Hot! The “Singer/Songwriter” Vest

The Facts

  • Fabric: black suiting of some sort (free!) and black lining (leftovers)
  • Pattern: Butterick 5534
  • Year: 2010
  • Notions: button (stash)
  • Time to complete: Who knows? In fact, I’m not putting this into future posts. I really don’t keep track because my sewing is broken up into small bits due to real life intruding. A seam here and there.
  • First worn: August 13, 2012
  • Wear again?: Yes
  • Total price: $0

Here’s the problem with this challenge–the musicians I really like are not super stylish and tend to wear pretty bland clothing (often black, often t-shirts, always something you could find at Target). On the other hand, there are several bands and singers I like that are more trendy, but after perusing pics on the vast Interwebs I realized that almost all of them are really risque or downright slutty. Hmmm…  But one theme seemed to keep popping up no matter where I looked: vests.

Top: Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Bob Dylan
Bottom: Indigo Girls, Brandi Carlile, Norah Jones, KT Tunstall


Any era, almost every genre, musicians love the vest. Usually black. Sometimes leather. And I happen to have a vest pattern and a bunch of suitable (see what I did there?) black fabric languishing in the stash. This was a super easy pattern, though I find it a little strange that the collar doesn’t extend all around the back of the neck–it’s just on the front. Weird. And I’m always fascinated when lined garments are inside out and then pulled through shoulders and sides and are suddenly right side out. I can’t imagine how pattern makers get their minds around those fabric gymnastics.

In the past year or so I’ve picked up some guitar skills (though I’d still call them pretty rudimentary). My husband and I take turns putting our son to bed each night and every night he gets serenaded with guitar music. I can only play a few songs moderately well, but my husband’s repertoire is quite large since he’s been playing for more than half his life. I made sure to tell our boy recently how lucky he is to get this royal treatment. For his part, he has shown great interest in making music noise himself.

Rockin’ out to some cleaned up Green Day.


Anyway, my guitar is not merely a prop. I can really play it. The piano? Not so much…

I can play melody lines, but both hands at once is very difficult for me and I never practiced enough to easily do chords without thinking very hard about where to put each finger.

I still have LOTS of this fabric left and will eventually be making a pencil skirt and some trousers (that’s for you Brits out there) to go with the waistcoat (that too).


Erin Bartels

Erin is a copywriter by day, a novelist by night, and a wife, mother, dressmaker, quilter, zoo docent, painter, poet, and photographer in between. She only gets paid for the copywriting.


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  1. Oh, I’m telling your piano teacher you sat on the piano ;) Mine would have smacked my hands with the pointer. AUgh, the funny things you remember as a kid. I love your black and white photos, they set the perfect mood for musical theme. A vest is such a handy item to the wardrobe. Rock on Family!!

  2. That was a great idea to avoid all the slutty outfits. ;) I like that vest quite a lot, particularly that shawl collar…although it is a bit strange that it doesn’t go around the neck. It doesn’t look bad though – it’s just unusual (which again is good).

  3. Pretty vest.. Great idea.

  4. Erin, great inspiration for your black vest. It really does seem to be a staple in a musician’s wardrobe. Your black and white photostory was so entertaining. I think I can actually hear you playing. Kudos to your fine work!

    • Thanks so much! Silly me, I should have linked to a song like Leimomi always does! Then you could have heard something I CAN play (even if it wasn’t me playing it).

  5. Your vest looks amazing! I love KT Tunstall too. I wanted to portray Neil Diamond at first, but like you, I ran into the same problem in attire. Great job being awesome as always!

    • Thanks!! One of my big problems was that I like so many male musicians, and a strangely high percentage of women musicians I like are lesbians and they often wear menswear! Not a lot to choose from. Though, I guess what I made is sort of like menswear after all. Too funny.

  6. Fun! I also really like singer/songwriters, always have and I’m sure always will. Glad you found a common thread for all of them. Looks like you had fun with the pictures.

  7. I love your waistcoat!! I’m a real anglophile, so I’ve always thought waistcoat sounded cooler than vest ;o) I hadn’t realized what a musician staple this was until you pointed it out. I’m getting a montage of vest wearers playing across my memory.

  8. What a great interpretation of the challenge. Most of my favourite bands wear really boring clothes too, so I had to dig to find something for this challenge (not as good as what you came up with though!).

    The atmospheric photography is amazing – you look like an album cover! I wish I could see the details of the waistcoat though.

  9. What a great idea – your waistcoat is lovely and I cannot wait to see your trousers!

    Toodle pip


  10. Best Erin Bartels post ever! Just loved reading and looking into your musical world, the perfect waistcoat too, I love waistcoats I wear them in the summer.

    We could start a virtual band, I played bass in bands for years we could wear waistcoats! Great job Erin.

  11. Very nice Erin! I used to wear vests all the time. When I try and wear one now I feel like I’m trying to revisit those days. Not a good thing. Maybe I’ll try again-

    • Yes, I was sort of worried that this vest thing would be too early ’90s but I’m hoping that it’s more “timeless” since you see it over the decades. :)