Dressing for my drycleaner

Discussions around forces that influence the average Western woman’s wardrobe generally include peers, parents, significant others, media, workplace rules (explicit and ouija-boardesque), teenage children, and lifestyle.

While not immune to choosing—or failing to choose—items based on various nefarious and/or encouraging messages, there’s really only one person in my life from whom I seem to crave textile-oriented approval: my favorite tailor/drycleaner. Because the Dapper Drycleaner does more than just run a cleaning emporium and perform minor alterations and repair: he makes suits from scratch.

[Not mine, alas, not mine. Which doesn’t stop me from staring balefully at fabric bolts, thumbing through his books of Italian fabric samples, and daydreaming about his ~ $2K creations whenever I stop by for alterations.]

So when I roll in with my cleaning and DD is there in his exquisitely-fitted suit and stylish tie to assist me, I wait. And wonder. And sometimes get rewarded with a chat that centers on what he thinks of my various (dirty, alas) garments.

So far, he’s partial to three of my winter mainstays:

These three wardrobe mainstays have received my Dapper Drycleaner's seal of approval

Though admittedly he has a love/hate relationship with the tweed looks-vaguely-vintage-but-is-from-2004 jacket.

Tweed, slightly deconstructed (much to the Dapper Drycleaner's regret)

The jacket's plethora of (thankfully sturdy) seaming helps create curves on me

While our conversations are always short, I enjoy seeing what he looks at first. Or again.

DD: Impressive construction. I like the red. Unusual.Though this…[makes moue of distaste at deliberately deconstructed edges].You buy it in town?

Me: “Yes, several [5!] years ago at a consignment shop.”

DD: “How much?”

Me: “$200.”

DD: “Good price. VERY good.”

Awwww, I love the upside of my Contrarian Classicist style persona: favorite items end up with a delightfully low cost-per-wear!

Naturally, the thing he HATES about the tweed—the deliberately frayed, oh-remember-when-that-was-popular detailing—is what I love most. [Well, aside from the lining.] And while it may be booooooring, the edges and the curve-creating structure are why I always pair this jacket with dark solids + heeled boots that have a little attitude.

How could anything (else) retro or ladylike do it justice?

L, it's an inside job; R, I like to pair my vaguely vintage pieces with modern/classic mates

Ignore my waxy, mega-ghostly-looking skin in that one B&W shot, because I have an urgent question: Should I admit that for 5 years I've mostly worn this jacket with a) a column of black or b) a column of brown?

After several years as his customer I’ve figured out that The Dapper Drycleaner, while a master tailor who adores structure, is also a sucker for the softer side of style.


He especially likes my ridiculously long flounced-hem wool skirt, even though he and I both know it makes me look like I’m standing in a hole when I’m not in motion. Good thing I’m in motion a fair amount of the time when I wear it—and since it’s so damn fun to sweep around in, perhaps I’m in motion even MORE than usual.

Apparently the reward for wearing too-long skirts and bad photography is that one gets to head for the light

DD: This is quality wool. Drapes well for its weight. Hard to find.”

Me: “It’s made by a local shop and the owner always makes her things out of beautiful fabrics.

DD: “A long skirt for you, yes? Mostly I hem at your knee.”

Me: “Yes, way too long. I love it, but I’ve learned to only wear it with dark boots.”

DD: [turning it inside out] “Strong technique. Clean.”

Me: “I’ve had it for years and it’s worn really, really well.”

DD: “If you get tired of long and want short, come to me—don’t throw it out.”

These days, I like pairing the skirt with deep scoop necks. Bonus points for waywardly draping underlayers in blobby patterns—especially ones purchased for job interviews—since they ALMOST make my wayward hair look intentional.

I tell myself that the silk animal print top + sheer merino scoopneck sweater add up to some retro glamor when paired together...so I figure why NOT toss them on with a skirt of vintage-y length?

I must say that while I have no way of proving it, I ALSO think DD and I are united on preferring clothes that mix one from Column A and one from Column B.

Give us structured AND stupendously womanly, and we’re in heaven:

When a (c. 2005, deep black in real life) jacket looks this awesome on the hanger, odds are good it will do something even more amazing on a live person

DD: Nice jacket. Very feminine. Vintage, yes?”

Me: “No, I got it on sale years ago, but it was from the brand’s current line.”

DD: “You sure? Beautiful seaming. Heavy.”

Me: “Yes I’m sure! But I agree it has a vintage look. Check out how the fabric acts more like a wool knit.”

DD: “Huh! I like this. Wise choice for your shape, too.”

Given my mad photography skillz, it’s lucky I snapped the front when I bought the yes-brand-new jacket in 2005. While my little molded friend shows how the jacket adapts to an Hourglass’ ins-and-outs, the INSANE amount of seaming means even an H/Rectangle such as myself ends up with a few curves.

L, the jacket when new (2005); R, still helping to create some curves on me

Unlike my truth-telling, unforgiving tweed jacket, this favorite topper is 98% wool and 2% beautiful, glorious lycra. And as if the bit of stretch weren’t enough, my 5’4 self really appreciates the vertical seams here there and yes, everywhere. So much so that I have lots of legwear (some more ancient and held together with clear nail polish than others) with which I like to echo said lines:

I often echo the vertical seaming on the jacket's body + sleeves with linear legwear

There’s no doubt that the chance of getting a positive review from The Dapper Drycleaner makes it slightly less tedious to drag my accumulated flotsam and jetsam in for care. Now if only my washing machine would weigh in on my socks and underwear, maybe my laundry pile would stay manageable….

Raspberry Sorbet Blouse

Since I am a bit of a Luddite and way too impetuous and lazy to sew, I am very non-ironically BLESS YOUR HEART about the clothing studio-plus-store combo platter. Even if the owner’s style doesn’t work with mine, it makes me feel all Laura Ingalls at Oleson’s General Store to wander in and see bolts of gorgeous fabric, a pile of cut out pieces, and someone old enough to vote beavering away at a sewing machine.

God forbid the owner’s style does work with mine, though, as things can get dangerous.

Case in point: the Tactile-Oriented Technician’s studio/store, which always seems to be full of beautifully crafted items in handsome, silky, beautifully draping lightweight wools and spry cottons. While her wares make it quite difficult to keep my straight skirt/flounced hem addiction in check*, at least I’m usually fairly immune to her lovely blouses. Since I’m not really a blouse woman and all.

But a few months ago I happened to spy some okay DARLING fabric in the store.

[Yes: in case “flounced hem” wasn’t enough of a giveaway, I admit I clearly have some über girlygirl leanings that show up in my wardrobe every now and again. Does indulging those tendencies counteract my misanthropy? No. But I find a ruffle here and a DIY-pink shoe there helps disguise it.]

Between the fabric’s itty bitty iridescent polka dots and the fact that it would push me away from my all VaderWear, all the time ensembles, I caved and ordered the blouse. Once it arrived, I’d like to say I jumped right back into wearing my closet’s sunset shades together in one non-neutral, mega-vivacious swoop—but I’m afraid I’m still in recovery from that experiment. Instead, I went for a road-well-traveled-by-Jen-Aniston look and paired RSB with brown, denim and a belt.

I did let the tulips hang out with purple, though:

Raspberry Sorbet Blouse + two tulip lovers

Raspberry Sorbet Blouse with Jen Aniston circa-forever jeans + belt look...and farmer's market tulips

You can’t tell, but RSB has darts to help contour and beautifully finished seams. Plus the Tactile-Oriented Technician adapted the fit to be more flattering. All for around the price of a typical “nicer mall store” blouse.

Crazy, I know.

Detail shot of Raspberry Sorbet Blouse + (2 double-stranded) teal-centric handmade necklaces from Anneliese's on-hiatus Etsy.com shop

As an aside, I really wanted to call this my Cherries in the Snow Blouse in honor of Kay Daly’s infamous line for the shade’s original 1953 campaign: “Who knows the black-lace thoughts you think while shopping in a gingham frock?”

Especially as 36-year-old Dorian Leigh starred in the ad.

Unfortunately, while I could overlook that polka dots do not equal gingham, the color was too far off for me to feel comfortable giving the blouse namesake status. [Hopefully the original print ad matched the lip and nail color better than this version….]

But regardless, here’s to Kay, who spent her youth writing some of Revlon’s most golden copy and died (at only 55!) a top Revlon executive. She understood that in the US, anyway, the madonna/whore complex is a societal truth that may or may not be internalized, but always deserves mocking:

I think women had a lot more humor about themselves at that time than advertisers gave them credit for. The things that I did for Revlon I always did sort of tongue-in-cheek, feeling that women would be amused.” **

Ms Daly, this good-girl blouse and studded-leather belt pairing is for you. Because you understand that I’m “a trifle shy, but oh-so-warm…and just a little reckless, deep inside…as strange and unexpected as cherries in the snow.”

Studded leather belt to signal to others that YO, beware my rad Tae Bo moves

* A few of the Tactile-Oriented Technician’s flounced-hem skirts that I’ve brought home over the past several years: Grey with striped flounce and Brownish-Plum wool/mohair

** Read more about Kay Daly and Revlon’s marketing strategies in Andrew Tobias’ Fire and Ice: The Story of Charles Revson – the Man Who Built the Revlon Empire.