It's Sunday Scribbling time again and I'm writing about disconnected legs
I walked past a store selling men’s suits today and it made me think about the fun I had when I worked for in a tailors shop for a few months after leaving my finishing school. It was called Frobisher, Purveyor of Gentlemen’s Attire. My Father was one of his customers, and I remember him telling me that his real name was Foster. He changed it to Frobisher because it sounded grander but no one was fooled!
I had to wear very dull clothes for work. It was during a stage in my life when I wore gear to shock, clashing colours, short skirts and enormous clomping shoes. At the shop I was in black and white with a tape measure around my neck.
Frobisher specialised in hand made suits. There was a workshop at the back which was run by Naylor. That's what he was called, not Mr Naylor or Nathaniel Naylor or anything like that. ‘Naylor the tailor could have been a sailor’ I remember saying one day. He had a couple of men sewing for him. I never spoke to them. They turned up at nine, quietly got on with the job then went at six. I’m not sure what their job title was. Seamstresses are ladies who make dresses, so perhaps they were seamen. No, perhaps not!
Part of my job was to measure the customers. Naylor stood next to me with a clipboard, and as I measured the clients arms and chests and things, he would lick his pencil (the way old people do) and write the figures down. The tape measure was a special one with the first six inches made rigid so I didn’t have to hold the top. This was so I could measure the inside leg without nudging ....... you know what!
Always when it became to this part, Naylor would say ‘Would Sir prefer to have a gentleman take this measurement?’ They usually said yes which was quite fortunate. I mean, the rigid part was only six inches long. I mentioned this to Naylor and he pointed out that most of our customers were elderly and shrinking, so six inches was more than sufficient! He thought that was funny and he said he was only pulling my leg.
Talking of pulling legs I didn’t realise that you could pull the legs off the dummies which stand in shop windows. We had four, two white, one black and one which was old and turning yellow and cracked. Actually I found them rather grim. They had no heads! They just stood there like victims of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre!
Anyway, I was told to change the suit on one of them. It felt odd standing in the window. It was like being on stage and everyone outside stared. I took off the tie, I left the shirt (Mr F said I could) and then I came to the trousers. I looked over my shoulder and noticed I had an audience of grinning young men. Well, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find inside the trousers. I loosened them, looked inside and found to my horror discovered that the dummy had no underwear on! ‘Be strong Rosey’ I thought, and with a flourish I yanked down the trousers. To my relief there was very little detail down there!
Then I had the job of putting the new trews on. As I said I didn’t know that the legs pulled off, so there I was with a virtually naked plastic man over my shoulder, heaving and pulling as hard as I could. Well, I came out in a sweat, I can tell you (actually ladies don’t sweat, they glow. It’s like they don’t fart, they let out love-puffs). When I eventually succeeded, I realised I’d put them on back to front! I thought that once the belt was on with the buckle facing forward, no one would notice. Wrong! Mr Frobisher was ‘not best pleased’ (one of his favourite expressions). He looked at me over his little half spectacles and said 'It's easier, Miss Pinkerton with the legs disconnected. He proceeded showed me how to take the dummy to pieces and from then on I never had a problem again. I tried to demonstrate my expertise at trouser removal in the pub one night, but I couldn’t find a volunteer!
Oh, I must tell you, one day we had a posh old lady enter the shop. ‘Girl’ she shouted ‘do you sell ladies intimate apparel?’ Well I didn’t know what she was talking about, so I glanced over to Tom, one of the assistants and he hissed ‘knickers’. I told him not to be rude to me, and then he whispered that the lady was asking if we sold knickers. Anyway, I told her that we only sold men’s clothes and I sent her on her way.
Tom told me a funny story about something he saw once when he had to hand some clothes to a man who in a changing room. The man was standing there in lacy knickers, stockings and suspenders! Honestly!
That reminds me, I once had a customer ask me if we sold suspenders. I said we didn’t, and that he needed to go to shop selling ‘ladies intimate apparel’ (my new favourite expression). 'Not for stockings my dear' he boomed, 'socks' He smiled then pulled up his trouser leg, and just below his knobbly knee he had a stretchy band with a strap attached which clipped onto his sock! ‘These are sock suspenders young’ lady he said. I’d never heard of such a thing. And guess what, Frobisher sold them! It’s amazing what secrets men keep hidden under their trousers!
That reminds me we also sold trouser braces in lots of colours and patterns. I didn’t realise people still wore them. Actually my friend Keith does now and again. He’s got a red pair which he loves. Once I couldn’t resist the urge to ping them! ‘Ouch’ he shouted. I told him that if he didn’t have those man-boobs he wouldn’t have felt a thing! We also sold bow ties which you had to tie yourself, not the ready made ones. But we didn’t sell spinning bow ties or those fabulous ones which squirt water!
We specialised in formal wear, morning suits which people wore to weddings (even in the afternoon) and dress suits. That’s an odd name. You’d expect a ‘dress’ suit to have a skirt! As far as I’m aware the only skirts men wear are those kilts. Did you know, men don’t wear anything under kilts? There was a shop which sold kilts just up the mall. I was thinking how embarrassing it would be if a man was trying one on and the curtains in the changing room weren’t quite closed. I asked if they had any jobs but they didn’t! Only joking!
One day an old fellow came in and said he needed a wescott.
‘A what-cott?’ I said.
‘A wescott’ he said ‘a white wescott’
‘Weally,a white wescot. Well, I’ll encwire’ I said (I didn’t really, I just made that up!)
I had no idea what he was talking about (again!) so I explained that I needed to ask Mr Frobisher. He told me that wescott is the correct pronunciation of waistcoat. How about that?
There is so much more I could tell you but I’ve taken up enough of your time already. I only stayed at Frobisher for a few months, but boy, I had fun!
PS. It occurred to me whilst writing this that my friends overseas may become a little confused by some of my terminology. For instance, suspenders in the UK are devices for holding up stockings (and socks!) and nothing else. Those stretchy things which stop men's trousers falling down are braces, and what Americans call pants, we call trousers. Pants to us are men's underwear. Its like US purses are our handbags and our our purses are those little chaps you put your money in. Confusing or what?!