Pretty-Bright! Three Reflective Vests for Plain Clothed Cycling
|all images G. McLaughlin|
The Dargelos Lightning Vest fascinated me from the moment I saw it, because it is such an ingeniously simple concept. This garment is basically a hand-knotted net of 3M reflective ribbon, providing all-over reflection for your entire torso, while also being extremely lightweight and compact. And because the netting is spaced fairly wide, pockets remain accessible. Available in two sizes, the Lightning Vest is drapy in cut and roomy enough to fit over a jacket or coat. Prior to trying it, I wondered whether this might make it prone to snagging on parts of the bike, but I have not experienced that so far - the netting stays close to the body.
One thing I do find a little awkward about the Lightning Vest in use, is figuring out the head and arm openings. It's not complicated, but it does take some care - particularly to not get my hair caught in the netting.
Judging the Lightning Vest as an article of wearable, fashionable clothing, I have to say that I like it. The silver netting is light and ethereal-looking, and the cut is unexpectedly flattering. It certainly is unusual, but to my eye it looks nice.
And as far as reflective properties, my favourite aspect of this garment is the amount of coverage it provides.
With my entire torso covered in reflective netting, I am equally visible from the front, rear and sides. Made in NYC, USA, the Dargelos Lightning Vest is priced at $138.
The 50's Capelet by Day Glow Doris is a vintage "Dior-inspired" vest that comes in hi-viz colours (yellow, green, pink and red) with reflective trim and buttons. The rounded collar, 3/4 bell sleeves, floral ribbon trim and retro cut give it a soft, feminine look that makes for an interesting contrast with the neon and hi-viz colour scheme.
Roomy in cut and easy to put on, the capelet closes via a hidden velcro strip in the front (the reflective buttons are decorative), which also makes it possible to adjust fit. Though designed to be worn over a jacket, this capelet is available in one size only (S/M). Made of a lightweight polyester fabric, it is bulkier than the other vests featured here, but can still can be scrunched up to fit into a (deep) pocket.
As far as its fashion appeal, the Day Glow Doris Capelet is clearly targeted at those who go for the funky retro look. I am not sure the '50s styling is my cup of tea exactly, but I can appreciate the design and do find the cut flattering. And as far as neon goes, I also like the particular shade of red/orange the manufacturer chose: It is not a typical "construction zone orange," but more like the colour of a wild poppy rendered in neon.
In the dark, the Day Glow Doris reflective features are limited to the reflective ribbon at the collar, sleeves, buttons and waist. In the front there are quite a few reflective bits.
However, in the rear and from the sides the reflective areas can be less visible. For instance, if I wear my hair loose it will cover the collar, and if my arms are too far forward the strips along the sleeves will disappear. To be sure, this capelet is highly visible - but the reflective features are limited to the edges, rather than being its centerpiece. Made in the UK, the Day Glow Doris Capelet is priced at £49 (or $80 USD at current conversion rates).
The Vespertine Vesp is a mini-vest with a deep v-neck cut and a ribbon-tie front, that is a lighter-weight, more versatile alternative to the manufacturer's line of reflective dresses and jackets.
Available in sizes XS-XL, the Vesp is shown here is the silver lamé fabric, and is also made in several neon colours (yellow, green, orange and pink). It is adjustable to fit over a jacket (go up a size for thick overcoats).
While the Vesp does not exactly look like everyday wear to my eye, the delicate tailoring and the use of diagonal lines make it surprisingly flattering and as unobtrusive as a silver lamé article of clothing can be. It also impressed me by being much lighter and more collapsible than it looks - I can easily scrunch it up to fit into the tiniest of pockets.
In the dark, the Vesp's arrangement of reflective 3M ribbon make a sort of butterfly shape in the front,
And a large, prominent "X" in the rear that covers much of the torso, supplemented by another thin reflective strip at the waist-line hem. The edges of the X extend to the sides, where the reflective ribbon is also quite prominent. Made in NYC, USA, the Vespertine Vesp is priced at $68 for the neon versions and $84 for the silver lamé.
Overall I find all three of the vests described here easy to wear, reasonably attractive, and effective in their high visibility features. For riding in the daytime in overcast conditions, the Day Glow Doris provides the best visibility with its swathes of neon fabric. For riding at night, the prominent X of the Vespertine Vesp seems to be the most eye-catching from the back, while the all-over netting of the Dargelos Lightning Vest provides the most thorough reflective coverage.
For women seeking fashionable hi-viz wear, either of these products could fit the bill. And if you like the concept but find the price too high - why not whip out the needle and thread, and get creative with the 3M ribbon? Although what I'd like to do is find some 3M yarn and do some hi-viz knitting...