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Do you have a family member who is an artisan-tailor — or perhaps worked as one in the past? If you do, we’d love to hear about their life’s work and what this individual means to you. Please share your anecdotes and recollections.

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  1. Vicki Vasilopoulos says:

    Irene Musillo Mitchell shares a passage from her book, Anna Marilena’s Four Sorrows, which is inspired by her experience getting fitted by her father, a tailor from Basilicata, Italy:

    When it was time for a fitting, he summoned Marilena or me to the sewing room, and we stood stiff and silent as he scrutinized the suit or coat he made us. As young as we were, we understood that to create our father’s outfits, which everyone admired, high seriousness and hard work were as necessary as going to school. The fittings took place in the adjacent parlor, for the sewing room was no more than a pantry. If Gian Andrea had just used the steam iron, the smell of steamed cloth floated into the parlor.

    Stai diritta!” he would say. He spoke to us in Italian or English, as one language or the other rose to his lips. Sometimes, especially when I was called in from playing outside, I found it hard to stand straight and still. “Stai ferma!” he said crossly, or it seemed that way. Standing back, as one does observing a painting in a museum, he would look sharply at the jacket or coat. Sometimes a jacket did not fall quite as he wished, and he would pull and tug at it until it conformed more precisely to the figure, or he would adjust and readjust a tentatively-fastened collar on a coat until it lay perfectly around the neck. Sometimes the stiffener in the collar scratched my neck, but I did not say a word.

    Gira!” I would turn around, though too quickly, for he would intercept, “Piano!” and his eyes followed a skirt, how it fell, its hemline, its hemline pleat. “Cammina!” Wearing the almost finished suit, I walked stiffly away, turned, and walked toward him, while he appraised the total effect. When the fitting was over, which he indicated by a nod of the head or some other dismissive gesture, I knew from a certain calmness overspreading his face and an easing, like the relaxing of a tense body, that the suit met his Berninian or Cellinian eye.

  2. Maria Enrico says:

    I had a close relative Lino Capella who was the master tailor for Dunhill Tailors in Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. He trained dozens of apprentices from the old country and made clothes for many Hollywood stars of the 50s and 60s. Everything was hand made and hand stitched – even the button holes. When I watch the TV series Mad Men I get flashbacks! I once went with my mother to visit him and tried on a winter coat – it fit like a slip and I felt like a princess. He always had a straight pin on his lapel – because you never knew when you might need one. He was a true artist.

  3. This is absolutely wonderful. Such talented and warm hearted men, loving their art.

    I have the pleasure of having the book written by Irene. It is outstanding. I so enjoyed hearing her read the poem she had written.

    Hand in hand the two arts meet, that of creating a masterpiece from cloth, and that of creating a poem and a novel.

  4. I’m a tailor 74 years old. I join to do a suit like the old days, a suit I have done all my life (all by hand). Today, many call that Bespoke, but no one does that, including big Italian names. I’m proud to serve my clienti, especially a Stout posture — I make the suit the way I learn in Milano. That special and unique way to do a good suit. If interested, see it on my Web site: http://www.bespokesuitbypino.com

    Please, if I can be helpful in any way contact me.
    Regards,
    Pino

  5. Federico Balestrieri says:

    I am not a tailor, but I am a tailor customer. What you say here is so true, even in Italy, my own country. I know many tailors, but point is that the youngest of them has some 60 years. There are no young generations, this is kind of an emergency: such a precious and beautiful art could not be let disappear.

    • Terri Taglia says:

      My father, Antonio Taglia, born in Ricigliano, provincia di Salerno in 1908 and was a custom tailor in New York City for over sixty-five years. Most of his career he collaborated with Canio Saluzzi on Madison Avenue, custom tailors to prestigious political figures as well as delegates of the United Nations among others. As children, my brother and I had the privilege of having custom made clothing (even our private school uniforms were tailor made.) My mother was a seamstress who studied design and met my father when she was 18. Antonio (Tony) worked in New York City until he was 88 years old commuting on the subway from Brooklyn. Finally, my mother convinced him to retire to Florida. He was in perfect health until 2009 when he peacefully passed at the age of 101. There are so many memories and stories, I could go on forever. Often, I was told he was one of the last of the great custom tailors in New York. Of course, many came after him but I believe, few and far between. He is missed by all who knew him. Viva Il Sarto!!!

  6. Chris Whiting says:

    My grandfather was Guido Fusaro, the uncle of Eatalo Fusaro. Guido came over on the boat as a teen and worked his way up to head designer at Goldschmidts of Philadelphia. Along the way he worked for the US Military designing officers uniforms and during World War II he went to the Pentagon with his designs and stayed in a tent on the grounds of the White House. My parents — Richard and Anne Whiting of West Chester, Pa — would have more information. My grandfather trained his nephew Eatalo Fusaro (still living) as a designer and at one time he was the head of design for After Six Formals and still makes suits in Ardmore, PA for selected customers.

  7. Fabrizio LUPO says:

    My father, Andrea Renato Lupo, is a tailor who is 76 years old, and still continues to work even if he should be long retired. He learned his craft when he was 10 years old from another Master in Palermo (Sicily). He moved to Rome when he was about 20 years old and worked for Piattelli, then moved to Brussels in 1976 where he worked for “Old England”. He currently works for “La Maison Degand” — probably one of the last shops with a workshop in Brussels.

    This type of Art will (unfortunately) disappear because it takes one week for my father to complete a jacket… no machine at all.

    In your trailer I saw the same kind of room where my father is working, exactly the same atmosphere. Fortunately, I’m his son, and he has made me some suits, and another one is being prepared; otherwise, they would be too expensive for me.

    And a few words about my mother: she is not a tailor but she is an artist too. She is doing pants, skirts, and vest — of course, all handmade. Together they are a real Dream Team.

    • Nina Di Trapani says:

      Bella storia: I am the daughter of a seamstress/artist, my Mother Angela Fragapane tailored men’s pants, ladies clothing. My grandfather Stefano Fragapane, a Master Tailor from Agrigento, Sicily, also trained young tailors. Another uncle, Giuseppe, was a tailor but opened a high-end boutique with high fashion collections. And my close uncle Salvatore designed the first pattern of the men’s collection for Marzotto Company and designed and tailored exquisite clothes. They made me beautiful dresses and suits! I have fond memories!!!

      Nina

  8. Vibrina Coronado says:

    In the 1990’s, when I worked in New York City custom costume shops, I met and worked with a number of skilled Italian tailors. The one I got to know the best told me he apprenticed as a young boy — if I remember right, at about 6 or 7 he begin his education as a tailor. It’s interesting to think about acquiring skills that young, especially in light of the comments made by the tailors in the film about Americans trying to learn a trade at the same time they need to earn a living. Also, it’s wonderful to hear one of the tailors say that tailoring is an art — as I look at the coat shown on the mannequin, I see how softly the lapels are curled and think about the rest of the shaping via cutting, stitching, pressing that makes a well-tailored jacket conform to a body. It is beautiful. I would love to talk to these guys.

  9. My father Silvio DeCaro, who came to America from the small village of Maione, Calabria, Provincia di Cosenza, Italia, in 1935. He was a Master tailor at the ripe old age of 16, having started his apprenticeship at roughly 8 years of age, from his village’s sole tailor. He was sent to him apprentice after school, as his mother often said, to keep him out of trouble. He was promptly employed the day he landed, legally, I might add, in the US. He never had, nor took advantage of any of the social services so readily available to any and all who come to America today, regardless of their legal or illegal status. He came only with a trade with which to make a fair and decent living, and a dream of a better life, escaping Fascism and Mussolini. He sent his four children to private Catholic grade schools, high schools, and Jesuit universities, paying for it all out of this own pockets, all the while hoping he might provide a better life for his children.

    He was thankful that his children would never experience the hunger and oppression he endured in his homeland. We will no longer have the pleasure of knowing or experiencing these dreams in the America today or in its future. It is sadly true, that those tough years, were better years for America. People recycled, scrimped and saved, car pooled, road their bikes and took the street car to go on dates not because it was “cool” or “Green”, but because it was necessary, and times were tough. One might argue that times have changed, so that his story and my memory of it is irrelevant today. But you are wrong. These “Men of the Cloth” earned every nickel, and plenty of them, I might add, “one stitch at a time,” as my sister Joan said, when my father passed.

    My father had a famous quote on being a student of custom clothing and pattern-making that was often repeated by members of the Custom Tailors and Designers Association. In a speech at his outgoing Presidential dinner, he said “When we are green, we grow. And when we are ripe, we rot.” He was making the analogy that one must always be willing to learn new things, and always be a “student” of one’s profession. Hence, his nickname at the CTDA, bestowed upon him by William Fioravanti. He christened him “Il maestro,” not only for his tailoring skills, but also for his hand gestures from the stage during tailoring technical sessions. It was like watching Leonard Bernstein conduct. And he was one helluva tailor.




  10. Joseph Pietrafesa says:

    I am the 4th generation of my family to have learned to be a tailor. I could sew a complete suit by hand by the time I was in High School. My family is from Basilacata, Italy and also Campobasso, Italy. Our family owned and operated a large clothing manufacturer who made clothing for Brooks Bros, Nordstrom, Polo Ralph Lauren, Saks and other fine stores. I love that I know how to make a pattern and cut and sew a suit. It is a lost craft and one that I am still learning today. Those of us who share this art, have an eye for style and an understanding for classics. Bravo. Congratulations on this film.
    Joseph Pietrafesa

  11. My grandfather, the late Fred V. Mazzei, was a master tailor in Chicago for 46 years. In addition to being a tailor, he was very active in Italian-American organizations. He had been chairman of the Columbus Day Queen Contest in Chicago for 20 years and was knighted by the Republic of Italy. His clients all came by word of mouth, whether they be businessmen or celebrities. He learned his craft as a boy in Italy and also went to school on the G.I. Bill after coming to America and fighting in W.W. II. His suits are most well known for the unique lapel, which is remains trademarked.

  12. My grandfather, the late Fred V. Mazzei, was a master tailor in Chicago for 46 years. In addition to being a tailor, he was very active in Italian-American organizations. He had been chairman of the Columbus Day Queen Contest in Chicago for 20 years and was knighted by the Republic of Italy. His clients all came by word of mouth, whether they be businessmen or celebrities. He learned his craft as a boy in Italy and also went to school on the G.I. Bill after coming to America and fighting in World War II. His suits are most well known for the unique lapel, which remains trademarked.

  13. My father Vincent P. Ferrucci is 80 years old and still works everyday in our men’s store, V. Ferrucci, Ltd. In the fall of 2013, we celebrated our 50th year in business in New Haven, CT- home of the Ivy league suit and the birthplace of many custom shops over a century ago. Little did my father realize when he arrived in New Haven in 1958 as a tourist – NOT an immigrant – that he would be one of the “Last of the Mohicans.” No disrespect to the many immigrants who came for a better life. My father left Italy when he was 20 after finishing his apprenticeship in Rome, but he left for Maracaibo, Venezuela – not the United States. It was on a plane ride to New York to visit his mother in New Haven that he wound up staying here. His uncle, a shoemaker, and his mother convinced him to stay in New Haven, a place with many fine clothing stores and custom shops to ply his trade. Vincenzo first began working for Sydney Winston of Chips, which later moved to New York City. Then to Arthur M. Rosenberg until 1963 when he opened his own custom shop. As any true custom tailor knows, it’s hard to work for someone else, just as most tailors never wanted their sons to follow in their footsteps. I started working with my father after college. Besides being a custom tailor, he’s a merchant and expanded into ready-made back in the 70’s. He had several well-respected gentlemen work with him in the business but that was when you could find people that truly knew the trade. It was in 1989 that I joined him because, quite frankly, he was way too young to retire, I had a love for clothing and a small talent for merchandising and design. There are so few businesses today that allow you the opportunity to serve the public in such a noble and personal level. My father goes by quite a few nicknames: Il Re, Houdini and Maestro – all justly deserved in his field. There were few and are fewer better.

  14. This is a great site and film that appreciates true artisans. I’m not a tailor, but have been very fortunate my whole life to see the hard work and sacrifice my father, Frank Vita Sr., who came to this country many years ago from Caria, province of Vibo Valentia in Calabria. When he came to America, he would drive three hours to Rochester to start working in the factory and learn the business here in the states. My whole family was in the business as well. For most of my father’s life, he directed factories in Upstate New York including the Pietrafesa Company for Mr. Joseph Pietrafesa and his family, who are on the site as well. At 76 he’s still traveling back and forth from New York to Italy designing, creating and making custom clothes at the highest level and is considered to be the best. He’s been a main influence on the success and quality of Ralph Lauren’s Purple and Black Labels and has the utmost respect from everyone in the industry. No matter how much success or fame or how many famous people he has made look better, at his age, he will always tell you he is still learning something new, which is true humbleness. It’s sad to see it as a dying trade and not appreciated more by the younger generation.

  15. My grandfather, John Pergolini, was already an experienced tailor when he arrived in Philadelphia in 1909 from Abruzzo. His first job was at Bryn Mawr college sewing equestrian outfits for the young ladies. He also made theater costumes. After a few years, eager to procure his American citizenship, he joined the Army’s Quartermaster Corp making uniforms at the start of WW I. He also ran a little shop out of his home in Darby where he specialized in ladies suits and dresses. Wealthy clients would bring him whole bolts of fabric so my mother always had lovely fashionable jackets growing up in the 40s. We grandkids always had a new overcoat for winter and a spring outfit for Easter up until Pop-Pop retired.

    My grandfather was always impeccably dressed himself and I recall he always had two needs threaded under his lapel, one with white and one with black thread, just in case anyone needed a button or seam fixed. He was a stickler for quality. When my sisters and I were learning to sew he would inspect our work and say “take it out – it’s a no good enough” in his heavily accented English if a seam was not to his exacting standard! We learned from a master.

  16. I ran across MEN OF THE CLOTH at the AMHS bulletin out of Washington, DC that reaches me in San Francisco.

    My mother, Rosa Alioto, was a passionate seamstress. When I was living in Italy I used to accompany her to the very northern town of Giovanni XXII – Sotto il Mone weekly for “sewing” lessons. There lived a woman, the master in the art of the Pizzo di Cantu (poorly translated a doilies from Cantu), using the Tombolo e Pirili, which looked like a rolled-up sleeping bag on which one produced the famous doilies manually using very intricate wooden spindles attached to various treads. I still have her instruments here in San Francisco.

    MEN OF THE CLOTH could have a sequel set in Italy, of course, entitled “Women of the Cloth.”

  17. This is an excerpt From Raymond Vennare’s “My Father’s Shoes”

    My great-grandfather Antonio Vennare was a tailor. As were my grandfather Pasquale and his brothers Eugenio and Severio. My godfather Nicholas Pellegrino was a tailor and my cousin, Decio Rapali, is still tailoring today.

    Because of this, no matter how little we had growing-up, our clothes were always fitted. Hand-stitched darts and rolls and tucks enhanced (or hid) our body types. Single-breasted flannel suits were tapered to the waist. Peaked lapels and notched lapels were remodeled or restyled. Pleated pants with hand-pressed cuffs, cut slightly at an angle, fell gently to a polished heel and broke softly on the shoelace.

    These men were not just tailors they were artists and designers. They were masters at their chosen craft – bespoke and haute couture. Hand-me-downs and off-the-rack became made-to-measure suits. Armani, Brioni, Canali and Zegna – we could never wear those famous names but we always had Pasquale.

    “Un signore indossa sempre un fazzoletto”, my grandfather once told me – a gentleman always wears a kerchief.

    A fazzoletto is a pocket square; a complementary accessory worn in the breast pocket of a man’s jacket. But, more than just a dapper fashion statement, my grandfather believed that a gentleman’s kerchief was an outward expression of one’s inner confidence and character. It spoke to pride, if not propriety. Of distinction and decorum.

    I have worn a fazzoletto ever since that day – in memory of Nicholas and as a tribute to Pasquale. Not merely as a pocket square, but to remind me of those men – of their integrity and self-respect, their humility and grace.

    http://www.myfathersshoes.net
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RaymondVennare

  18. I wrote a blog post about my grandfather, Giovanni (John) Pergolini, who came from Montepagano, Abruzzo. The post was partly inspired by a review of your film.

    This past October I visited Montepagano with some of my siblings and other family. While there we visited a little museum called the Museo della Cultura Materiale, or Museum of Material Culture. Within the museum are artifacts of everyday life, donated by the local community. The rooms of the museum are set up like a house, and one room shows the scene of a tailor’s workshop.

    I asked the woman who showed us around if there was still a tailor shop in the town and she said there was, but it was not open that day and we were not able to return. I took some photos and will attempt to upload them below.

    Here’s a link to my post:
    http://heartinabruzzo.me/2014/11/22/john-giovanni-pergolini-my-grandfather-the-tailor-sarto/

    And one to the museum:
    http://turismo.provincia.teramo.it/art-and-culture/museums/museum-of-material-culture/?set_language=en

    I look forward to seeing your film when it next makes the rounds to Australia (Adelaide hopefully).

    King regards,

    Mary Louise Tucker

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