Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Olé! (Would you mind letting those toreador pants out just a smidge.)

Just in case I need to do an emergency career change between now and The End, I'm always on the lookout for jobs that might suit.

One that I always used to assume I could fall back on was waitressing at Durgin Park.

I used to claim that, once I was old enough, I could go back to Durgin Park and waitress, Durgin being a hoary Boston restaurant that was once know for its ancient and surly waitresses.  Alas, I see that Durgin has been slicked up, and that at some point in the late 1970's, replaced its soi-disant "rude and short-tempered" waitresses with ones who were merely "sassy." I cannot imagine that many of the crones who waited at Durgin when I was a sweet young thing - Gussie, Angie, Jeannie, Nina, Dotty F, Dotty L, Flo - a crew of largely cantakerous (Gussie and Jeannie were sweet exceptions) and pretty darned old - made the cut when "rude and short-tempered" gave way to "sassy."

With Durgin out of the running, there are so damned few career changes I could make that I often go on the lookout for jobs that wouldn't be suitable at all. But which are sure-fired interesting.

One such job was revealed to me in a recent New Yorker profile of Justo Algaba, a fellow, or, rather, hombre, who is "one of the world’s most respected matador tailors."

My first thought, of course, was how many of them are there out there. Well, ask and you shall receive: there are five in the whole wide world, all in Spain, and serving bull fighters in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, and South America.  As well as serving the costume departments of operas staging Carmen. (The New Yorker caught up with Algaba when he was in The City to outfit the Met's matadors.)

Opera aside, Algaba turns out over 150 bespoke "trajes de luce" (suits of light) each year, and has said that “Every suit I make is like having a child."

Well, I don't know nothing about birthing no baby, but I would guess most women who do might take exception to this comment.

Algaba, of course, could argue back that what he does is far more rare. And apt to get even more rare, now that Catalonia (home of Barcelona) has voted to ban bull fighting. (Homage to Catalonia, on that score, by the way.)

Nonetheless, Señor Algaba is, apparently, making a reasonably good living.

Big time matadors buy 6-10 new suits per year, and the suits go for about 3,000 euros.

What that will get you is something, well, tailor-made, fitting "like a second skin", and designed to meet the specific style and personality quirks of the individual matadors. Some, for example, consider yellow suits bad luck. Others are fine with it.

Algaba has been in the matador tailoring business for 45 years. The story of how he came to his profession is almost, but not quite, as interesting as how I got into high tech marketing. But that's a story for another day.

Originally set on becoming a pilot, when Algaba was 18,

...he saw a help-wanted ad for a tailor’s shop. He wandered in and encountered the famous bullfighter El Cordobés, who was being fitted for a suit.

At this very moment, Algaba had one of those epiphanies that has thus far eluded me, career-wise:

He remembered that, four years beforehand, he’d made a promise to himself that he’d either be a bullfighter or make clothes for them. And he’d forgotten about it until that moment.

“I believe very much in the destiny of a person,” Algaba said.

Lucky man!

I'm still trying to figure out my destiny as a person.

I do know if will have absolutely nothing to do with a needle and thread.  While I'm fine sewing on buttons, doing minor repairs, and hemming pants, I'm a complete washout when it comes to anything that involves measuring, cutting, fitting, or running a sewing machine. As with so many of the domestic arts, any interest in or aptitude for this one passed me by, making family stops at the psyches of both my older and younger sisters, but including me decidedly out.

When I was 11 or 12, I did attempt a sewing class at the Girls Club, and made myself a hideous hang around the house shift made out of what can only be described as apron material: cream background with purple and green cats on it. The yoke was completely tilted in one direction, and the overall effect was a muu-muu that one would have been more likely to find worn by an obese chain smoker living in a rusting trailer, than by a 12 year old girl in Worcester. Thus went any thought of a career as a seamstress, tailor, or fashion designer.

No, I never would have stuck (picador'd?) it out as a tailor for matadors. No self-respecting bull-fighter would have been caught gored in anything I came up with. And I wouldn't have wanted to have anything to do with killing bulls anyway. So there!

Still, it was interesting to find that there is such a job out there.


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