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Michael Andrews Bespoke: Not Your Father's Custom Tailor

December 11, 2012

With over 5,000 luscious fabrics (mainly from Italy and England) to choose from, Michael Andrews Bespoke (MAB), Washington, D.C.'s newest custom men's shop is your new BFF (Best Fashion Friend). Trust is  a big part of every relationship, and when you meet Michael, you'll immediately feel you're in competent hands. This 'recovering corporate lawyer' has been suiting up New York's  most fashion forward men for the past six years before making  his way to our capital city.

Michael Andrews upstairs at MAB (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Michael Andrews upstairs at MAB

It was a love of fine tailoring and not being able to find exactly what he wanted for his own closet that prompted a career change and a wardrobe with his own private label, one you'll want to call your own.

After opening at the end of October, their new downtown location on the second floor of a Dupont Circle row house is a place for private consultation and fittings. Designed by Meg Tawes, MAB's charcoal walls and warm wood finishings is a bold and cozy private space so inviting, you'll want to ask about the dinner menu.

Focusing on the "top level of customization, especially for the hard-to-fit," Michael and his team make every effort to be their clients' "stylist, guiding them through all their purchases to make the right choices for them. While accesories are not our focus," says Michael, "we provide them as a service for clients to complete their wardrobe."

Carly Phillips and Andrew Michaels (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Carly Phillips and Andrew Michaels

As Michael told The Georgetown Dish, "We love fashion, the slim fit, and contemporary aesthetic." After going 'full-time' in August of 2008, he grew the company 40% at the height of the recession was something of a miracle. But, as he explained, "Every career coach was advising clients to get a great new suit for for interviewing. And for those who still had jobs, looking great was especially important."

And what advice would Michael give Washington men? "Guys in D.C. need to have courage," he says. "A lot of men are afraid to step outside the box. They're not going to get fired for wearing a litle color." One bold move can have a domino effect. "Soon everyone in the office is dressed to the nines."

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

The biggest trend is a slimmer fit. Moving away from 'big boxy suits,' it's most important to have the right fit. Double-breasted, heavier weight fabrics like tweed and corduroy. Michael was waring a dashing brown three-piece fine wale corduroy suit with brown-and-white checked lining during our interview.

As for shirt collars, "they should go with the face. Wide face, narrow collar."

See for yourself. Like dining in your favorite restaurant, it's best to call ahead. "After all, we're in the hospitality business. If you don't have an appointment, no one gets the service they want."

(Photo by: Michael Andrews Bespoke)

Operations manager, stylish Carly Phillips will be there to greet you. "Getting to see all our clients' different tastes makes this so much fun." Custom suits are avaialble in 'three levels of distinction': Ultimo (starting at $2,395), Primo (starting at $1,395) and Entrade (starting at $995).

Michael Andrews Bespoke is located at 1604 17th Street , NW. Tel: 202.350.9001



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Kitty Kelley's 'Capturing Camelot'

November 29, 2012

Growing up fixated on all things Kennedy (especially Jackie's French style and jet-setting lifestyle), I devoured every image, pre, post and during Camelot. To this day, I cherish my collection of commemorative Kennedy magazines dating back to 1964.

(Photo by: kittykelleywriter.com)

Even decades after learning intimate family details that forever altered the myth, I remain insatiable. I really thought I'd seen everything ever published, until now.

Kitty Kelley's poignant and intimate photographic essay, Capturing Camelot: Stanley Tretick's Iconic Images of the Kennedys, introduces us to the man behind all those pictures forever pasted into our national family album. Not surprising, Tretick, Kelley's long-time friend was the one responsible for that one of John-John hiding under his father's desk in the Oval Office. It was taken in October of 1963.

(Photo by: ©Estate of Stanley Tretick, LLC. All Rights Reserved) "Caroline holds up a picture to Maria Shriver, who screamed "This is the President." Caroline disagreed: "No. No. That's my Daddy!"

"Seventy percent of the photos have never been published before," says Kelley. Has your friendship with Tetrick and seeing his archives changed your views of the family, I asked. After all, this internationally acclaimed author's first celebrity biography was Jackie Oh!, published in 1978 (three years before she met Tretick). "I've always been mesmerized by the Kennedys, a subject I've read alot about but my impression has not changed as much as it was expanded," says Kelley. "I'm much more appreciative of the public's need to embrace the First Family."

Through Kelley, Tretick shows us just how media-savvy both parents were about controlling the image shared with the world of their oh-so-enchanting young family. Air Force One, which was decorated by the First Couple was off- limits because the President "didn't want any cameras around because he said the pictures would come out looking like they were a rich man's plane."

The President (Photo by: ©Estate of Stanley Tretick, LLC. All Rights Reserved) The President

As Joe Alsop said of the President, "Two things make him nervous -- nuns and silly hats.' Tretick managed to capture the two seconds when Kennedy toyed with the idea of putting on a Sioux Indian Nation headdress. He did, however feel quite comfortable in a workman's hard hat because "he appreciated their acceptance of him as one of their own."

Navigating between Pierre Salinger and the First Lady for permission to photograph Caroline and John, Jr. wasn't easy. It took Jackie leaving for Greece for Tretick to finally photograph the President and his young son. You're probably already thinking of that photo, the two of them  in silhouette, hand-in-hand walking down the halls of The White House. The Look  magazine feature on the President and his son ran December 3, 1963. By then, the young widow was "grateful he had defied her orders and taken the photos." Every one of the 68 Look stories on the Kennedys we owe to Tretick.

Caroline and her mother, from the Look magazine JFK Memorial Issue (Photo by: ©Estate of Stanley Tretick, LLC. All Rights Reserved) Caroline and her mother, from the Look magazine JFK Memorial Issue

And while it wasn't always smooth sailing betwen photographer and family protector, that photo taken in a convertible where Jack brushes away strands of Jackie's hair, was her favorite because her husband was generally so reluctant to show affection in public.

We all now know how debilitating and extensive were the President's health problems. Take another look at all those shots of kids rushing to him from helicopters and across lawns and notice he stops short of lifting them. He couldn't. As Kelley points out, "The dichotomy of this handsome, young, glamorous President ... telling us it would be possible to land a man on the moon ... and then to see how much pain, physical disabilities he lived with."

With the ever-growing extended Kennedy clan, play time at Hyannis Port meant the kids could enjoy their favorite golf cart game, 'run over the photographer.' The photographer didn't mind. While the President loved golf, he did not like being photographed playing it, for fear of reminding the public of Eisenhower.

What's most revealing about Capturing Camelot is the sense of a real family trying to enjoy their private lives in their own style, ever cognizant of how the public image would define their legacy. To see, in real-time how cherished iconic images were created, often finessed  during a split second opportunity, by someone so clearly enthralled with his subjects, is a rare sentimental treat. A salute to Kitty Kelley who quietly shines the spotlight on her friend's treasure trove, giving us a richer, more nuanced view of Camelot.

Stanley Tretick died in 1999 at 77, three days after the death of John, Jr.

Kitty Kelley (Photo by: kittykelleywriter.com) Kitty Kelley

Meet the author Wednesday, December 5th starting at 6:30 pm at the  Georgetown Library (3260 R Street ) for a book signing and reception with Kitty Kelley.

"This is the first book I've written," explains Kelley, "that I'm shamelessly saying, 'Go ahead, buy it.' I was given this gift. I live in Georgetown, the Kennedys lived in Georgetown, and so all the proceeds are being donated to the D.C. Library.

$100 per person, includes a signed copy of the book and donation to the D.C. Public Library Foundation. RSVP to rsvp@dclfoundation.org or call 202.727.4943.

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Georgetown's American Lady: Susan Mary Alsop

November 12, 2012

At 2710 Dumbarton Avenue, “a plain yellow concrete cube, barely hidden by a curtain of ivy and clematis, a blemish on Georgetown’s streets,” Susan Mary and her political columnist husband, Joseph Alsop entertained in the 1960s during “Georgetown’s glory years.”

(If you live in Georgetown, you’re wondering ‘Where’s Dumbarton Avenue?’ Over the last couple of hundred years, the street/avenue has changed its name several times).

2720 Dumbarton Avenue (Photo by: Judith Beermann) 2720 Dumbarton Avenue

During Susan Mary Alsop’s 86 years of cross-continental marriages and love affairs, Georgetown was the base from which this descendant of one of America’s first families reigned as the grand dame of Washington society.

American Lady: The Life of Susan Mary Alsop is written by Caroline de Margerie, daughter of Susan Mary’s childhood friend. Aided by hundreds of personal letters and diaries, she shares her insights into the passions of a remarkable 20th century American aristocrat.

Bold-faced names weave through every chapter, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo, Noel Coward, Edith Wharton, Brooke Astor, Ho Chi Minh, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy.

Caroline de Margerie (Photo by: Jacques-Francoise Loiseleur des Longchamps) Caroline de Margerie

The great-great-great-granddaughter of John Jay, signer of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and first chief justice of the United States, Susan Mary Jay Patten Alsop was born in Rome to diplomat parents. Her childhood was spent in South America, Europe, Washington, New York, and Maine, where her family kept a summer house.

At 21 Susan Mary married Bill Patten, a Harvard graduate with asthma. This meant no military service and so Susan Mary’s mother got him a State Department job that landed the couple in Paris from 1945 until 1960, when Bill died.

During her years in the City of Light she met the love of her life, Duff Cooper, British ambassador to France. Cooper was the father of her son (she also has a daughter), but she kept it secret from him until he was 47.

Shortly after his death, Joseph Alsop, her husband’s Harvard roommate, proposed (by letter) to Susan Mary. While their union wasn’t perfect (he was gay and she still mourned Cooper) the timing was. Alsop needed a hostess and a built-in family and she needed security and a platform for social engagement. The Alsops’ was the only private home that President Kennedy visited on inauguration night, "stopping in for a bowl of terrapin soup" (the only thing in the kitchen at the time).

The power couple remained lifelong friends after an amicable divorce and Susan Mary continued to use her husband’s name to help launch her literary career.

At 56, she wrote her first book, To Marietta from Paris: 1945-1960, letters to her best friend, Marietta Peabody Fitzgerald Tree (Caroline de Margerie’s mother). She went on to publish three more books, and was a contributing editor to Architectural Digest.

1611 29th Street (Photo by: Judith Beermann) 1611 29th Street

She died in the Georgetown home at 1611 29th Street which she had inherited from her mother.

If Susan Mary were born 50 years later perhaps she may not have relied on men to propel her into a life of influence through entertaining and liaisons. (The lamb went cold at the Alsops the evening President Kennedy was in the garden, preoccupied with the emerging Cuban Missile Crisis). And she may have used her maiden name and started writing professionally decades earlier.

Christian Dior would send her free gowns and Lyndon Johnson "pinched her behind and exclaimed, Why does such a thin girl wear a garter belt?" Anorexic rather than fashionably thin may be what she’d be called today.

Her serial affairs with married men, not discussed or openly acknowledged may have labeled her a home wrecker rather than debutante-turned-mistress. Ironically no homes wrecked, no marriages ended.

Perhaps what’s most remarkable is that a woman so carefully bred to follow the rules, lived her life exactly as she pleased.

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