Off Highland Road, just a few blocks from the historic North Gates of LSU, stands what looks like a little wooden home painted appropriately gold with a purple door. Inside, where one might expect a living room, there are numerous little machines and plenty of different types of clothing carefully hung up – jeans, jerseys, suits, even wedding dresses. Here, Oscar Reyes meticulously works on his diverse clienteles’ garments and has been for quite sometime as owner of El Bengal Tailor.
Forty-four years ago, in 1972, Oscar Reyes’ father, a tailor himself, started what would become the now second generation family business, in its same location, less than a mile from LSU’s campus. At the time, however, the rest of his family still lived over a thousand miles away in El Salvador until 1976 when they were granted residency in the United States.
“He worked for it, I would say about twenty years before he passed away back in ‘95, and ever since I got into the business and kept it going by myself,” said Reyes. “It’s a tradition that’s kind of dying. Not a lot of people are doing it. It’s something that I am real proud to be continuing.”
Reyes developed an appreciation for tailoring at a very young age after watching his father construct all of his clothes for him – pants, shirts, even his tuxedos.
“I learned from the best. He was a true tailor. He would make suits from scratch.”
Like his father, today, Reyes works on all different types of clothing for all walks of life. Lawyers from downtown bring him their suits, fraternity and sorority members ask for his help with their costumes for parties, the Golden Band from Tigerland and sports teams give Reyes their uniforms, and even brides trust him with their dresses. However, regardless of the type of clothing, Reyes always has one goal in mind for his customers.
“My job is to make sure that when you walk out of here, you’re going to be feeling good about what you are wearing.”
In his workshop, Reyes has various machines for the different types of attire he tailors. One works on clothes like jeans, which have a regular, visible stitch, another specifically services dresses, which have a blind stitch, and finally one deals with delicates such as silks.
While Reyes clearly loves his profession, it still definitely comes with its fair share of stressful moments. In fact, Reyes shares how just a few days earlier a bride desperately brought in her dress for alterations right before her wedding.
“There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to wedding dresses. It’s the biggest day of their lives.”
Luckily, Reyes once again saved the day.
“For me, the fulfillment of being a tailor is knowing when someone walks out of here feeling good about themselves,” said Reyes. “There’s nothing better than when you grab something out of your closet and you know it’s going to fit and you walk out and you don’t have to worry about how it’s going to look, I think that’s the best feeling for me.”