Italy’s High Fashion on the Factory Floor

The Glamour of Italian Fashion: 1945–2014’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum from Saturday to July 27 is a rare show that chronicles the birth of an industry and celebrates its beating technological heart.

A lineup of  couture gowns,  from left:  Valentino, Dolce &  Gabbana, Armani  Privé, Giambattista  Valli, Valentino and  Roberto Capucci at  the exhibition. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times


Italian fashion history started in Florence, and the exhibition begins there with a photograph of ruined buildings after the Second World War. That morphs into displays of dresses against a background of twinkling chandeliers in the Sala Bianca, where couturiers, little known outside their Italian habitat, created dresses for contessas.

A mannequin in a Pucci tunic and leggings from 1966 next to a Vespa scooter. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times


Yet Rome became a beacon for movie stars from the 1950s, and a striking section called “Hollywood on the Tiber” includes movies on giant screens, dresses worn by Ava Gardner or Audrey Hepburn and an image of Liz Taylor with glinting Bulgari emeralds.

The exhibition’s accompanying V&A book, edited by Ms. Stanfill and including essays with rich illustrations, also sets out the story of the rise of different areas of Italy.




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