The tailor makes the man

Joe Lo Giudice

Photo By Larry Dalton

East Sacramento resident Joe Lo Giudice has been a master tailor for 61 years. Once hailed by Rex Ross of Capitol Clothing as “the greatest tailor in Northern California,” Lo Giudice believes in looking your best. Though retired, he remains committed to his craft, working diligently in his private tailor room. With a thimble on his middle finger and measuring tape hung around his neck, Lo Giudice does his best to preserve the lost art of tailoring suits.

How did you learn to be a tailor?

When I was in the fifth grade, during the morning I went to school; in the afternoon I learned to be a tailor ’til 10 o’clock. After the war, when I was 18 years old, I went to Milano to specialize in my business.

After 10 years in Milano, I learned much more about business. At that time, I met my wife, got married and got an apartment. Honestly, we had a lot of success at work and were able to pay off the apartment in 18 months.

Did you have a good reputation in Italy?

Very good. The last six years I participated in the Festival of Italian Style in San Remo. I was one of the youngest tailors of about 700.

When did you come to the United States?

My mother lived in the United States. She thought that I worked for nothing in Italy. She said, “If you work like this in the United States, you can make in one week what you make in Italy in one month!” Anyway, she convinced me.

When I came to the United States, I went to work for Capitol Clothing downtown. My first check was $106. I was very surprised. This was 1961. I said, “My God. In Italy, I make $300.” I came to the United States to live better, but for me it was worse.

What was your first impression of Sacramento?

When I came here, it looked like a little town. I was very surprised. I came here with six suits, one top coat and a tuxedo—English material. I came to the United States to look good. When I was here, my brother said to me, “What are you doing with a tuxedo and a black coat?” I said, “To go to the teatro.” He said there was no teatro in Sacramento; you have to go to San Francisco. I was very disappointed. Me and my wife, we would cry. I made lots of money in Italy.

I lived on 11th and I or H streets, close to the cathedral. We had a little baby one month after I arrived, and we would go to the state Capitol every night. After two years, I bought a house on J Street. Now, Sacramento is beautiful for me.

Tell me about working with Governor Pete Wilson.

When I was retired, somebody introduced me to [Governor] Pete Wilson. He was very gentle with me and my wife when she was sick. He encouraged me and was very generous. I was very happy to work for these kinds of people.

The first time he came alone to my house. He had called me and said, “What time do you close your store?” He didn’t know it was my house, and I didn’t know who it was, so I joked, “My store, it is 24 hours a day.”

After a little while, I heard a car stop in my driveway. He came out, and it was the governor. I said to my wife, “Olivia, the man who called for me, it was the governor!” I went out right away and said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” He came in and sat on the sofa. He had some work for me. And from that time on, he was very generous. When my wife was sick in the hospital, he sent her flowers. For Christmas, he sent us an ornament of the Capitol.

Is being a tailor a trade or an art?

For me, it is an art. I worked very hard when I was young. When I went from Sicily to Milano, I was asked whether I wanted to make money or become a good tailor or designer. I prefer to become a good tailor. Automatically, I don’t make money. Sometimes, I didn’t have the money to eat. But after awhile, all I lost before I made afterward.

Would you consider any other profession?

No way. I started, and I will finish. It’s my kind of work.

Who makes the best suits?

Now, made in Italy. Zegna. Bossi from Milano. Today, everything is high-priced. Now, sometimes, they use glue instead of machine. When you give it to the cleaner, it’s finished! A lot of things I can’t explain in this business. I am very proud, but at this age, I cannot talk about work this way anymore.

Last question: Who dresses better, John Kerry or George W. Bush?

[Laughs] You ask a difficult question, but it looks like Bush. He looks like he wants to be a big shot.