Skip to comments.The Frenchman who dresses President Bush (Clinton was "demanding and cold")
Posted on 08/04/2003 7:33:05 PM PDT by hole_n_one
Georges de Paris
He finished the gray-blue, 100 percent wool, super-English Scabal suit shortly before midnight on Sunday, and a White House aide picked it up just before noon on Monday.
As a result, Georges de Paris was able to relax and watch President Bush deliver his State of the Union speech last night, secure in the knowledge that countless people around the world saw his handiwork.
The 64-year-old diminutive Frenchman with the flowing silver-gray hair and thick accent of his native Marseilles literally has taken the measure of every American president since Lyndon Johnson, including George W. Bush and his father.
Georges de Paris thats his real name is a household name at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., where he is regularly summoned these days from his cluttered shop two blocks away to measure and fit President Bush, just as he did his father and every other president of the last 40 years.
Thats quite a change for the man who spent six months sleeping in a park four blocks from the White House in 1960, and now has dozens of White House aides, Cabinet officers, congressmen, corporate executives, lobbyists, journalists and fashion-conscious women who depend on him for alterations and custom tailoring.
As a young man, Zhorzh thats what everyone, including the president, calls him spurned the wishes of his father, a Supreme Court justice for the province of Provence, to enter law school, and studied at a top designer school in Paris. In 1960, he read an article in a French magazine about a woman tailor in Washington and wrote to her at the magazine.
She wrote back and invited him to work for her, he recalled while working in his shop on a recent Sunday afternoon, as he routinely does seven days a week.
He was 27 years old, with a masters tailor diploma in hand and $4,000 worth of greenbacks and francs hidden in his sock. They soon became engaged and he turned over his savings, which she deposited in what she assured him was a joint bank account.
But several months later, when he told her he didnt want to get married, she refused to give him back his money.
I tried to take her to court but I had no proof, he recalled. She said I gave the money to her as a present. (de Paris said the woman, whom he refused to identify, still lives in the Washington suburb of Chillum, Md., but he has had no contact with her.)
Broke and speaking little English, de Paris who speaks half-a-dozen European languages slept in a public park in downtown Washington, only two blocks from his current shop in the Metropolitan Square building at 650 14th St. N.W.
He slept in the park for the next six months while bathing in the Potomac River. He found a job as a cutter with a downtown clothing store, and soon opened his own shop and bought the sewing machine he still uses. He worked and slept there for the next 18 years while his business grew, thanks to word of mouth from satisfied customers.
I altered suits for him when he was vice president and made two suits for him after he became president, de Paris said. He was very nice, he introduced me to his wife and daughters, and he gave me good tips.
He continued to answer calls from the White House, but found that some presidents were easier to work with than others.
The socially awkward Richard Nixon, he recalls, was very friendly. He always asked me for news of my family and whether I liked the United States. Ex-football star Gerald Ford teased him about his small size and asked whether I played on an American football team.
But Jimmy Carter was all business and never said anything, while Ronald Reagan was positively loquacious as de Paris measured and fitted him under the watchful eyes of the Secret Service.
Reagan spoke a lot, he recalled. Like George W., he knew how to appreciate the quality of fabrics. He gave me jellybeans and was always afraid that I would prick him with my needles during the fitting.
And while the first President Bush, unlike his son, was reserved and not the most agreeable, it was the gregarious charmer Bill Clinton whom de Paris remembers with Gallic disdain. Clinton was very demanding, cold and always occupied, he said. He was unaware of me completely.
de Paris, who became a U.S. citizen in 1969, met the current president while altering slacks for his father. Shortly after the younger Bush was declared the winner of the contested 2000 election, the White House called again.
They said, Bring a photo ID and come to the East Gate, he explained. I did and the guard said, Wait here. Then somebody came and said, Georges, come into the residence.
Working on a crash basis and with only two fittings, de Paris delivered the elegant dark blue cashmere wool suit that Bush wore during his Inauguration in January 2001, and during his nationally broadcast speech to a joint session of Congress a few weeks later.
Since then, de Paris has made numerous visits to the White House, often on a crash basis, to add a suit or sport coat to the presidents wardrobe or to measure and fit aides like Chief of Staff Andrew Card for custom-made suits that cost between $2,000 and $3,000.
Sometimes, President Bush even acts as de Pariss agent. Last year, he told Rep. Jim Ramstad (R) of Minnesota during a meeting at the White House that he should see my tailor, who works around the corner. Ramstad did and bought a dark blue cashmere suit, which drew compliments from colleagues on the House floor.
de Paris, who has never married and lives in an apartment on Pennsylvania Avenue eight blocks from the White House, often works late into the evening in his two-room shop with his assistant, 75-year-old Armenian-American Nubar Sahaykan.
Bush wore one of de Paris suits when he addressed the nation immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The skilled tailors European craftsmanship and elegant needlework were also evident at Bushs first State of the Union speech in January 2002, and during several foreign trips.
But the memories of his grim early years in Washington are easy to forget now that Georges de Paris has been recognized as Americas First Tailor.
That recognition is evident in a photograph that is prominently displayed in his shop. Taken in the White House in 2001, it shows a smiling Bush with one arm around his silver-haired friend and the other flashing a V for victory sign.
Its signed, To Georges the ticket in 04? Best always, George Bush.
Pardon my asking, but how in the heck can representatives manage to afford a $2000-$3000 suit on their salaries??? Someone in the know once told me it's all a question of POWER in DC and I'm beginning to believe him.
There probably wasn't a camera anywhere nearby.
Like Reagan and GW, I'm a stickler for quality fabric. I used to go to a factory sale twice a year where suits were made in Elizabeth, NJ. I would get them professionally tailored and looked good for a fraction of what you'd pay at Nordstroms for the same suit. But the factory closed down and the need for suits at work has waned.
I've always wanted to get a custom made suit but my disposable income just isn't there for that type of luxury. When I'm CEO, I'm sure I'll splurge!
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