Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let's Bring back the Gilet

Here's an interesting item of clothing from Constance Talbot's Complete Guide to Sewing: the gilet. Ever heard of that one? I hadn't, though when she described it as a sleeveless blouse meant to be worn under a suits or sweaters, I knew what she meant. Why has this useful little item fallen out of fashion? I can only imagine in the wartime era of the Complete Guide, thrifty women were rummaging through their scrap bins and making gilets from the remains of beautiful party dresses (perhaps with a contrasting solid back, since it would never be seen).

Wikipedia says that it comes from the French gilet, from Spanish gileco or chaleco, and ultimately from the Turkish yelek. They claim it is "a sleeveless jacket resembling a waistcoat or blouse. Currently, a gilet is a sleeveless jacket or vest. They may be waist- to knee-length, and are typically straight-sided rather than fitted. However, historically, they were fitted and embroidered. In a further derivation, in 19th-century dressmaking a gilet was a dress bodice shaped like a man's waistcoat."

Well, okay, but I'll go by the cool illustration in the Complete Guide that it's a sleeveless top, and leave the shape, closures, and length up to me.

The closest we have to a gilet these days would be a shell, except I always associate shells with bad 80's polyester and little button closures at the back of the neck; nothing pretty enough to set off a suit, just a piece that you have to wear or else be naked under your jacket.

With all the jackets that I have, I think I may have to bring back the gilet.


Cathy said...

BWOF has featured several sleeveless tops with interesting necklines lately that would make great gilets. Not that I'm an enabler.....

Melissa Fehr Trade said...

What?? Gilets were absolutely everywhere about three years ago. Seriously, they were so big that the discount shops all had knockoff versions, the most ubiquitous being the beige furry kind. They looked awful after a rainstorm, though, so good riddance! Maybe in America you just call them vests or something (god it's awful that I've been away so long I can't translate anymore!)?

I absolutely love that Talbot book, though. I've had a draft blog post simmering on it for about 3 weeks now, eek.

Vildy said...

I'll be looking forward to Melissa's blog post on the book. You both are getting much more out of it than I am. :)