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BY DESIGN : OFF THE CUFF : A Nip and a Tux Gets the Wearer in Formal Shape

OFF THE CUFF: This is another in a series of first-person columns that allows people connected to the fashion industry to talk about their encounters.

August 11, 1994

Whether you think it's a comical monkey-suit or the most stylish of evening wear, there's no doubt the tuxedo is a foundation of high fashion. Jeanne Gibson sees it that way; she and her husband, Mike, own Gingiss Formalwear stores in the Mission Viejo Mall, South Coast Plaza and Westminster Mall.

A former high school teacher, Gibson gave up textbooks and test papers for thousands of rental tuxes, cummerbunds and shoes.

All are up-to-date styles--there's not a ruffled shirt, powder blue coat with wide lapels or polyester flare pants in the mix. But Gibson says she still gets requests for "those things that would now make most people gag."

This is another in a series of first-person columns that allows people connected to the fashion industry to talk about their encounters.

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When wearing a tux, men are going to an occasion that dictates behavior that's pretty conforming, so generally they are very careful with our rented tuxes. But some tuxes do take a beating. Men go swimming in them at the beach or they get thrown in the pool.

Tuxes have been ripped up in fights, stolen out of cars and thrown up on. Everything that can happen has happened to our tuxes. But they clean up awfully well because we buy good quality.

We had one wedding party where four of the ushers rolled around in ice plant. Now that's a stain that's difficult to get out. It came out of the wool tuxes, but never out of the shirts or accessories.

We don't charge extra for damage unless it's malicious. If someone gets into a fight and completely destroys the tux, you bet I will charge him. But if a coat sleeve gets caught in the door and rips, it wasn't anyone's fault. Life happens.

One of the biggest problems I see is a customer who calls or mails in his "wish measurements" instead of his real measurements. Maybe those numbers were apropos when he was working out regularly or when he was younger, before things shifted.

When he comes in to try the tux on, he may say that we didn't give him the right size. That's OK. Our stock is all in the back--we probably have 1,500 coats and 3,000 pairs of pants--so we just go and get the size that will fit. It may be four or five sizes bigger, but we'll make him happy.

Having our stock on the premises really helps. We had a wedding party come in here that originally went to another store, one that orders its tuxes from a catalogue. They ordered black tuxes but when they went to pick them up on Saturday morning for the wedding that afternoon, the tuxes were purple because the salesperson wrote down the wrong color code.

The bridesmaids' dresses were burgundy. Ugh! That store couldn't get the new tuxes in time, so everybody came running over here and we outfitted them on the spot.

Women who are attending a special event sometimes rent tuxes rather than buy a dress. We've even done an entire wedding where the men and women wore matching tuxes. Since tux coats and pants come in all sizes, we can fit anyone. The rental price is the same for men and women.

When a man is going to wear a tux three times a year, it becomes cost efficient for him to buy one. There are probably two or three other times he would wear a tux that year if it were in his closet.

The biggest problem with a high school student is his prom date. A girl comes in with her boyfriend to pick out accessories, then she finds out that her girlfriend has changed the color of her dress so she changes her colors and her date has to change his. Some tickets have so many changes on them that we have to start over.

The high school boys look like the "Wreck of the Hesperus" when they come in here, but they clean up really well.

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