Thursday, 3 April 2014

I love this little 1950s cocktail dress with its bouffant skirt, one of my favourites from the V&A's new Glamour of Italian Fashion exhibition - true glamour, don't you think? (Accessorise with a Martini and an olive.)
It's very much an exhibition of two halves. The first part, truly fascinating, tells the story of how Italy emerged from the poverty that followed WW2, with its cities bombed, 50% illiteracy - but with a tradition of craftsmanship, high-quality materials and skilled local dressmakers to form the basis of a new fashion industry. The Fascist government had used fashion to create a sense of nationhood - and the exhibition opens with Italy's version of wartime Utility dresses - which have a certain non so che. The first Italian collections were shown to international buyers in Florence in 1951. Italian women couldn't afford them but buyers from American department stores were courted with invitations to Renaissance balls and suppers and prices substantially cheaper than Paris couture. The list of English buyers included Harvey Nix, Jaeger - and Brown Muff's department store in Bradford. I do love the thought of well-heeled Yorkshire ladies of substance buying into the dolce vita.
Think Bogart and Bacall in Venice, Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and Taylor and Burton falling in love as they filmed Cleopatra at Cinecittà. (The emeralds he gave her are on show.)
But then ... well for me it all went downhill.
There's no glamour or romance in designer 'labels.'
And there certainly wasn't any glamour in 1980s Benetton jumpers.


Cosy Books said...

That dress is absolutely stunning, Mary! I'm wearing a hoodie at the moment that is just that colour. It's what I put on to protect my tops from dog spit. Not very feminine and no where near as sexy.

mary said...

I wish I had the life to go with it, Darlene - I'd get more use out of your hoodie!