Friday, June 24, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Vest

Definition: “a close-fitting waist-length garment, typically having no sleeves or collar and buttoning down the front.” Origin: King Charles II introduced the vest (or waistcoat) in England by Royal Proclamation on October 7, 1666. It was a simple straight cut, close-fitting garment made from black cloth with a white silk lining. Promoted personally by the King, it was soon popular with everyone. However, the political purpose was to undermine French fashion influence in England, and the vest’s simple lines was meant to defy the extravagant dictates of Versailles. The vest was based on a style brought back to England by visitors to the Persian court of Shah Abbas. It became sleeveless around the 1750s, and the garment eventually made its way to the New World.

When young men began traveling out West in the 1860s, they brought the current “highfalutin” Eastern fashions with them, which included tailored trousers, suitcoats and vests. They simply added the Western accents, such as a cowboy hat, bandana scarf, and a gunbelt to the mix. You then had the “gentleman cowboy” look, so well depicted in the films, “Silverado,” “Wyatt Earp,” and “Tombstone.” There were also “western style” vests, made from suede and leather, with elaborate fringing. This was more the “mountain man” or “outlaw” look, also depicted in western movies.

The fringed, Western-style vest reached an extremely high level of popularity in the late 1960s, when it became almost a uniform for a generation of Hippies. Today, it is worn by people of all ages, both male and female. Whether it is used for actual daily wear, or reserved for special occasions (and/or trips to Taos and Santa Fe), it is, without a doubt, a fun fashion that has survived over the centuries. ~Jean

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