It was about twelve when the telephone rang (so what's
new?). It was the management of the 'Miss World' contest, which was due
to be broadcast on live television at 8 p.m. "We're in trouble!" a very
worried voice screamed at me. "Aren't we all…" I answered sarcastically,
but I soon got off my high horse when the woman at the other end of the
line explained the problem, a real tale of woe….
A huge steel company had made the most amazing cape ever. They had somehow managed to knit it from shredded stainless steel - magnificent - but rather heavy! A director had one of the assistants try it on but it wasn't the weight that was the problem - the cape had torn his back and he was badly scratched. They needed a 'replacement' cape urgently and the show was going out live at eight! So there we were - no fabric, no design, no measurements, it was already after twelve and the Bee Gees' shirts still had to be made first.
It was nearly two o'clock when the fabric and the design finally arrived and I sent two of our alteration hands upstairs to assist two of my top tailors who, to say the least, were not very optimistic that the cape could even be made in such a short time. A cape is one of those garments, rather like a waistcoat, that is made 'on the reverse' and it all looks like a shapeless bundle until the very end when the whole garment is pulled 'right side out' through a little hole in the lining and voila! - it's made! However, a tailor in that day and age made maybe three capes in his lifetime. We also had two people from the show standing over and worrying the tailors, just getting in the way and slowing everybody down.
At one stage we needed to get an iron-on lightweight canvas lining from another establishment. The girl serving could see no reason to attend to us in front of the other customers and exhibited the classic 'There's others in front of you just as urgent, I'm sure' attitude. Our assistant had to seek out the store management and explain our situation in order to get served more quickly. With everything going off at once, the problems, and the television company phoning us every five minutes it was bedlam! The cape was 'turned' at approximately 6 p.m. and, by the time the tailors had finished the basic cape, it was nearly seven.
A black cab had arrived at 6:30 and was waiting - there was no other thing for it, the garment had to go. The double neck clasps would have to be attached on the way to the studio so, with two girls sewing away in the back of the cab, we could now only wait and see! There was nothing more I could do so I made my way home to view the outcome on television.
I watched as the final selections were made, the winner announced, and the moment of apprehension, then glory, as our cape was placed over the new Miss World's shoulders.
The twin clasps to the neck had turned out perfect! Then I screamed at the television "No! No! No!" but my TV has a habit of ignoring me….. the fool, the idiot who was putting the cape on her shoulders had attached the top clasp to the lower clasp and, obviously, it was then impossible to do up any more and the cape lost its balance. All that work, all that stress - and then this! Miss World was gyrating around the stage, crying for joy at winning, and all I could see was the untidy neck!