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Touching Tales of Durable Goods

October 22, 1998|JEANNINE STEIN

From the Fashion Police Blotter: For the last two weeks we have asked for your tales of Clothing That Will Not Die, those wardrobe items that have defied the ravages of time and regular wear. It was prompted by a reader who bought pants in 1951 and is still wearing them, and plans to "take them to my spot in heaven."

Based on that, we issued a challenge for similar tales, with these parameters: The item had to be at least 20 years old, worn and cleaned regularly, in good shape, and some reason had to be given for its longevity.

The responses included everything from Bass Weejun penny loafers circa 1965 ("They're molded on my adolescent foot.") to a 33-year-old turquoise half-slip ("They don't make 'em like that anymore!") to a homemade poly-knit vest and pants outfit from the early '60s ("I still love it, but it's getting a little snug around the waist and hips. Must be shrinking.")

Some of your anecdotes gave us serious warm-fuzzies, which is quite an accomplishment since we're not usually given to gooey sentimentality.

Anyway, to your tales:

* "I bought a full-length synthetic fur coat in 1958 from the Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue for $85 with my high school graduation gift money. It still has its original lining and buttons. The fabric is still lush and plush, and this coat is still a warm, cozy friend on a chilly evening. This coat has seen me off to college, gone out on dates and went to live with me and my husband in Kansas for his two-year Army stint. It's gone through three pregnancies and even through graduate school in the '80s. I wear it still. I attribute its longevity to good workmanship, high-quality fabric, and special care."

* "In 1977, I was wardrobe poor, to put it mildly. Imagine my relief when I discovered Melrose, home then to at least half a dozen wildly creative designers, including Bruce Halperin. My first Halperin acquisition was a pearl gray knit blazer with patch pockets, no buttons. I've worn this jacket in every L.A. climate condition except the blazing heat of late summer. Halperin was a design genius whose clothing should be regarded as a treasure. His fabrics were exquisite and invariably Italian. I'm looking forward to another season of wearing this venerable blazer to the L.A. Opera and symphony."

* "I make my own clothes, and have since I was 15. I am now 84, and two garments that I made are still going. One is a red wool gabardine suit, consisting of a fitted sheath and a jacket to match, which I made in 1947. The other is a plaid cashmere coat that I made in 1957 and wore all the years I lived in Northern California. I lined it with real silk. I cannot bear to think of giving it away, for it was fun to make, came out so beautifully, and was wonderful to wear. Neither of these garments has ever faded. And I have to confess I am an excellent seamstress, and good workmanship does play a role in wearability."

* "In the early '70s I bought a pair of cotton pants from an environmentally conscious hippie-era clothing line. They were--yes--bell bottoms! I've been wearing these pants regularly, and although I've had the legs narrowed to keep up with the times, the neighbors still see me as that '70s flower child in my same old pants on the patio watering my same old herb garden. As for their longevity, maybe because I still wash them in environmentally conscious soap, or that I'm unconsciously forced to maintain my weight since they are still my favorite pants."

* "In 1956, my husband graduated from high school in Chicago wearing a new black jacket. He wore the same jacket to our wedding, and no doubt he will be wearing it at his funeral, as he has worn it for every "jacket" occasion since I met him 24 years ago! The label reads 'De Lura Exclusively for Eric Salm, Chicago.' I attribute the longevity of said jacket to the fact that he has no intention of ever buying another jacket."

* "I bought a pair of Levi's when I was in high school. I wore them all through school, then took them with me to college where I practically lived in them. These were the original Levi's, men's style, button fly and durable as iron. After I married, I kept the jeans and wore them often. About 24 years after I bought them, my daughter, then 16, decided they were totally cool and appropriated them. She wore them in high school and took them to college, and wore them into adulthood. She still has them and says she will never give them up. The best part is they still look great and after 50 years have finally softened up!"

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