What is the purpose of a gilet?


A gilet is a perfect garment for in-between seasons, offering an extra layer of warmth without limiting flexibility. Historically, gilets were fitted and embroidered and worn in a similar way to a waistcoat. Today, however, they are usually worn as an outer layer to keep you warm when the temperature starts to drop. 

Fashion gilets can be made from almost any fabric. However, for outdoor pursuits, fleece or technical materials are used to focus on warmth and performance. As the name bodywarmer implies, the aim is to maintain a comfortable body temperature. 

This guide explores how to use a gilet as a versatile addition to any wardrobe.

What is a gilet?

A gilet, pronounced ‘ji-lay’, is a sleeveless jacket usually worn over an outfit to provide an additional layer of warmth. Also known as a body warmer, they are ideal for maintaining a comfortable body temperature. A gilet works well as a layer above a lighter top.

With a combination of practicality and style, gilets are one of the most versatile items you can have in your wardrobe. With a variety of performance fabrics available for water resistance and breathability, there is something to suit every activity. 

For a country walk in the spring, a quilted gilet with insulation or padding will keep you warm. For an autumnal outdoor event, a casual fleece bodywarmer will ensure you remain comfortable when it gets cold. 

The North Face Denali Gilet is great for spending time outdoors. Made from warm, quick-drying fleece, it has reinforced shoulders to handle repeated wear with a backpack. Originally developed for climbers, this North Face classic combines retro style with practical functionality.

How to wear a gilet

When considering how to wear a gilet, their versatility works to your advantage. Gilets are adaptable and can be worn in many different ways. Worn under a jacket to keep you warm or over a jumper to add a little extra insulation. 

For outdoor adventures, plan your clothing around the weather. Well-chosen layers help you adapt to changing conditions on your hike. Select a lightweight, breathable base layer to wick sweat away from your body. Add a gilet for insulation and pack a waterproof jacket in your bag.

What to wear with a gilet

Gilets are the ultimate piece of clothing when it comes to flexibility, and can be combined with almost anything. 

For a brisk walk with friends, a gilet would work perfectly over a casual jumper. If it’s slightly warmer, a body warmer can be paired with a long sleeve shirt. There are also gilets suitable for specific activities, like shooting and hunting, with these styles often offering a looser fit. 

To create a casual female outfit, a body warmer pairs excellently with a striped top or sweatshirt. For men, try a crew neck jumper under a plain padded gilet jacket to add a touch of style and extra warmth.

Layer up with your gilet

When heading outside for camping, hiking or climbing, choosing functional, versatile clothing will enhance your enjoyment of the trip. Gilets and bodywarmers fit this description perfectly. Suitable for a variety of conditions and flexible enough to combine with many other garments, a gilet is an ideal layer for your next adventure.