The gift of a tailor is not just in the ability to mend fabric, but too alter it, and to make the item stronger through alteration.
A well-worn pair of pants may come into the shop with a burst seam, but it will leave ready for another decade of use.
Pilar Dietrich opened Claremore Tailor Shop in 1992, in a building that once stood behind Kum&Go on Blue Starr Drive.
In the years since, Dietrich’s gift for making things stronger through alteration has been evident, not just in her work, but in her family, community, and personal health.
Dietrich was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico, where she apprenticed for years in her mother’s shop.
“I’ve been doing this ever since I can remember,” she said, recalling sitting by her mother’s side with a needle and thread.
It was in Mexico City where she met, and fell in love with, a man from Texas. They married and moved to San Antonio in 1975.
Dietrich found work as a tailor, had two children, and became a U.S. citizen in her own right.
Then, in 1990, her father-in-law’s brother convinced the family to move to Claremore, where they could raise their children in a quiet town with good schools instead of a bustling city.
“To tell you the truth, in the beginning, I didn’t like Claremore,” Dietrich said. It was nothing personal; it was just so far away from everything she loved.
Her feelings quickly changed as she saw her sons growing happily and found an opportunity to open her own business and earn a living with her trade.
With early success at Claremore Tailor Shop, Dietrich became Claremore’s Tailor, and the exclusive tailor for the Claremore Men’s Shop. She developed dozens of regular customers and was the go-to woman during prom season.
Then, in Oct. 2004, she was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer.
With quickly degrading health and a less than optimistic prognosis, Dietrich closed Claremore Tailor shop, sold the building and stepped back to focus on her health.
Dietrich was on chemo treatment for two years, lost her hair twice, and had to be cared for around the clock by her children and, by then, ex-husband.
She was bed-ridden so often that regular customers assumed she died.
At times she felt like she might.
“I was very sick. I didn’t think I would make it, but somehow God gave me a second chance,” Dietrich said.
“I started getting better and better with the help of my kids and ex husband,” she said. “If it was not for them, I probably would not be here. They were with me every second of my sickness.”
Cancer free, hair grown back, and in better health than before, Dietrich decided to re-open her tailoring business.
Blue Starr Tailor Shop opened in 2011, across from Hillcrest Hospital
Old regulars came in, happy to see a new tailor in town, only to be elated to find their trusted friend was alive and well and back in business.
Today Dietrich sees around 50 regular customers, annual prom and homecoming business, and continues to tailor for the Men’s Shop.
“I really appreciate their taking me back again and keeping me busy all year round,” Dietrich said. “I really appreciate their business.
Almost daily, after work, she goes to Fitness Time for Ladies for kickboxing and zumba classes.
She works long hours most days of the week in order to dedicate her weekends to spending time with her grandchildren and great-grandchild.
“My family is growing like crazy with all these babies,” she said.
When she gets the opportunity, Dietrich still likes to travel to Mexico City to spend time with her siblings, nieces and nephews, or to San Antonio to visit her brother there.
And every year, the week before Christmas, Dietrich hosts her children, grandchildren and all their friends at her home, and makes 200 red, green and sweet tamales for all her guests.
Fabric is mended with thread. Health is mended with care. Relationships are mended with quality time and good food. And Pilar Dietrich is a master at all three.