It's December, almost winter. As temperatures begin to drop in earnest, most of us fight the urge to tweak the thermostat up another notch, and add one more layer of fleece or flannel instead.
But despite what L.L.Bean may tell us, layering is hardly new. Quilted clothing has been used for warmth and comfort since ancient times. Few examples, however, achieve the style of this gentleman's silk and wool waistcoat with sleeves, replicated by the tailors of Colonial Williamsburg.
Such a waistcoat would have been worn over a white linen shirt by an 18th c. English gentleman relaxing before his fire, or informally receiving friends at home. On a cold day, he might also wear it layered beneath another,
more structured coat for an extra bit of warmth. There's a certain cavalier nonchalance to the waistcoat: what's more impractical (and therefore, more insanely fashionable) around a dish of tea or a glass of Madeira than pure white silk?
I love the double-breasted piece at the throat that can be buttoned against the chill, or folded into a stylish lapel. The cuffs, too, could be buttoned back, and there are deep pockets with flaps for tucking away a letter or snuff-box. As with so much bespoke clothing, the details are amazing: all that diamond-patterned quilting is entirely stitched by hand, and the matching "death's head" buttons (thirty-two, by my rough count) are wrapped thread over a shaped wooden core.
Can you imagine a more elegant alternative to a sweatshirt?