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.


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