The Diamond Quilted Jacket: Beautifully Elevated Outerwear
Insulating warmth made your grandmother’s quilt so appealing to snuggle under on a cold winter’s night; it is the same satisfying quality to make quilting perfect in a coat or jacket, or even a vest. And when the stitchery that forms those wonderful little pockets of insulation also creates a satisfying pattern of diamonds, then you have something truly special: an elegant piece of outerwear to see you effortlessly through transitional seasons, or to add an insulating layer under your winter coat.
Strictly speaking, quilting is any run of stitching that combines at least two layers of cloth—a top layer of material and a bottom layer of backing. And while the two work beautifully in tandem, there is nearly always something that comes between them: batting, or wadding, depending on your provenance. A warm, soft middle layer, it’s the stuff you’ve seen attempting to escape from the threadbare quilt your grandmother made way back when. And it’s what gives quilting its unique, three-dimensional look.
All Quilts Are Not Created Equal: A Padding Primer
Quilting can be as simple or complex as its creator’s vision, but you’re most likely to find only a few basic configurations of it in cold weather gear and clothing, outerwear in particular:
- Channel Quilting — straight lines with even spacing, going in one direction only, creating parallel sections of fill; it’s a popular type of quilting for “puffer” down jackets and microfiber-filled jackets. Horizontal quilting is an example.
- Baffle — most commonly used for heavy duty down sleeping bags and jackets, the baffles, or chambers, have individual walls separating them to keep the down from shifting around. The walls themselves are sometimes also referred to as baffles.
- Diamond — individual chambers are quilted in a configuration of diamonds; diamond quilting’s lower profile makes it more refined and a bit dressier than other types of quilting.
The Diamond Quilted Jacket: An American Invention Of English Provenance
The word itself—quilt—comes from the Latin culcita, meaning mattress or cushion. Though quilted garments appeared as long ago as the Middle Ages, the first diamond quilted vest and jacket in modern couture are attributed to Americans Steve Guylas and his wife Edna, who designed them in 1965 after they moved to England. Called Husky Ltd., their Suffolk company manufactured thermal outerwear and ultimately supplied the quilted jacket to the Royal Navy.
Using a waterproof, quilted polyester, the Guylans initially made the diamond quilted vest for shooting, followed soon thereafter by the jacket. The original jacket was a boxy, single breasted garment with five snap buttons, two angled patch pockets, and a corduroy collar and pocket trim. It was first available in only olive or navy, later in other colors. The Queen wore it for riding, and it soon gained popularity, becoming a wardrobe staple for both English and American genteel society.
In 1979 Barbour of England introduced a natty diamond-quilted jacket and called it the Countryman; it was to become the Liddesdale thereafter, followed by many other elegant quilted jackets, vests, and gilets by Barbour and other makers of fine couture.
Lofty And Lightweight Jackets: Quilting Isn’t Always Stuffy
Quilting creates individual chambers where warmth is trapped, which is what makes it such an efficient insulator. Varied materials are used as batting, the warming middle layer of material. The “loft” of the batting refers to its thickness or puffiness. Cotton is generally low-loft, but comes in different thicknesses, so it can be a higher loft; it’s probably what your grandmother used in that wonderful quilt.
But you’re far more likely to find polyester fill (also called “microfiber”) in your handsome quilted jacket. Generally a higher-lofting material, microfiber highlights detailed quilting and mimics the look of down. And aside from its high-lofting properties, microfiber fill drapes well, retains its shape through washings, and is lighter weight than cotton. Seems a likely choice for an elegant diamond-quilted jacket or vest.
Stylish Aplomb: The Diamond Quilted Jacket
The diamond quilted jacket not only insulates against a chilly day, it achieves this with so much visual and tactile appeal. Lightweight and packable, the diamond quilted vest or jacket is perfect transitional outerwear. But inasmuch as these garments step up to the plate in the spring and fall, they also serve as insulating layers when paired with heavier outerwear. Zip a quilted vest into a Barbour waxed cotton jacket and you instantly transform it into serious cold weather gear.
The distinguishing characteristic is refined styling. The diamond quilted jacket or vest, with its lower profile, is decidedly dressy when it stands with its bulkier down-filled, channel-quilted cousins. It is the perfect partner for the sidewalk or the sidelines in the elements, for driving or otherwise traveling, or even for field and stream—the very environments for which the diamond quilted vest and jacket were first created.
Wear it alone to knock off the chill, pair it with a heavier outer layer, but by all means include a diamond-quilted vest or jacket in your transitional wardrobe. You’ll enjoy warming comfort in a refined piece, throughout the year.