The waistcoat is finding a life far outside the world of the three-piece suit


January 16, 1992|By Rod Stafford Hagwood | Rod Stafford Hagwood,Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

Wriggling and wrestling out from under a man's three-piece suit, the vest has emerged triumphant.

Bright colors, bold graphics and new silhouettes -- such as the apron-like styles all the rage on England's club scene -- are showing up everywhere, including the chests of the rich and noticeable.

The cast of the Fox comedy "In Living Color" wears them over loose silk shirts and cotton T-shirts. Arsenio Hall loves to wear brightly colored vests under jewel-toned blazers. Prince's background dancers (when they are wearing clothes) gyrate in black silk shorts and trousers topped with Crayola-hued silk vests with satin inlay.

After spending years as the third element of a suit, vests waned in popularity with the rising appeal of vestless single- and double-breasted suits.

And while the tailored, vested suit is barely alive in the '90s, the suit-free -- sometimes shirt-free -- vest is alive and kicking.

During New York's spring menswear shows, models tramped down the runways wearing vests over sculpted, pumped-up torsos.

Accessories included an occasion al tattoo, but that was it. No shirt, no jacket -- nothing to distract from the beauty of a man and his vest.

But then, the beauty of a woman and her vest also is turning heads.

Neophyte-clubster-from-hell Jennifer Afromski of Boca Raton, Fla., wore a revealing silver vest to the recent opening of progressive dance club Saturn in Fort Lauderdale. She wore it with black velvet palazzo pants. And she was barely able to stay in the outfit while on the dance floor.

"I like revealing parts of my body to the public," Ms. Afromski said while perfecting a particularly athletic move to the disco chorus of "Move Your Body." "It was silver, and it was hanging up in [The Fly Trap] and it caught my eye.

"I thought it wasn't the usual kind of vest, so I had to have it."

While women's wear may trot out an occasional vest, menswear is the primary domain of the waistcoat these days. With its new-found freedom, the vest probably won't return to tailored clothing soon.

Cost and comfort should assure its liberation. A vest can add $200 to $300 to a suit's cost.

Also, a tailored suit requires a fitted vest -- in these days of roomier, more comfortable clothing, who wants to have his chest bound?

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