The Tailor Maid’s Beverly Nadine was recently interviewed and featured in the Palo Alto Patch! We hope you enjoy her interview, and click here for the original Palo Alto Patch article!
Beverly Nadine’s favorite job might be the wedding dress that had somehow grown too small for the bride – just hours before the ceremony.
“I think the dress had been altered by someone else,” Nadine recalled this week in her shop, The Tailor Maid, in Stanford Shopping Center. Perhaps the bride hadn’t tried it on after her final fitting; in any case, she didn’t realize until D-Day that she had problems.
She was from out of town, the wedding was that afternoon, and the dress didn’t fit.
“But her mom was one of my customers,” Nadine said. “So the daughter dropped off the dress that Saturday morning and we let out every seam the dress had. Two hours later, she picked up the let-out dress and went directly to her wedding.”
Not all Nadine’s stories are that deadline-driven, but many of them are that dramatic. Nadine’s staff of nine specializes in restyling outmoded and poorly fitting men’s and women’s garments, giving clothes that are “too good to throw out” but too weird to wear many more years of life. For years, The Tailor Maid was busy getting rid of huge shoulder pads; now the team shortens and refits the same de-shouldered jackets to achieve today’s leaner and more streamlined silhouette. Still other customers have lost a significant amount of weight, but can’t afford or don’t want to replace a closet full of suits.
“Really good clothing is not only expensive but hard to find,” Nadine said. “And some people just don’t like to shop.” The Tailor Maid staff will fit customers in their homes and pick up clothes for a surcharge, a convenience for people who have many clothes that need altering. The staff also makes custom slipcovers, bed and table linens, cushions and other soft furnishings from fabric the customer provides. Finally, The Tailor Maid alters clothes purchased from mall shops.
Nadine, a former real estate broker and longtime Palo Alto resident, knew since she was 9 that she would one day own her own business. “We’d play circus, all us kids in the neighborhood, and I would be the ringmaster,” she remembered. Oddly enough for someone who’s owned a seamstress business for more than 25 years, Nadine didn’t grow up particularly interested in design or fashion. Rather, she was intrigued by the challenge of making new clothes from old, comfortable clothes from not-quite-right ones.
“I’m a problem solver,” Nadine said. “What I like is changing things.”
The idea for Tailor Maid came from a similar shop Nadine saw on the East Coast; she opened in Stanford Shopping Center in 1985 in the former back rooms of the then-recently-defunct Joseph Magnin, accessed by the elevator off what is now the west entrance of Ralph Lauren. “I just didn’t see the point in starting in a strip mall,” Nadine said. “If you can’t make it in Stanford Shopping Center, you can’t make it anywhere.” Nadine’s first employee, “a brilliant Austrian woman,” taught her many of the practical aspects of the business, such as how to take measurements.
“I started at a really good time because there were not many women business owners,” Nadine remembered of the shop’s 1980s beginnings. “Banks were interested in lending to a woman-owned small business.” Palo Alto itself had a strong core of emerging businesswomen: the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce had a Women in Business circle with 100 members. And, of course, they all needed business clothes.
“The bows. The blue suits. The hems down to here,” Nadine recalled of the 1980s business dress code, which women ignored at their peril. “And nobody wore jeans, except to work in the yard. Women were trying to fit in by looking like men. Fortunately, it’s not necessary now.” Nadine became active in the Palo Alto chamber, serving as its president in 1991-92.
Since then, work clothing has become more casual, Nadine said, but it doesn’t necessarily need less alteration. Knitwear often needs darts and other shaping added “so it looks like it belongs to you, so it fits you.” Then there are the clothing transformations The Tailor Maid specializes in, such as making a tote bag out of a too-girly sundress or a chic cropped jacket from an intimidating ’80s-vintage black leather coat. Many customers bring in leather items, Nadine said, wanting to rework what has become a very expensive material.
“I have a great, great staff and we pride ourselves on our creativity,” Nadine said. “I’m gratified by how much trust I feel from my clients.”
What’s today’s equivalent of the dinosaur shoulder pad? “The waistband,” Nadine quickly said. For $50 or so, The Tailor Maid can remove the separate, confining strip of fabric that gives pre-millennial women’s pants and skirts that Oompa-Loompa look, removing pleats if necessary and restyling the garment with a lower, more contemporary waist. Recently, there’s been a growing business in getting rid of what Nadine calls “that flarey thing” at the hem of bootleg jeans. (The shop stocks many shades of orange and yellow thread to match the colored thread on jeans’ seams.)
“We can’t make bootlegs into skinny legs,” Nadine said. “But we can make them thinner.”
The Tailor Maid, Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA 94304; 650-328-8858. Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday noon – 6 p.m. Customers who mention Patch receive a 10 percent discount.
Thanks to Barbara Wilcox and the Palo Alto Patch for the feature!