Mr. Raja Daswani, my tailor, is explaining the difference between Washington men and New York men. In his 11th-floor suite at the J.W. Marriott hotel, Mr. Daswani flips through books of fabric samples.
He stops at a postcard-size swatch of black material. It's gridded with pinstripes of another shade of black -- if black can be said to come in different shades -- and it seems to be glowing.
"Fancy material with a sheen," he says, rubbing the fabric between his fingers. "In New York, they wear it with a sheen. Here? No."
In New York, they go for Italian silk in interesting patterns, he explains. "You try selling that here, and you'll sell maybe one or two."
And in London? Wilder even than New York, Mr. Daswani says, with acid purple linings that can stop traffic.
Mr. Daswani isn't complaining. The sober blues and dark grays of Washington are just fine with him. He'd be happy to make you a sackcloth suit, content in the knowledge that it would be a fine, custom-tailored sackcloth suit and that it would fit like a second skin.
Mr. Daswani runs Raja Fashions, a bespoke tailor in Hong Kong. Two or three times a year, he books a room in Washington, a regular stop on a near-constant world tour that had him in Boston last week and will see him in Chicago tomorrow, Beverly Hills next week and San Francisco after that. Then it's off to Great Britain.
He takes his 25,000 fabric samples with him wherever he goes (except on his annual trip to India to visit his guru, Sai Bab). Back in Hong Kong, he has 500 workers who start sewing as soon as orders are e-mailed from the field.
Mr. Daswani is a third-generation tailor. "I started very young," he says, "11 years old. I had to learn from the very scratch -- fitting, cutting -- otherwise you don't know how the suit will fit."
And fit is what Mr. Daswani is obsessed with. I invite him to appraise my store-bought apparel.
"That suit you are wearing, the shoulders are a bit too wide," he says in his clipped Indo-English accent. "And there's a big ridge at the back. All these we notice."
Last fall, after I saw his ad in The Post, I paid a visit to Mr. Daswani's hotel room. His associate, Amir Nazir, measured me, marking down not just my waist size and my inseam but my body's every imperfection. ("Left shoulder slopes forward" is just one of things it says in my permanent file in Hong Kong.)
And then I gave my credit card number to a man who lives out of a suitcase and has an address in Kowloon. Would I ever see my suit?
Five weeks later, a package arrived in the Post mailroom. Inside, folded into a tiny parcel, was a suit in black wool with a faint red stripe.
At $500, I don't think I'll be buying another one any time soon. But Mr. Daswani says that's one-third what it would cost me around here. And now I've got something to be buried in.
As long as I'm not buried in New York.
The 1903 annual report from the charitable outfit known today as Family and Child Services makes for interesting reading.
There's a photo of a girl, about 10, dressed in a dirty shift and standing next to an unpainted clapboard house. Underneath is the caption: "What good examples and influences does this alley girl have from which to construct life ideals?"
The caption for another girl's photo reads: "How [can we] expect this outcast to grow up a good woman when she sees only badness in her alley-court home?"
In another picture, two men and five children lean against a ramshackle fence and gaze warily at the camera. What is this place? "Den of vagabonds and petty thieves from which a friendly visitor rescued one crippled boy by appealing to his ambition, giving him evening lessons, getting employment for him and building up his ideals."
To our 21st-century eyes, these images and words might seem kind of corny or vaguely condescending. Can a "friendly visitor" really break the chain of poverty and despair?
That's what they called themselves: "friendly visitors." And in the same annual report is a photo of one, a woman in a white blouse, a long skirt cinched tight on her corseted waist, a flat Mary Poppins-style hat atop her head. The shutter caught her knocking on the door of a hovel.
In 1902, these do-gooders decided to help give the poor a temporary reprieve from their grim surroundings. They raised money to take parents and children on day trips as far as the streetcars would go. For many of the children, "these were their first car rides and their first glimpses of grassy lawns and meadows," the report noted.
In 1904, an overnight summer camp, Camp Good Will, was opened. A century ago, it cost $4.61 to send one child to camp for a week. It's a little more expensive now. The cost for a week at Camp Moss Hollow is $590. That the kids who attend don't pay anything close to that is because of this column's generous readers. Here's how you can contribute:
Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to: Attention, Lockbox, Department 0500, Washington, D.C. 20073-0500.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/camp. Click on the icon that says, "Make Your Tax-Deductible Donation."
To contribute by phone with Visa or MasterCard, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in KIDS, or 5437, and follow the instructions.
If you order the traditional cheesecake at McCormick & Schmick's Seafood today, or the upside-down apple pie topped with cinnamon ice cream at M&S Grill, the proceeds benefit Send a Kid to Camp.