Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Down Vests: Eight Outfits

For us in Chicago, it's that time of year when you haven't a clue how to dress for the weather - absolutely cold mornings turn into beautiful afternoons.. A down vest can be a useful, and fairly modestly priced, option. 

I've seen a few really well styled outfits, so I copied them as best I could, and then I built on the core ideas to show a few additional options. Please note that these vests are pretty trim in cut, and have a very clever elastic inset at the waist, in the back. There are not your mother's puffer vests! (although I still wear mine...)

This was the outfit that got me started thinking about vests; what really elevated the elegance factor here was the cashmere tee, the gorgeous scarf, and the metallic boots. Pearl earrings never hurt anything...

outfit with black down vest and beige sweater
Down vest – Lands’ End, earrings – Nina Kastens Jewelry; scarf – Chan Luu
cashmere tee – J. Crew; pants – J. Crew; boots – Summit

So, of course, I started thinking about how this would work with a black "column". Introducing a second neutral kept the feeling of the first outfit, with a slightly different balance. Same pants, same sweater (in a different color), same vest (in a different color), and some snazzy boots...

outfit with beige down vest, black sweater and pants
Down vest – Lands’ End; pants – J. Crew; earrings – Alexis Bittar;
cashmere tee – J. Crew; scarf – Faliero Sarti; boots – Lucky Brand

I knew that I wanted to consider the possibilities of a vest with denim, so I started with a denim shirt. This ended up being a really pretty ensemble; the accessories make it more feminine than might be expected.

outfit with an off-white down vest, chambray shirt and khakis
Down vest – Lands’ End; pearl necklace – Kate Spade; cross body wallet –
 Street Level; denim shirt – Vale; khakis – L.L.Bean; driver loafer – Prada

The other woman that I saw in a vest, when I started thinking about this post, was wearing the most simple outfit imaginable - black pants with a white shirt. But she was also wearing an Hermes scarf, and a bright red vest. Very eye-catching, but not complicated or contrived in any way.

outfit with a red down vest, white shirt and black pants
Down vest – Lands’ End; earrings – Alexis Bittar; pants – J. Crew
white shirt – Polly Plains; scarf – Original Trocadero Jazz Band – Hermes
 loafers – Aquatalia

So I started to imagine how a down vest could work in an accent color over a simple sweater and pants...

outfit with a pink down vest, grey turtleneck and grey corduroy pants
Down vest – Lands’ End; earrings – Lagos; turtleneck – Lands’ End;
 cords – Dash; infinity scarf – Lemon; boots – Lucky Brand

If you needed to dress like a snow princess (or know someone who does) there are worse ways to do it than this - especially with the cashmere socks!

outfit with a light blue down vest, cream turtleneck and cream corduroy pants
Beret – JCPenney; down vest – Lands’ End;  turtleneck – J. Crew Factory
cords – Citizens of Humanity; socks – Brooks Brothers; loafers – Coach

Flannel shirts are made for down vests - if you have a favorite shirt, it might give you an idea for which color vest would be right for you. 

outfit with a bright blue down vest, plaid flannel shirt and grey jeans
Down vestLands’ End; flannel shirt – L.L.Bean; jeans – Rag & Bone;   
backpack – Burton; boots – Ugg

And I had to finish up with blue jeans. You could wear matching Converse sneakers, couldn't you?

outfit with a hot pink down vest, white tee shirt and blue jeans
Down vest – Lands’ End; white tee - L.L.Bean; jeans – Acne Studios;   
scarf – Braja; shoes - Converse

I think the big thing I learned from seeing these outfits, and then trying to put together some variations, so to really study someone when you think they look attractive and pulled together. What is it that appeals to you? Is it something that can be translated to your own colors, proportions, and wardrobe? Can you replicate the aspect of the outfit that caught your attention from items that you already own? 

This kind of thinking can save you a lot of money, and give you a lot more mileage from what's already in your closet!


Happy Socks


  1. Good morning, I have four vests, not down, I live below the Mason Dixon line, I have used for years. They are versatile, but once again you have taken a core garment and given me more ideas, I might be adding a few more in a new core color. I like the idea of Ice Princess in cashmere socks.
    Love ha,

  2. Hi. I am heading to Chicago in December for a few days. Rather different to Ireland. What would you recommend as a travel capsule? Sorry to ask but when you mentioned Chicago weather I couldn't resist. Thanks Margo

    1. Margo, I grew up in the Chicago suburbs. Be sure to take a warm coat, wool or a raincoat with a wool lining; a hat such as a wool beret; warm gloves; and a wool or cashmere scarf. It's cold and windy in Chicago in December. For inside, layers are good because buildings are sometimes very warm, especially in contrast to outside. If you're going to be walking outside (e g shopping on Michigan Avenue), boots would be a good idea. Have fun. The city looks beautiful in the Christmas season.

    2. Thank you so much for the tips. I am looking forward to the trip very much. American cities really know how to do Christmas and a little shopping will be an added bonus

    3. I think Chicago needs more than a lined raincoat unless we have a warm December! Maybe if you layer a down vest under it! Personally I think down, thick wool, or (if you don't have objections) fur or fur lining is a necessity in Chicago. Maybe you will be lucky for December, but in January...

      Be sure to visit the downtown Cristkindlemarket (sp.?) at Christmas time. My Christmas tradition is to eat at the Italian Village (top floor restaurant only!) then spend the afternoon at the market, capping with a hot chocolate from the food stands. Just perfect for the season.

  3. I wanted to be the snow princess! For about 5 seconds before reality hit me and I realized both the cords and that lovely turtleneck would be stained even before I left home, not to mention what they would look like after a walk through the muddy slush of a winter we usually get here. But dreaming is nice. :-)

  4. This morning's temp is 36F, due to rise about 20 degrees by this afternoon. So I wore my down vest. THEN I read this post! I have a core of dark gray with a white vest. Sadly I don't have any snazzy boots like the cool snakeskin ones. Maybe something to wish for. Now I have ideas for more ways to wear my vest!!

  5. I love vests. They are great trans seasonal and also for keeping your chest warm while doing house work. I am not a puffer vest woman as I am plus sized and don't want to be any larger BUT I can totally see why a person would want one in every colour - 11 vests in all - one for every occasion including Snow Princess! Carol S

  6. Once again, you have nailed it. Put together looks that are casual & practical for real life (snow princess included only if she is staying inside :-)). Thank you! The value of those accessory families shows up clearly here, and points out to me that I need to spend an afternoon sorting & organizing my accessories. Thank you! Mary

  7. Oh, I have a neighbor who loves the pink (it's really one of her neutrals), and she has a pink down vest. Super cute.

  8. I like wearing vests, but down vests just don't work well for me. Instead I make mine out of wool or polar fleece, lining helps. I live in Alaska and vests a much more casual than jackets. I have combined them on occasion for additional warmth. Thanks for the various color combinations, they have given me more ideas. Also, vests are much easier to sew up than a jacket (time and money)

  9. I want to be a snow princess too! (of course the colours wouldn't suit me, and I would immediately spill something on those jeans…). But it's such fun to daydream - do please include impractical options from time to time.

  10. I am in love with the snow princess look -- and can't wait to wear that for all of our outdoor activities this winter: skating, sledding, snowball fights, long walks in the woods...unlike city dwellers, I can wear white outside all winter long. Because everything is snow covered and frozen solid, there is nothing dirty or sticky outside in the winter. It is one of the joys of living in the country.

    Inside is another thing - there are still foods and pets and such messy things to contend with...but that outfit is worth being careful for!
    I'll just stock up on ShoutWipes or Tide ToGo. : )
    Sue G

  11. Gorgeous ideas. While waiting for it to ever get cool enough here for a vest, I'm thinking of how to do either the make-it-a-column or put-it-over-a-column formulas with my burgundy suede quilted vest from a few years ago or my navy down quilted vest from this year. I love your idea of putting it over a flannel shirt--mine is navy, and it will be very happy under my cognac leather trimmed navy vest, now that you mention it.

  12. Love this post! I don't currently have a vest, yet always walking past them very s l o w l y in the stores. Like the earlier poster, I think I don't want additional body bulk to my size 16 figure. But this post does make me rethink.

    also love, love, love the cashmere tee!!! It is a nice seasonal upgrade.

  13. I got a navy vest last year, but didn't wear it very much. This fall is the time to pull it out and try it with my navy pants. I would like a flannel shirt, so I should look for something that will work well with the vest. My blue jeans are ready for replacement, but I can imagine several of my tee shirts with jeans and the vest, especially if I pull out one of my scarves. Thanks for getting my mind cranking.

  14. I love this post! So many great ideas. I recently bought my first vest. Today's down vests (or alternatives like Perma-loft) are not the bulky puffers of old, and they're not just for teenagers. They're lighter in weight and more fitted to a woman's body. Any age can wear them. These vests are great for fall, and in milder climates can be worn for much of the winter. I'm saving this post to inspire me!

    October 27, 2015 at 2:09 PM

  15. I got a navy vest last year, but didn't wear it very much. This fall is the time to pull it out and try it with my navy pants. I would like a flannel shirt, so I should look for something that will work well with the vest. My blue jeans are ready for replacement, but I can imagine several of my tee shirts with jeans and the vest, especially if I pull out one of my scarves. Thanks for getting my mind cranking.

  16. Thank you for this posting with casual clothes including vests. I came over to the vest side on a very cold, wet and windy April trip to the Netherlands. I found that I wore the one vest I packed constantly. They are so versatile. You can wear them zipped all the way up, partially or all the way open. And they don't have to be made of down to provide a good warm layer. I recently bought a Coldwater Creek Vest for all Seasons in Vienna Currant (http://www.coldwatercreek.com/shop-all/jackets-and-vests/vest-for-all-seasons/55004.html?dwvar_55004_color=369). I wear a 1X or 2X top and an XL or 18 bottom. This vest is made of polyester, has a lovely quilting pattern, pockets and a shape that looks good on me. It is definitely not boxy. If you go to it online, you will also see my "image" for my next trip. As is usual for me, I'll be doing much more walking outdoors in iffy weather than dressing up for any reason. The combinations here are very similar to what I will normally wear for 6 weeks in the UK in May-June.

    I wanted a cable knit gray vest, too (my colors for the trip are grays and purples), but the one I really liked was not available in my size. So I chose a trusty LL Bean Trail Model Fleece vest in charcoal heather (http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/78736?page=womens-trail-model-fleece-vest). It is very light and will be very warm...and it is shaped, similar to the other vest. My 46" bust fits fine in a 1X in both these garments and the shaping accents the shape I have rather than making me look thicker in the middle.

    Maybe fortunately, I can't wear any kind of wool and I've tried them all. Synthetics are my only option. They wash and dry well on these long trips, so I don't even consider wool for any kind of a garment.

  17. Brilliant post and one I will refer to again. I have a cream vest which I haven't worn in a while, but will enjoy trying some new ideas with it. The "snow princess" set is quite posh and I would love to try it. Maybe my cream vest with cream cords and a blue cashmere sweater. And I love the metallic loafers. Well done!

  18. I purchased a navy quilted vest last year and was surprised at how often I wore it. It's so nice to wear while running errands when you are only walking from your car to the store or post office. It keeps you warm enough for the bit you're outside but then you don't feel overheated when you're inside. I love that snow princess ensemble too, would love to see that at the skating rink! I'm thinking of trying my vest with a flannel shirt this year if we ever have any cool weather here in Utah, no frost yet!

  19. LOVE the metallic boots and those snakeskin booties!! Wowser! I might have to try on a vest this year!