Originating in Persia, waistcoats first became fashionable in the middle of the seventeenth century. The new style was noticed by Samuel Pepys in 1666: "The King hath ... declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter," he wrote in his diary. "It will be a vest."

King Charles II was persuaded that, after the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, a much more sober form of attire should be worn by gentlemen, particularly in view of the gross extravagance displayed in the French court at the time. The vest was a knee-length garment that would follow the cut of the coat but would be much tighter in fit. It was designed to discourage the use of lavish materials (such as lace) by covering much of the body in plainer and cheaper material. By 1670, vests had become one of the most important European fashion trends of the time, particularly among nobility who would soon forget the notion of sobriety in favor of opulence and excessive decoration.

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