King says, “Okay. Cool. It’s just so esoteric. It’s amazing.”
The man looks confused, and King explains that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is a fraternal organization, not unlike the Freemasons. The coat, he says, is “Edwardian.” The man nods absently, watching King’s hands as he folds and bags red-and-black houndstooth-print pants. The man has purchased them for $36.
“Aren’t these buckles beautiful?” King asks.
Again the man nods.
When the couple has gone, King says to me, “I’d love to own one of those Odd Fellows costumes.”
Three long-haired teenage girls in halter-tops stand around a rack of sunglasses by the register. They’re spinning the rack and trying on shades, checking themselves out in a full-length mirror. Every ten seconds, one puts her hair up in a loose bun on top of her head while another shakes her hair free. Up and down the hair goes.
Meanwhile, King resumes his cash-register duties, ringing up customers and bagging their new/old clothes.
A woman who’s purchasing a blue-and-white dress says to King, “I think you dressed every single one of the men at a Mad Men party I went to. Every time someone would say, ‘Hey, where’d you get your suit?’ to one of the guys, he’d say, ‘Frock You.’”
I’m running my fingers over a slip at the front of the rack, priced at $24. It’s long, pink, and diaphanous — dying to be worn by a woman with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I tell King it reminds me of Betty Draper.
King says, “Mad Men has rekindled our interest in the early 1960s. That was a good era.”
He explains that his six years on the job at the shop have been an education in all things fashion-related.
“You become kind of an amateur historian,” he says.
An older woman in a purple paisley top lays a black-and-white polka-dot dress ($60) and a pillbox hat ($28) on the counter. King will later tell me she’s a “reenactor.” At the moment, she’s telling him about a costume party at the Corvette Diner. He suggests that she maybe add to her costume a pair of stockings with a seam up the back. She groans at the idea of stockings in this heat, then says that this particular party isn’t really her thing.
“I wear the corsets and the bustles,” she says. “That feels like a second skin.”
“Right,” King says, “it’s not your era.”
Later, he’ll explain that, for some, connection to a particular era is more about how the styles of that time fit their bodies. For instance, that woman might not care for the bias cuts of the 1930s because she doesn’t like how they fit her shape.
“Our greatest work of art is ourselves,” he says.
“Is that a quote?” I ask him. Did someone famous say that?
King shrugs. “Don’t know. I would assume so.” ■