When I was in my very early 20’s, I was somehow hired as a commissioned salesman at Neiman Marcus. As if y’all aren’t already aware, Neiman Marcus is the most fashionable department store in Dallas…….and quite possibly the whole world.
Naturally, I was pretty nervous about what I would wear to work there……
I just didn’t own any clothes at the time that were stylish enough to work at Neiman’s. (I’d borrowed a fraternity brother’s suit just for the interviews – Thanks Again, Chris) I was really still a kid; all I had to wear was my navy fraternity blazer with the crest, a few pair of khaki chinos, and about 2 dozen striped ties………That’s it. The other sales people scowled daily at my navy blazer and chinos. My “Look” was always the butt of their jokes……and I knew it. They’d all been working in retail much longer than me and wore black Armani suits and Ferragamo loafers that customers expected the sales staff at Neiman Marcus to wear. But not me, I was always the odd man out. An elderly woman was returning a sweater to a coworker one day and mentioned me as the salesman that had sold it to her. Well, not me exactly. She couldn’t remember my name, but she said that she had been helped by, get this,
“the young man still wearing his school uniform.”
Those bitchy queens that I worked with just ate that with a spoon. They still made fun of me behind my back, only now, they had the nickname “School Boy” to add to the mix.
After paying my rent, buying food, and occasionally making my car payments on time…….I just didn’t have the kind of money leftover that it took to invest in suits like my coworkers wore.
But one day, cruising the racks at an outlet store, I found one. The perfect suit. Double breasted (like a Wall Street Broker), deep navy blue with just the slightest pin stripe, genuine horn buttons, and big hand-stitched peak lapels (it was a stranger in an elevator who actually told me that they were hand stitched). Strait off the rack, it fit like it had been made just for me. It was Ralph Lauren, of course….and I’m fairly certain that Mr. Lauren himself would have worn such a fine garment. Even at the heavily discounted outlet price, $299, it was pretty far out of my price range. Just finding 50 extra dollars to put it on lay-a-way was quite a stretch. But I did it…….After all, I had found the suit that I was certain I would be buried in.
I had 30 days to pay off the lay-a-way balance and somehow I managed to scrape together another hundred dollars. The remainder was lent to me by my dear friend Lenny; who then held the suit in his own “lay-a-way” plan until I could pay him back. Which eventually, a few months later, I did.
I couldn’t wait to wear it to Neiman’s. Couldn’t wait even to get the pants hemmed……so I did the hem job myself……..with strips of duct tape. Just folded the pant legs inside themselves, and taped them up.
I know, I know, I know……..what the Hell was I thinking? But I was so excited to wear it in front of my snarky co-workers. My first real suit.
There were “Oohs” and “Ahhs” from everyone when I showed up at work the next morning. I finally looked the part of a sales professional.
Wearing that suit made me feel like I finally belonged working at Neiman Marcus………..until about halfway through the day……..when the duct tape came loose. Of course, I didn’t realize that it had until much later. In fact, I didn’t realize it until looooooong after everyone else in my department had noticed the duct tape strips hanging out of my pants legs. They even told people from other parts of the store to come see. Again, even in the nicest suit I could ever afford, I was still being laughed at.
I went into a fitting room and cried,
The next day, I took the pants to a tailor to hem.
I wore that suit to my next job interview, and every job interview I had after that one. Here we are on a trip to San Diego with my dear friend George.
This is my one photo in Paper City, our Dallas social rag, volunteering for the live auction for AMFAR,
I even had my driver license picture taken in it,
I wore it to my high school reunion and on my first business trip. Every New Year’s Eve. Every Easter Mass. Every wedding. Every funeral. Every major event in my life that required a suit and tie.
I always felt like I was at my very best.
When it started to get a little tight around the middle, I took it to my tailor to move the buttons slightly. But moving the buttons wasn’t quite enough……he needed to let the seams out. “I’m givin’ ‘er all she’s got left to give, Cap’n”, he told me in his best Scotty impersonation. At the rate that I was expanding, I knew we didn’t have much more time together……
It’s a little sad to admit, but over the years I’ve replaced it with a couple of new suits in my new size.
I found that first suit in the very back of the closet a few weeks ago; about 25 years after first buying it. All the memories of working at Neiman Marcus came flooding back to me. Hadn’t thought about wearing it in well over a decade. Double-breasted isn’t really flattering on me anymore. There were a few miniscule moth holes in the right sleeve and I noticed that the lining was beginning to come loose under the arms.
I couldn’t get it on my body now if my life depended on it. Not without a pair of scissors, anyway.
So, I added it to our Goodwill donation bag.
…….and I’m fine with it. I really am.
It’s just a suit? Right?
But I know that nothing I own will ever make me feel that special again.
But maybe, just maybe, some other young man will find it at the Goodwill……..and he’ll feel the same way that I did in it.
What a wonderful memory of your special suit. How mean of the other NM employees! I hope you’re right about someone finding and appreciating it.
P.S. I bought our daughter’s first dressage jacket at a thrift store, and it was a bargain that still had the original tag on it. Another great memory.
They were terrible to me. Honestly, I’m the nicest guy. Ask anyone….I just know that some one else will find it and be just thrilled. I know it for a fact.
What great memories! You are such a dear friend that always makes me smile.
Right back at ya baby…….I was digging through boxes of pictures, and letters, and postcards to find that picture…..Mostly high school and college stuff. Pics of us at Gaotman’s bridge. Making spagetti with a tennis racket in your first apartment. Smile, Smile, Smile. How lucky we are to have known each other.
(Still have my bear too, BTW)
You used a tennis racket to strain spaghetti???
Sure did…and that was honestly before I ever saw Jack Lemon do it in “The Apartment”
Love this story! You certainly looked dashing in that suit…I know why you cherished it so much. I hope some other young man discovers your donated treasure and can put it to good use.
PS Mean, nose-in-the-air bitchy queens suck.
Aww thanks, Tina! I always felt dashing too…..
Some of them are STILL working there!!!! Can you believe it?
You should make it into a pillow!!!
LOL, you aren’ t the first one to say that !!!!
What wonderful memories! I continue to be amazed by the multitude of talents I see you display here for us on your blog! In addition to over the top creative talent & the skill to make some pretty incredible “hacks” come to life, your finesse with a story is not to be missed. I was alternately moved from tears to laughter and, ultimately, my heart filled with pride as I read. No…I do not personally know you, I feel sad to say….but you have been through the fire and you obviously never lost sight of who you were all those times those shallow, bitchy queens were using the INSIDE of themselves to judge the OUTSIDE of you!!! Good for you! Contrary to popular culture, BITCHINESS IS NOT A SOCIAL SKILL!!!!! It is ugly and off-putting. I love it that you are a nice person and that you know it. i am one of those people….I CHOOSE that….I PREFER that…..I never regret being nice…..NEVER. And being nice has caused wonderful and surprising things to happen for me that being a full blown bitch would NEVER have accomplished. If I were your mom, dad or any relative of yours for that matter, I would be intensely proud to say you were my son, brother, etc. Kudos to your parents for raising a great kid who turned out to be an awesome adult. Keep it up. And keep writing….you are good at it. I never miss a blog post….every one is chock-full of great stuff. If I ever cross your path in Bishop Arts or elsewhere in the “hood”, I fully intend to stop you if I can gracefully do so, and introduce myself. We have more in common than you would think. Not the least of which is that I, too, love Ralph. His clothes fit me better than any other designer’s…no matter WHAT size I may be at the moment! Thank you for sharing this lovely piece of personal history. I am a little envious that I won’t be shopping in the men’s department of my favorite Dallas thrift store for a suit.
^^ Do we have a “LIKE” button for Vickie’s comments above. Hear! Hear! ^^
Hi Vickie, I try to be true to myself, and I try to be honest. Thank you just for reading along. Finding people who “get it” is what this blog is all about. We don’t pander, I just write about what means something to me…I really means a lot to me that something I wrote resonated with you. I would certainly hope that you would say “Howdy” if you saw us….We are waiting for that day when someone recognizes us…..
BTW, I am seriously blushing over here.
This is one of the most touching stories . You told it like a classic. It should be written as a time less book that always has a wonderful message. It a like one if those classic stories you read at Christmas time! I just adore this story! Love, Mary Jo
Mary JO!!! You are just the sweetest. I’m glad that you liked it, but wouldn’t it be more Christmassy if I had to sell it to buy a gift and the other person bought me a tie to go with my suit? You know, something like that. Love you too Sweetie.
What an amazing story! If you can’t bring yourself to bring the donation bag with your suit in it to the thrift store perhaps the suit could have a second chance as a decorative pillow? I think a navy pin stripe lumbar pillow with the suit buttons as accents wold be quite striking 🙂
That does sound like a good idea…but he’s gone. I’ll always have the pictures..and of course the story.
What a sweet story, thanking for sharing! I think it is safe to say we have all had that “piece” of clothing that makes us feel like we have arrived in some way or anotherr 🙂 Your story made me think of some advice a very dear friend has always told me: don’t ever be intimidated to shop in “one of those stores” those bitchy shop people don’t own the store they just work there!
Ever seen the show ” Absolutely Fabulous”? Eddie tells the girl working in an art gallery, ” Drop the attitude hunny, you work in a shop”
What a delightful – yet poignant – story! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Brings back some memories of my own first job in a large-ish Houston CPA firm (1984!) and some of the things I wore to work, LOL!
Gosh, now you’ve got me remembering – I really loved some of my double-breasted, shoulder-padded, pencil-skirted suits 🙂 Oh, also, thinking of other clothes stories – have you read Nate Berkus’ book “The Things that Matter”? He had a story about being so poor and not fitting in when he moved to a Paris during college that he sold all his casual, preppy Ralph Lauren clothes and wore Levis, t-shirts and motorcycle boots everyday for eight months! Which is why I always picture him like that, I guess, haha! Wonderful book – I devoured the entire thing one Saturday morning and actually wept with emotion at the end…
I have Nate’s first book, but not the new one….I’ll order it from Amazon right now. Thanks for the tip.
Awww. I always remember going to Neiman’s for lunch, I’d bring Alix and her nanny, Luz de Maria. You and I always had to translate the ingredients of the fancy sandwiches to Maria, in our poor attempts at Spanish… Chutney… Ummm… “You take that one.” I remember the “Mermaid sandwich”… Ummmm… “sirena??” And Maria looked at you, looked at me, looked at the pic of the Mermaid Cafe on the wall…. ” NA. MARIIA no gusta!”
All those mean queens. I never paid any attention to them.
Hmmm… Are you sure you already made that last payment? I was looking through my receipt book….
Pretty sure we are fully up to date……
This makes me laugh and brings back memories! Working at a high end Interior Design firm, snarky remarks ran like wild fire. One such comment “OMG, that belt looks like it came free with a pair of pants!”
Sadly, it probably did and probably cost my paycheck!
How bitchy is that? My old coworkers bought our manager a Christmas gift and left me out of it……WTH? I swear, I am the nicest guy…..they were just jealous of some sales competition….Sounds like your coworkers were too
Love this story! You are a master storyteller.
Aww shucks Lindsey, I’ve been telling it for 20 something years…..When I found him last week, it all came back to me and I thought…”HHHmmm, I should write this down” Glad that I did, and Glad that you liked it 🙂
Loved this!! Thanks for sharing…it made my heart smile 🙂
Have I mentioned that making your “Heart smile” made mine do the same?
What an amazing story! I felt like you were telling it to me face to face. You are a very talented writer and storyteller.
Awww thanks Gayl, I’ve been telling the story of the “duct-taped suit” for over 20 years now. It felt good to write it down and share it. So glad that you liked it.
James, you have more true fashion in your pinky than those bitchy queens ever thought about having! You were and are one of the nicest, funniest guys I have ever known – and have made a tremendous life for yourself. Those co-workers were just jealous.
Awww shucks Laura, you make me blush. I am a nice guy, always have been, I just couldn’t figure out why I was such a threat to them back then. I know now that they were jealous…..Get this! Some of them are STILL working there…brightening the days of all their current co-workers, no doubt.
Thank-you for sharing a part of your life with us…..it touched alot of people….especially I think because so many can relate to the feelings you bring up….insecurity, others laughing, not being a part of the In” group. Time helps us to put all into perspective…….thanks for the well worded reminder.
I’m so glad that you liked the story. Time certainly does help. Wish I could go back and tell that kid that those people aren’t important.
What a great story! I love how much you loved that suit. And yes, someone will appreciate it. My brother got a navy double-breasted Armani suit at a thrift shop years ago that he still wears! So it’s great that you’re passing on your beloved RL ‘first suit.’ This story made me smile. Thanks for existing and sharing your talents with your internet fans!
Hi Elise, Awww shucks, Made you smile!!! I just love that. Glad that I found soemone to share this stuff with..
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