The inaugural exhibit of Ramon’s Tailor honored our namesake who occupied this fine space for 40 years (wow!). Members of the Mrs. Robinson Society thoughtfully assembled a selection of garments that celebrated the man who had finely tailored and improved the wardrobes of so many people over the years. We’re happy to share photos of the installation along with the stories of each garment that elude to Ramon’s colorful clientele. Enjoy!
The year I turned 18 my mom married a fast talking Irish shoe salesman named Pinky Campbell. He was a tall red head and slick dresser who bought all her clothes and shoes in the old Jewish garment district in Chicago. Though her marriage didn’t last, the wardrobe survived: a wardrobe scented with Double-Mint gum, Salem cigarettes, and Tigress perfume – A wardrobe that also catered to the needs of mom’s three younger sisters – who constantly raided her closet before their dates. Mom used to say to them, “Land your own homosexual husband.” When mom passed away, I inherited the famous wardrobe but it was Ramon’s handy work that made them my own. While Ramon had to hem everything so I could wear her dresses –I’m nearly 3 inches shorter than mom – I never stand taller or feel prouder than when I’m in her clothes.
“When times are tough, dress up.” It’s what my Grandmother always said. It works. It’s cold here, and it’s time I admit it. This jacket is year round in San Francisco, and it’s needed for more than the fog. I could wear just about anything under it, and know I am complete from the outside. Nobody can tell I’m falling apart with a coat like this and I just may convince myself along the way.
Summers in Minnesota were as simple as this pattern. Lemonade, sweeping porches, slow conversation. I spent 19 of them there, and none were different from the other. Except the summer before I left. Aunt Tatie crafted this dress just for me. An attempt to hold on to my innocence, which I willingly accepted, I desired a new start — with my boyfriend, with the West Coast — but my roots were tangling my every thought as I tried to pry away — although I did.
Since then I have found myself at weekends in the Napa Valley posturing those roots in this dress, and returning to lay it across Ramon’s fitting table. I wanted to go back — to fold my hands across this starched white and listen to Tatie’s voice, and watch my mother meander through the garden. I could do that from inside this dress. Sit pretty. Stay pressed; like a flower in my family’s album.
The Clift. I waited in the lobby for him. He was always precisely on time, I was always early in order to set myself up under the best lighting, and have half a Martini on my lips. Everyone in the room knew I was waiting for a man — the soft Salmon of my jacket exposed me — I could not be more naked.
I had Ramon take it in at the waist: tight, so that I was aware of its presence, like I was aware of the man holding it with every breath. I wondered if Ramon knew why I desired this fit, or why I would only allow him to prepare me for such moments. It was an agreement we had. And when I was off to hotel lobbies, I knew that he was dreaming, inside his little shop. Drifting into the ways he could alter anything if he tried.
Black & Tan
I remember watching my older sister get dressed up every Saturday night to go out with her husband Marty. I was always the babysitter and would watch in envy as she primped for hours — matching her wig to her dress and her go-go boots to her purse.
It was the summer of 1971 when I discovered they were swingers. Marty came home one night without my sister and wearing a woman’s black leather cap that he said he won in a bet. When my sister finally arrived home, the next morning, on the back of a motorcycle in her usual full-length leather, I watched her lay a kiss on the bearded biker. Eventually Marty joined them on the front porch and I watched the three of them joke and laugh and smoke a joint.
That morning, my sister gave me $10 for babysitting, and then unexpectedly – she handed over to me her favorite black and tan leather jacket. I never asked why. I’ve never stopped wearing my sister’s leather and thanks to Ramon – it was been restored to greatness a few years ago. He claimed the leather had a “weedy” fragrance that would never dissipate. And Ramon would know. That Mexican always had some great connections.
Little Black Dress
I once read that the black dress was fashioned after a Nun’s dress. That it was meant to be discrete enough that any woman’s beauty and distinct characteristics would come forward off its consistent backdrop.
The first designs were boxy, but soon followed the curves of the woman. I wanted a black dress that spanned time and history. Fit me for who I believed I was. I tore an image of Audrey Hepburn from a magazine, and brought it to Ramon. I envisioned something with sheen — but never discussed the fabric. It was the cut we devised together. When I picked it up at Ramon’s before my gallery opening, it was July and brisk. I slid into the quilted design there in his shop and felt the warmth of being taken care of.
The Family Dress
Ramon is altering the family dress now. While I’ve never let it out of my hands, he knows how to hold it, along with the memories — my own, my mother’s, and my grandmother’s. There’s a portrait of mother wearing it with a bouquet of narcissus plunged into the neckline — she’s looking directly at the camera — her arms stretched out, as if to say the dress gave her the freedom to personify “Look no hands!” It just floated across her body like water.
I wore it in the garden of our house as a young girl. It was the first day mother met the man I was first truly in love with. She brought it out, and asked me to model it under the orange tree. The pose I struck was immediately her era. I’m looking over my shoulder. I’m looking at him behind the camera. I’m in love with everything. Since then, it was in the blue hatbox in the hall closet. I took it out for my daughter’s wedding. It needs to be altered, and Ramon will shape it to my new life.
How do you prepare for drill team when you are three months pregnant? My uniform had always screamed, “win”, for the team, and for myself. While I am sure this baby is the true definition of win, I feel like anything but a cheerleader right now. Ramon will re-create it. He knows me. He knows what I hide, and what I display. The sequins will be red again, and so will my cheeks when I pick it up with my three-month baby bump.
Mrs. Robinson & Ramon
If it weren’t for an overzealous sommelier and a bottle of Grivelet Chambolle-Musigny 1969, I never would have met Ramon.
It was a bittersweet day for me. My beloved former husband and I were set to finalize our divorce papers that evening over dinner. But my plans for a proper lunch at the Westin St. Francis led me to a private “tasting” with a rogue French Chef in his penthouse suite and perhaps the greatest French kiss-off on record.
Hours later, I nearly escaped with all my clothes, but without a single button on my Burberry Trench Coat. And judging by the funny walk on that bellhop who shared the elevator with me as I descended the penthouse, one of those fancy quilted buttons may have landed in his shoe.
A laughable mess, I raced out of the hotel – destination, the Olympic Club. It was on this circuitous route when I saw Ramon’s Tailor. “Thank you sweet Virgin” I gasped out loud.
Ignoring the “Closed” sign, I flew into the shop and jerked off my coat into the ready arms of a startled man who immediately jumped into action. It was Ramon. Few words passed between us and within five minutes I was out of there, buttoned-up but still flushed.
The next day, I brought Ramon some flowers. We had a good laugh and he offered me some gentlemanly advice. He called it the Easy-Entry Cape. He designed several of them for me over the years, but my favorite was the Golden Blue. He told me the colors held a special meaning and that the cobalt blue lining would protect me. And like the cold blue sea it would also lure an adventurous heart. Ramon was right. What I also learned is a cape is a snare for catching a muse. And today I rarely leave a trail of buttons behind, unless I want my wayward lovers to find me again.
The Mrs. Robinson Society (MRS) is a social think tank for men and woman, and all at once — a heist, a literary stunt, a progressive women’s movement, and a safe refuge for troubadours. Our society began in 2006 as a secret club for married women, but our membership is expansive and diverse. Despite the rumor, MRS is not an escort or dating service, though we are flattered. In truth, our gatherings are fashioned after 19th Century French salons. We meet with a purpose. Our mission is to enchant, inspire, amuse, engage and provoke. mrsrobinsonsf.com