The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014

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Elizabeth Taylor wears Bulgari jewellery at the masked ball, Hotel Ca'Rezzonico, Venice, 1967. AFP PHOTO


Dolce & Gabbana boots, 2000. Jaron James, Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Silk evening dress by Roberto Capucci. Courtesy Roberto Capucci Foundation. Jaron James, Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Valentino posing with models near the Trevi Fountain. Rome, July 1967. Photo courtesy of The Art Archive / Mondadori Portfolio / Marisa Rastellini


Gianfranco Ferre advert, 1991. © Gian Paolo Barbieri

 (G.M. Fadigati)
G.M. Fadigati

Fashion Show in Sala Bianca Pitti Palace, Florence, 1955. Photo by G.M. Fadigati, © Giorgini Archive, Florence

A major exhibition sponsored by luxury Italian brand Bulgari that takes a detailed look at the history of Italian fashion. The collection of mens and womenswear begins with ensembles from the end of World War II and ends at present-day trends, encompassing couture fashion, ready-to-wear items and accessories. The display features contributions from Dolce and Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Missoni, Prada, Valentino and Versace, as well as forgotten designers, the Fontana Sisters and Simonetta. There will also be film clips and fashion photography.


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This unashamed frockfest charts the meteoric rise of the Italian fashion industry over the last 60 years. After the Second World War, Italy was in disarray. Half the population was illiterate, the economy was at rock bottom and they had found themselves on the wrong side of history. All that was about to change, though, with a series of catwalk shows in Florence and, later, Rome and Milan. Thanks to some enterprising Italian fashion moguls (and a little intervention from the Fascist government), the ‘Made In Italy’ label came to be a globally-recognised indicator of quality.

As you’d expect, there is plenty of interesting interpretation, but it’s hard not to be mesmerised by the clothes. The curators have assembled a terrific collection of garments, mostly glamorous evening dresses but also daywear, beachwear, shoes and jewellery. The standout piece in the show is the set of emeralds (pictured above) bought for Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton while filming Cleopatra in Rome. Now worth tens of millions of dollars, the suite of jewels is absolutely dazzling. They were produced by  exhibition sponsor Bulgari which, according to Burton, was the only word of Italian Liz knew. Well, you’ve got to start somewhere.

Other highlights include the ‘Palazzo Pyjamas’ popularised as informal daywear by Jackie Kennedy, and a selection of trouser suits that Margot Leadbetter would have been proud to own. The only slight let-down is the menswear coverage, which looks like a hurriedly-assembled afterthought and doesn’t do justice to Italy’s renowned men’s tailoring. The V&A can be forgiven though, as the stars of the show were always going to be the frocks.

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