A view on Neapolitan shirtmakers and hand finishes

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by marcodalondra, Jan 13, 2012.

  1. marcodalondra

    marcodalondra Senior member

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    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.
     
  2. Elegantly Wasted

    Elegantly Wasted Senior member

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    Good topic for a Poll: what is more important, the Fit or a Hand Finish? :slayer:
     
  3. marcodalondra

    marcodalondra Senior member

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    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.
     
  4. sellahi22

    sellahi22 Senior member

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    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.
     
  5. Ich_Dien

    Ich_Dien Senior member

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    Purely aesthetic; some argue it is worse than a machine stitch.
     
  6. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Jewfro Dubiously Honored

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    Am I the only one that reads "hand finish" and thinks about something unrelated to shirts?
     
  7. mafoofan

    mafoofan THE FOO Dubiously Honored

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    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.
     
  8. F. Corbera

    F. Corbera Senior member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2012
  9. mafoofan

    mafoofan THE FOO Dubiously Honored

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    How much is done by hand other than the nubs? Collar attachment? Side seams?
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2012
  10. Ich_Dien

    Ich_Dien Senior member

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    It is most unfortunate that the word 'nub' has become the watchword of this thread.
     
  11. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    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.
     
  12. F. Corbera

    F. Corbera Senior member

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    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012
  13. mafoofan

    mafoofan THE FOO Dubiously Honored

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    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.


    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.
     
  14. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    All my future shirts might come from Ercole. He has his own shirtmaker on staff now.
     
  15. F. Corbera

    F. Corbera Senior member

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    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012

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