The down vest dilemma: How warm could a sleeveless garment keep you? Yes, they were cool—super-cool, in fact—but was there function to the fashion?
When 1968 bronze medal Olympic skier Suzy ‘Chapstick’ Chaffee began hawking the merits of waxy lip balm, the world fell in love with the snow bunny and her entire ensemble. Down vests, long a staple of the ski-set, became a wardrobe wonder both on and off the slopes.
These puffy, quilted half-jackets were functional for skiing when easy maneuvering of the arms was a necessity, but did a snowball fight demand the same, non-restrictive uniform? Perhaps. Bulky parkas could potentially alter aim or speed. Besides, those big, furry-hooded nylon coats only came in brown or olive drab. Not too exciting. Ski vests were in flashy colors with contrasting colored zigzag racing stripes. Somewhere down the road, the clothing industry wised up and put in detachable zippered sleeves, but in the early days of down vests, well, you were on your own.
In the midst of a never-ending 70’s revival, the 90’s brought back not only the down vest, but the bellbottoms and platform shoes to go with it. Now, instead of contrasting colored zigzags racing around, the look was monochromatic in tech-savvy microfiber...but the sleeves were still missing.
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