Gianni Cleopazzo of Sartoria Vergallo was talking to me recently about an old-fashioned style of shirt he makes for a couple of customers – the ‘pettegola’. This is a strip of shirt cloth that is attached to the back tail of the shirt and fastens, under the legs, to the front of the shirt.

The pettegola’s purpose is to keep the tail tucked in securely, without having to resort to horrendous things like shirt stays (elastic straps that run from the bottom of the shirt to the top of the socks). The shirt body has to be cut a little longer, perhaps 2cm or 3cm, to accommodate the pettegola, and then adds two buttons to the front hem of the shirt to allow a couple of options for fastening.

Gianni gave me an old one to try and it worked well. The problem, of course, is that it is very fussy. Fuss is the sole reason I don’t have button flies on my trousers and one reason I dislike braces. With the pettegola, you have the particularly fussy prospect in the bathroom of unbuttoning your shirt to sit down, and having to fish between the shirt’s buttons when standing up.

As with long socks, it was probably also more suited to a time when one rarely undressed in front of one’s wife or girlfriend. Although, having said that, Gianni says he has a particularly vivid memory of seeing his father (who would be 74 today, were he alive) undress out of a bright pink shirt, and noting its strange tail.


A pettegola is certainly rarely made these days. Gianni has two customers who wear them, but the shirtmaker he uses only has a total of three – so one other in the region. It is not necessarily a northern Italian tradition, however (Vergallo is based in Varese), as Gianni’s memory of his father would have been when the family was in Puglia, in the south.

A good bespoke shirt, with the armhole, body and length correct, should not need much help staying tucked in. Although I noticed a difference, that was on a shirt that had not been made for me. So the irony of the pettegola is that it is most use on an ill-fitting shirt, but you can really only get them bespoke.

‘Pettegola’ is used to mean a gossipy woman in Italian, I am told. Why that is also the name given to this shirt appendage, I don’t know, but I’m sure you can come up with your own reasons.
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Anonymous

I believe that, when still in existence, it was possible to get shirts from Interno8 with a pettegola

Foodie

Have you ever heard of Donna Karan…..her bodysuits for women have been a staple in her collections for 20 years. This is nothing more than a woven version for men. Scary.

John

An amusing artifact. But more than that, I’d prefer not to ponder… especially when urgency is considered.

Anonymous

This is quite amusing.

Anonymous

Hi Simon,
Frankly, I think we can get away with permanent style without this fussy thing! Why have French invented the zipper in the first place?
John

Parth

Hello Simon. Thanks for yet another great post. I was wondering why you dislike shirt stays so much? I have never used them, but was planning to. I hear military men in America use them to prevent their shirts from ballooning at the waist. What is their downside? Thanks in advance for your help!

James Marwood

I agree, they don’t seem at all comfortable.

What would you suggest for shirts that are that little bit too short and keep rising up?

James Marwood

I think that last is my only option. I looked at the short stays and thought… no. Just no.

Turling

Looks like the shirt is just happy to see you.

Also, I had a roommate in college who was a US Marine going to school on a military scholarship. When dressing in uniform he wore shirt stays wrapping them around his legs to his socks. I asked if they were uncomfortable and he said, “suck it up, you’re a man.” I’m guessing that means yes.

John

Appears to be distantly related to The Thong. (No thanks!)

Fragz

How can someone who professes to dress properly NOT wear Braces with a suit???

Anonymous

gossipy woman = a long tongue

I would guess as the derivation of the Italian name

mack11211

I saw this detail once on a formal shirt from Brioni. Glad to have the name for it.

Anonymous

Sorry, but I think that the correct word is “pettola” that means in neapolitan slag a little piece of fabrics. As you know, most of italian male sartorially items have their source in Naples.

Anonymous

I propose to hear Giancarlo Maresca,Great Master of Nine Doors Order, he is a ultimate authority on history and lessic of Neapolitan tailoring. If he is in tune I ask him to kindly speak about. I am Patrizio Giangreco.

Anonymous

Fray still produce shirts with Pettegola, most of their black/white tie shirts have it as standard.

Afraj Gill

Hi Simon – loving the older posts on your blog!

My tailor just ordered some PS denim cloth for me and I’m excited to try the finished shirt in a few weeks.

One question I have is on the length of shirts. I know you might disagree here, but because I work in a tech startup environment, I will often feel tempted to untuck a shirt, roll up the sleeves—a casual look that I appreciate with my CP sneakers, especially during 18-hour work days! However, this means I need to sacrifice on the optimal length that would help a bespoke shirt remain tucked in during more regular days.

In your view, what is that optimal shirt length? Hypothetically, if your shirt just covered your buttocks, do you think that would be sufficient for the shirt to remain tucked in?

Anonymous

Hi Simon,
If i want to trim the waist of a shirt do i really have to use darts? I currently start ordering mtm shirts from proper cloth.