Mille Grazie, Rafaella Sforza

Half a century ago, Aldo and Rafaella Sforza left their native Calabria, Italy for America.

Their 1st stop — Rochester, New York — was “too cold,” Rafaella says.

Moving to Connecticut in 1968, she worked as a tailor at Ed Mitchell’s. Her husband — also a tailor — was hired by Pack Roads.

Six years later, Aldo opened his own shop on the 2nd floor in the back of Colonial Green. It flourished. When he needed more help, Rafaella joined him.

Eight years ago, Aldo died. Rafaella has worked alone since then.

Now — at the end of the month — she’s retiring. “I can’t go on forever,” she says. “I hope God gives me a few more years to spend with my wonderful children, and my 2 lovely grandchildren.”

Rafaella Sforza, at her trusty sewing machine. She is surrounded by her beloved Vatican artifacts.

Rafaella Sforza, at her trusty sewing machine. She is surrounded by beloved Vatican artifacts.

Leaving is not easy. “It’s good to retire, but I feel so empty,” Rafaella says with emotion. “This is a like a big family. My customers, they’re good people. They make me feel so good. Everyone is happy. Everyone is so nice.”

Rafaella’s customers are devastated. Carolyn Cohen says, “She did old world- quality work for the most reasonable prices.

“But the best part was getting to know her. She was an oasis in a crazy world. She always had a smile and a hug, including my kids who adore her. She approached them as a kind, caring grandmother. She talked them into lowering their skirt and dress hemlines, which I could never do!”

Rafaella has watched generations grow up, move away, come back and start families. That includes her landlords.

“Please say how much gratitude I have for Mr. Leo Nevas and his family,” she says. “And Mr. Marc Nevas. I knew him when he was in short pants. Now he’s a professional man. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”

Westport, she says, “is like my hometown. But this is life. The time has come.”

Rafaella pauses, overcome with emotion.

“Can you please say thank you to everyone?” she asks.

I can.

But more importantly, Rafaella Sforza: Thank you!

7 responses to “Mille Grazie, Rafaella Sforza

  1. When I think of What Becomes A Westport Legend Most, I think of Aldo and Rafaella. Between the excellent European style tailoring and their enormous love for one another, and the longevity of their careers and presence in Westport, they are real Westport icons for me. I loved telling them where I was going, whether it was event in NYC, DC or Europe, and based on that information they would determine how high or low to leave the hem or neck line. They always got it right. I know how much she still misses him being there with her.

    Her gratitude to the Nevas family is something she shares with everyone who comes in.

    I will miss being able to stop in to see her, but I know her family will be happy to have her home more.

    Thank you Rafaella.

  2. Although I was not a regular customer, Rafaella did several alterations, repairs for me. I will miss you, Rafaella, and you certainly do enjoy some quiet time with your family.

  3. michelle titlebaum

    My favorite person in Westport! Thanks for doing a story on this wonderful lady Dan, she’s a true gem. Sad to see you leaving Rafaella, but you sure deserve some rest and happy times with your family.

  4. Deborah Findley

    Say it isn’t so Rafaella! She is always rescuing me from something. Whether it’s altering a delicate evening gown or hemming jeans and making them look like they weren’t, she produces absolutely flawless work with pride. She’s creative and has a good eye too. To achieve all of this, she works incredibly hard and sometimes at lightening speed to alter that special dress in time for that special day. But more than that, she is a wonderful person and it’s always been fun to visit with her. Her shop is full of family photos and collages of her children and grandchildren and she proudly gives the update on each of them. A few years ago we were planning a trip to Italy and we needed a translation card to give chefs explaining my son’s food allergies….Rafaella came to the rescue with a great translation card. She is one of those people that makes Westport special. Boo hoo Rafaella…but kudos and wishing you all of the best from one of your biggest fans!

  5. Jill Nash von Schmidt

    I remember my mom taking me to Aldo Tailors when I was young. They were both such lovely people. Thank you so much for always making us look better, Rafaella. I hope you enjoy your extra time with your family. May God bless you always! 🙂

  6. Lesley Anderson

    She’s a very lovely, sweet lady!
    Always did a wonderful job with a great smile. Hard worker. I’m happy she’s moving on and will spend time with family. She deserves this!

  7. Andare con Dio, Rafaella. Your days will not be empty … they will be filled with the love and joy of your family.