The Journey of My YSL Suit

The Journey of My YSL Suit

Notes: Photo 1,3,5 completed alterations; Photo 2: original, as purchased suit; Photo 4: pinning the alterations at a fitting with Connie.


When you’re asked to be a bridesmaid, in November, in Ireland, the first outfit that comes to mind is not a strappy, flowy cocktail dress, right? Honestly, a duvet blanket surrounded in lamb’s wool sounded more like it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to start the new duvet dress trend so I had to think of better options.

I’ve proclaimed my love for second hand items before. Our tumultuous relationship is still going strong after many hiccups and wins. When my co-best friend – meaning I’m in a three-person best friendship situation – shared her vision for an eclectic ensemble bridesmaid look, I was thrilled. I was hoping to create my portion of the gaggle of gals using my second hand scouring skills.

When I imagined myself at the festivities resort’s ocean edge, attempting to smile for all the photos all I could think about was how terrible cold I would be. I didn’t want the camera to capture my scrunched I’m-going-to-die-as-a-salty-human-ice-cube face so I knew I had to wear something substantive. A wool suit fit the bill.

Earlier this year on a trip to London, I knew that this would be my shot at finding the aforementioned suit in my bestie’s approved colour palette. Calgary doesn’t have the volume, variety, or love for vintage wool, which I had my heart set on.

Ahead of my trip I had looked up the shops I was hoping to find something suitable (sometimes the puns write themselves). As soon as I landed, I searched out the plentiful shops of Shoreditch in the east. As nothing fitting was found, I carried on. No charity or secondhand shop was spared in my weeklong path. Picture me bopping in and out of places in Camden, Oxford, Kensington, and every side street in between. Still, I had no luck. I kept popping in each of them, stomach in an excited knot and fingers crossed that I would find the winner.

After so many at bats with strikeouts, I was feeling a bit spent. Not wanting to dwell too long instead of doing something productive, I regrouped on my “to shop” list. Next up was Portobello Road in Noting Hill. I had a few stops planned out all in the general area so I was cautiously optimistic. Now I wouldn’t say I was about to give up and give in to the duvet dress idea, but the thought sauntered past my mind. Then I walked into Karen’s.

I stepped inside and was blown away by the quality and selection of the garments. Sequins, wool, polyester, fur (some faux), leather, feathers, silks, and satin lined the racks tantalizingly. I’m no thoughtless, loose-lipped user of the word ‘curate’ but Karen is a vintage curator. Her glamorous eye and fastidious choices were easily apparent. As I looked – but didn’t touch as per the signage – the clothing I couldn’t reign in my imagination of the people who had worn the garments before landing here. What were they doing wearing such amazing clothes? Were they musicians? Were they dancers? Cleaners on a hard earned night off? Did they party or paint, perhaps? What secrets could be shared if the pockets of pants or the lining of the dresses could talk?

As I headed deeper into the back, a hunter green wool sleeve was peeking out a bit. My heart started to race and I scooted over. I pulled the jacket and skirt out of the jammed rack and gasped quietly to myself. Here she was: my suit. An Yves Saint Laurent, circa 1980s, hunter green suit jacket with matching pencil skirt. I quickly ripped off the clothes I was wearing ditching them on the floor like an old rag and gently slipped the YSL jacket over my shoulders – as a purchased jacket must fit in the shoulder – and it was like magic. It fit! As my shoulder is significantly wider than the rest of my body I knew I would have to alter the rest of the pieces down. But I have a talented woman back home for that. After paying and nearly floating out of the shop I enjoyed the rest of my trip relieved I had completed my task.

Once home I took my suit to Connie - my trusted, ultra experienced seamstress - and even she had a twinkle in her eye when I shared my plan. Like a wizard, she slimmed the arms. Next she nipped in the bodice to an almost fit and flare peplum shape that honoured the original garment’s silhouette while better fitting my body. Finally she trimmed down the skirt to fit my tush and thighs just so. I had found twinkle sparkle buttons in a supply shop months before. They were more to my taste than the original wooden ones she safely snipped off. Connie hand sewed the new ones painstakingly to my jacket. Wonderful, adept Connie.

A couple fittings later, to be sure she fit as we hoped she would and making adjustments when it didn’t - and let’s be honest a body can fluctuate over a couple months - she was done.

It’s hard to describe the joy I have in finding a quality piece, loved before me, that I can alter to make my own. Sure it’s an investment in time, in money, and in alterations but it is so worth giving a garment a second, beloved life. For the record, come my friend’s wedding day, it rained, and rained, and rained. I stayed pretty cosy, thanks to my gorgeous green suit.

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