The fashion bug bit Bert Geiger while he was growing up on Long Island in the 1930s. It took him into the world of high couture, where he fashioned a 50-year career designing clothing in New York City, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Italy, Great Britain and India. He retired to Carolina Meadows in 2006 after the death of his wife, Lorraine.Photographs of some of Bert's sumptuous clothing designs from the 1960s were on display in the Carolina Meadows Club Center art corridor during the last quarter. In February, concurrent exhibits of his hat designs will be in the corridor and in the lobby breakfront. Geiger started learning the essentials of the garment trade right out of high school. "I was so thrilled to be getting instruction in sewing for the first time," Geiger said. But his training was cut short by a long bout with tuberculosis. "I spent two years in a sanatorium," he said. "I went home, only to have a relapse. I spent another year recuperating, mostly lying in bed. There were no medicines for TB in those days."When Geiger was fully recovered, he was 23 -- and unemployed. He had interviewed many people for his high school newspaper, including Mainbocher, a prominent Paris designer who had moved to New York as World War II loomed. "He dressed the Duchess of Windsor and was quite famous," Geiger said.Geiger said he contacted Mainbocher, who asked him to make some fabric print designs, "and he actually used a couple of them." Geiger later was apprenticed to Mainbocher. That ended when he and one of Mainbocher's models decided to go into business for themselves. When Mainbocher heard of it, he sent Geiger a special-delivery letter: "Don't come back!"Geiger's next job was as a $10-a-week apprentice to Mago Hayes, a well-known hat designer in New York. He stayed long enough to learn how to make hats, then began designing his own hats for "a real salary." He ended up in Los Angeles in the late 1950s designing hats and then dresses.Geiger later met financier Shull Bonsall and invested $10,000 in Bonsall's company, Campioni. "So now I was designing really expensive, fine clothes," he said. "Our customers included Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. I was underpaid but getting famous."Success, however, did not last. Campioni was losing money, and Bonsall decided to make his designs in Hong Kong. While Geiger was there in 1969 setting things up, Bonsall abruptly "pulled out, and the business folded." Geiger then freelanced for various manufacturers of women's clothes, including firms in Italy and London. He also designed knit fabrics, men's jeans and sportswear, suede coats and ladies' furs.Toward the end of the 1970s, he met Matti Creisberg, a manufacturer of ladies' dresses. Creisberg suggested developing a line of women's wear made out of Indian Madras. Geiger agreed and became a partner in Matti Sport, New York.That occasioned frequent travel to India as Geiger and his wife designed clothes made from fabrics hand-loomed in huts in Bombay, Bangalore, Madras and Ujjain. The line was a success, with Talbots as a major client. Matti Sport dissolved in the early '80s, and the Geigers moved from New York City to East Hampton, where he designed costumes for the John Drew Theater. To escape "cold and wintry" Long Island, they wintered in San Miguel de Allende, an artists' colony in central Mexico.In 1990, they sold both their homes and moved to Chapel Hill. "Lorraine was related to the Dossett family, which has been in the area since colonial times and so had many relatives here," he said. Later their daughter moved from California to join them."I came to Carolina Meadows after my wife's death because I did not want to live alone at home," Geiger said. "I'm very happy I made that decision." He is busy writing his autobiography and participates in the Writers Group. Another favorite activity is the Saturday Night Movies."The whole crew -- four grandchildren, their mom, dad and I -- come for dessert and the movies," he said. "It's quite a mob, and they have a grand time. They love the desserts. Who doesn't?"Geiger continues to closely follow the fashion industry through a friend who works for The New York Times. "But it's a different world, " he said. "Fashion is less and less important these days -- people pretty much wear what they want."