The fascinating story of a young at heart seamstress.
ATHENS, Greece - Arriving at the Metro station in Monastiraki, you have two options: Head to Thiseio to see the antiquities or head to Psyrri to see how the young people have launched jobs in a neighborhood where the old Athens with its traditional taverns and cafes mixes with trendy cafes and shops that sell unique creations made from young artists or people who still feel young at heart. Following the second option, and walking on the main street, you can see how many independent artists and fashion designers have opened their boutique and atelier.
But also, there are those people who feel young at heart. Such a person is Elli Chatzopoulou, a pro seamstress by profession. After working many years as a seamstress, a designer and a stylist back in the 1980s, she is back as a sewing teacher who wants to pass her passion for sewing to the young generation.
"Sewing is not just a game with fabrics. It's art and demands logic and consistency."
"Since I was a child, I grew up with the image of my mom and her friends reading fashion magazines and deciding what to sew next for them and their children,” says Elli a middle-aged green-eyed woman with short copper hair. Even though her mom didn't wish for her daughter to become a seamstress, Elli was always finding a way to practice her sewing skills on her brother's old clothes while her mom was out for chores or visiting a friend. "It was very degrading for a young girl, during those years, to become a seamstress. It was as if she didn't want to get into the university a become a successful woman in her profession, for example as a lawyer or a doctor,” she says while she is checking a student's skirt pattern. Keeping in mind that in the 1980s, especially in Greece, women began to occupy leading positions in companies which in the previous decades had been only for men.
Being a rebellious young woman, at the age of seventeen, she decided to leave her parental home and live alone. She got a job at a lawyer firm as a secretary. It was then when she decided to sew her first collection and wear it at the office. "I was freaking out only at the thought of wearing the same clothes as other women! I wanted to wear something unique with my personality on it,” and who wouldn't having her skills in sewing? "Everyday I was wearing something different at work, and the other girls at the office were asking me which boutique I bought my clothes from, but I answered them that I was sewing my clothing." Elli didn't work only in a lawyer firm. She had also worked in a bar as a waitress during the weekends to get extra income and pay for her lessons to get into the Law School. Even if she succeeded in getting into the Law School, she was never fond of the idea of becoming a lawyer.
"It was very degrading for a young girl,during those years, to become a seamstress."
"While I was sewing for myself, I had a lot of friends who wanted me to create something for them. I decided to get into a Fashion Design School and learn how to design clothes and do styling. I only knew how to sew according to BURDA magazine patterns which didn't help me much,” she says while she works on her professional sewing machine.
As the years were passing, her clientele was becoming larger. She had clients not only in Greece but also abroad. "I was sewing a woman's clothes according to her personality. According to her mentality. If she was married, in love, divorced or even crazy!,” she says smiling. Being a seamstress for over twenty years, you have a lot of stories to tell.
"Many women get married by only wearing my clothes. You should listen to me young ladies!" she says with a loud voice so as to be heard by the single ones. It's true that women are seeking to be equal with men and forget their feminine nature. As the well-known quote says: "Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition." But, this is another story to be told.
She got married and had a son. She decided to leave her atelier since many of her clients chose to shop from fast-fashion clothing retail companies. The years were passing by, and her son started the school and Elli had some of her free time back. She rented a small warehouse, and she put all the machines that she used to work at her atelier. It was in 2013 when some of her close friends informed her that sewing was in fashion again. The universe was conspiring, as Paulo Coelho might have said, for Elli to become a sewing teacher. "I had friends who were attending sewing classes. Every time we met for coffee and chitchat, they brought their creations to me to correct them. They keep telling me that I must launch my own sewing school because I was the best. So, my first students were my friends."
The rest is history. Today, Elli's Sewing School has moved from the small warehouse to the most promising and creative neighborhood of Athens. Her friends have become pros, and Elli's students are from all over Athens' suburbs. She has become a great fan of the social media since they are the medium to keep her up-to-date and communicate with young people. "Even though I am of a certain age, I prefer to be surrounded by young people. I think I have still a lot to offer, and sewing was always my passion,” she says with great excitement. "Sewing is not just a game with fabrics. It's art and demands logic and consistency." The phone rings. "Sorry, girlfriend. I have to speak with my son!" She's still a housewife and a mother who still fights with her demons and make plans for the future… Despite her age, as she says. σ