Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guest Post: Another Daughter of Another Nonagenarian Speaks Out on Fashion

Robin writes: Lisa and I went to school together as children. She's now living in Washington State, just down the road from her widowed father, Fred, who, like my father is 90 years old. Unlike my Dad, he's still able to live on his own and iron his own shirts--well, sort of---and therein hangs the tale. After reading about my own father's sartotial challenges, Lisa sent along this report ...

Lisa and her father Fred, the 90-year-old trend-setter. He's still trading in the stock market, so he doesn't like to waste a lot of time on his clothes.

Tailoring the Clothes to Fit the Man
Lisa Gutt Arnold

I have lately seen my father sporting a new pair of socks, which prompted me to write Robin in response to her piece on her blogsite, describing her father’s fashionable duds.

If my father’s father were alive today, I suspect he would be tailoring bespoke suits for the elite in Hollywood or London. My grandfather was a master tailor trained in the Old World, who survived as a World War I prisoner of war in Siberia by sewing buttons on the uniforms of Russia’s officers. His son, my father, is a man of many talents, but tailoring isn’t one of them.

At his current advanced age of ninety, shrinking half an inch each year, he staples up the hems of his pants. We offspring have suggested he contract with a manufacturer to produce colored staples to match the cloth.

While Dad learned to press shirts at his father’s knee, today he irons the collar, cuff, and placketfront, leaving the rest in wrinkles. “Why bother with the rest,” he says, “since I’m wearing a sweater anyway?”

Dad always has found elegance in simplicity. Back in the good old days, when Robin and I were growing up in Los Altos, Dad was a shoo-in for the annual tongue-in-cheek “Ten Best-Dressed” list, sponsored and published by the local Town Crier weekly newspaper. He was notorious, in the very up-tight 1950s, for the ultra-casual look he sported then, and sports to this day. I have never seen him wear a tie, and was astonished recently to discover a tie collection from the 1950s, in the back forty of his walk-in closet. Being an entrepreneur who didn't have to go into an office, my father incorporated his attire into his trademark “no frills” business philosophy.

But Dad’s real claim to fame was never seen in public: his special shirts, worn exclusively on Sundays. They were t-shirts so worn that a mouse might have mistaken them for Swiss cheese. Hole-y and holy.

Thus, Dad’s innate sense of style expressed his Zen-like disregard for traditional religion.

Lisa Gutt Arnold
Bainbridge Island, Washington State

Editor's Note: Just so you won't think it is only old folks who have trouble with the odd hemming job, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite photos of old-time movie stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, posing in the 1920s at Pickfair in Beverly Hills. Check out the trim on Mary's skirt: she was the most famous woman in the world, but I guess she didn't have a stapler handy!

Photo is from Dream Palaces: Hollywood at Home by Charles Lockwood

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