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Pampering the male shopper

“They know what they’re looking for,” says Deborah Pisowicz, personal styling manager at Nordstrom in Cherry Hill. “They just don’t like to spend a whole lot of time searching.”

On any given day, customers in the men's department at the year-old Cherry Hill Nordstrom may include buttoned-down banker types, guys looking for an image makeover, the young trying to look a bit older, and the older seeking the fashion fountain of youth.

Watching over everyone - but only when her presence is requested - is Deborah Pisowicz, the department store's personal styling manager.

A dignified, perfectly groomed woman with a soft voice and a trace of Southern accent (she previously worked in the company's Charlotte, N.C., location), Pisowicz is skilled in the art of discreetly counseling men without appearing to guide their choices.

On a recent busy afternoon in the refined-meets-semifunk men's department, she was doing just that.

"I really enjoy working with men," she says, "because although they're sometimes very focused, they're also surprisingly open to suggestions about change."

First and foremost, men like their clothes-shopping streamlined, said Pisowicz, so having a trained eye to help with selections is generally welcomed.

Included in her services is a preliminary interview - even by phone - after which Pisowicz delivers appropriate clothes to a fitting room in advance. Called "building a dressing room," it's just another indulgence bestowed on men, for free, at Nordstrom - where customer service is practically a religion.

That's what Alfred Dansbury, an administrator for the city of Camden, discovered as he was guided by Pisowicz through the suit and sportcoat racks.

Dansbury, who generally shops alone, admittedly leans toward what he describes as a "conservative look," and had initially chosen a suit jacket that was a tad too small. So Pisowicz selected a traditional-but-hardly-boring navy transeasonal Canali suit. The trim-cut, two-button, double vent jacket clearly flattered Dansbury's athletic build.

For $1,595, all fittings and alterations are included, and a tailor is always on the premises, should the need arise for a fitting.

Pisowicz was quick to point out that Dansbury could liven up the suit with color, in a shirt or tie. "Little things have big impact," she advised.

But she wasn't finished. Pisowicz subtly demonstrated to Dansbury - showing more than telling - how certain looks, including flat-front pants, can flatter most builds and how "tone-on-tone" weaves can bring instant interest to a shirt.

"I like this," he said as he studied himself in a conservative suit. "You have a good eye."

But Pisowicz's advice always comes with the understanding that men these days are far more in touch with themselves than the stereotypical male shopper of the past. In other words, they aren't little boys waiting for someone to dress them.

"They know what they're looking for," Pisowicz said. "They just don't like to spend a whole lot of time searching."

In the end, Dansbury studied himself in the mirrors but left, deciding to think it over. Pisowicz showed no disappointment. "We all have to make our own decisions," she said.

One counter over, Wayne Streibich of Moorestown was making his final selections accompanied by his wife, Cynthia, who fills the role of personal shopper.

"She knows my taste, and she's good at spotting things I'd like," Streibich said.

The Dilworth Paxson attorney makes infrequent shopping trips, but he'll enter the fray when the seasons change, choosing Nordstrom because it's a "no-pressure kind of place." On this recent excursion, Streibich broke out of formal barrister mode with his favorite find: a casual shirt in purples and lavenders with contrasting paisley cuffs. He also chose five-pocket, dark-wash, straight-leg jeans that could easily be paired with a sportcoat, on the advice of Pisowicz, who also suggested several unexplored combinations.

The Streibiches left Nordstrom laden with several shirts and a jacket. They were smiling.

Pisowicz was, too. I