On a Good Tailor

I recently purchased two new suits from my favorite purveyor of fine men’s clothing, Brooks Brothers. When I met with the tailor, I brought along a suit I purchased two years ago that was now too large in the jacket and slacks, and, after the alterations for the new suits had been measured, I asked the tailor to take a look at my old suit. I put it on, and, after carefully inspecting it and taking a few measurements, a grim look washed over his face. He explained that numerous parts of the suit would need to be taken in, and, while he could make the shoulders, neck, back, sides, and chest of the jacket “fit” me, the resulting coat would be of Frankenstein proportions and grace.

The tailor was a small, earnest, professional man. English was not his first language, and it was with great respect and humility that he explained the problem with my old suit. He presented his inability to tailor the suit to me as his personal failing, but, as I considered our interaction over the weekend, I decided the failing had been mine. I brought a beautiful, oversized suit to the tailor, expecting that he could change the size but not the proportions or the beauty. I was asking for magic.

After I left Brooks Brothers, hubby and I went mattress shopping. We visited two mattress stores and awkwardly laid on mattress after mattress, attempting to determine in the span of fifteen seconds or so if this was the right product on which to sleep for the next decade. Soft, firm, plush, pillow top, inner spring, foam, hybrids, quilted, hand-stitched, plush, adjustable — the list goes ever on. There was no rhyme or reason to the mattress names, prices, or features. Salesmen were uttering words I was fairly certain did not exist and making me fear that a bad decision would lead to, at minimum, ten years of poor sleep, a wrecked career, and a stunted lifespan. As I stared up at the fluorescent lighting while laying on the Deluxe UltraMax Freedom Sleep System VII, a part of me wept for my Brooks Brothers tailor. I wanted someone to tell me that, sure, any of these mattresses could be made to work, any would “fit” me, but here’s the right choice.

A tailor knows how to sew a button, cut a coat, and fix a cuff, but a good tailor keeps an eye on the proportion of the suit, the symmetry of the lines of the garment, how it hangs on the body. It’s not just about fit. And the best tailors can help you understand all of that, even if English isn’t their first language. This same quality can be seen in good teachers, good leaders, even good friends. They can fix a problem, yes, but, more importantly, they see the big picture. They aren’t magicians, but they don’t confuse you with nonsense or obfuscation. They have a point of view, not a bottom line, and they make you better for that.

I was disappointed to lose the suit, so to speak, but I reconciled myself with the thought that I could store the suit in my closet, silently and patiently awaiting the (inevitable) return of my ice cream cravings and corresponding “blossoming.” And, hopefully, if I do expand, my new mattress will be just as comfortable.

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