There are Costume Institute Gala looks that are months in the making and then there isValerie Boster’s suit, on which work started in August. To be fair, when Boster, Vogue’s Bookings Editor, commissioned the custom three-piece from New York City-based menswear label Freemans Sporting Club, it wasn’t intended for the ball. She had gone to them because she heard that the tailors there were interested in trying their hand at womenswear, and that dovetailed nicely with the surge of suits in fashion, appearing in collections like Balenciaga andGivenchy. But because of Boster’s nearly impossible-to-maintain schedule and FSC’s booming men’s business, fittings were far between. Finally, the look—pants, a jacket, and a vest—came together in April, and that dovetailed nicely with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s date.
Typically, FSC can cut a bespoke men’s suit in eight weeks, and though FSC director of suitingAlex Young agrees eight months is unusually long, he acknowledged there were certain challenges inherent in this project. “We’re trying to make a man’s suit within the context of what Valerie likes and the details she wants,” Young said during one of the early fittings. Not to mention the undeniable difference in form. “Men don’t have as much curve going on in back, and women need higher armholes and narrower shoulders. One of the biggest challenges will be getting the jacket to lay flat at the chest.”
Nevertheless, FSC’s skillful staff of tailors, including Felix Aybar, formerly of Tom Ford and Armani, accepted the task, taking into consideration not only Boster’s measurements but also her posture and the way her arms hang. “It’s not really about fashion,” Young explained, “it’s about body symmetry.” What was helpful, though, was Boster’s comfort with discussing the way clothes fit. (The male clients Young sees are typically reluctant to talk about what they wear or inarticulate in explaining what they’re looking for.) She knew she wanted the pants to sit low on her hips “which you can never find in stores,” she said, and she also wanted them to emulate the tapered line of her favorite Chloé trousers. Another non-negotiable was that the sleeves were cut slim, even if other aspects had to be sacrificed. “I expect it to be slightly uncomfortable,” Boster said, revealing a concept totally foreign to the men in the room but completely familiar to the women. “I don’t plan on reaching for things when I’m wearing this. I’ll have someone doing it for me.”
Fast forward to this past Monday night where Boster’s look was the perfect storm of all the menswear influence seen on fall runways and the counterculture style being celebrated with the Costume Institute’s “Punk: Chaos to Couture” exhibition at the Met. “I didn’t want the suit to be too literal, à la the classic YSL Le Smoking, so I just wore the low-cut vest under the jacket,” Boster said. “A body-chain and ear-cuff later, I felt like I was pulling off punk without trying to be David Bowie.” She continued: “It was strange to think that really feeling in my own skin didn’t mean putting on something flirty or body-conscious. I felt sexier this way than I have wearing a cutout, revealing dress. As for others reactions, “the strongest compliments I received were about how well tailored the suit was.”