Sunday, June 07, 2015

Helpful Hint from The New Yorker

I enjoy scouring The New Yorker's archives for references to the Tailored Woman store. I found this gem called "Helpful Hint" in the June 9, 1934 issue: 

Fifth Avenue buses may be used as mop wringers; the doorman for the Tailored Woman shop carries a dripping mop to the curb and puts it in front of the right rear wheel of the bus waiting for green light.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fifth Avenue, 57th Street

I just finished Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M., Sam Wasson's splendidly-entertaining chronicle of the making of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.  (The book doesn't mention the Tailored Woman store, located on the opposite corner from Tiffany, but this article does.) 

I've watched Breakfast at Tiffany's too many times to count.  I don't agree with Wasson's assessment (and that, apparently, of the movie's producers and costars) that George Peppard was a weak link as the love interest of Audrey Hepburn's character, Holly Golightly.  He is slightly wooden, but for me it works for his character, a conflicted young would-be writer who believes himself to be an upstanding citizen even as an older woman (the splendid Patricia Neal) keeps him as her plaything.

The original Truman Capote tale involved an unrepentant golddigger and an unnamed narrator who befriends her.  In the cleaned-up (though still racy, for 1961) movie version Peppard's character gradually falls in love with Holly, leading to a romantic ending.  I re-read the novella this weekend and it left me with a case of the blues, or the mean reds, as Holly Golightly would say.  It's a tawdry story, though beautifully written.  In the book Holly never does have breakfast at Tiffany's.  That's why I'll always stay true to the movie version instead, with its sweeping opening shot of 5th Avenue at 5 AM.  Holly's true love affair is with New York itself, and this wonderful corner in particular.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Naomi Shapin

A lovely sketch from Naomi Shapin, the illustrator who did many of the original advertisements for the Tailored Woman store.

Friday, October 22, 2010

(The) Tailored Woman (with her fur flying)

Another eBay find: this ad from a 1964 Vogue.  Now I know that fur is a no-no, but I had to have the ad because it shows the Tailored Woman store and its famous display windows.

Incidentally, for reasons I haven't yet determined, the store sometimes used "The" in its name and sometimes did not.  It appears that at the time of this ad, "The" was out of fashion.  (Much like real fur today.)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Vixens and their feathered prey

My thoughtful cousin just bought this Tailored Woman hat and hatbox for me at a vintage store on Etsy.  I love it!  Can't you see me walking down Michigan Avenue in feathered splendor?

I also love the descriptor the vintage store used: "Mad Men, Vixen, Bombshell, Rockabilly." (Well, everything but the last term, which doesn't really go with my secret fantasy image of myself as a film noir siren.)

"Vixen" is such a great word.  I knew it meant a female fox, but I was surprised that "a shrewish ill-tempered woman" is the first definition, followed by the more popular usage, "a sexually attractive woman."  Hmm.  Interesting that those two are so closely linked.  Misogyny?  Fear?  Well, best take cover when I get my feathers on and head out on the prowl!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dear Friends on Fifth Avenue

Here's a wonderful reference to the Tailored Woman store from the August 15, 1936 issue of The New Yorker magazine:

We remember trying to write a letter to Hunter College & getting stuck because we couldn't think of the proper salutation. A friend of ours got into the same kind of a jam the other morning when he foolishly attempted to compose a letter to the Tailored Woman, Inc. "Dear Sir," didn't sound right, neither did "Gentlemen," "Dear Madam" had a fishy ring. "Mesdames" made him dizzy. He tried "Dear Tailored Woman," "Dear Incorporation," "Dear People," and "Friends on Fifth Avenue." All of a sudden the answer burst on him. "My Good Woman," he began. "May I bring to your attention..."

As for this good woman, I'm off to New York in the morning and will certainly be visiting some old friends on Fifth Avenue!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Plaza Tale

I've heard from a number of people who remember the Tailored Woman store and its mercurial owner, Eugene K. Denton.  I received the following message a few months ago from Diana Pons, who gave me permission to share her story.

My father, Victor Pons, was the maitre d' of the Oak Room at The Plaza Hotel on 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, just steps from The Tailored Woman. I am writing a book about my father's years at The Plaza (1953-1973) and the many experiences he, and I, had there. I was trying to remember when The Tailored Woman closed. I just Googled the store's name and I found your web site!

My father's years at The Plaza reflect my life from age 6 to 26. Your great-great-granduncle (Eugene K. Denton) came often to the Oak Room. He liked my father very much, and my father liked him. When I was 18 (that would be 1965), I was looking for a summer job. My father asked him if he needed help in the store. He gave me a job for the summer in the accounting department on the top floor. At the end of the day, all the merchandise ticket stubs from sales were brought upstairs (there were four of us in my department). We'd spend the next day adding them up to make sure that they matched the amount of money taken in. I had other duties too, but that was the primary one.

I read on your web site that you never met your great-great-granduncle. He was a character, and I mean that only in the nicest way. He was a tough taskmaster and kept everyone in the store on their toes. When he would get upset if something wasn't done right, he would bluster and yell. His face would get so red that I thought he would explode! He was, however, never anything but courteous and kind to me. When I left at the end of the summer, he took me to lunch (not in the Oak Room - women were only allowed in for dinner and supper until 1973) and he gave me a gift of a lovely brooch from the store, befitting a young girl, which I still have. My father told me that he said that I was a "smart girl and an excellent employee who would do well in life." Especially at age 18, I was very honored by his compliment.

I did run into him once more in a restaurant on Madison Avenue. He recognized me first and came to my table to say hello. I was pleasantly surprised that he would remember me, considering all the people he must have met over many years. He left before I did, and when I asked for my check my waiter told me that it was paid, compliments of Mr. Denton.

I thought you might enjoy my story, and I am so glad that I found your web site and learned a little more about your family and the history of The Tailored Woman. It was a wonderful store owned by a man I have never forgotten.
Isn't that lovely?  And isn't it fortunate that I didn't inherit the Denton temper?  (No comments from the peanut gallery, please...)