Dare to be seen in a sweater vest? A lesson in comfort dressing

Written by Hannah Cole

Photography Supplied

There’s an art to feeling cosy while emulating the powerful women who came before us.

The last few months have taught me many things: phone calls are not to be feared, making homemade pasta is overrated, reality TV is bliss. My most treasured lesson, though? Life becomes a little easier when you adopt sartorial cues from grandad. It’s a phenomenon currently sweeping the influencer internet world, so I’m in good company. The collective has spoken.

In a world of unknowns, the powers that be claim the only certain things in life are death and taxes (debatable). Arguably, most of us have at least some control over our wardrobes as well. It’s our choice whether we binge fast-fashion solutions, rifle through vintage options, or invest in timeless luxuries. 

We often underestimate the power a single piece of clothing can yield. Research shows that not only do we alter our outfit based on how we are feeling, but that it can seriously impact our thinking. It’s an idea that has become more glaringly obvious with all this WFH business: if we put on a real shirt, our mindset is different. Somehow we work harder, concentrate a little more, and steer clear of Instagram scrolling for longer. Some of us insist on wearing shoes in the home office (couch) to give the illusion of workspace; it’s the opposite of weekend lounging. “Enclothed cognition” proves that the cultural associations we make with a garment can flow-on to affect the way we think.  

More so now than ever, I am drawn to pieces that make me feel powerful, or at least on the verge of “good”. It’s about effective working and positive mental health. On any given day, I will be sporing my favourite men’s blazer, well-worn loafers, and importantly, a knitted vest. 

Why, you ask? It seems I am leaning into the 80-year-old man residing deep within me; I’m riding that rickety wave. The look is one part grandad’s day off, one part lazy Sunday on the golfing green, a little Elaine Benes (or Zoe Kravitz’s High Fidelity), and a feeling of I’ll wear anything to give me some semblance of surety. 

So, what’s in a sweater vest then?

I dream of an era that seems simpler, at least from a woe-is-me millennial perspective. Fewer commitments and the joy/curse of living with a landline have me nostalgic for a time I only experienced as a toddler. It fits then that three of my favourite vests were inherited from my mum’s wooden chest filled with 80s era knitwear. When I’m wearing my well-worn fluffed-out cream vest, I’m pulling back a little from the endless go of the modern world. There’s an art to feeling cosy while emulating the powerful women who came before us (the very same who willed us to the power suit).

I suspect I’m also subconsciously looking forward to the simplicity of old age. Velcro shoes immediately become more than acceptable, as do elastic waists and “slacks” (i.e. comfort pants). Maybe I will be knitting my very own sweater vest, promoting a fashion cycle that is as slow as it can be. 

A garment is so much more than its outward physicality; there is an intricate underlying thought process that goes into our daily outfit decisions. Whoever said fashion was for the faint-hearted was wrong — there is a meaning behind everything, whether we are aware or not. Adapt the vest to your look; it’s a pliable piece that goes just as well with trouser pants as it does a ruffled mini dress or silk slip. 

Go and clean out the vintage stores ASAP. Or, if it’s a quick online click you are looking for, don’t go past Ganni or Yan Yan Knits for a supply of colour and pattern. Locally, Wolfgang Scout has hand-knitted, responsibly dyed tanks made for layering and personalising. Beam me up and take me to that simpler place.

sweater vest
sweater vest

GANNI.

sweater vest

Yan Yan Knits.

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