Modern Living: Pat's Wardrobe Mistress

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She is small, round, gray-haired and rosy-cheeked. In a crowd of women shoppers, she would be totally indistinguishable. But then, this particular woman never shops in a crowd; her purchases are made in the hush of showrooms and hotel suites, and each dress is pondered as if it were a matter of national policy. Which, in a way, it is. For she is Mrs. Richard Nixon's personal fashion scout, Commissioner of Coats and Suits, Wardrobe Mistress to the First Lady of the Land.

Her name is Clara Treyz—not exactly a household word, except at the White Household, where the 66-year-old Westchester County woman is as familiar a mainstay as the North Portico. Pat Nixon is not the first First Lady Clara Treyz has helped dress: Lady Bird Johnson became client No. 1 when Neiman Marcus President Stanley Marcus introduced her to Miss Treyz, a longtime and highly valued consultant to his store. It was only a hop, skip and a new Administration to her current post with Mrs. Nixon.

Advice and Consent. The inaugural ballgown cinched the job. A deep yellow satin formal designed by Harvey Berin, the dress was warm enough (with matching jacket) to be worn outside, festive enough for the occasion (with embroidery and beading), comfortable enough (with an easy, straight skirt) and photogenic enough (with simple, straight lines) to win Mrs. Nixon's wholehearted approval. The fashion industry was less enthusiastic. "A dress for the mother of the bride," sneered Designer Chester Weinberg. "A schoolteacher on her night out," snipped Mollie Parnis.

Mrs. Nixon paid no attention, and in an unprecedented maneuver hailed by budget-minded women the world over, wore the dress at least twice more in public, instead of handing it over straightaway to the Smithsonian Institution. Miss Treyz explained mildly: "The Nixons are middle-American people who don't want to be flash-in-the-pan. They don't want to be jet-setty or way out. Mrs. Nixon must be ladylike." To this end, Clara Treyz advises, with Pat's consent, clothes that tend toward the bland and predictable, styles that hover on that precarious border between classic and passe. Jackets skim the body, neither hiding nor defining; sleeves cap the arm, and skirts end at mid-knee, neither here nor there. Pants do not suit.

As for color, pinks and pale greens are favored, and fans of those shades call them soft and feminine. Women's Wear Daily calls them "icky-poo pastels." Miss Treyz also confirms Mrs. Nixon's inbred frugality: "I want her to get her money's worth," she says. No chance, then, for a $2,000 Norman Norell evening dress (Jacqueline Kennedy's choice as First Lady), or any of the $600 Mollie Parnis outfits beloved by Lady Bird Johnson; Mrs. Nixon spends only about $145 for a daytime ensemble, $300 to $400 for a formal gown. Miss Treyz's fee is the difference between the wholesale and retail price. When a choice is made—as many as 50 possibilities are shown to Mrs. Nixon by designers who drop into her New York hotel suite at appointed hours during her stay—the dress is custom-made and withdrawn from production to avoid a run-in with a ditto.

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