V&A: The Glamour of Italian Fashion – text by Silvia Bombardini

Dear Shaded Viewers and Diane,


There are some things Italians are known to do well at, and only a few of them will be appropriate to publicly celebrate. Fashion however deserves it incredibly, and thankfully so, is by definition a communal delight. This also means that it's often between its pleats and its ruffles that the threads of our society, of politics, are tightened and torn. Allegedly not an encyclopedia, the V&A's spring exhibition, The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 opening to the public this coming weekend, retraces the ebb and flow of Italian style through the much informed, yet no less elegant perspective of layered historical contexts.

We get acquainted with postwar Italy at first, and the many restrictions of fascism, when the most obedient of brands would earn a "mark of guarantee" label sewn like a treat to their suits. A dictatorship sewn behind the lapels, and yet soon enough the first recognized fashion show is allowed to take place in Florence, and Made in Italy blooms. Praises lifted from a 1952 issue of Women's Wear Daily sound as enthusiastic as those that this show, curated by Sonnet Stanfill (above), will certainly get through the coming months. The couturiers of time past, the Sorelle Fontana or Roberto Capucci, nowadays but distant memories of dainty evening silhouettes, share the room with the much more familiar Pucci and his very first Aztec swimwear.


In the early 50s it would seem that over 80% of Italian wardrobes were made by hand, as "less overtly fashionable interpretations of the latest styles", an unsuspected modesty of the time. But it was Cinecitt