Caroline Matthews personifies creative energy. In the early days of Dos Carolinas, Caroline did most of the work herself, from answering the phone to sewing pristine pin-tucks into her signature guayaberas. Now celebrating her twenty-fifth year in business, she still does fittings for clientele in San Antonio and Houston. She also hosts trunk shows throughout Texas, and supervises a busy workroom, but takes time to personally see to the details of day-to-day operations. Caroline is still the beating heart of Dos Carolinas, and demand for her bespoke casual shirts is booming.
A native of far West Texas, Caroline has made the King William neighborhood of downtown San Antonio her home. She and partner Ed Slezak are part of the community of families who brought the neighborhood back to life, as the historic area began to rebound in the late 1970s. Ed and Caroline enjoy the thriving bohemian cultural scene of what is now Southtown. On a personal note, her comadres know Caroline as a great cook and generous friend, and it’s still her habit to make supper at home most nights, despite her busy workday.
The Dos Carolinas guayabera’s “secret sauce” is its unique marriage of classic, Latin-flavored good looks and high-quality natural fabrics. According to Caroline, “a little market research among our friends revealed that men did want an all-cotton, casual shirt. It is so much cooler than synthetic blends in our climate. And, a man who is used to a cotton dress shirt doesn’t want to put on anything else after work.” The guayabera is an essential part of summer dressing in South Texas.
Transcending fad and fashion, each Dos Carolinas guayabera is made to order from a huge range of classic menswear shirtings - cotton, linen, even the preppie standby, seersucker. Lately, clients have inspired Caroline to offer updated versions of the classic shirt in unusual patterns - for example, the hunting guayabera in traditional camouflage pattern. Then there’s the cheeky “mudflap camo,” derived from the cut-out cutie of trucking culture – as well as elegant, contemporary prints.
“If anyone tells you men don’t like to shop, they haven’t come here,” she asserts. “They get very creative and are much more aware of the fabric than you’d think.” The classic design, with two pin-tucked borders and four pockets can also be ordered with intricate embroidery, and short or long sleeves, depending on season or occasion. Shirts range from $120 to $350, depending on fabric and details, and take expert seamstresses several hours to construct. Custom orders take 4 to 6 weeks at a minimum.
Weddings are a Dos Carolinas specialty. Outfitting the guys in the wedding party in smartly coordinating guayaberas sets a tone that is properly romantic and elegant, just more relaxed than traditional tuxedos. Caroline adds, “once the wedding theme is established, we often get orders for matching shirts from the women in the party, who love the ease and tropical style.” High season for individual orders begins “the first warm weekend in February” in South Texas, and continues well past Labor Day. And, San Antonio’s spring Fiesta season is made for guayaberas, which dress up shorts and dress down khakis – perfect for the city-wide party vibe and early summer heat.
It takes time to do a proper fitting and choose colors, fabric, and construction details for a custom guayabera. “But, our client gets exactly what he wants, it fits perfectly, and it’s a completely unique item.” Caroline sees its growing popularity as part of a trend towards more personalization, beyond just a monogram. “It is a shirt that says, ‘this is me, and there’s nothing else like it.’”
Dos Carolinas invites you to create a custom guayabera at two studio locations:
Dos Carolinas San Antonio Studio
303 Pearl Parkway, Suite 102
San Antonio, Texas 78215
Dos Carolinas Houston Studio
The Avalon Center, Houston (River Oaks neighborhood)
2626 Westheimer, Suite 206
Houston, Texas 77098