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…
Why on earth wear a 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 (need convincing, see the independent research from Allergy UK) and of course for keeping you, and if you have them, your small people perfectly warm without overheating.
Who wears vests best is up for debate. For pure vest passion in our opinion, 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, the ultimate luxury in vest wearing. Having had what is essentially a British ‘vest’ loving brand for the past six years the team at Smalls can tell you some Brits can take quite a bit of convincing. They put it down to growing up running around in shorts throughout winter!
Who styles it best? We love a simple take, styling with a classic blazer, these days, when ‘WFH’, throw a blazer over the top and be instantly ready for a zoom call. Merino has the added benefit of wicking moisture away from the skin and naturally regulating body temperature, so you can whip your blazer off and hop straight back into bed for an improved sleep or onto your yoga mat for a post home school workout. (Or a quick trip up Ben Nevis for that matter…when we are allowed)
Art director Cat and EJ created Smalls with idea of bringing back the concept of the vest as a less traditional (itchy and frumpy!), more luxury fashion essential in 2014. Smalls works perfectly as a layering piece on and off ski slopes, well as being much more naturally stretchy for maximum movement. When they launched in Selfridges they had just two styles of vest for kids one long sleeve and one tank.
Since then, they have expanded the range to include a luxe women’s collection including, the perfect Cami, slip, long sleeves and trousers – think of it as a cool long john (with essential pockets) for layering or lounging. 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.
Smalls have since found that many of their clients are now vest wearing fanatics (like themselves). Trying to convince someone who doesn’t normally wear a vest is a tough task, but once they are converted there seems to be no going back. Its vest wearing, but not as you know it.
So why all this vest discussion? In Jan and Feb, one of the coldest and darkest times of year, especially this year, Cat and EJ are spreading the love with Smalls #WVW2021 (that’s’ Woolly Vest Week) from 1st Feb for two weeks. This is their sixth year spreading the cosy word as people get back to vest wearing, especially while WFH is on the cards. They have donated to a charity each year, last year was Little Village and the year before, Young Minds and this they will be supporting their local foodbank at North Paddington.
10% of all sales for two weeks will go to the Foodbank. Theres also a special motivation for anyone on Smalls mailing list, so sign up here if you are not already.
So…come on, get out your vest (we hope you’ve already got one on) and support WVW2021 by wearing your vest with pride.
Written by: EJ Adam Co-Founder Smalls Merino January 2021.
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, but in practice some of the early liberty bodices in the UK were advertised for maids 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 Harborough, Leicestershire, 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 ninepence-halfpenny in 1908. The name has also been used for products from other manufacturers