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How to make a men's waistcoat

Updated April 17, 2017

A man's waistcoat, also referred to as a vest, is a sleeveless article of clothing usually worn over a shirt and under a jacket. Waistcoats generally button up the front. They can have notch or shawl collars, or no collar at all. Waistcoats were particularly popular during the Victorian period and into the first half of the 20th century. Waistcoats are still a favourite choice for wedding parties because they provide an opportunity to coordinate the wedding colours in the men's outfits. Whether you're making a waistcoat for a groomsman's ensemble or for a Wild West re-enactment, you will find that it's a fairly simple garment to make.

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  1. Select a waistcoat pattern. The pattern you buy depends on which type of waistcoat you want to make. Commercial patterns available at fabric stores are a good choice if you're making a wedding waistcoat. Online companies offer waistcoat patterns that are more suitable for historical re-enactors.

  2. Cut out the pattern pieces and lay them right side up on the fashion fabric. Fold the fabric in half and lay it out on a flat surface. Use a cutting board if you have one. Pin the pattern pieces to the fashion fabric, following the grain line (direction of the pattern) of the fabric. Remove the pattern pieces from the fashion fabric and pin them to the lining fabric, following the grain line. Cut out the lining fabric. Remove the pattern pieces from the fabric. Lay the waistcoat front pattern piece only on the interfacing and cut it out.

  3. Pin the interfacing to the vest front pieces and hand baste it in place along the seam lines. Trim the corners.

  4. Cut the back belt pieces out of the fashion fabric, using the pieces included with your pattern. If your pattern does not have a belt, skip this step. The right piece will be longer than the left piece. Fold both belt sections in half. Stitch the long side of both pieces. Stitch the short right edge of the right-hand belt and the short left edge of the left-hand belt. Turn the belt pieces right side out and press them both. Slide the belt buckle onto the left-hand piece and turn under the raw edge. Slip stitch the belt buckle in place.

  5. Pin the belt pieces to the back piece of the fashion fabric along the lines indicated by your pattern. Baste the belt pieces in place. Machine stitch along the basting lines.

  6. Machine stitch the back and front pieces of the fashion fabric together at the shoulders and side seams. Repeat this step with the lining fabric.

  7. Place the right sides of the fashion fabric against the right sides of the lining fabric. Pin along the bottom edges of the waistcoat front and back pieces, along the front pieces and along the armhole edges. Leave approximately 10 inches open along the bottom edge of the back sections. Stitch the pinned sections together with your sewing machine.

  8. Pull the lining to the inside by bringing the front sections through the shoulders and out through the opening in the lower back edge. Press all the edges flat.

  9. Turn under the seam allowances in the opening in the back section and slip stitch the fashion fabric and lining fabric together, thus closing the opening.

  10. Mark the buttonhole placement on the left front. Most patterns provide placement markings. If your pattern doesn't have these markings, position the buttonholes approximately 2 to 2 1/2 inches apart. Stitch the buttonholes with your sewing machine.

  11. Mark the button placement on the right front of the waistcoat, matching the buttons with the buttonholes. Hand or machine sew the buttons in place.

  12. Tip

    Use plain material for the waistcoat's back if the front fabric is particularly fancy or expensive.


    Use a muslin (mockup in scrap fabric) if you're unsure of how the pattern will fit. This will help you to avoid expensive mistakes.

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Things You'll Need

  • Waistcoat pattern
  • 1 yard fashion fabric
  • 1 yard lining fabric
  • Sew-in interfacing (horsehair canvas preferred)
  • 7 5/8-inch buttons
  • 3/4-inch vest buckle (optionall)

About the Author

Joyce Ellison has been writing professionally since 1997. She wrote advertising copy for Petersen Publishing, a publisher of magazine specialty titles. She has also published several novels and a number of short stories under a pseudonym. Ellison holds a Bachelor of Arts in medieval history with a concentration in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine.

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