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A view on Neapolitan shirtmakers and hand finishes

post #1 of 81
Thread Starter 
Following on some recent PMs and older threads, I have thoughts to summarise my views on a separate thread where other could also express their view or refer back as reference.

The skills of the tailor and shirt makers is first and foremost the cutting of the individual pattern and the ability to "mettere a misura", putting it to measure in English, but that in Naples, summarise the process of fittings and adjustment made to the client individual body. The fascination with Hand finishes in Naples, is born out of the visual differentiation between a bespoke shirt vs. an RTW one. Before Borrelli, Kiton, Finamore etc..., if you wore a shirt with hand felled armscye and "mezzo punto" on the shoulder/front yoke", the wearer was immediately recognised as having a bespoke shirt made for him, whilst machine stitches wear a sign of RTW. I once wore an RTW "Neapolitan shirt" at a fitting for a new bespoke shirt, and the cutter asked me who made that shirt for me as it was ill fitting as the finseshes suggested to him it was bespoke...

So in the search for a shirt maker one needs to look for the best cutter and fitter out there. Hand finishes is a visual option that should be secondary This is because virtually all large operation will now prefer making 100% machine made shirts and offer the option of 7/8 hand finishes at an additional costs of 25-35 Euro depending on the operation. This is because they all send the shirts to be hand finished to home based seamstress that probably charges around 20 Euro per shirt, and these women are probably the same working for many different operations.

On the origins of those hand finishes, as said before the very visible armscye and front yoke finishes, were a sign of bespoke. Bespoke shirts were made only by small scale home based operations, often seamstress with one or two helpers. The collars, and sometimes cuffs, hand finishes would facilitate the replacement later on (very common up to my dad generation) and the button holes and button attachment would also made by hand as the dedicated machine would have cost too much and take extra space in these home based operations. The difficulty in finding a 4mm felling feet for the Necchi Machines (it is mainly found for Pfaff machines), could have meant that also side seams and hems would be hand felled, however this was rarer in the past and even more rare now. In fact I have found evidence that some used the hemming foot to fell the side seams as well. There is seriously no benefits in doing these two steps by hand, especially the hems that end up tucked in ones trouser... However, I believe that at an additional premium, on top of the 25-35 Euro per the 7-8 normal hand steps, most shirt makers would comply with making you hand finished side seams and hems. Virtually all these operations were CMT as there were many shops around Naples selling shirting (often the same shops selling furniture/curtains fabrics), and few still remains today.

So again, when searching for a Neapolitan shirt maker, focus on his/her ability to cut your individual pattern and fit you with a perfect flattening shirt. You should also be able to request, and pay accordingly, and finishes and details you are after. If you really want the Kiton hand felled hem and side seams ask for it and consider the benefit of spending the extra money.
post #2 of 81
Good topic for a Poll: what is more important, the Fit or a Hand Finish? icon_gu_b_slayer[1].gif
post #3 of 81
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elegantly Wasted View Post

Good topic for a Poll: what is more important, the Fit or a Hand Finish? icon_gu_b_slayer[1].gif

The point I was trying to make would be slightly different. Hand work should not be consider over fit, as to a well fitting shirt, one could still requested additional handwork if willing to pay more for it.
post #4 of 81
Is hand finishing purely aesthetic or does it enhance the fit?

Personally I like the appearance of the hand finishing "nubs", especially on the outseam of trousers.
post #5 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by sellahi22 View Post

Is hand finishing purely aesthetic or does it enhance the fit?
Personally I like the appearance of the hand finishing "nubs", especially on the outseam of trousers.

Purely aesthetic; some argue it is worse than a machine stitch.
post #6 of 81
Am I the only one that reads "hand finish" and thinks about something unrelated to shirts?
post #7 of 81
I can concur that hand-stitching in shirts is more romantic than functional, but I disagree that one can look at it as a check-box option. There is good hand-stitching and bad-stitching throughout Naples. One should certainly prioritize fit and cut, but doing so will not necessarily lead him to a shirtmaker capable of the hand-stitching he expects.

Anyway, a rarefied few have the problem of picking a Neapolitan shirtmaker. The barrier to entrance is not the mystification of hand-stitching, but geography and language. Very few of us want to go through any pain just to order a shirt.

Of course, if you speak Italian and live locally, it's a different matter.
post #8 of 81
My NsM shirts have little nubs. This probably means that they are harder to do than the large ones on your Matuozzos, the ones that look like my avatar.
post #9 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by F. Corbera View Post

My NsM shirts have little nubs. This probably means that they are harder to do than the large ones on your Matuozzos, the ones that look like my avatar.

How much is done by hand other than the nubs? Collar attachment? Side seams?
post #10 of 81
It is most unfortunate that the word 'nub' has become the watchword of this thread.
post #11 of 81
I might be in the minority here, but I have my reasons. Basically, I feel that small hand finishing is nicer than perfect fit. Over my short time getting shirts made I feel that over many washings and wearings cotton wears out, it shrinks, it fades, it yellows. Having something that makes it stand out despite these things is important to me. I 99% of the time have a jacket on so fit that isn't perfect isn't a huge issue for me. Plus, frequent laundering makes the properties of the fabric change, and being that shirt is closer to your body than a suit and made from a weaker fiber it tends to get more wear from movement. Just my thoughts.
post #12 of 81
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Edited by F. Corbera - 1/14/12 at 6:11am
post #13 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickBOOTH View Post

I might be in the minority here, but I have my reasons. Basically, I feel that small hand finishing is nicer than perfect fit. Over my short time getting shirts made I feel that over many washings and wearings cotton wears out, it shrinks, it fades, it yellows. Having something that makes it stand out despite these things is important to me. I 99% of the time have a jacket on so fit that isn't perfect isn't a huge issue for me. Plus, frequent laundering makes the properties of the fabric change, and being that shirt is closer to your body than a suit and made from a weaker fiber it tends to get more wear from movement. Just my thoughts.

I like hand-stitching, too. But really neat, pretty hand-stitching is rare and expensive. Also, I'm absolutely finished with fancy Italian, artisanal fabrics. The stuff doesn't last as long as I need it to for the price paid. To be fair, i was warned.
Quote:
Originally Posted by F. Corbera View Post

laugh.gif Everything is Kabbaz-machine-sewn-by-hand-at-high-SPI other than...
- The lap seams on the sleeve attachments to the armholes
- The back of the underplacket
- The nubs on the front of the yoke
- The buttonholes
- Buttons sewn on by hand and shanked
- The odd reinforcement here and there.
It's basically a machine-sewn shirt, with no attempt to make it seem that the decorative handwork is structural other than the buttonholes/button attachments. It's not ham-handed in the way of the good old Borrellis nor tricky-dicky like a Kiton.

Then, might I ask, why use a Neapolitan shirtmaker at all when you've got your English dude? For me, the chief benefit of using Anna was the hand-sewing. If not for that, I'd switch to someone local and pay only a quarter or third of the price. In fact, all my future shirts may be from Geneva.
post #14 of 81
All my future shirts might come from Ercole. He has his own shirtmaker on staff now.
post #15 of 81
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Edited by F. Corbera - 1/14/12 at 6:11am
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