Monday, August 08, 2011

Searching for a Tailor: An Essay

(Image via Georgian Index)

Among many significant relationships in my life, one stands slightly apart from the rest: my tailor. Neither friend nor family, a tailor is someone I tend to develop emotional reliance on, and when Angelo retired, I felt lost and a tad bereaved. Angelo is a master, a Burberry-trained pro with a sharp eye, good taste, and understanding of my needs, and and... you get the picture. Before Angelo, there was Silvio -- who was very sweet, offered feedback along the lines of "This makes you look less fat!" and did a beautiful job on pencil skirts. Sadly, he also got older, had to cut down on work, and became increasingly difficult to catch in his atelier. And now that Angelo's gone, I felt lost -- lost, and in need of a new tailor.

It might seem like a trivial thing, but I felt as if I was rushed into finding a new relationship, and I wasn't ready for it. So the search started reluctantly. My local cleaners are great for hemming etc, but not so great for larger stuff (I once took a jacket to them to have a sleeve shortened, and it was returned to me without proper button holes. Now I have a jacket with non-functioning sleeve buttons.) I therefore turned to my local menswear store that offers alterations. A dominant part of my wardrobe is wool -- tailored pants and jackets, since menswear is sort of my thing. Good quality wool is beautiful, comfortable, resilient, and lasts forever. Hence the need for alterations -- as for most humans, my size and shape changes from time to time, and alterations on even old pieces is required. And an upscale menswear store would surely contain a tailor used to working with wool. (Another component of my wardrobe is button up shirts -- something a men's tailor would be able to handle -- and silk, which requires no alterations because it drapes beautifully even if oversized. In fact, especially if oversized.)

The store in question indeed had a tailor -- Leo, who spoke with an Eastern European accent (I cannot really tell which one, and I do not ask people -- I should probably blog about that too). Leo was put to a test. First, I presented him with a skirt that was really fine, although could use maybe 1/2 inch reduction in the hip. Leo made me put it on and contemplated silently, face in hand. "Can't do it," he eventually announced. The skirt in question had a heavy brocade front and thick jersey (almost sweatshirt-like) back.

"Can you put an extra seam in the back?"

Leo contemplated some more. "I don't like it," he finally said. I was pleased to see that Leo had the tailor integrity, even if he was easily discouraged from brocade.

Next, I brought out a pair of wool pants. Leo visibly brightened. "I can do these." He even smiled a little. "Anything." I was growing hopeful. He marked up my pants with a piece of soap (another good sign), and we moved onto the shirts (husband's).

And the last thing I presented Leo with was my favorite woolen dress, which needed a gather in the shoulder. Leo pinned the shoulder down. "No charge."

I think I might have a new tailor. Although I still miss Angelo.

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