CANADA: A perfectionist who knew everything about fabric

TORONTO: Angelina di Bello was an exacting seamstress and an exuberant mistress of haute couture who kept viewers in stitches with her sewing classes on both French and English television during the 1960s and '70s.

Di Bello had her own haute couture sewing school in Montreal, wrote three books on dress design and pattern-making, had a widely read column in the Journal de Montréal, and achieved renown across Canada with her television shows, Pins and Needles in English, and De fil en aiguille in French.

She was 90 when she died of diabetes at the Mance-Decary special care home on Nov. 4.

She was a perfectionist who knew everything about fabric. Even after she went blind, she could identify fabrics by touch. If your stitches were off one-eighth of an inch she'd make you rip them out and start all over again. With her, everything had to be perfect.

Angelina Torrito Ravenda, the daughter of Italian immigrants, was born in Montreal on Feb. 5, 1917. She was one of 12 children in her family and went to work during the Depression sewing buttonholes for Ida Desmarais, then Montreal's leading dressmaker.

In 1946, she opened a salon on Tupper St. and employed about 20. Frustrated by the shoddy work done by her garment makers, she opened a dressmaking school on Crescent St. to instruct students how to pleat a skirt properly, pad a shoulder and flatter a figure no matter how large or small.

In 1966, she was the only North American to be authorized by the House of Dior in Paris to make use of the Dior Pleat, which had been invented by Christian Dior to eliminate unsightly slits in the back of a garment and which Dior had copyrighted.

Di Bello worked with Gazette fashion maven Iona Monahan to co-ordinate the fashion shows during Expo 67. She was responsible for fitting and altering the more than 800 garments that were shown during the six-month exhibition.

In 1976, she designed and tailored the Greek gown for the women who carried the Olympic flame as well as all the hats worn by athletes in the Parade of Nations at the Montreal Games.

Although her favourite designers were Pierre Balmain and Coco Chanel, she often chided people for buying labels instead of workmanship.

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Added: November 19, 2007 Source: Agencies
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