Mad Men's Allison Leach Designs Gorgeous Uniforms for First & Hope; Local Designer Martin Zepeda Creates LBD for Tar Pit
First & Hope Staff at First & Hope model their uniforms (L to R): A dining room assistant/runner uniform, a floor-length hostess gown, a bartender/server uniform, a cocktail server mini-dress, another bartender/server uniform, a server dress and a female bartender dress.
Remember when bagels were health food, fusion hadn't become shorthand for pan-ethnic unoriginality and we were all giddy with the possibility of cereal bars as meal replacements? The 1980s are long gone. So why are their bland, neutered waitstaff uniforms still with us?
Not that we're suggesting a return to the humiliating dirndls of yore (we have the Red Lion for that) or Emilio Pucci-designed pop-mod dresses and pillbox hats (if only). But somewhere between Hooters short-shorts and the standard black slacks, white shirt and black tie, it would be nice to see a waiter's uniform with a little panache.
Two new supper clubs, First & Hope and Tar Pit, have extended their edenic Jazz Era vibe to include the clothes their staff wear. In the process, they've raised the bar in the sedate world of waitstaff uniforms and demonstrated that sophisticated and functional are not mutually exclusive.
At Tar Pit, local designer Martin Zepeda created a sexy black sheath dress for female waitresses and bartenders. Hitting just-above-the knee, it features a deep but narrow U-neck with extended cap sleeves that bring out the dress's graceful silhouette.
A waitress at Tar Pit model's Martin Zepeda's black sheath dress.
At larger and more elaborate First and Hope, general manager Steve Scott Springer brought in Mad Men assistant costume designer Allison Leach. Working in a palette of gray and black, she designed four different dresses for the female waitstaff: a black wrap dress for bartenders, a knee-length charcoal dress for servers, a light silver baby doll dress for cocktail servers and a darker silver floor-length gown for hostesses. She also created two uniforms for the male waitstaff.
It's a credit to both designers that Zepeda's little black dress and all four of Leach's gowns look like they could be sold in a fancy department store. In fact, female patrons frequently ask the staff at both venues where they got their dresses.
"Jay [Perrin] wanted me to know his inspiration was the 1940s, when the glamour and silhouette of the woman was so simple and elegant," Zepeda says. "He wanted something very simple."
Creating dresses that would look as good on a size 0 as they would on a size 10 was a crucial consideration for both designers. Every house starts with a good foundation, and Leach is a woman who knows her way around a bullet bra and a full-body girdle. "That hourglass silhouette wasn't magic, and it certainly wasn't natural," she says. To achieve some of the shaping and the support of classic foundation garments without their physical constraints, Leach chose fabrics with four-way stretch.
Aside from the black bartender dress, all the First & Hope dresses are made from a rayon-spandex combo. "It's halfway between a swimsuit and dance leggings," Leach says. "At first, the girls didn't know if they could work in it. Then they put it on and said, 'Oh my god, it's so comfortable.' It really fits every shape beautifully, yet it's extremely moveable."
Fabric was also a tough choice for Zepeda, who selected a blend of 75% polyester and 25% cotton. "The dress was cut on the bias, which gives it elasticity, and the bias cut adjusts to your body, so it's flattering on different figures," Zepeda says.
Working on the bias, however, presented challenges. "The line of the fabric was hard for me to hide," Zepeda explains. "Usually, there are darts that go in at the waist [to address] the excess fabric." But Zepeda wanted this little black dress to have a clean line. "That's why you don't see darts anywhere else in this dress, because I put all of that into the neck."