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Aida Aras, tailor in Nan Duskin and Toby Lerner boutiques, who later started her own business, dies at 86

Aida Aras, 86, of Wayne, a dressmaker who did alterations for upscale boutiques in the downtown and mainline, and who also had her own tailoring business at home until last year , died in her sleep in her apartment on Monday, September 7. 6.

She was a “force of nature” who had a cuteness that could charm anyone she met, said daughter Arlene Aras.

And she charmed everyone, from the high-end clients who came to her house with ball gowns to touch up at 9 or 10 p.m. to the maintenance workers in her building.

“She was very full of life and always had good intentions and was very involved in her community,” her daughter said. “She knew everyone and everyone knew her.”

She lived independently and made dresses for proms and weddings until the pandemic forced her to shut down her business last year, at the age of 85.

An immigrant from Turkey, of Armenian Christian origin, Ms. Aras arrived in the United States in 1976 when she was in her early 40s. She was the mother of two teenagers. Her husband joined the family later.

“She saw the United States as a place where people had this freedom and this opportunity,” said Jon-Jorge Aras, her grandson. “She had the feeling deep in her heart that her children would be more successful here.”

When Ms Aras and her children moved to Drexel Hill, her husband stayed in Turkey for a while to continue his business.

She was also very opinionated and loved to watch news programs on television.

“She was a very assertive person,” Jon-Jorge said. “She was the kind of person who wasn’t going to hold back what she was feeling.”

Yet she always had a warm, welcoming smile and a bubbly personality.

“She used her confidence and kindness to get her foot in the door” of those toney shops like Nan Duskin and Toby Lerner, he said.

The Fox Historic Costume Collection fashion website described the Nan Duskin as “an internationally renowned boutique that has dressed the high society of Philadelphia”.

For 30 years she worked in boutiques in Center City, Strafford, Haverford and at Lord & Taylor in Bala Cynwyd. She then worked from home for the clients she met in these shops.

At first, Ms. Aras found work as a tailor in a dry cleaners. But customers told her she should work for nice shops because of her skills.

So, armed with both the ability to speak French, in addition to three other languages, and a keen sense of fashion, Ms. Aras disguised herself and visited the shops her customers spoke to her about to gift her sewing services.

“Istanbul was once much more cosmopolitan,” said Arlene. “Because my father was a record producer, they were always invited to musicals or opera events when artists and great European composers came to Turkey. They were also invited to foreign consulates for dinners.

“My mother could take a simple black dress and in her youth she looked like Audrey Hepburn.”

Arlene said the family had received numerous calls and texts from her former clients, as well as from a maintenance worker at her apartment.

“He said, ‘Your mother was one of the nicest people I have ever met. She was always so grateful. On a hot day, she always offered us a cold drink.

Aida Aras was born in Istanbul, Turkey on October 7, 1934, to Kevork and Satenik Serif. She was the oldest of two children. Her father owned a famous delicatessen.

She attended school in Istanbul, where she studied French in addition to being fluent in Armenian and Turkish.

In 1957, she married music producer Onnik Aras. In 1974, when her children were teenagers, she traveled to the United States with friends and fell in love with the country, her grandson said.

After moving to the United States, she was so happy to become an American citizen that her family members nicknamed her “The Patriot”.

“She loved her country, its flag and its culture,” said Arlene. “She always said, ‘Where else in the world can you be yourself? You don’t have to hide your religion. You don’t have to hide your last name. You have nothing to hide.

However, she also maintained a strong love for Turkey.

“She kept coming back to visit. She was always happy to go and happy to come home, ”said Arlene. Her husband died in 2003, after a 46-year marriage.

When she retired from her boutique job, Ms. Aras’ clients persuaded her to sew and alter from home.

She turned a room into a full-fledged boutique, where she welcomed customers with tea, fresh baked goods, and Dove milk chocolates.

She also loved to cook and prepare Armenian dishes for her children and grandchildren, Jon-Jorge said. The day before her death, she baked a fruit cake for her daughter.

She loved to travel and was a member of the St. Sahag & St. Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church in Wynnewood.

Besides her daughter and grandson, Ms. Aras is survived by her son, Aret Aras, her brother, three other grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

A service commemorating his life was held on Friday September 10.


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Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds

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