Jaeger’s six-story building was, surprisingly, an emporium of plate glass and chrome modernism, a minimalist setting that featured the classic, tailored clothing as the main attraction. Each floor was divided into small, open departments categorized by style and fabric, and all separates, sweaters, and outerwear were color-coordinated for easy mixing and matching.
“We have a surprise for you,” Mrs. Llewyn said. “Samples arrived yesterday for our autumn fashion show. It’s a beautiful collection!”
Dana glanced at Sarah and Maude, who were beaming. “We couldn’t wait to tell you, Dana,” said Sarah. “You will love everything! Let’s take a look! We set up a room on the second floor.”
“I’ll stop by shortly to see your selections,” the store manager said.
Dana followed Sarah to the Camel Room, where the autumn collection was arranged on racks. It didn’t take half an hour for Dana to make her selections: a gray and camel argyle lambswool sweater; full-cut gray flannel trousers; a side button lovat green kilt; and a raspberry cashmere sweater-set.
While Dana thought how much she loved the little black wool dinner suit that she no longer had use for, Sarah said, “Brett would want you to have that suit. It was made for you.” Dana was startled by the sudden jolt back to reality. She decided not to tell Sarah about the pending divorce. The news could wait for the next trip. The mention of Brett, however, was a sharp reminder of her heartache during the past few months and, in a split second, she decided she deserved the suit and said, “I’ll take it.”
While Sarah was writing up the order that would be sent to Dana in August, Dana overheard two American tourists discussing the Jaeger brand and how all the pieces coordinated perfectly with each other.
“This is such an efficient way to shop,” said a well-dressed woman who had a slight Boston accent. “All the matching pieces are within steps of each other.”
“I agree,” said her friend. “I spent a month carrying a sweater from store to store trying to find a pair of trousers in the same shade, and I finally gave up.”
This was precisely the point of the trending store-within-a-store concept, Dana thought. The average American woman was busy raising a family or launching a career and didn’t have the time or the patience to coordinate a separates wardrobe. If Helen thought Nantucket was a small idea, she just might go for a full-scale tailored British boutique using Jaeger’s philosophy of matching separates and accessories in one location. The fine fabrics and knitwear, combined with classic British style, would be compatible with B. Altman’s conservative image and customer. Unlike Jaeger’s contemporary interior, however, Dana envisioned a boutique more like Brooks Brothers, with dark wood paneling, brass lighting fixtures, and chairs upholstered in wool plaid and tweed fabrics. Management would surely consider the idea because in December of 1972 they invited Fortnum & Mason to open a token branch of its London gourmet shop on the eighth floor, and it had been a huge success.
Dana thought she had done enough damage with the little black suit and was ready to leave as soon as she paid the bill for her fall order. She visited Mrs. Llewyn and Maude before she left and thanked them for their warm hospitality. “I hope to see you in New York before too long,” Dana told the three women. “I’d love to show you B. Altman. I might even have a few surprises for you.”
Dana returned to the Lansdowne Club, her mind swimming with ideas and images for the British boutique. After ordering afternoon tea, she sat at the writing table and began planning a fall buy and Christmas promotion. If Helen jumped on board, they could open before Thanksgiving. After several minutes, she began sketching what the boutique would look like. She couldn’t do the drawing justice, of course—not like Mark and his brilliant ability to conceptualize—but she was excited enough to commit her dream to paper.
The fact that Helen might be positively apoplectic over the suggestion to resume and modify the build-out didn’t even enter Dana’s thinking.
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