with women who’ve recognised its potential as a soft power-dressing tool.
If that sounds like a line, it’s not. There are plenty of fun vests out there, and lots of designers have used them in their summer collections to inject quirkiness and colour —but these are a luxury, not a useful little hard worker.
The vests we’re talking about — plain knitted cotton for now, wool for later — are a wardrobe refresher that’ll sharpen up the clothes you already own.
Inspiration: Amanda Holden in February. Vests have been around for well over a year now. These days they’re called vests — sleeveless sweater if you prefer — and not tank tops, as they were back in the 1970s when I was first wearing them
As we’re getting back to the office, the knitted vest hits just the right spot: worn over a shirt, it’s smarter than a sweater and easier to fit under a jacket. If you have your shirt tails out, a vest will nip everything in and stop you looking too casual and undone.
If you want to tuck a top into some drawstring-waist track trousers, then a looser-fit vest smooths everything over and gives you some soft coverage around your waistband. It turns out a sleeveless pullover is a great puller-together.
So now it’s just a question of which to pick.
The smartest vests are round-necked, not too skimpy and stand away a bit on the shoulders. Hush’s ribbed cotton knit in dusty blue (£55, hush-uk.com), H&M’s cashmere blend vest (£29.99, hm.com) or Me+Em’s ribbed cotton cashmere vest in pale grey (£95, meandem.com) would all fit the bill.
That said, if the nothing-underneath look is what you’re after, at least until the weather turns, then the way to go is a loose-fit V-neck. Cos does a chunky, cotton knit, ribbed one in a light grey melange with a slightly dropped sleeve (£59, cosstores.com). The advantage of the drop sleeve is that it covers your upper arms.
Personally I’ll be wearing my vest with a pretty collar peeping out, or full puffy sleeves, or both. Vests are perfect for indulging those flamboyant sleeves that you’re never quite sure when to wear, like my Me+Em sheer balloon-sleeved shirt (£125, meandem.com). A vest worn over a blouse like this, with high-waisted trousers, works for the office, as well as for the smart-casual social thing afterwards.
Pulled together: Dior show. A model walks the runway during the Dior show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2020/2021
My pick would be Me+Em’s navy merino ribbed vest (£115, meandem.com); it has a stepped hem, allowing you to show off your waistband at the front and get some coverage at the back, and comes with a detachable polo neck.
I couldn’t help noticing that this item is the one the brand’s founder Clare Hornby chose to wear in the front of the new catalogue (with a snood, bare arms and jeans). Voila! How to look chic and keep showing off your tan into early autumn.
Another tempting look, for minimalists who like to keep things sharp, is the longer line, plain V-neck, somewhere between a tunic and a sleeveless sweater. Me+Em does a cotton merino longline vest (£125, meandem.com) which works well with longer skirts, and Cos has a cashmere, thigh-grazing, deep V-neck (£135, cosstores.com).
I can also picture — come the autumn — wearing Cos’s off-white lambswool V-neck with a flat collar and patch pockets (£59, cosstores.com). It would look good over a skinny polo neck or a pintucked white shirt, with wide-legged jeans.
Woollier styles are already in the shops, and while they are definitely more tank top — can’t get away from it — they look neat in their own way.
Brora does a honeycomb knit with a contrasting trim (£125, broraonline.com) and & Other Stories has a grey wool vest with a scalloped neck and arm holes (£55, stories.com) which looks pretty over a white linen T-shirt.
Then again, there will be a ton of woolly tanks in the shops in less than a month’s time, and by then you’ll be wanting stripes, jacquard prints, argyle checks and who knows what. It’s going to be a bumper vest season — so why not get in early?
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