December 2009 Archives

The Suit: Part I

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Last Friday afternoon I had the almost surreal pleasure of consulting with the Seyta Selter of Portland's very own Duchess, Clothier.  Duchess is the outfit outfitting me with a suit suitable for the Partnership Celebration, and they are really fun to work with!

Holding aside certain exalted treats from Emily, the process of procuring custom clothing is unlike anything I'm used to.  But it's definitely something I would like to get used to.  It was a funny contrast to my usual mode of apparel acquisition; I get most of my clothes for free, off-the-rack, by way of a credit card which, for the dollars I spend on it, gives me points towards garments of a particular brand.  I got the card largely because clothing is one of the consumables I regularly purchase, but for which I haven't found a Good supplier.  I'm very happy to buy my food at New Seasons, our locally-owned, locally-sourced, friendly, green, and beautiful grocery store, my books at Powell's, and all my music and movies used, but clothing has been something of a quandary.  There are a few decent second-hand options, but they're always kind of hit or miss, and the new options tend to have problems with either labor or sexual politics.  Hence the card, which has worked out just fine.

But Friday's foray into formal fashion has left me feeling that I better start investing that money I'm not spending on "normal" clothes, because I definitely want more Duchess suits, please and thankyou!  Emily and I spent a good three hours with Ms. Selter, pouring over fabrics, looking through vintage catalogues, talking about collar studs and tie pins, and generally benefiting from her warm glow, deep knowledge, and contagious enthusiasm.  The experience of working on this project with a sartorial artiste - and an astrologically adroit one, at that (!) - was such a pleasure, and such an intimate experience compared with "going to the mall"...  It'll be hard returning to the status quo.  As when interacting with virtuosity of any stripe, the process seems somehow to become both effortless and exhilarating, and the product promises to be transcendent.

After we had finished, I went home confident that when my suit arrives and I envelope myself in all its luxury and splendor, I will not only - at long last! - be able to wrap the old bean around those Latin phrases Jeeves is always tossing off, but will finally be able to order my Fraises à la Sarah Bernhardt at the Savoy without somehow embarrassing myself.  (And, depending on how many shirts I end up getting, I may even be able to tell you which pipe is the "meerschaum," and which one the "calabash.")  Though I suppose they're technically made-to-measure, I looked into the hearts of these suits, and their hearts bespoke the truth.

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