If our bodies were all the same, standardised, as if mass produced, the way we buy clothes today would make much more sense and there would be no need for shops like Camisaria Pitta. But that is not the case. Each shoulder is unique; each sleeve a particular length; indeed, each body is a special case. The privilege of those who can have their clothes made to measure is that they have garments that wear like a second skin. That’s the promise fulfilled at Camisaria Pitta – a jacket or a shirt that bears one’s own way of being, of sitting, of hugging, cut from the best fabrics and by the most skilled hands; a garment in which everything can be personalised – from the collar to the cuff, and down to the very stitching and types of adornments. Although it is a shop sought out mostly by men, ladies can also have their blouses or shirts made there.
The ground floor of the shop attracts customers with the elegance of the space and quality of its products: jackets, shirts, polo shirts, sports jackets, complete suits, hats and ties. The interior follows to the taste of English tailors; whilst on the outside, on the shop front, the carved woodwork is very Portuguese, including the detail of two carved collars, one at each end.
There are only a few such houses left in Lisbon, more proof that the expertise of the tailor and seamstress is at risk of disappearing. Two floors above in the same building, a small and dedicated team works away against that trend, to a never-ending score of sewing machines and the working of scissors on large patterns for garments chalked directly onto the fabric. They work in the midst of by mannequins, interfacing fabric, pins and fitting after fitting. Yes, there no longer is the demand there once was, but those customers that appreciate the work are rewarded with the unique results of all this dedication.
This was once the dream of a tailor, A. M. Pitta, who founded the business in Rua de São Julião in 1887, and moved it to Rua Augusta a few years later. It became a purveyor to the Portuguese royal household and later to the diplomatic corps of the Portuguese republic, thus clothing the elite, but also much more.
Meanwhile, on the screen, a 1940s comedy:
- Oh...! What beautiful things! What beautiful shirts! That’s Pitta!
- Pita, huh? This is silk!
- No! Pitta Shirts...! Five hundred escudos!
- Ahhhh... – and the guesthouse owner crosses herself in astonishment.
The year 1943 saw the release of one of the most famous comedies of the day, “O Costa do Castelo”. Halfway through the film, the guesthouse owners go with Costa to search the room of a guest they suspect of being a murderer. They shamelessly enter the room when he is not there to take away his belongings. The guest, Daniel, is described as a “tall, elegant” man who was always well dressed or, to use the words of a neighbour, a “dandy”. So, what we can conclude from the film is that in the 1940s any dandy worthy of the name shopped at Camisaria Pitta.
Made-to measures garments for men, from underwear to hats; tailoring and shirt-making; adjustments to ready-to-wear garments and other made-to-measure items