The Glamour of Italian Fashion Since 1945 at the V&A

I always find exhibitions in London are like buses - you wait for ages and then three you want come along at once. That's certainly the case at the moment, with three amazing fashion exhibition currently going on in London. Today's post is on one of them: The Glamour of Italian Fashion at the V&A.

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The exhibition opens with two suits made under the fascist regime, with broad shoulders, slightly - but only slightly - nipped-in waists and knee-lengths skirts. They're a sharp contrast to the room that follows, which is like stepping into a dream of 1950s Hollywood, all enormous full skirts and tiny waists. I particularly loved the graduated pink and black lace Emilio Scuberth dress, which you can just see on the left of the picture above, but I could have literally taken that entire room home with me.

The big takeaways from the first section was not only the ballgown shapes, but also the effects the designers created using fabric, whether that was a feather effect on an amazing gold Simonetta gown, massive bows at the side of the waist, or the peacock-like bustle on a flesh-coloured dress with black lace overlay. I also really loved the rich colours, particularly the bright reds, purples, golds and blacks which create a real sense of opulence, and the level of beautifully detailed and often handsewn embroidery in the dresses.

The second room was dominated by items from the era of the Cinecitta studios, but what drew my eye were the beautiful brightly coloured handcrafted silk and leather shoes and bags, a gorgeous Pucci printed jumpsuit and bikini, and the utterly beautiful tailoring. I liked that it was a brilliant blend of sharp clothes and relaxed, as captured by the spezato look of mismatched jacket and trousers, as well as the beautiful wool coats - there was one by Carlo Palazi that had black flecks in the camel wool, making look it the wearer had just emerged from a shower but still looked impeccably glamorous.

In the next two rooms there was much more focus on the key Italian designers of the latter half of the twentieth century, especially some of their more outlandish creations - a particular standout was a 70s Roberto Cavalli piece that was a riot of leather fringing and wouldn't have looked out of place at a Wild West fancy dress party. But there was still that emphasis on texture, from a Versace suit mixing quilted leather with monochrome houndstooth to a sky-blue Moschino shift dress with a multi-coloured appliqué map of Italy.

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The last room features an array of amazing dresses from more recent Italian designer collections of the last 15 years or so. I must admit that I really struggled to pick out something I loved here because there were so many amazing things - the Prada hot rod sandals, a gorgeous quirky Miu Miu ensemble of a flapper-esque sequin dress under a printed wool coat, a classic Roberto Cavalli slinkly leopard number, the beautiful painted floral dress second from the left in the photo above, dresses made to look like they were growing leaves... Seriously, the combination of that final room and the first one was worth the entire exhibition price for me.

The final thing I would say about this exhibition is to factor in plenty of time to get round it, especially if like me you like to watch all the interactive videos and read all the cards next to the displays. I had foolishly booked to go to the Wedding Dresses exhibition an hour after getting into Italian Fashion (post coming soon!, and in hindsight I wish I'd gone for at least an hour and a half so I could have seen everything properly.

Ultimately, what I learnt from this exhibition is that, since 1945, Italian fashion has been about opulence - there seems to have always been a 'more is more' philosophy - beautiful tailoring, and above all about celebrating the female form in all its glory. But it's also fascinating to see the craftsmanship and level of details that goes into the clothes; that truly shows that in this case, fashion can also be art.

If you fancy checking out the exhibition it's on until 27th July and tickets will cost you £12 - which I would say is definitely worth it, especially if you are a sucker for a beautiful dress.


  1. Oh wow I really want to go now think I will book a coach xxx

    1. You should definitely go if you can - the clothes are so beautiful, and amazing quality. I really can't recommend it enough!