My Seven Year Ivy Itch

Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand did The Way We Were as a movie. I performed it in real life seven years ago at the Ivy Style Exhibit at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Re-reading the marvelous Yale University Press (no pun intended) book still available @amazon fittingly titled Ivy Style rekindled my seven year itch scratching the Ivy triumph that drew over 50,000 visitors.

The exhibit incorporated elements of Ivy League life over the past century that I breathlessly provided even recreating the monk’s cell that was my not so Big Green Freshman dorm room. It was so monastic I often fled to the Tower Room in Baker Library embraced by the soft leather armchairs hidden among the book-lined alcoves. Vistas of the Hanover Plain pulsated through the six-paned Georgian windows often making it difficult to concentrate on any book or homework assignment I was engaged with.

Likewise, the exhibit’s chemistry classroom installation reminded me of struggles staying afloat in math and science while ardently pursuing Dartmouth’s wide range of brilliant choices in Comp Lit and World History. The museum portrayed an elite club lounge, dressing up tailcoats and dinner jackets, arousing the jealousy I felt for those who knocked off chilled martinis at Yale’s Fence Club or Princeton’s Cottage, when I was guzzling flat ‘Ganset Beer hosed from a rusty keg into waxed beer cups by a maladroit Chi Phi pledge in our smelly dank Hanover faux basement saloon.

I assisted setting up the FIT exhibit with Patricia Mears, deputy director of the Museum at FIT, and fellow consultant/friend for life, G. Bruce Boyer.

Spending so many seasons peddling three-button suits while Bruce was penning books and articles as the Fashion Editor of Town and Country Magazine. Bruce mastered the history, sophistry and minutiae of the same goods that I peddled.

The blood that courses through Press family veins was encapsulated in the exhibit masterpiece highlighting the sportcoat collection of my father, Paul Press. Occupying the stage between my old dorm room and the social club to which I never belonged, were forms of my father’s outfits I dressed up just as if he were still greeting students and alumni in our New Haven and Cambridge stores. Custom-tailored over half a century ago in the third-floor tailor shop above the York Street store, pinned and chalked by Ralph Chieffo with fabric cut over paper patterns drawn by Dominic DiPetto. My father argued with Mr. Chieffo whether or not to raise the cuff or move the button holes, blood, sweat and tears in every stitch. His Harris Tweed jacket maintained the aroma of peat derived from its original Outer Hebrides smoke hut. The Glen Urquhart plaids and Scottish District checks with the super-soft touch of cashmere and unmatched color fabrications, signature of cashmere’s supreme resource, W. Bill of London.

F. Scott Fitzgerald provides me the ne plus ultra: “There are no second acts in American life.”

Ivy Style at F.I.T. nevertheless gifted me a second act that I’m still performing seven years later writing my weekly column for J. Press.

RICHARD PRESS

11 comments

Your fine selection of sport jackets extends to all your wardrobe offerings. But my favorites are your authentic madras sport jackets that are beautifully tailored with excellent color combinations. Thank you for your fine clothing.

William Aul January 03, 2020

I am truly enjoying Richard’s series of recollections about J.Press. I was a customer of Marty and Gabe’s at the New Haven store when I was in college in the late 60s. Looking back now, I really appreciate how Marty, Gabe, and the staff were so kind and patient with young college men like me, many of whom knew little about the fine points of proper attire, but were eager to learn. They always gave thoughtful advice. I’ve been a lifetime J.Press customer ever since!

BG December 18, 2019

I miss that all jackets are not 3 button

Stephen Dagostino December 18, 2019

Ah … W. Bill. Best sweater store on the planet. Outfitted Sir Edmund Hillary. Their “Everest” sweaters — unbelievably lightweight and yet warm as toast. Sadly, no longer extant.

Gerald Brecher December 18, 2019

Dear Mr. Press:

Always enjoy your commentary. Best wishes for the holidays.

Philip Ryan December 18, 2019

Hi Dick. I remember that dank Chi Phi basement and Ganset beer well. Hope you are well.

Ken Brasted December 18, 2019

It was a revelation to me—farm boy from rural Indiana—to discover, as a freshman at DePauw, that old Ivy style could be achieved by repurposing a worn madras shirt as a dickey and wearing it under a V-neck sweater as if it were new!

Robert W. Emmaus December 18, 2019

Wonderfully written and no doubt evocative of a wonderful event. Apparently the comp lit classes at Dartmouth did indeed achieve their intended effect. Bravo Mr. Press!

Jeff K. December 18, 2019

I love your articles. Your Dartmouth education is evident in your writing. Makes me want to wear my goyish Madras jacket from the 1960’s. I need a new suit. Was thinking of Armani, but maybe J.Press is the way to go!

Howard Goldstein December 18, 2019

It was such a pleasure for me to work with two consummate professionals like Richard and Patricia, and when you add the humor it became an unparalleled joy. Thank you both, I’d do it again any time.

Bruce Boyer
G. Bruce Boyer December 18, 2019

Would appreciate contact with someone in mail order dept .Technical issue with credit card.
Thank you

William Uhler December 18, 2019

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