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Services: Best Cleaning, Mending, and Alterations

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For 50 years, onetime dressmaker Nelson Ferri (766 Madison Avenue, near 66th Street; 988-5085) has been making impeccable alterations for clients referred by virtually every Madison Avenue boutique -- ladies who lunch and celebrities like Paul Simon, Steve Martin, Joanne Woodward, and Bill Murray. Ferri's fourth-floor atelier is a trip back in time; his old-world approach to tailoring keeps the connoisseurs coming back. It's an open secret that Armani seamstresses refer clients here during their busy sale seasons.

To restore a moth-hole-riddled antique shawl, follow Hermès and Chanel salespeople to the nimble-fingered fabric wizards of the French American Reweaving Company (119 West 57th Street; 765-4670). Since 1930, weavers here have pulled thousands of loose ends from the edges of holes and woven fancy threads back to their original glory. Reweaving starts at $45 for a cigarette burn on a cashmere sweater and rises quickly. The easiest fabrics to fix are wool and cashmere knits; synthetics, silks, and gabardines are tougher, so take the experts' word for it if they tell you to lay something to rest.

Where does a party girl run when she splashes sorbet on her prized Tuleh ball skirt? Fashion Award Cleaners (1462 Lexington Avenue, near 94th Street; 212-289-5623) counts as clients the Sotheby's fashion department (for tarnished, moth-eaten couture gowns), the Vogue fashion department (for borrowed designer cargo pants that went for drinks at Veruka), the Chanel Boutique, and various socialites (for those ball skirts). All work is done on the premises, ladies' garments by hand; and, for delicate jobs, owner Jerry Leeds forgoes harsh solvents. "I tell Jerry if a dress is older than it looks, and he cleans it by hand without chemicals," says Sotheby's fashion director Tiffany Dubin. Prices run from $37.50 for a basic dress into the thousands for detailed gowns ("the ones Tiffany sends here," Leeds says).

Writer Amy Fine Collins, a fixture on the vintage-fashion auction circuit, recommends Montclair (1331 Lexington Avenue, near 88th Street; 289-2070), for hard-to-clean finds like a yellowed white coat her grandmother wore in the sixties. "Everything always comes back perfect," she says. Cleaning is on the premises, mostly by machine but by hand when a fabric warrants special attention. Services include chemical-free "wet cleaning" and leather cleaning (which is sent out). A basic dress job starts at $8. "I send them everything," says Collins, "my Geoffrey Beene, my daughter's clothes, vintage things."


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