Several weeks ago I found out that Barbara Matera Ltd. was closing its' doors after over 40 years of making costumes for Broadway shows, Ballet, Film and Opera. My first job out of college (I went to Parsons School of Design) was working as a first hand there. I was a fabric cutter for the two years I worked for Materas and I had the privilege of working directly with Barbara on several occasions. One that stands out in my memory was handing her pins in a fitting for Rudolf Nureyev for a performance of the King and I. It was a life-changing experience working there: I helped create some of the most incredible garments, I worked for world renown costume and fashion designers, and I made life-long friends who loved to sew.
I always made a point to visit the shop when I was in the City. Many of the people I had worked with were still there, and they always invited me into their world of costume magic. My daughter had a chance to visit and she began to look forward to going to the place mommy used to work where she could keep any beads she collected off the floor. One of the most important skills I took away from Matera's was how to sew on their ancient industrial sewing machines. The women who sewed at the shop, known as the 'ladies', were either hand stitchers or machine stitchers. Margarita, one of the machine stitchers, took me under her wing and taught me with patience and expertise how to drive these behemoths. I took this photo of Margarita's sewing machine the last time I visited the shop in New York. She was an expert tutu maker and taught me how to tell jokes in Spanish. I never quite mastered the art of either, but I will say I am more confident sewing tulle than regaling my friends with the 'one about the playa.'
I will miss Matera's and the world sparkle a bit less in it's absence.