Our daughter, now “four and a half and three quarters,” is off to kindergarten next fall. But which one? There are half a dozen New York private schools that are as good as any on the planet, and if we had to choose, it would be an agonizing decision. But we don't kid ourselves: We audition, they choose.
And they don't just choose the kid. Before they get around to interviewing the applicants, the schools give parents a tour and an interview --- an experience that can run into two hours.
Our kid --- bright, polite, perfect in every way --- is surely capable of winning her own game. That takes considerable pressure off us. Still, we want to make a good impression.
This means: wardrobe review.
For women, this can be daunting. I heard about one mother who went to McLaughlin and said, “I need something for school interviews.” To which the sales person replied, “Which schools?”
My wife is a resourceful shopper with a strong sense of self. It wasn't easy to assemble an appropriate outfit --- have you seen what's in the stores? --- but she didn't put herself through the kind of ordeal some other mothers of kindergarten applicants have shared with us.
Our fiercely independent daughter was more problematic: She likes to choose her own clothes. That self-reliance is admirable. It can also lead to a costume --- tie-dyed t-shirt, leopard corduroy skirt, striped tights --- that makes her look as if she escaped from a children's production of “Mother Courage.” Karen astutely made an end-run here: She took Helen to Jacadi, they picked out a simple, comfortable dress that looks great, and agreed that it would be the Official Dress of School Visits.
Which left only me.
After a parents' visit at a private school in the 'hood, a friend worried that tailoring might have accidentally damaged their son's chances. “Someone said they like English suits,” she told me. “My husband wore Italian.”
Hmmm. I have half a dozen classic suits in my closet, but ever since I became an Internet entrepreneur, I haven't had reason to wear any of them --- hell, I've rarely had reason to wear a tie. I'd feel odd in a suit. When I need to “represent,” I wear a blazer, oxford shirt, flannels and Weejuns: the uniform I started wearing when I was 15.
My current blazer is from J. Press. It has three buttons --- it couldn't be more traditional. But it's taken a lot of wear, and so, setting aside Thoreau's injunction against enterprises requiring new clothes, off I went to buy a blazer.
Blazers have always been lucky for me. As a prep-school kid hunting for summer jobs, a blazer, white shirt and rep tie made me seem a lot more comme il faut than my last name might suggest. In my twenties, as a struggling writer, my single sport jacket --- the blazer --- gave me a modest air of success. Decades later, with my AARP card hidden deep in my wallet, a blazer is a kind of connective to my insouciant youth.
But which blazer?
A zillion years ago, Joel Schumacher --- now a film director, but once a genius at fashion display and marketing --- taught me the virtues of “one good thing.” His thesis: It's not important to have a lot of stuff. It's important only that you have very good stuff. Better to buy one great blazer and wear it every day than, for the same money, score a half-dozen jackets at Daffy's.
By “one great thing,” he and I meant the best possible blazer: fine wool, single breasted, two buttons, center vent.
Where would you look for such a jacket?
Single-Breasted Navy Blazer
from Ralph Lauren, $995.
Exactly: Ralph Lauren. I have owned Polo blazers in the past, and have never succeeded in wearing them out --- or, for that matter, losing a button. It's been years between visits to the Lauren store; I braced myself for a thousand dollar price tag. What I did not prepare myself for: a shiny worsted, with side vents.
On to Brooks Brothers, which stocked blazers at several prices. The top-of the-line version was $900, and it looked every penny. I had to force myself to go next door to Paul Stuart, where I found essentially the same jacket for $200 less.
We had our first interview the other day. I was all kitted out, in the noble tradition of the Lady Margaret Boat Club, in Cambridge, and the Henley Regatta, and the HMS Blazer. I was feeling quite good about myself until I spotted another parent from Helen's class at nursery school. He was wearing a cashmere sweater and flannels. And he too seemed quite comfortable.
Can anyone tell me: How does The [name withheld] School feel about Paul Stuart blazers?
by Jesse Kornbluth
editor of HeadButler.com