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Georges De Paris, Tailor to Presidents

His clothes may have been seen by more people than any other tailor on earth. His name isn't known to most people. But on Tuesday, countless millions will see his work, as President Bush gives his State of the Union speech in a hand-made suit from Georges De Paris.

Georges De Paris is the unofficial tailor to the presidents. He's clothed every chief executive for the past 40 years, starting with Lyndon Johnson. It's not a full-time job, just an offshoot of his tailoring business at a small shop a stone's throw from the White House.

De Paris looks a little like Gepetto, NPR's Kitty Eisele says, with tape measures around his neck, a pincushion he wears on his wrist and wavy, white hair. "As he works, he's surrounded by half-made suits; hanging everywhere are sleeves and lapels and jacket fronts, all inside-out, stitched with basting thread or marked by chalk," Eisele says.

De Paris studied for his profession in Marseilles. It was a love affair with a young lady that brought him to Washington -- but the romance failed and he found himself without a home and without his savings. De Paris slept in a park near the White House for three months before finding work as an assistant tailor. He saved enough money to buy his own sewing machine -- one he still uses today -- and to open his own shop.

It wasn't long before he was "discovered" -- a client from Congress recommended him to President Johnson. De Paris' reputation grew through word of mouth. The White House valets got to know him, and when new presidents came to town, they called De Paris to come over.

As for the various presidents' taste in suits, de Paris says "presidents all prefer dark colors." He gives the current inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. high marks for taste in suits.

"He knows very well the quality, style... like Ronald Reagan, he knows how to dress," De Paris says.

But asked if he can tell someone's party affiliation by the clothes they order, De Paris is circumspect. "I want to stay away from the politics," he says. "I want to be a tailor."

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