Monday, July 4, 2016


Here's the news from Valerie:

The photograph above may be the only picture I have of myself wearing that yellow pants suit, which makes me very sad.  It's from Bill Cunningham's On the Street, which is great, but it's a small and grainy photo and, worried about the changeable weather, you can see I put a scarf around my neck and a shawl across my shoulder, all of which help obscure the suit's many qualities.  So really, except for the fact that it's yellow, you can have no idea why I loved this suit so much, and why it pains me so much now that it is going the way of all things.  Regrets...  I've had a few...

The newspaper is dated 2001, and I bought it second hand sometime before that, so really this suit, by Emporio Armani, owes me nothing.  I've worn it a million times.  There is a vague stain on the front of the jacket now, that neither I nor my dry cleaner could get out.  It has hung in my closet unworn for so long that the sharp crease in the pants has morphed into a dozen shapeless wrinkles.  I'd keep it - and wear it - if I could still do it justice, but time marches on, and I have trouble closing the waist on the pants now.  I can do it, but only by creasing the waistband.  (The waistband should lie on the waist as if gently napping, not grab the waist as if holding on for dear life.)  The jacket - which draped so beautifully that when I first wore it I thought this must be how Bianca Jagger felt in a bespoke Tommy Nutter suit - clings a bit now, and flares where it was never meant to.  It's not made for the millennial me.

I remember my delight when I found it, I remember praying it would fit me as I went to try it on, and I remember my astonishment that I could afford it, but mostly I remember thinking how droll of Armani to make an egg yolk yellow suit.  Women were being exhorted to dress for success, and wear suits to be taken seriously.  I remember imagining a woman having this interior dialogue.  "Oh yeah?  You want me to wear a suit?  Fine.  How's this?"  Perhaps it's no wonder that I have not risen to become CEO at a major - or even a minor - corporation.

Below is a non-glam photo of the suit in question.

Everything about it was right for me then.  It even had the right amount of padding in the shoulders.  Below, I've arranged the suit so you can get a better look at the pants.  The roomy legs almost veer into zoot suit territory.  (Actually, the whole thing veers a bit close zoot suit territory.  It's a very happy suit.)  It's high waisted, generously pleated, and it has pockets, which everyone needs.  (With the possible exception of Queen Elizabeth.  Please, can we have a referendum on whether women want pockets in their clothes?  'Cause we carry stuff.  Have you ever seen men's pants without pockets?)

In the photo showing the jacket, you can see there's a boutonniere.  Often I wore a Victorian turk's head in it, shown here.  In this close-up, you can see that the suit is not a mere plain weave silk, but has pin wales woven into it, for a bit of texture, and a bit more weight.  A good designer thinks of everything!

Some of you will be asking "but what can you accessorize that with?"  In the first photo, because it was Easter, I accessorized it with lots of green.  (I think I wore mustard shoes with rubber soled wedges that day, and if memory serves, that was the day I first felt the neuromas in my feet.  I threw away those wedges that day, and never wore heels again.)  Off the top of my head, I could wear an orange shirt, a green shirt, or a red shirt (with matching shoes, none of which are shown here), and that's just for starters.

I've worn it with these perforated yellow leather flats.

I could have worn it with this vintage yellow straw hat from Mr. John.  (I haven't, but I could have.)

Or with this natural straw hat by Frank Palma, which is natural straw color, but looks yellow.

I've worn it with vintage two-toned suede gloves.

And I wish I'd had the opportunity to wear it with these vintage butter yellow cotton gloves.

I would not be writing this post if the suit were black.  There will always be another black suit.  I write because color is disappearing from the millennial palette, and so are complicated weaves.  I'm assuming this suit is from the very colorful '80s.  Not everyone likes yellow, but in the '80s there was a color - and a shade of that color - for everyone.  (Remember teal?  When was the last time you saw a teal suit?  I'll bet it was in the '80s.  And yes, I had one, by Irka, with little three dimensional knots in the wefts every half inch or so.)

Fashion today is relentlessly driven by the bottom line.  Many people in the industry have been talking about the demise of the most respected mills, and our readers may have noticed that it's more and more difficult these days to find anything that expresses originality - in fabric, color, or cut.  Pret-a-porter has become very cookie cutter.  That keeps costs down and profits up, but drives a true lover of the needle arts to tears.  Where will I get another droll egg yolk yellow suit that fits me to a T?

So gather ye rosebuds - and colorful natty suits - while ye may.


  1. What a gorgeous suit; I cry for you Valerie. I, too, have gained a millennial body, and can understand your predicament, but is there ANY way you could, ummmm (clearing my throat), re-arrange things? Spanx, or fasting the day before you wear it? I know, easier said than done. LOVE yellow.....and the texture.....divine!

  2. I'm applauding this post, your observations are so spot on. I'm sad for the loss of your yellow suit and the what it mirrors as well. And I do believe I have some teal coloured cotton sateen sitting in my fabric stash that needs to be made into something, perhaps a shirtdress, a suit wouldn't fit into my lifestyle.

  3. You have my sympathy - that is a lovely suit, from the shape, I would say definitely 80's. I sooo understand the millennial body thing, and I laughed at your description of how a waistband should fit. Unfortunately, many of mine are "holding on for dear life"! I think that if you have worn it a million times, you've had a good run with it, and it's time to let it go. Perhaps another yummy coloured one will appear to take its place?

  4. Love your tribute to a beautiful garment.

    Nina McLemore makes beautifully tailored jackets in vivid colors or distinctive patterns. The Washington Post ran an article: It seems women who need public visibility often choose her jackets.

  5. I love color and make a habit of wearing clear colors most of the time. I happen to think that as we age wearing garments of beautiful colors is even more important. I feel confident that you will find another lovely,colorful suit to replace the devine yellow one. I've been reading your blog for years now and so enjoy it. Thanks. Karen

  6. How wonderful that this gorgeous yellow suit was documented in Bill Cunningham's "On The Street." You gave it much life!

    Beautifully written post, and I'm lusting after the gloves!