As most husbands do at least once, Malcolm Whitman, textile man, onetime U.S. singles tennis champion and Davis Cup player, came home one night wearing a silly grin and an expensive tie. His wife thought the tie was awful. She said she could make a better tie herself,† Dared by her husband, she did—and he was proud to wear it. Friends wanted to buy ties like it; Manhattan's Abercrombie & Fitch asked Mrs. Lucilla Mara Whitman to design ties for their customers.

Mrs. Whitman, genteel, well-to-do daughter of an Italian countess, did not accept the offer. But after her husband...

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