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May 2016 Update

Fashion and Textile Museum, London, Thursday 16 June
“Take a stylish look at Italian fashion from the end of the Second World War to the present day. Join fashion experts Sonnet Stanfill and Lucia Savi as they discuss how ‘Made in Italy’ became a mark of style and the designers who helped define it.
Sonnet Stanfill curated ‘The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945–2014 at the Victoria and Albert Museum which is now on an international tour and edited the accompanying publication.”

Event includes viewing of Missoni Art Colour and a glass of wine.  Wish the Concorde was still flying, would love to see the Missoni.

Following is the review of the Sonnet Stanfill curated Italian Style Fashion exhibit from 2014.  A truly worthwhile review of the history and influence of Italian Fashion.  Nothing better since!


ITALIAN STYLE Fashion Since 1945, made its debut at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) to a sold out lecture by curator, Sonnet Stanfill.  Ms Stanfill is a 15 year fashion curator at the V&A who introduced the exhibit at the opening lecture on October 26, 2014, the first of three US showings.



Ms Stanfill clearly has her subject well in hand as she was a most erudite docent while tripping through the two plus years researching the exhibit and answering audience questions.  Responding to a question about Dolce & Gabbana’s recent run-in with the Government (tax evasion, they’ve been cleared), by explaining that non-payment of taxes is an Italian pastime, everyone does it from the lowest to highest.

That being said, Ms Stanfill was ill-dressed, considering the circumstances–100+ couture garments just down the hall.  And it was duly noted by the audience in discreet whispers between the rows–Minnesota Nice.  Wearing sweater and jeans, she took the podium to discuss high fashion.  Not that her audience wore haute couture but were all considerably better dressed for the occasion.  And, she’s American (Alaska), she should know better, or read The Lost Art of Dress

She is forgiven that one small slip as her research resulted in a superb, chronologically organized exhibit–the best way to absorb all the information covering 65 years.

Since picture taking is not allowed, please follow the link to a photo album posted at StarTribune.  It doesn’t take the place of the real thing but better than nothing when attendance is not a possibility.  If within reasonable driving distance, a trip expressly for this exhibit is highly recommended.  Actually, Mpls/St. Paul, the Twin Cities, is a quick flight from most major airports–only an hour from Chicago, two from New York.

The Exhibit

The exhibit begins at the end of WWII–actually, in 1939, with two garments made under the Fascist Government’s approval for using only prescribed textiles and limiting the yardage; all resources  were being diverted to the pending war effort.

Italy’s textile mills, towns and people were destroyed by the war and only by the efforts of one very farsighted Italian businessman, Giovanni Giorgini, did Italian fashion rise from the ruins.  A buyer’s agent before the war, Giorgini had many US retail contacts.  In 1951 he persuaded his US contacts to extend their Paris Fashion stay and come to Florence for Italian week.  Then he persuaded Italian Fashion Designers to show their clothes in one grand show–the birth of the Cat Walk.  Prior to this event, buyers and press were ‘invited’ to Paris ateliers and the buyer would get a private showing.

 A framed Buyers List is part of the exhibit and includes all the best department stores, I. Magnun, Harvey and Nichols, Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Nieman Marcus, etc.  (Didn’t have time to read through to discover if  Dayton’s Oval Room was on the list).

The event was so successful, that in 1952, the show moved to the Sala Bianca (White Salon) at the Palazzo Pitti.  The rest is history!


A most fascinating bit of Italian fashion history is the series of garments donated to the V&A (and included in the exhibit) by Mrs Margaret Abegg, the American wife of a prominent Italian textile manufacturer and art collector.  Although she could afford the likes of Pucci or Ferre, she preferred the local sartoria, dressmaker, by the name of Maria Grimaldi, an artisan with expert technical skills.

The Italians have a culture of purchasing custom clothing from a local sartoria or sewing for family and self.  Up to the ’80s, the majority of clothing was handmade.

Hollywood on the Tibur

Oh yes, mustn’t forget the Hollywood influence.  In the 50s and 60s, many Hollywood movies were filmed in Italy–Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, Ava Gardner vamps in Barefoot Contessa, again, Audrey Hepburn in War and Peace.  Costumes were designed by Italian fashion houses and the actors/actresses shopped.  This is where Liz Taylor learned to speak Italian (while filming Cleopatra)–her only word “Bulgari”.

The infamous Bulgari diamond brooch gifted to Liz Taylor by then-husband Eddie Fisher while she was carrying on a flaming affair with Richard Burton, is in the show–or maybe it’s paste?  Whatever, it’s spectacular paste!

The story goes Eddie submitted a bill to Liz after the divorce and she paid up.

Italian Style Fashion

Liz Taylor, Eddie Fisher Bulgari Diamond Brooch



One last item of note is a Angelo Litrico dinner jacket designed for John F Kennedy in 1963.

Angelo Litrico, John F Kennedy,mohair,1963

JFK Dinner Jacket on right, photo courtesy of V&A exhibition, The Glamour of Italian Fashion



For all the historical background, please continue to the Related Articles.

Related Articles

Sala Bianca

The Glamor of Italian Fashion

Giovanni Giorgini


Sonnet Stanfill

US Tour

Fashion and Textile Museum

Related Posts

Oscar de la Renta Retrospective

High Style Tour





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