Dressing for Success
My mother, Mary Martino worked at the White Tower Restaurant, as a waitress for 38 years. As a child I remember her ritual for getting ready for work. The same drill, every day, same time. The uniform she wore was white with red polka dots. She would spend an inordinate amount of time, washing, and soaking them in Sta Flo Starch that she bought by the gallon. She would then dampen the uniform and the apron to make it easier to iron.
She used so much starch , the drying uniforms and apron on the clothesline in the back yard were so stiff, it looked like the invisible woman was hanging on the line inside them. When she ironed the creases had to be just so. She would first start by ironing the collar, then the front of the dress, then the short sleeves. She would then place it on a hanger attached to the bedroom door. God forbid you brushed by it or touched it. The polka dot uniform sustained its stiffness over time as much as the woman who wore them, both unyielding in their formation.
She would iron the apron with slow moving but firm strokes and then gently fold the ironed section as though she were swaddling a baby in a blanket.
Polishing the white shoes became a meditation in which she seemed to lovingly stroke the shoes with the sponged applicator that came inside the familiar blue box of Sani White Shoe Polish, with the nurse on the front. She was adept at never, ever, getting any shoe polish on the outside of the bottle. She was a master of detail. The shoes were left out overnight to dry, the laces having been washed the night before and wiped down with the Sani- White polish.
She would get ready for work first by putting on stockings, the kind that were held up by garters, rolling the nylons the exact # of times on each leg and then would slip on the starched uniform under her half slip. I can still recall the sound the graze of the starched uniform made against her skin. She would put on the “sani-white” shoes, but carry her apron. That could only be put on when she got to work. Can’t wrinkle it. God forbid something wasn’t neat and tidy.
The crowning touch was when she placed a hair net in her bobby pinned combed out hair and then positioned the White Tower comb/barrett on top of her head.
I think she thought she was some sort of fucking princess.