National Historic Site Massachusetts
Man's Waistcoat, 1790-1795, owned by Elias Hasket Derby
For an eighteenth century gentleman, a waistcoat was a vital part of his wardrobe. Worn over a white linen or cotton shirt and under a coat, a waistcoat added warmth and style to a formal suit. In the eighteenth century, men's clothing was as highly decorated as women's, and a waistcoat was no exception. Since a gentleman would never take his coat off during a social occasion, waistcoats were most highly decorated in the areas that would be seen: along the center front, the lower front edges, and on the pocket flaps.
Plate 440 from <i>A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industry</I> (New York: Dover Publications, 1959)