I received an amazing gift from my great-aunt Franca for Christmas last year; she printed and framed about 20 pictures of my maternal italian side of the family for me (she did the same for both my brothers and mom too. she's pretty amazing). Since being in textile art school I've been a lot more interested in the beautiful clothes I see worn by my ancestors in family photos. I can't help but wonder, every time I look at them, who must have made the clothes they are wearing. When I called Franca last night I learned a lot, and then today, after franca confirmed some information with bisnonna Vera (my great grandmother), I received some emails with even more information. Here's what she told me.
from left to right the above photos are (click for enlargement):
1. Bisnonna on her confirmation day(age 12, 1930) standing beside her sponsor Maria, who is only 17 in this photo. She later became her aunt. Bisnonna's dress was made by a dress maker, no one in the family.
2. My great-aunt Franca dressed for Marti Gras as Mimi from La Boheme. This outfit was sewn by her grandmother.
3. Again Bisnonna, age 7 (1925). She is wearing a Marti Gras costume that her father originally wore at around age 9. He also had five sisters who wore it as well. Bisnonna remembers it was silky (probably silk) with black pants and a green jacket. She doesn't know who sewed the outfit but it was probably a family affair since Bisnonna's grandmother was very good at sewing along with the other girls too. The wig was made by her mother who was a seamstress and a gentleman's tailor whose specialty was vests. She didn't like finishing the vests by sewing machine so she used to sneak the vests out of the shop and finish them by hand at home.
4. Bisnonna's nona, which makes her my great great great grandma. This was her obituary photo.
Bisnonna was never allowed to meet her nonna on her papa's side because her aunts were apparently uptight about the fact that she was born out of wedlock (they never did get married). She didn't get to meet her grandma but instead received gifts of hand-made dresses from her on a regular basis. She says she remembers the tiny hand-done stitches.
Franca is a textile artist as well. She specializes in quilting and is a proficient doll maker. Like most textile artists she is skillful in many areas of textiles including embroidery, sewing, knitting, weaving, spinning and dyeing. When I entered into the textiles program she was extremely supportive and thoughtful and has been on the lookout at thrift stores for equipment for me ever since. She was the bearer of my knitting machine, my huge button and yarn collection as well as a lot of other useful textiley things.
Needless to say I come from a textile background, and that's just one side of the italian family. So, I have some more research to do. Franca filled me in a bit on my paternal Italian side already....
The Tomasi family (my grandfather's side) also has a history of sewing. Floriano's brother was a tailor and his sister became a pattern maker in New York ,they all knew how to do something to be self sufficient. If I remember correctly Floriano worked for a Quilter. The mother was very good at sewing and business. You should ask Mama. Franca