Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tailor tales

A conversation about kid's clothes the other day where the topics of style and going out of fashion came up. Where I grew up, I stated, there was really not much of a concept of 'style.' You just wore clothes. My clothes were, for the most part, a long series of lovingly hand-tailored dresses and skirts that may or not have been previously worn by either of the sisters. The skilled hand behind these garments was known simply as Tailor, his greatness having overtaken the need for a mere name. Gaunt, tall, and sad-eyed, he would arrive on his bicycle, armed with his measuring tape, a pencil, and the Pattern Book.
This Pattern Book was a vast repository of designs for the young woman of style, procured somewhere in Tailor's youth, i.e., sometime in the '50s. My sisters and I would pore through, then pick out the ones we wanted. Depending on the mother's approval, we would make Tailor note the chosen ones with his pencil-stub, and a week or two later, the finished garment would arrive, perfect in its detail; hardy enough to withstand rough-housing, delicate enough to attend birthday parties in, each piece of lace and each button hewn into place until the end of time.
Tailor re-appeared in our lives when I was eighteen. At this point, he took on the role of curmudegeonly moral guardian- he tried to make me see reason when I shockingly wanted a short skirt, with a slit at the back. We argued like seasoned attorneys in a tense court of law. Finally, he broke me. He made the skirt short, but instead of the slit, it had a decorous pleat of fabric that would protect my modesty from the evil world.
Over the next few years our struggles continued sporadically. Once he dreamed up a fabulous new design for the sleeves of my kurta. Obtuse and fashion-challenged as I was, I failed to 'see' the splendor of his design. So he grabbed a sheet of newspaper, and a few snips of his heavy old iron scissors later, I had a perfect representation of his grand idea. I sighed and gave in. In the face of such craftsmanship and pitiless determination, one must succumb.
I took inordinate pleasure in his struggles with our little dog. On one occasion, the black-and- white mutt, Howdy, had the measuring tape in her mouth and there ensued an epic tug of war which Howdy eventually won.
Tailor muttered, in his Hyderabadi accent, "nonsense kutta!"
To this day, no member of my family can say the word 'nonsense' without the urge to attach 'kutta' to it.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails