Seamstress launches body-positive sewing business
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — El Bentivegna comes from a long line of great seamstresses.
“My mother taught me to sew when I was young, and my great-grandmother’s name is Evelina. That’s where the name of the business comes from. She supported herself and her family. her six children on a seamstress salary, which seems crazy these days. But she did it,” Bentivegna said.
Bentivegna studied software engineering in college and worked in the industry for many years before recently making the jump to full-time manufacturing.
“I know, kind of a weird move from software engineering to customization, but it just wasn’t the right fit for me,” Bentivegna said. “My parents are probably like, oh, no!”
Bentivegna uses the pronouns them/them and identifies as queer, fat, and disabled.
They know firsthand how difficult it can be to find clothes that not only fit, but look good. So they often make their own.
A seamstress by nature, Bentivegna turned her talents into a business and launched Evelina Alterations just before the new year. Finding something at the intersection of creativity and social action was important to El, so their business centers around body positivity and is advertised as LGBTQ-friendly.
“I work on any type of clothing for anyone, but I try to focus more on the more marginalized groups that I myself am part of. So LGBTQIA people, gay people, fat people or tall people, and people with disabilities.People who might need a special adaptation, you know, their body type might not be average, or the clothes they’re trying to wear might not have been designed to fit their body type,” Bentivegna said. “Trans-feminine people that you know, who were born with masculine or masculine traits and want to dress more femininely, there’s a lot of discrimination against this group of people in our community. Someone who does not present themselves as a queer friend, this person will not want to bring anything to them because their safety could actually be in danger. And I want to m ensure that not only is your safety not at risk here, but that you enter with open arms.
Eliza Aimone was one of Bentivegna’s first clients. She has scoliosis and a unique sense of style. She participates in the medieval full-contact fighting game called Dagorhir.
“Scoliosis is the hardest thing it’s been to find a tailor who understands how to fit my body and accommodate different shoulder heights, different rib lengths, different hip bone heights – it’s really difficult,” Aimone said.
It is Bentivegna’s specialty to tailor clothing to the individual, not to society’s norms. They try to be a sympathetic ear for their customers.
“I’ve never been ashamed of being different or having, you know, a weird LARP dress and long capes with dragon buttons. And in the past, I’ve been ashamed of my weirdness at other places,” Aimone said. “It’s nice to have someone who’s just as excited and appreciates people’s differences more than being like, ‘Oh, okay. Yeah. Alright, I guess we can do that. She really appreciates the uniqueness of people.
Bentivegna wants his company not only to have a positive impact on society, but also on the environment. They try to use sustainable practices whenever they can.
“Almost all the fabric of my work right now actually comes from a theater company that closed down and I bought it, when they didn’t know what to do with it,” Bentivegna said.
They encourage people to fix, not spend.
“People often don’t realize that things can be fixed. And that way, just like extending the life of clothes instead of just throwing them in the trash,” Bentivegna said. “Fast fashion these days has really distorted the idea of how expensive clothes are and it’s very cheap and very poorly made, often, so it falls apart. So rather than letting these things go in the trash, go to the collection bins that are sent to who knows where, you can feel good about your clothes, by making some kind of cute little patch or colorful patch somewhere on the garment.”
Bentivegna said clothes are meant to make people feel good and comfortable. The software engineer-turned-seamstress embraces and celebrates diversity and helps people feel good about themselves and their clothes, no matter who they are.
For more information on Evelina’s modifications, go here.