For most of his life, stylist Isabel Bonner's father has woken up each weekday morning and put on a suit and tie. Those suits, and his careful attention to them, have been a lifelong source of grounding for her, and connection.

Photography_ Ithai Schori

Styling_ Isabel Bonner

Text_ Isabel Bonner


Each weekday morning for the past forty-five years, my dad has woken up and put on a suit and tie. He has worked on Wall Street most of his life. To me, his work uniform has always conveyed power and elegance. His suits, and he underneath them, gave my life a sense of order and safety, as most predictable things do. On stage during school plays, I would scan the audience for the structured shoulders, stiff white collar, and red tie that flagged his presence. 

When I was in high school, my dad and I commuted together on New York’s 2 Train, the Seventh Avenue Express. I often spent those early morning journeys completing last minute homework like reading sonnets with him for my Shakespeare class. But mostly I slept while he read the newspaper, my head resting on the soft, slightly padded shoulders of his suit jacket. 

On many evenings before bed, my dad and I would prepare his outfit for the next day. I would sit on the edge of the bed, my bare feet tucked into the gap between the mattress and the dark, antique frame, advising him on which tie and shirt paired best with which suit. He would present options from his vast tie collection based on the season or on which client he was meeting. I would run my fingers through the smooth silks of Hermès and Marinella. We would combine buttery yellows and baby blues with pinstripes, or deep reds with Armani greys.

I was in the fourth grade the morning of 9/11. There was smoke outside our classroom windows and a steady roll call for children to come to the front office. Still, it didn’t occur to me that anything was wrong until I saw my dad in the lobby wearing blue jeans — on a Tuesday. This was a truly abnormal sight. I immediately understood something very bad had happened. His suit and tie meant normalcy, routine and stability.  

The only other uniform my dad has ever worn is Lycra. He is a keen competitive mountain biker who dresses the part. And he fastidiously keeps, stores, and mends clothing. He still wears his college Levi’s from Vanderbilt in the 70s, and the knits from his year studying abroad in Denmark. Objects and clothing hold memories for him, so he treasures them, and, in turn, those items tell me stories about his life, which I treasure. At the end of the day, it is in the dark-navy pinstripe suit that I see him — strong, reassuring, laughing.



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