Clothes Call

Style is in the eye of the beholder -- and you can finally behold some again at the Tabor Center.

But this man is not a typical customer. In fact, there is no such thing.

"I have a regular customer who's a janitor, who appreciates fine clothes," Ron says. "Every year it's one order: three shirts. A suit every three years or so. I have bus drivers, bellhops from the airport, general managers from sports teams. We really don't care who they are or where they've been. I particularly like the regular guy who's looking to take a step up."

Several times each day, Ron stands outside his store, politely scanning the increasing crowds for such a person. And he received, most recently....

Tailor made: Ron and Judith Neel have their business buttoned up.
Tailor made: Ron and Judith Neel have their business buttoned up.

"A trust-fund kid, obviously. He hadn't worn a suit before, and we were to make him some shirts, as well," Ron says. "Young men have not been taught to dress these days. He wanted the pants hanging down the way they do. I said no, it has to look somewhat traditional. He went away 'to think about it,' he said."

After all, what's the point of "custom-made" if a trust-fund kid can't have his suit pants made the way he wants them? Still, Ron was not prepared to bend. In the end, he didn't have to.

"Eventually, the young man came back," he says, with just the amount of satisfaction appropriate to the anecdote. "We're making him a nice suit."

"Nice" has a very different definition next door at Wet Seal, a store self-described as "trendy, very trendy, for women in their early twenties."

"Here is the nice thing to wear right now," suggests saleswoman Celene Gonzalez, showing off a long, droopy sweater-coat. "And maybe these" -- extremely low-rise jeans that are to be worn with a tiny T-shirt, fringed scarf around the hips and about six inches of bare lower ab. "You might wear this to go out clubbing, you know, or to the movies or just for hanging out. Suede is coming back, too. Big time." Wet Seal also has work clothes -- if you like to wear something very stretchy on the job, accessorized with an Austin Powers necktie ($12.50).

The store, for years known as Contempo Casuals and housed in the same space it occupies now, has always been a source for cheap and cool -- and young twenty-somethings aren't the only ones interested. One regular customer, a former model in her fifties, is currently obsessed with Wet Seal's wide selection of Shaft-style berets.

Like Ron Neel, Celene grew up in a small town on the plains. Also like Ron, she's completely involved in her work. The Wet Seal inventory is etched in her brain. She can lead you to the pretty dresses, the super-tight pants, the fluffy pink-heart slippers, the slave necklace. If you need fashion advice, she has it. "We'll help you find things to go clubbing in," Celene confirms.

And if you need time to amass the cash, fine. She'll be waiting.

"Usually, they buy one thing at a time, but not always. One time a girl spent $200! All at one time," she sighs dreamily. "For party clothes."

In the coming months, Robin Chotzinoff will commemorate Westword's 25th anniversary with 25 profiles of Denver today. Click here to read these stories.

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