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The Glamour of Italian Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum is currently staging what is the first in depth examination of Italy’s overarching influence on the world of fashion since WW2. The exhibition charts the rise and rise of the epicentre of style and glamour that is Italian fashion.

The Glamour of Italian Fashion
Ankle boots, black leather stiletto heels with gold, white and pink embroidery, Dolce & Gabbana, 2000
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Rome became “Hollywood on the Tiber” in the late 1950’s when American movie stars Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn filmed at the Cinecitta studios. They quickly fell for the luxurious fabrics and finely crafted designs. These stars gave the Hollywood imprimatur to the industry and women around the world suddenly had an insatiable need for the latest Italian styles of Salvatore Ferragamo, Roberto Capucci and Maria Grimaldi.

The Glamour of Italian Fashion
Evening dress of embroidered net and matelasse coat, Mila Schøn 1966. Courtesy Maison Mila Schøn, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

One of the exhibition’s highlights must be the sparkling Mila Schön ensemble worn by Lee Radziwill in 1966 to the ‘party of the decade’ –Truman Capote’s legendary Black and White Ball. The sleeveless dress has undulating stripes of silver sequins and bugle beads and the matching matelassé coat features sequins on the collar and cuffs.

 Rome became “Hollywood on the Tiber” in the late 1950’s when American movie stars Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn filmed at the Cinecitta studios

Elizabeth Taylor’s passion for the exuberant designs of Bulgari is detailed with an installation devoted to the platinum, diamond and emerald engagement gift from Richard Burton. Hollywood’s biggest star wore the necklace on her wedding day and is pictured here wearing the jewels when she attended the masked ball at Hotel Ca’Rezzonico, Venice in 1967.

The Glamour of Italian Fashion
Elizabeth Taylor wears Bulgari jewellery at the masked ball, Hotel Ca’Rezzonico, Venice 1967

Many of the installations highlight the boldness of Italian fashion for both men and women – flamboyant silhouettes in daring colour ways with ornate embellishment.

The exhibition identifies many of the factors that contribute to the Italian fashion industry’s stellar status – expert textile production, the use of luxurious fabrics and it’s prominence in both stylish menswear and glamorous womenswear. The vital importance of Italian traditional industries such as spinning, dyeing, weaving, cutting and fine stitching is also showcased.

Over 100 exquisite pieces from Italy’s most followed fashion houses, Gucci, Missoni, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Pucci and Versace are included. The next generation of ateliers including Giambattista Valli and Valentino’s new designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli are also on display.

The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 is on at the V&A until July 27, 2014.

Featured Image: Valentino posing with models nearby Trevi Fountain. Rome,  July 1967.  Courtesy of The Art Archive / Mondadori Portfolio / Marisa Rastellini

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Liz Bond

Liz Bond comes from a PR background and loves fine wine, great food and rewarding travel - all the magnificent things in life. She prides herself in an innate ability to meet famous celebrities at baggage carousels.

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