Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Schmatta

I first went to New York for fashion week when I was nineteen. I'd married my boss, the fashion coordinator and buyer for the designer department in a fine specialty story. I went as the store model, as well as the wife of the man with the best taste in women's clothes in Salt Lake City. The specialty store was Makoff's. Sam and Richard Makoff were the brothers who owned the store. I worked there at the height of it's popularity. This made me Salt Lake's top model. I know, that doesn't sound like much, but it was great training and took me to New York and LA for fashion week at least twice a year. The years were 1961 to 1964. When we were in New York we went to shows and then to the showrooms. I was given samples by the salesmen. We were treated to tickets to plays, the opera, ballet. We were taken to lunch. The world was our oyster. I knew the Garment District, felt comfortable there. I loved New York.

When we went to LA we stayed at the home of Rudi Gernreich's boyfriend. We saw Peggy Moffitt and Rudi at his showroom. More samples for me. I preferred the New York Shows to California's casualness, but LA certainly had it's charms.

Nothing has brought back that past to me more powerfully than this documentary. It's not just that it was one of the most vivid parts of my late teens and early twenties, but I loved the men and women who worked in the Rag Trade. I loved every part of it. But what I was not aware of was the way the Rag Trade is an example of what went wrong in American. Watch this documentary and see how Wall Street ruined us and the garment industry was the canary in the coal mine of vanishing industries and disappearing middle class.

24 comments:

darkblack said...

Your look is so cheeky and switched on in that pic.
I'll bet you were having a blast in those times.

;>)

Utah Savage said...

They were the best of times and the worst of times. Like life.

Beach Bum said...

I'm at work and they have blocked video but Wall Street just puzzles the living shit out of me.

I continue to hear business types and their ass kissers on the business new channels talk about how great this global economy is and how free trade allows us to buy cheap stuff making our dollars go farther.

Wal-Mart is so in love with making our dollars go farther that their newest slogan: "Save Money. Live Better" is now more like a religious chant.

All the while Wal-Mart is driving local stores that directly support hometown economies out of business. And most consumers are just dumb, fat and happy as they slit our throats.

The Peach Tart said...

That must have been a remarkable era for you. Is this a picture of you at that time?

MRMacrum said...

Got the Audrey Hepburn look going great there.

You are absolutely right about the Garment Industry and it's base, the textile industry as being the best industries to look at to see the rise and fall of American Manufacturing in this country. You made a living at one end of it, I made part of mine at the other end delivering the machinery to NYC that was used to make the frocks and gowns that paraded down runways. The Maine town my bike shop is in was one of many textile manufacturing towns that supplied the cloth that went into those frocks that were cut by those machines I delivered.

I will always remember getting to the garment district in the wee hours of the morning because it was insane trying to drive into Manhatten with 60 feet of truck during the AM rush hour. I would pass out in the truck and the sound of all the garment wagons being rolled from one building to another would tell me it was time to unload.

La Belette Rouge said...

I LOVED this documentary. It was so good that I taped it for my mother and sent her the video. My parents were int he rag trade and it was fascinating to learn of the political impact those in the schmatta business once had. It turns out my mother knew the Russ Togs guy in the documentary. It is a small shcmatta world.
p.s. for a short while my mother was a buyer for ZCMI in SLC. I wonder if you ever met.

darkblack said...

Cheeky dickens.

;>)

Kulkuri said...

There used to be textile factories and shoe factories all up and down the East Coast, now only a handful are left. Wal-Mart is a large part of the problem (when factories in China can't make stuff cheaply enough, there's a problem), but not the only culprit, it's that race to the bottom that's been going on for several decades that is the real problem. First it was cheap Japanese shit, then Korean, then Chinese, and when that wasn't cheap enough they went on to Vietnam and others.

In your picture you look like a suave sixties woman!!

WendyB said...

You saw Peggy and Rudi! Wow...

Utah Savage said...

My three favorite men at one time. These are the best of times. These are the worst of times.

Beach your understanding of the world's realities astounds me. It was wall street that killed main street. And when main street dies so does every business that supplies main street.

Yes Peach, that was me only me at seventeen. I was working at Auerbachs then in the millinery department. I went to the U a year early so was on my own, living in a dorm and trying to support myself. No help from home. I worked 2 or 3 jobs. Then to ZCMI, then to Makoffs. Once I had a taste of the Rag Trade and the places I could go modeling, I dropped out of school and married my work so to speak.

MRMacrum, you and I worked the two ends of the street. And yet we both saw it's importance to the economy as a whole. Those union jobs were what built the middle class. When those jobs began to disappear the middle class began to shrink. And this documentary is the best explanation I've seen on how this industry supported a nation and when it began to disappear so did our economic health.

Peach, that is a picture of me. I predated Breakfast at Tiffany's with my beehive hairdo. I always thought Audrey was copying me.

LBR, your mother was a buyer at ZCMI? I knew most of the buyers for ready to wear. What was her name? And what years did she live here? How odd that we have this connection? What brought her to SLC?

I'm glad you too loved this documentary. It explains everything about our shrinking place in the world as a nation that makes things that matter to the rest of the world.

Kulkuri, It was sad to see all the other factories that fed the fashion industry begin to die. I have never been inside a Wal-Mart. I never will cross their door. I think they are a symbol of what went wrong and what remains wrong with us as a nation.

WendyB, I not only met Rudy and Peggy, I stayed at Rudy's boyfriend's place and partied with Rudy and Peggy. They gave me samples Peggy had worn in photo shoots. My favorite swimsuit was a two piece charcoal colored wool knit. Looked great and fit perfectly until you dived into the water. Then it was dicy getting out of the water when it began to stretch & sag mightily.

La Belette Rouge said...

Her name is Audrey, she was the coat and suit buyer. I think she was there in the late 50's or early 60's. I can ask her for more details. Wouldn't it be a hoot if you two knew each other?

Utah Savage said...

I modeled in Better Sportswear in the late fifties at ZCMI. It would have been the department manager who I had most contact with. Ask her if she Remember Lyle Franks at Makoffs. Lyle was the buyer for all things designer at Makoffs and he was my first husband. He was gay and it was one of the reasons I decided to accept his proposal. That was a mistake. But the trips to New York and LA were great, he decided being married to me would make him straight. I didn't want him straight. Oh the mistakes we make when we don't talk about our expectations prior to marriage.

Amos said...

Very pretty girl. It's no wonder Cal fell for you.

CDP said...

I just love that picture of you. And I miss real city department stores.

Utah Savage said...

Amos, that boy and that girl were a great couple. Too bad she was so young. Too bad this girls life made her disinclined to grow into real honest friendships with men she only new once in another lifetime.

Utah Savage said...

CDP, I miss real quality shopping experiences too. Places that call themselves Department Stores or Specialty Stores are a far cry from what we had in the sixties. Even very expensive clothing is no longer real quality clothing. This has something to do with my willingness to do my shopping in secondhand stores. I recognize quality and classic lines that look good on me. I can't find that in the kinds of department stores around now. I was spoiled young for good tailoring, fine textiles, elegant lines. It's all shit today and overpriced shit at that.

La Belette Rouge said...

My mom asked me to ask you if you know Marilyn. Marilyn was her assistant and the manager of better sportswear when she was there. It turns out my mom bought better sportswear for ZCMI and not coats and suits. And, she says she used to go to some Greek place "to drink" with the buyers from Mackoffs. Small world.

susan said...

That's a wonderful picture of you - very sophisticated and alluring and it was a great time as I can attest. My very first job in Toronto was working as a model in a bridal and evening gown shop but I wasn't tall enough for major runway stuff (probably just as well). In London, a couple of years later I had my long hair cut by Vidal Sassoon himself. I'm glad to know we share some history. You are still very beautiful.

As Kulkuri said the US has been in a race to the bottom for a very long time and all for the greed of those who can't be satisfied. It's all very sad.

Beach Bum said...

I forgot to add that picture of you is sizzling hot!

Liberality said...

This has something to do with my willingness to do my shopping in secondhand stores. I recognize quality and classic lines that look good on me. I can't find that in the kinds of department stores around now. I was spoiled young for good tailoring, fine textiles, elegant lines. It's all shit today and overpriced shit at that.

amen to that sister! but eventually all the good clothes will be used up and all that will be left is the cheap crap they make now.

Utah Savage said...

Susan, I know a sister when I see one. We have a lot in common.

Thanks Beach

Lib, reading you quote myself back and than your finishing what I only thought but didn't say, made me cry. It is very sad that all kinds of quality we used to take for granted will be gone from this world soon. Unless you're a multi-millionaire and buy couture.

Comrade Kevin said...

You certainly have a tremendous amount of interesting stories to tell and it is fascinating to me how all of the parts fit together with one another.

Randal Graves said...

Hey now, 5% is only one digit away from 95%. You fashionistas are far too swanky for me.

E said...

That pic is so Mad Men. :)