My Favorite...Vintage Chanel Suit
Stylist Allyson Justice Longshore shares the tale behind this vintage "power suit."
NYC-based stylist Allyson Justice Longshore, the founder of STYLESTUDIO who has also worked for Valentino, Carolina Herrera and Chanel, shares the tale behind this vintage "power suit," complete with shoulder pads.
How did this vintage Chanel suit come into your life? "It was given to me by a dear friend and client. This woman is incredible. She was a Helmut Newton muse and model, and she was really influential in my move to New York. She always pushed for me to move to New York. So for my 30th birthday, she had a dinner party for me and she gave me this Chanel suit. I was at the dinner table, and she had it wrapped up in a beautiful box, all the details were taken care of. I opened it and I cried like a baby."
What a great memory. What does it look like? "Okay, it's from the late '80s, it's black and white—that's my favorite color combo. My whole entire wardrobe is black and white. It's a tweed suit, a skirt and a jacket, and the jacket is very structured on the top. It's from the '80s and I haven't had the shoulder pads taken out of it because it's so cool! And it zips in the front, so I'll wear the jacket and I'll wear a long McQueen-style shirt underneath, with leather leggings and motorcycle boots, or I can wear it over a little cocktail dress with pumps, it's totally versatile. The pencil skirt is high-waisted, super narrow, and I'll do that with a chunky sweater, tights, riding boots, or a fabulous silk blouse and a beautiful strappy sandal.
Did your friend buy it for you, or was it hers beforehand? "She actually wore this suit. She wore this suit when she was in New York, and she passed it down to me. We're the same size, which is a plus. I didn't even have to have it altered. It holds so much energy, she told me about when she wore this suit, and I feel that whenever I wear it—it's kind of like when you have a vintage fur, and you think about the women who used to wear it, where she'd wear it...I actually know the person who owned this piece! She was such a social butterfly, she was Studio 54, it definitely holds powerful, strong energy. I [still] talk to her all the time."
So when you moved to New York, you wore this unique "power suit" to all your job interviews? "Basically, I made the decision after my 30th birthday. I was like, okay, this is a new chapter, this is my 30s, and I always had a dream of moving to New York. So I packed up everything in Atlanta in one suitcase, I quit my job at Chanel and I moved to New York. During that time, I was really on the grind and on the computer, and working with all my connections to try to seal a position in New York. So the first two weeks I had more than 40 interviews. I wore that suit several times. And the second week I was in New York, I was offered four different positions with four different fashion houses."
Sounds like it brings out the best in you! "Oh definitely, there's something about it. When you put on a garment or a piece that you feel amazing in, it changes your whole day. And it changes your whole persona and the way that you project yourself. That suit does that for me."
How does its aesthetic relate to your work as a stylist? "The whole aspect of STYLESTUDIO, my company, is all about mixing the times. That's how you truly create an iconic look for a client. For me, when someone hires me, it's because I take the old and the new and I mix it together and that creates an original look. It's really easy for someone go buy a look they've seen on a mannequin or runway, from head to toe. Anyone can do that. But the suit inspired so much for me personally in my wardrobe in mixing old and new, and that definitely projects to my career, and what I do on a day-to-day basis."
Any tips for how to wear a unique vintage hand-me-down? "You know, the main thing is to not overthink it. I could take this suit and it could hang in my closet and I'd never wear it because I'm waiting for that perfect moment. Having pieces—especially investment pieces—it's all about ease, and enjoying it. So don't overthink it, just wear it, and if there's something that keeps you from wearing it, for instance the shoulder pads—but I embrace it. There's always tailoring, too, it's really easy to fix something if the quality's beautiful and it has sentimental value."
When you see this suit hanging in your closet, what's the first thought that comes to mind? "It's just the epitome of chic. It's a chic, classic piece that I know in any situation, I'm going to feel totally comfortable and well dressed."