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what is a gilet and how do you style it

How Do You Pronounce Gilet? Info, Tips & Style Advice

If you’ve spent half your life wondering how to pronounce gilet, you’re not alone. As a French word, it was always going to prove a little confusing for us Brits to get our tongues around, particularly those of us who are unfamiliar with French sounds. Here at CHO Fashion & Lifestyle, we’re big fans of the classic gilet style and want to help you find the perfect look to suit you, but first let’s get this pesky pronunciation problem out of the way, shall we?

How to Pronounce Gilet

The good news is that gilet is a relatively easy word to say. The bad news is that it’s a very hard sound to write down, phonetically, so please bear with us. The correct way to pronounce the word gilet is like this:

Zshee – lay

OK. Let us explain.

The first half of the word uses a softened, slurred ‘gee’ sound, almost like ‘sjee’. It’s very difficult to explain in text form, but here are a few similar sounds that will hopefully help explain it. The ‘Zsh’ sound can also be found in Zsa Zsa Gabor’s name, and also in the way American people pronounce ‘Garage’ – that second ‘g’ is softly slurred. Or, if you’ve ever heard of the phrase to ‘zuszh’ something up, that’s also the same sound found at the start of the word Gilet. 

It’s important to note the difference between the ‘zshee’ sound we’re looking for and the common mis-pronunciation of ‘gee’ as in ‘jeep’. Sure, nobody is going to shout at you for saying it this way, but if you’re looking for the ‘correct’ way, then that isn’t it. 

Still not sure? This audio pronunciation clip from the Cambridge Dictionary will help clear it up for you.

Now you know how to pronounce gilet properly, let’s clarify exactly what a gilet is.

What is a Gilet?

A gilet is essentially a lightweight sleeveless jacket that resembles a waistcoat or sleeveless blouse. The word ‘gilet’ is often used interchangeably with ‘bodywarmer’, though technically these two garments are slightly different. While both a very similar shape and style, a body warmer is typically thicker and more insulating, whereas a traditional gilet is much more lightweight in design and can usually be worn beneath a jacket as a mid layer. 

Most gilets are waist-length, though knee-length styles do exist, and are typically straight-sided as opposed to fitted in style, though fitted designs do exist. Initially worn as a decorative vest in 19th Century France, the gilet has now become much more commonly associated with outerwear and layering fashion, very popular with farmers and those who enjoy outdoor pursuits. 

Gilets tend to come in a variety of styles including quilted, fleece, fur, down-filled and padded (the last three creating a thicker, bodywarmer-like style). The style you choose would depend on what you need from your gilet, whether it’s more for practical warmth or fashion-focused style. Next, we’ll give you our top tips on how to wear a gilet and what to wear it with.

How to Wear a Gilet: Styling Tips

As we mentioned earlier, evaluating your needs is the first step to choosing the right gilet, which will then inform how you wear it. Let’s assume, to begin with, that you’re looking for a mostly practical gilet that’s going to act as your main outerwear piece and keep you toasty warm. 

Padded Outerwear Gilets 

These are the thicker, ‘puffy’ styles we mentioned earlier, and they are best worn over the top of your main clothing layers (T-shirts, shirts, jackets etc), due to their thickness. These gilets are typically padded or lined with down, making them incredibly warm and ideal for keeping your core protected from the cold weather. As with all gilets, these are best worn as transitional pieces between autumn and winter and between winter and spring, when temperatures are ‘neither here nor there’. 

Depending on the temperature level, you can wear these over the top of lightweight jackets and blazers for when it’s extra chilly, or over the top of sweaters and long-sleeved T-shirts for the warmer (but not-quite-warm-enough) days. You can even pair a chunky tweed gilet with a full suit for a really unique and stylish (yet still highly practical) ensemble.

Ladies, all of the above also applies to you. Additionally, you can opt for a chunky gilet with a furry hood for all the practicality (even in the rain) as well as a touch of sleek style and texture to finish off the look.  

Lightweight Gilets

If you’re after something a little more lightweight, low-key and layerable, a lightweight padded or fleece gilet makes the perfect option. Often exhibiting a waistcoat-like style, these lighter gilets are far more versatile in terms of styling options, and can be worn on top of or underneath various other layers depending on your desired look.

For example, you can wear a fleece gilet or padded gilet as a mid layer, on top of a long-sleeved T-shirt and underneath a lightweight jacket or blazer for a country-chic look. Lightweight gilets also look great layered underneath casual cardigans, or when worn over the top of a checked shirt or printed blouse with the zip and buttons open. Try contrasting colours or layering similar shades over the top of one another to achieve different looks.

Now you know how to wear a gilet (and you know how to pronounce the word gilet!) you’re all ready to enjoy this timeless, versatile style for all seasons to come. Ready to start gilet shopping?