Information taken from www.gentlemansemporium.com
When building a basic Victorian wardrobe, consider a waistcoat, or vest as the first step. An authentic Victorian vest is the centerpiece of any outfit. Much like modern ties, vests were used to make a fashion statement either bold or conservative and gentlemen would own several vests to accessorize the same dark suit.
Victorian gentlemen wore a wide variety of vests in almost every combination of cut, color and cloth imaginable. With the opening of China during the 1840’s silk become ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive, therefore men often wore extremely fancy silk vests even during the day. Many men even wore their coats buttoned only with the top button, thereby allowing more of their vest to be seen.
Toward the turn of the century, wool and cotton vests in more conservative colors became more common for daywear as the three piece suit increased in popularity. Even so, colorful silk vests have persisted as evening wear, to this day.