Yesterday afternoon, Jeff and I walked down to Maadi Grand Mall (MGM) to go tuxedo-shopping. We had been told by a friend that there was a good tailor there who could make Jeff's tux for the Marine Ball, and since we didn't know how long it would take, we decided that we needed to get moving on that. I also needed to get a rhinestone accent piece for my dress, and my tailor had told me that there was a store in MGM where I could find what I needed. I'd been there once, but only for a few minutes, and only on one floor, so I didn't fully understand what I was letting myself in for.
Jeff and I had a pleasant walk to MGM. The weather has started to cool off some. The temperature was probably in the low 80s, and there was a breeze, and it was shady most of the way. And it was comfortable inside, too; it must be air-conditioned.
We had no idea where in the mall we needed to go. The mall is pretty big, with maybe five floors. According to the internet, there are around 300 spaces for stores. Each floor is laid out around a central balcony. One or two rows of stores flank the balcony, and on each end there's a little maze with other stores. It can be a little overwhelming when you're searching for something specific but don't know the store's name and therefore can't really ask for help. I also noticed that the mall map didn't seem to have any store names, just numbered boxes to represent the stores.
We decided to start at the bottom and work our way up. We roamed the ground floor and saw two or three tailors and one thread shop. No sparklies in the thread shop, so no luck there. We also saw a food court, some scarf shops, some menswear shops (dressy and casual), some kids' shops, and of course, a lot of women's shops. Of these, many had western clothes, from casual to evening wear, and quite a few had gallabeyas, also ranging from casual to evening. On to the first floor . . . and the second . . . and on up. Somewhere in the middle--I forget which floor we were on--we spotted a larger-than-expected shop that had to have been where my dressmaker had sent me. One wall was covered with fancy threads and ribbons. Two walls were covered from floor to ceiling with boxes. Each box had a small, clear plastic bag on front that had samples of what was inside: decorative items that could be sewn onto clothing, drapes, or whatever. There were "useful" items like buttons, and there were purely decorative items. Most were gold- or silver-toned. Two or three were rhinestone. I had hoped for one piece, long and delicate-looking, like what was on the original bridesmaids' dresses. No luck there. But I found some small flower-shaped pieces and bought ten of them. If they're put in a wavy line, they should mimic the look I want. I don't think the dressmaker will use them all, but I'd rather have too many than too few. I was surprised at their cost--LE8.5 each. At current exchange rates, that's around $1.50 each. It was more than expected, but everything else on the dress was so inexpensive that I don't really mind. So my mission was accomplished; how about Jeff's?
All in all, we saw probably seven tailors. We had no idea which one had gotten the recommendation as a good, inexpensive tuxedo maker. We called our friend who had told us about him; our friend had never used him and didn't know where in the mall he was, just that someone had been pleased with his work. Jeff admitted that he really wasn't so keen on the idea of having one made without knowing that someone had had good luck with the specific tailor we were using, and I agreed. Jeff also admitted that he wasn't so keen on the idea of having one made in the first place; he'd rather buy one off the rack. It's easier.
So we went back to a men's shop that had had nice suits and one nice tuxedo in the window. A sales attendant came up to us immediately, and Jeff just said "Tuxedo?"
"Yes, yes. Here." He pulled out a nice, classic, conservative black tuxedo coat (no tails), with satin on the lapels. Jeff and I both liked the look of it. The salesman, however, took another look at Jeff, looked at the tag on the coat's sleeve, and frowned. He pulled out another coat and started trying to convince us that it was better. In reality, it was pin-striped. The lapel was the same material as the rest of the coat, except that it was bordered in satin. Jeff was a good sport; he tried it on and looked in the mirror. Neither one of us liked it so well. We told the salesman that we really preferred the other. He said that the only one they had in Jeff's size was the striped one. We prepared to leave the store. The salesman hurriedly told us to just wait a moment while he ran over and got on the phone. He came back with a downcast face, and we knew we'd be leaving.
We headed across the mall to another nice men's store; I think it was called Lorenzo's. This one didn't have a tux in the window, but the suits were really nice, so we were hopeful. We had seen tuxes in other windows, but they were . . . not so much Jeff's--or my--style. Very current and stylish . . . okay, to speak plainly, they were in line with some very UGLY fads. We wanted a classic look, in line with the suits we saw in this particular window. So we went in, and a salesman again immediately greeted us. Jeff used his one-word question again: "Tuxedo?"
"Oh, yes, yes. This way." The sales attendant led us to the back of the shop. Tucked away in a corner, there was a rack of tuxedos, all hanging nicely in their plastic bags to keep the inevitable dust off. There were boxes of vests, ties, and handkerchiefs stacked neatly on a table. Shirts of all colors were nestled in their plastic bags on shelves. The store looked similar to what I would expect of a nice store back in the States. The attendant showed us some vests. Some very modern vests. We finally found one that was more subdued, with a black-on-black pattern. It was available in medium or in 2X. I was doubtful, but Jeff pointed out that Egyptian men tend to be smaller than him, so the 2X may work. He was right.
The attendant eyeballed Jeff and said a coat size (I forget what, but it was in the sizing system we're used to). Jeff was doubtful but went along with it. The coat fit perfectly. It was a nice classic look. There were some random strings and fuzz, but when the salesman saw me start picking them off--partly to make sure they weren't attached and partly out of an uncontrollable impulse that most women seem to share--he quickly got most of them off. As Jeff turned around to look in the mirror, I spotted someting on the back of his shoulder: a pick in the fabric. The salesman was horrified. "Don't worry, I have another one, same size. No problem. The fit is good?" We agreed that we liked the coat, just not the pick, and like magic, a new one appeared. This one was in good condition--no, it was in excellent condition; the first one had been in good condition. The attendant asked Jeff his pant size--actually he asked Jeff if he was this size or that size (I don't know if Jeff really wants his pant size on the internet, so I won't say what sizes he named). Jeff indicated the larger, and the attendant frowned. He asked Jeff to try on the pants. Jeff disappeared into the fitting room.
While he was gone, the attendant laid the coat out on a table and showed me some black satin material and some fancy button covers. He said that we had choices: we could take the coat as it was, with plain lapels and buttons; we could have the lapels and buttons covered with a matte black satin to make it a little more formal; or we could have the lapels and buttons covered with a shiny black satin to make it really formal. He pointed out that the satin all could be replaced at any time; just bring it in. Around that time, Jeff came out, wearing his own clothes. The pants were too tight. While he was out there, I showed him the satin, and we agreed that if it was going to be a tux, it should be formal. Shiny satin it is. Once that decision had been made, the salesman ushered Jeff back into the fitting room, where he was to put the pants back on, too small or not, so the on-site tailor could get a look at them. A few minutes later, Jeff came back out and we chatted while the pants were let out.
Jeff tried the pants on again. Perfect fit in the waist. The attendant folded up the pants leg and asked my opinion of the length. I have no idea where the pant leg should hit the shoe. I just know it's too short when I see it flapping in the breeze when he walks, and it's too long when he steps on it. I deferred to Jeff's opinion. He deferred to the attendant's.
Next the attendant pulled out a white shirt. Back into the fitting room. Eventually we settled on a complete outfit, except that Jeff didn't need any socks and we have to check the shiny black shoes he currently owns to see if they'll look nice or if we need to buy him some more shoes too. The work on the coat and the pant hem will take three days, so we can pick it all up anytime after Tuesday night. I'll try to get Jeff to model for the camera.
So we bought a tuxedo for Jeff. The really nice thing: it cost about the same as what we paid for one of Jeff's suits back in the States. Just for reference, for those who may not know us all that well . . . we don't pay a lot for suits. We get nice suits, but not huge names, and we get them from outlet stores or off clearance racks. We've never paid $200 for a suit, and I doubt we ever will.
Ater our main goals at the mall were accomplished, it was time to just look around. We visited an electronics store and a Timberland store. Even before the mission was accomplished, Jeff hadn't been able to resist a computer store and a Nike store. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the mall. There's a lot more in there than you would think. The stores all seemed to be nicely maintained, and the salespeople are friendly and helpful. They spoke English, but they smiled when I attempted to communicate in Arabic. That's pretty common here in Maadi. You can get by without any Arabic (other than with taxi drivers), but the already-friendly people get just a little bit friendlier when you try to speak Arabic, even if you do mangle it.