Italians and fashion 1860 – 1960

Perugia, Museo Civico di Palazzo della Penna - 9 August 2019 / 26 January 2020

Due to populare demand, the exhibition has been extended until January the 26th, 2020. 

This exhibition accompanies visitors on a journey through the history of Italian costume, from the early days of Italian unity to the first ten years of today’s republic, a journey that comprises more than 150 photographs, 20 dresses, 20 sketches as well as original objects and cameras. On the way, you will be able to observe and admire the fashions that have been all the rage in Italian society. We start in the nineteenth century, when middle-class ladies enveloped themselves in dresses worn over tight corsets, with huge skirts supported by crinoline structures and trimmed with lace and broderie anglaise, while ordinary women went wrapped in great shawls, trailing long skirts that swept the ground as they walked, workers would don their Sunday best on feast days and rich bourgeois gentlemen with their splendid beards and whiskers wore clothing inspired by the sovereign, King Victor Emanuel II first and then Umberto I. Then came the twentieth century, turning all fashions and fads upside down and revealing women’s ankles. Passing through the Fascist period, the exhibition brings us up to the post-war period, when men stayed true to their suit, collar and tie, but women threw the rules out of the window, as skirts grew ever shorter and more practical and the women’s suit became a model and a sign of complete recognition of equal dignity with the other sex.

The section of the exhibition dedicated to historical photography houses over 150 photographic works from the Manodori Sagredo Collection, among which some precious originals from the nineteenth century.
There is a link between photography and clothing: both of them are tools of the language of appearances. The first acts as an image of a distant or recent past, while the second expresses the intention to show ourselves to others in such a way that what we reveal to them is a personality that is also made up of an aesthetic of taste. Also in photographs, the subject who is shot takes pains to ensure that the image of him that survives for posterity is the best one, since the photograph will outlive him and the idea of the person he is will be modulated on the basis of the portrait.
Photography’s official date of birth in 1839 coincided with a new way of dressing, both for men and for women, that followed the demise of the Napoleonic era, paving the way for the age of Romanticism, marked by clothing that was extremely chaste, camouflaged and perfectly suited to the nineteenth-century ideal of conformism. This partnership between clothing and conformism was to endure, albeit amid the transformations and mutations of the early twentieth century, the First World War, the years of Fascism and the period after the Second World War, until the notorious sixties. Throughout these long years, photography dutifully recorded the manners of the fashions adopted by ordinary Italians, to whom haute couture suggested models that they would then copy in simpler, more modest forms. Italians thus found that photographs offered them a mirror for their personal identities, not just reflections of the types of fashions that were decreed by the great dressmakers or high society personalities, but interpretations of what we might call the social garb donned by every individual to present him or herself to the world. The fact is that an individual’s attire corresponds not only to his day and age, but also to the personality that each one of us identifies with, builds or recognises as our own, thus bringing it out into the open. At the same time, photographs make a documentary record of history and remind us of it: it is here that clothing encounters its ultimate meaning, that of expressing a social and cultural belonging.
This exhibition of photographs of a host of Italian men and women not only enables us to look back on the transformations of clothing and the cultural bonds that it expresses, but also becomes a visual archive of the great history of appearances. In every pose, the lens focuses not only on the faces, the gestures or the attitudes of the men and women photographed, but also on their attire, be it a hat, a jacket or a skirt, sometimes wide and sweeping, sometimes long and sometimes short. The work of so many photographers, often amateurs or improvised, alongside some of the most prestigious names in the field, such as Ghitta Carell or Luxardo, is destined to generate a major photography album of how Italians dressed from 1860 to 1970, i.e. from the moment when Italy achieved national unity and freedom to the decade that saw the rise of quite different and parallel modes of dress, such as casual and sports clothing.

A section of the exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Maison Gattinoni Couture Fashion House and curated by its President Stefano Dominella.
Fernanda Gattinoni inspired Italians with her haute couture, building a foundation for the phenomenon of Made in Italy. That is why her maison is to be the guest of honour at the exhibition “Italians and Fashion, 1860-1960”, curated by Alberto Manodori Sagredo and held in the Civic Museum in Palazzo della Penna, Perugia, from 8 August to 9 September 2019.
The exhibition brings us a perfect narrative of a journey that takes us through the Gattinoni style, with a special focus on the fifties and sixties, when a perfect balance was achieved between the concepts of rebirth and revolution.
It was in the climate of emergency brought on by the war that Italian creativity combined with the country’s long-established traditions of craftsmanship to mix an explosive cocktail, whose results would make themselves felt soon after the war had drawn to a close. It was then, against the backdrop of the Marshall Plan, that Italy was transformed into an American colony. Those were the days when Rome, with its enchanted atmosphere made up of ruins, sunsets and majestic churches, left a lasting mark on the public’s collective imagery as the land of dreams.
It was by making those dreams come true that Fernanda Gattinoni founded her fashion house in 1946, rapidly becoming an unquestioned star in the international firmament of fashion. Starting in the second half of the forties, her atelier became an obligatory destination for the international jet-set in Italy’s capital. Her customers numbered First Ladies, ambassadors’ wives and members of the aristocracy – from Evita Peron to Princess Elvina Pallavicini and Claire Boothe Luce – but also a whole host of Italian and international movie stars, including Anouk Aimée, Ingrid Bergman, Lucia Bosè, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Rossella Falk, Audrey Hepburn, Gina Lollobrigida, Anna Magnani, Kim Novak, Charlotte Rampling, Lana Turner and Monica Vitti.
The Maison Gattinoni was distinguished by its blend of beautiful lines, sophisticated elegance and practicality, combined with the guarantee of a long tradition of craftsmanship, the quality and solidity of its materials, a love of drapery and a pronounced tendency to simplicity. The couturiere loved putting her creations together with endless drapery, bustiers embroidered by skilful hands and generous rustling skirts.
In this exhibition, twenty years of our fascinating history of fashion are illustrated by twenty iconic creations, together with sketches signed by Brunetta, Guido Cozzolino and Antonio Pascali, sourced from the Fernanda and Raniero Gattinoni historical archives.
The fifties brought broad skirts supported by layers of crinoline, always highlighting the hips and the bust, so as to stress the feminine figure, but also straight skirts, also with a major emphasis on the waist, often in the form of a belt.
The sixties then came about in a creative, rebellious terrain, heralding a veritable cultural earthquake. Women’s legs were uncovered as the miniskirt took hold. The exhibition features glam-chic creations for everyday looks and glittering evenings.
This is the story of the perfect Italian style that still makes us look exceptionally elegant today in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Museo civico di Palazzo della Penna, Via Prospero Podiani 11, Perugia

9 August 2019 – 8 September 26 January 2020

Opening times
10 am to 7 pm - closed on Mondays 

Full € 6; concession A € 3; concession B € 2
Combined ticket Palazzo della Penna + Cappella di San Severo + Complesso Templare di San Bevignate + Mostra: full € 9; concession A € 6; concession B € 4

Alberto Manodori Sagredo

Scientific Committee
Alberto Manodori Sagredo
Mariastella Margozzi
Stefano Dominella
Lorenzo Soave

Munus Arts & Culture

In collaboration with 
Comune di Perugia
Maison Gattinoni Couture

Giovedì 8 agosto, ore 18,00


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