Drawing upon original research undertaken within Italian archives, the exhibition is explored with the help of more than 120 ensembles and accessories by leading Italian fashion houses including Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Prada, Versace, and Gucci, many of which have never been seen before in the UK.
Curated by Sonnet Stanfill, the exhibition is about how fashion was used to transform the image and fortune of Italy after the war and starts with the landmark ‘Sala Bianca’ catwalk shows held in Florence from the early 1950s organised by Giovanni Battista Giorgini, an exporter of Italian homeware who helped persuade his US contacts to come to Italy for the shows.
The exhibit then moves onto the golden era of Hollywood, showcasing the film industry love affair with the country and its fashion, featuring clips of Roman Holiday, a film costume from War and Peace designed by Gattinoni, as well as projected images of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and the iconic Bulgari jewellery that Taylor wore on her wedding day.
There are also rooms dedicated to Italian tailoring, the growth of ready-to-wear, as well as a look at Italy’s traditional textile industry, which was illustrated with a digital map showing the network of mills, workshops and related industries seen across the Italian landscape.
The biggest room and the finale to the exhibit was devoted to the ‘Cult of the Designer’ featuring modern-day pieces including a Prada did-dyed dress from 2004, a floor-length Valentino, a hand-painted Dolce & Gabbana ballgown, as well as accessories such as the classic Fendi Baguette handbag and Prada shoes.
The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014, runs from April 5 - July 27, 2014 at the V&A.
Images: Victoria and Albert Museum