February 19, 1979 12:00 PM

Brian Streidel, 26, is a fifth-generation shmatte dealer—Yiddish for “rag”—and he’s turned his rags to riches. By the age of 12, he was earning up to $75 a day in commissions selling hand-me-downs in his parents’ Like-Nu warehouse in Washington, D.C. Now he runs the antique clothing division of the family firm (now called Classic Clothing Ltd.). Operating out of a renovated, three-story pre-Civil War slaughterhouse in Washington’s North East section, he presides over racks, bins and barrels of pleated trousers, bowling shirts, furs and even striped English prison garb. “People enjoy themselves so much they even spend an entire day here,” finds Streidel. He started out to be an accountant, but dropped out just short of an accounting degree in favor of three years in England researching sartorial antiques. Admitting he made the right choice, he says, “I would have been a lousy accountant. I can’t even balance my checkbook.” With business booming, he recently opened a second warehouse in fashionable Georgetown, featuring such back-in-fashion items as camisoles, tuxedos and collarless shirts. Nostalgia aside, their appeal is quality, but Streidel fears prices are going out of sight. “Some are almost as high as new clothing,” he laments. “That takes all the fun away.”

Elizabeth Masterton, 27, says that if anyone had told her she would wind up in the auto industry, “I would have laughed and told them they were crazy.” But since 1976 Masterton has been the Ford Motor Company’s first female textile designer. Beth earned a master’s in product design from North Carolina State (where her dad, Al Michaels, was long a football coach) before being wooed to Ford by the challenge of improving auto interiors. “Americans tend to spend a lot of time in their cars and view them as miniliving rooms,” she says. “They equip them with stereo, reclining seats and other luxuries. But car interiors must have park-bench durability as well as comfort.” Masterton notes that her fabric choices must stand up to lab assaults by chocolate, lipstick, plus spilled mustard and coffee. Since car interiors are designed several years in advance, her toughest problem is to try to lead fashion trends rather than follow them. Married to Jamei Master-ton, a natural foods distributor, Beth is proud of her advancement “in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry. Bringing women in to help create the car is a sign,” she says, “that the industry is finally becoming aware of women as decision-makers in the marketplace.”

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