Waistcoat Wednesday: Universal works, lovely, light and flawed

Roll up, roll up! Welcome back to another Waistcoat Wednesday, in fact the nineteenth in the series. Hard to believe it’s been this many, and even harder to believe the wall of waistcoats here at Well Dressed Mansion consists of this many. Maybe me son has a point when he says I’m a hoarder. Then again, it could be the crazy piles of vintage Jaguar junk (aka. valuable and rare spare parts) he’s referring to, in which case he certainly has a point.

Anyhow, let’s have a look at the matter in hand, today’s fine piece of armless attire! The Blue/White Suit waistcoat is a summery piece by Universal Works, the second waistcoat in my collection from the ace Northern England menswear provider. This was one I’d seen on-line and was pleased to find on sale when I stopped by the Universal Works shop in Lambs Conduit Street this summer. Interestingly, while my previous UW waistcoat was size medium, this one fits really well in a small. This again goes to show that there is no substitute for trying clothes on before buying, at least if you want to avoid disappointment. I find this one fits really well, snug, yet allowing me to breathe freely, and no need to use the cinch to tighten it a bit (more on that later).

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This really is quite a pretty (in a good, manly way, of course) waistcoat, in fact it’s so nice I wore it to a wedding late weekend. While my Suit waistcoat has more of a workwear type of feel, this one is more for dressing up nice. The outer is a fine white and light blue striped cotton, the rear a creamy white colour. The detailing is nice, with the front material going all the way round in the collar region to break things up a bit. there is also a third material making an appearance, a slightly denim-like blue cotton used along the edges of the front. Again, details. I’ve seen this same edging material used on my other waistcoat and jacket from UW, but there is was used in a more faux-repair workwear style. Still, it adds interest.

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A cotton lining gives a little weight and structure to what is a fairly light piece. All the sewing is up to the usual high standard I expect from Universal Works. There is some allowance for size, with a rear cinch to adjust the fit. Again though, UW have saved pennies by using poor hardware on the cinch. I commented on this last time I reviewed a UW waistcoat, and I’ll reiterate it now: Please use proper hardware! It is really annoying to have to keep redoing it, and even more annoying to just have it dangling free. Might as well do it like Whillas and Gunn then, and just tie the ends together, avoiding the entire issue!

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In an odd turn of events, I had the opportunity to have a good long chat with David Keyte, UW supremo, this summer and noticing the splendid waistcoat he was wearing then brought up the matter of hardware. The one he was wearing, I believe it is from their SS14 collection, had a much improved design. As it turns out, this was the same type as Barbour use. Hopefully they will only use this variant next year! It’s a shame to have to deduct marks for something that could have been avoided.

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Oh, deductions for the buttons as well. They’re not truly awful, but they do let the piece down, being well chose, but plastic buttons. I’d gladly have paid a few pounds more for really nice buttons, and a properly engineered piece of metal on the back. Am I alone in thinking like this? Quite likely not, as if price was the sole objective, I’d shopping at some high street emporium, rather than seeking out the more upmarket and nice clothing.

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It does pain me a bit to be so nitpicking with Universal Works, but I do like most of what they make, and feel I have to be a bit stern to help them improve. They are not alone in hearing from me when I’m not entirely convinced about their efforts!

Looking at the Universal Works website for the correct name for this waistcoat, I did notice another decent looking AW13 variant, the Grey Station Waistcoat in Malin Tweed. Wouldn’t mind one of these at all!

For more reviews in the Waistcoat Wednesday series, look here, and watch out for a new one next Wednesday!

Oh, and in case you’re desperately curious, the trousers I’m wearing are the same navy Oliver Spencer Fishtails from last week. The ones with the really special blend of fibres in the cloth. Nice cloth, but not very hard wearing, so I’m hesitant to recommend them. Nice trousers, but showing pilling after only a few times light use doesn’t bode well for their future. I’ve taken them out of active rotation now and will save them for special occasions. In addition, the blend of silk, wool, linen and cotton means they’re hand-wash only. Great.

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“Work it, baby, give it some!” (My oh my… Is this guy for real?)

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