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The Power of the Vest

Vest, Camisole, Base-Layer – whatever you call it, a vest can bring some cosiness into your life.

Not many of us will recall the days of the Liberty Vest, first created to ‘liberate’ women from heavily boned corsets and later also thought of as something practical for a child who could be buttoned up warmly*.

In more recent history, in 1933 a commandant in the Norwegian army Henrik Brun invented the first String vest as we know it. Repurposing two fishing nets used to catch herring, he created a garment that he predicted would trap air near to the skin and insulate the wearer. He was right.

The vest caught on… worn by men, women and children alike in its various forms

So why on earth wear a wool vest in 2021? A quick search will show there’s quite a bit of discussion between those who love a vest and those that don’t,  a bit like marmite.  The main reasons in this century are for comfort, essential core insulation, layering under sheer pieces so clothes drape better, absorbing the odd sweaty patch, being kinder to the skin (and if you need convincing here, see the independent research from Allergy UK) and of course for keeping the whole family perfectly warm without overheating.

Who wears vests best? is up for debate, you will rarely find a Scandinavian leaving the house without one. (as they famously say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes), Kiwis too love a vest (or ‘singlet’) especially one made of New Zealand Merino. Having had what is essentially a British ‘vest’ for the past six years, the team at Smalls can tell you some Brits can take quite a bit of convincing.

Who styles vests best?  Working from home and the many Zoom/Team calls means switching from leisurewear to stylish in seconds. Style a vest with a classic blazer, and throw it off post call to instantly be back to home schooling, yoga or home workout routine, lounging around or wearing for bed. In all cases Merino has the added benefit of wicking moisture away from the skin and naturally regulating body temperature for added comfort.

Art director Cat and EJ created Smalls in 2014 with idea of bringing back the concept of the vest as a less traditional itchy and frumpy item, into a more luxurious, soft and comfortable essential. Smalls works perfectly as a layering piece all year round, and for activewear, on and off ski slopes, cycling and walking due to its natural stretch for maximum movement.

The range also includes a slip, long sleeve top and trousers for women, long sleeve top and trousers for men and children, socks and an essential snood. Think of the trousers and top as the ‘new long john’ with added essential pockets, ideal for layering, lounging or sleeping.  All Smalls wool is certified ethical and traceable to source, with their mill having a totally vertical supply chain from New Zealand to Biella Italy.

Are you a vest wearer? Love them or hate them – could this be the marmite of the clothing world?

For the next two weeks Smalls are promoting ‘Bring back cosy with Woolly Vest Week 2021’

This is their sixth year spreading the cosy word as people get back to vest wearing, especially while Working from Home is on the cards.  They have donated to a charity each year, and this year they will be supporting their local foodbank at North Paddington.  10% of all sales for two weeks will go to the Foodbank and they will be offering buy one get one 50% off for two weeks.

Smalls Merino


*Source: Wikipedia “Liberty bodices were originally intended to “liberate” women from the virtually universally worn, heavily boned and firmly laced corsets that were the norm of contemporary fashion. These new undergarments derived from the Victorian dress reform Movement, which aimed to free women from body-compressing corsetry and excessive layers of tedious, unhealthy underclothing. The concept was related to the Women’s Emancipation Movement,[2] but in practice some of the early liberty bodices in the UK were advertised for maids[3] who would be freer to get on with their work without a constricting corset. Later the liberty bodice came to be thought of as something practical for a child who could be buttoned up warmly.
Liberty bodices are commonly associated with R. & W. H. Symington of Market HarboroughLeicestershire, but the name had already been used before they made their first bodice: a version for girls aged 9–13 was sold for one shilling and ninepencehalfpenny in 1908. The name has also been used generically for products from other manufacturers.


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