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“Women in Balance” exhibition features Wanda Ferragamo, fashion and post-war years

By Simone Preuss


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Image: “Women in Balance” / Ferragamo Museum

Since Friday, 20th May, a new exhibition entitled “Women in Balance” is on display at the Ferragamo Museum in Florence. Using the example of Wanda Ferragamo, wife of Salvatore Ferragamo and founder of the eponymous brand, the exhibition traces the social changes experienced by women on their way to emancipation between the end of the 1950s and the early 1960s

The exhibition, on view for a year, is a tribute to Wanda Miletti Ferragamo, who led the Salvatore Ferragamo brand from 1960 until her death on 19th October 2018. As the head of the luxury fashion brand, she constantly sought a balance between her work and family.

In August 1960, when her husband died, instead of closing the business, she decided to transform an artisanal workshop for women’s shoes into a fashion house, where her children could continue the tradition of innovation and creativity that Salvatore had begun.

“Wanda's story shows a woman who masterfully combined the traditional role of a woman devoted to her home, husband and children with her professional duties and responsibilities to the company,” states a press release about the exhibition.

“A reserved woman, Wanda Ferragamo did not like to talk about herself or boast of her success. This is why we have decided to honour her memory with an exhibition that examines the complexities of what it was to be a woman in Italy between the fifties and sixties, when Wanda changed the course of her life,” explains a description on the exhibition website.

Image: “Women in Balance” / Ferragamo Museum

Accordingly, the exhibition is divided into various sections, showing women in their chosen (and often male-dominated) professions, the arts and culture, politics and the workforce, and at home. While the first section is specifically dedicated to Wanda Ferragamo, others examine the lives of Italian women from 1955 to 1965 through the themes of “Family,” “Women's Professions,” “Artists' Studios,” “Domestic Environment, Consumption and Advertising,” “Female Role Models in Cinema,” “Young Women in Focus,” and “Fashion as an Expression of Female Identity.”

In doing so, the exhibition is based on the theory that history develops through the actions of a multitude of creative, productive people and not as the result of an absolute principle. Thus, new lifestyles, consumption models, and gender and labour relations emerge.

All these factors converged in post-war Italy, during the years that came to be known as the “economic miracle”, a time of profound change for the country, when women were entering different sectors of Italian society, helping to build the Italian republic but also triggering profound cultural and social changes that must be viewed in a long-term perspective in order to grasp their full impact. The exhibition aims to create this perspective.

Image: “Women in Balance” / Ferragamo Museum
Salvatore Ferragamo
Wanda Ferragamo