Stuck for something to do on the weekend? Visit ‘The Glamour of Italian Fashion‘ exhibiton at the Victoria and Albert Museum. For lovers of fashion and all things Italian, you won’t be disappointed.
The Glamour of Italian Fashion is an exhibition that documents Italian fashion history from the second world war to present day.
Everyone knows that Italy is important in terms of fashion, Milan being one of the fashion capitals of the world; but I had no idea how or why this came about. This exhibition teaches history, tradition and an appreciation of talent for making clothes. Carefully detailed explanations alongside stunning examples of clothing from collections at the time. (40’s – Simonetta, Fabiani, Fontana, Antonelli right up through to present day)
Surprisingly, it was the fascist government after WW2 that kick-started something that would later bail the whole Italian economy out of ruin. Fashion brought Italy back together to give a sense of nationhood. It was artisans that brought about this change, Italy was incredibly talented in dress-making, tailoring, crafting leather and fur. These traditions, blended with creativity and inspiration in turn gave birth to ‘Made in Italy’ a world known, trusted symbol of some of most beautiful clothes lines in the world. And so the economy flourished.
You will learn about how film and photography took its turn in helping Italy become a style icon; how Marcello Mastoianni and his tailored suits in ‘La Dolce Vita’ made a planet swoon for stunningly hand-made light, unstructured and sleek Italian suits.
For a country of relatively small size in comparison to other on the globe, I had no idea that fashion was another example of how each region in Italy manages to have its own specific style. Artisan skills making each specialisation stand alone in high regard of skill and quality.
I thought this to be the only case for pastas, cheeses or regional cuisine, but I had no idea that the certain style of tailoring could be classified as being from Rome rather than Milan.
And in the 70’s Italy pioneered the ready-to-wear movement. Fashion houses already established developed and new ones sprung from everywhere, made their mark and rose with the demand for Italian clothing. (Max Mara, Moschino, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Missoni).
For these fashion brands it was the association with particular regions in the country that would become a hallmark of Italian manufacturing.
In the 1960s The Marshall Aid Plan from the USA went specifically into the Italian textile industry to make it outshine its competitors in France. Who knew the government could have so much influence in something so creative.
I loved this exhibition, as it took you through the rooms a clarity washed over me and I understood the very important history of why this movement came to pass, and in the final room I was given a showcase of how all the past traditions apply to the here and now. Stunning pieces from the most recent collections of Prada, (those wicked-cool 1950’s flames shoes from a couple of seasons ago) breath-taking dresses from Valentino, chic and fun pieces from Miu Miu and flawless show stoppers from Cavalli.
For the last room alone, to see Dolce and Gabanna’s dress with Sicilian Mosiacs or the two Valentino dresses on display is worth the effort to journey to South Kensington and pay that entrance fee. If you love clothes as much as me your heart will soar with the beauty of it.
I walked out of the V&A museum feeling truly proud of my Italian heritage.
* Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.