I love altering and restoring vintage, which is why it was such a delight to work on this vintage Yves Saint Laurent suit brought in by my friend Terra. When Terra first brought me this pants/vest combo we were unsure it could be altered to a point where it would ever really be a staple in hir wardrobe. While both pieces were in great condition, the pant legs were so wide that ze was swimming in them. We concluded that the suit must have been early YSL, and possibly tailored to fit a tall and lanky 14 year-old boy.
The way fashion changes intrigues me. It’s not as though extremely wide pant legs haven’t been in masculine fashion during my life time. Who could forget the baggy pants of the 90s? The structure of these particular pants, however, were stuck in time, unable to transcend the 1960s or 70s, which says a lot because masculine clothing styles haven’t exactly changed dramatically over the past 50 years. A suit is still a suit.
So, armed with my trusty sewing machine and a needle and thread, I went to work tailoring these trousers, hoping that when Terra tried them on the pants would look contemporary enough to wear them regularly. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result! Not only do the pants look wearable, but Terra pulls off vintage dashingly.
The vest also presented it’s own set of little conundrums. Mainly, it needed to be repaired and taken up in the shoulders. It was also a little tight on Terra and I wanted to see if there was enough seam allowance to give a little more room around the torso. When I opened up the vest I was excited to see that it had in fact been tailored before! The tailor used black thread while the original threads were tan. Not only was I able to add more room to the torso, but also seeing alterations done by someone else always fascinates me. I learn a lot about technique by taking vintage clothing apart and seeing someone else’s handiwork.
Vest repaired and altered and pants tapered, we were so excited about the results we had to do a photo shoot right then and there. Terra is the perfect model for this suit. The best thing about the alterations is that while we changed the cut of the pants to be more modern, the way ze wears the suit is so vintage. Ze really has the ability to look straight out of the 1950s at the drop of a hat, which is a very impressive talent if you ask me. Plus, the suit now moves between decades seamlessly, the perfect companion pieces to any button down and necktie combination.
The only mystery that is yet to be solved is that the pants lack lining, which I find extremely strange as they’re constructed from a course, itchy wool. I’m surprised that Yves Saint Laurent ever designed a pair of pants with this incredibly inconvenient design flaw. I’m not an expert on the history of lining in men’s clothing, but I’d love to know what prompted the lack of lining in these pants. Perhaps the same tailor that altered the vest removed the lining for some unknown reason?
Lining or no lining, I’m so glad that Terra went home with a suit that fits and that we got to take so many exciting pictures of hir looking dapper as heck. This photo shoot is totally inspiring me to do another photo shoot of a several people spread across a few different genders in an advertising board room redefining advertising to be more 3rd wave feminist, or maybe deconstructing it all together. Kinda like a spoof on Mad Men. Everyone would wear trim suits and ties and early 1960s fashion. There would definitely be a photo of someone drinking coffee out of a mug with a catchy yet dense quote by Judith Butler on it. I can dream.