Italian Style: Fashion & Film from Early Cinema to the Digital Age 9781441189158, 9781501302473, 9781623566616

This is the first in-depth, book-length study on fashion and Italian cinema from the silent film to the present. Italian

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Italian Style: Fashion & Film from Early Cinema to the Digital Age
 9781441189158, 9781501302473, 9781623566616

Table of contents :
Topics and Issues in National Cinema
List of Illustrations
1 Fashion, Film, Modernity
Nostra Dea: the goddess of fashion
Pirandello, cinema, and clothing: elective affinities
“The Tight Frock-Coat”: performing dress
Film, costume, fashion, and intermediality
Italian style: fashion and film
2 Italian Fashion and Film in the 1910s: From the Futurists to Rosa Genoni
The Futurists, fashion, film, and performance
Rosa Genoni: Per una moda italiana: fashioning the diva
3 From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation
The Italian divas and the “gowns of emotions”
Lyda Borelli (1887–1959): the ethereal melancholic beauty and Ma l’amore mio non muore! (love everlasting)
The veil: modernity in motion in Nino Oxilia’s Rapsodia Satanica
Francesca Bertini (1892–1985): the glamorous embodied
Nino Oxilia’s Sangue Bleu (1914) and Gustavo Serena’s Assunta Spina (1915)
Pina Menichelli (1890–1981): “the other woman” and the end of an era
4 Fashion, Film, Modernity, under Fascism
Fashion in motion: the LUCE newsreels
Rhythms of the modern city: fashion in Corrado D’Errico’s Stramilano (1929)
Contessa di Parma (Alessandro Blasetti, 1937): a manifesto for the promotion of Italian fashion and Turin as a fashion city
Grandi Magazzini (1939, Mario Camerini): fashion consumption, gender roles, and work in Milan
Epilogue: towards a new dawn
5 Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion: The Films of Michelangelo Antonioni
The fabric of film: Sette canne, un vestito (1949)
The 1950s: Cronaca di un amore, La signora senza camelie and Le amiche
The fashion show in Cronaca: a narrative mise en abyme
“Was I a good femme fatale?” (Lucia Bosè (Clara) in La signora senza camelie)
The fashion show in Le amiche: the end of the game
The 1960s: from costume to fashion. L’Avventura and beyond
Outsiders, doubles, wanderers
Conclusion: a visual tactility
6 Rome, Fashion, Film
From “Hollywood on the Tiber” to La Dolce Vita
Rome as a fashion city in the postwar years
La Dolce Vita
La Dolce Vita and its discontents
Roma (Fellini, 1971): space and time
The broken watch of history
The ecclesiastical fashion show
7 After La Dolce Vita: La Grande Bellezza (2013) by Paolo Sorrentino
Fashion, film, and Rome today: national identity revisited
The Photographic Archive by Giuseppe Palmas (1918–1977)
Interview with Fernanda Gattinoni, Rome, June 16, 2000
Dressing the Dreams: Interview with Dino Trappetti—Tirelli Costumi Rome, December 2015
Interview with Teresa Allegri, founder of Annamode, Rome, Fondazione Annamode, June 6, 2013
Adriana Berselli
Some notes on the set of L’avventura (1960) by Michelangelo Antonioni
“Cesare Attolini” and La Grande Bellezza: Interview with Massimiliano Attolini, Son of Cesare and Grandson of Vincenzo, Founder of the Sartoria
Selected Bibliography

Citation preview

Topics and Issues in National Cinema

Volume 5 Series Editor Armida de la Garza, University College Cork, Ireland Editorial Board Mette Hjort, Chair Professor and Head, Visual Studies Lingnan University, Hong Kong Lúcia Nagib, Professor of Film, University of Reading, UK Chris Berry, Professor of Film Studies, Kings College London, UK, and Co-Director of the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre, UK Sarah Street, Professor of Film and Foundation Chair of Drama, University of Bristol, UK Jeanette Hoorn, Professor of Visual Cultures, University of Melbourne, Australia Shohini Chaudhuri, Senior Lecturer and MA Director in Film Studies, University of Essex, UK


Italian Style Fashion & Film from Early Cinema to the Digital Age Eugenia Paulicelli

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA

50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2016 © Eugenia Paulicelli, 2016 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN: HB: 978-1-4411-8915-8 ePub: 978-1-6235-6858-0 ePDF: 978-1-6235-6661-6 Cover design: Alice Marwick Typeset by Fakenham Prepress Solutions, Fakenham, Norfolk NR21 8NN

Contents List of Illustrations Acknowledgments 1




Fashion, Film, Modernity Nostra Dea: the goddess of fashion Pirandello, cinema, and clothing: elective affinities “The Tight Frock-Coat”: performing dress Film, costume, fashion, and intermediality Italian style: fashion and film

vii xi 1 1 4 7 10 10

Italian Fashion and Film in the 1910s: From the Futurists to Rosa Genoni The Futurists, fashion, film, and performance Rosa Genoni: Per una moda italiana: fashioning the diva


From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation The Italian divas and the “gowns of emotions” Lyda Borelli (1887–1959): the ethereal melancholic beauty and Ma l’amore mio non muore! (love everlasting) The veil: modernity in motion in Nino Oxilia’s Rapsodia Satanica Francesca Bertini (1892–1985): the glamorous embodied Nino Oxilia’s Sangue Bleu (1914) and Gustavo Serena’s Assunta Spina (1915) Pina Menichelli (1890–1981): “the other woman” and the end of an era


Fashion, Film, Modernity, under Fascism Fashion in motion: the LUCE newsreels Rhythms of the modern city: fashion in Corrado D’Errico’s Stramilano (1929) Contessa di Parma (Alessandro Blasetti, 1937): a manifesto for the promotion of Italian fashion and Turin as a fashion city Grandi Magazzini (1939, Mario Camerini): fashion consumption, gender roles, and work in Milan Epilogue: towards a new dawn


20 26

41 48 54 63 63 69

81 88 91 101 106

vi Contents 5


Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion: The Films of Michelangelo Antonioni The fabric of film: Sette canne, un vestito (1949) The 1950s: Cronaca di un amore, La signora senza camelie and Le amiche The fashion show in Cronaca: a narrative mise en abyme “Was I a good femme fatale?” (Lucia Bosè (Clara) in La signora senza camelie) The fashion show in Le amiche: the end of the game The 1960s: from costume to fashion. L’Avventura and beyond Outsiders, doubles, wanderers Conclusion: a visual tactility Rome, Fashion, Film From “Hollywood on the Tiber” to La Dolce Vita Rome as a fashion city in the postwar years La Dolce Vita La Dolce Vita and its discontents Roma (Fellini, 1971): space and time The broken watch of history The ecclesiastical fashion show

7 After La Dolce Vita: La Grande Bellezza (2013) by Paolo Sorrentino Fashion, film, and Rome today: national identity revisited Appendices: The Photographic Archive by Giuseppe Palmas (1918–1977) Interview with Fernanda Gattinoni, Rome, June 16, 2000 Dressing the Dreams: Interview with Dino Trappetti—Tirelli Costumi Rome, December 2015 Interview with Teresa Allegri, founder of Annamode, Rome, Fondazione Annamode, June 6, 2013 Adriana Berselli Some notes on the set of L’avventura (1960) by Michelangelo Antonioni “Cesare Attolini” and La Grande Bellezza: Interview with Massimiliano Attolini, Son of Cesare and Grandson of Vincenzo, Founder of the Sartoria Selected Bibliography Filmography Index

113 113 119 127 128 132 133 137 151 157 157 161 170 174 175 177 178 185 192

195 199 207 215 227 227 233 239 255 259

List of Illustrations Figure 1  Lyda Borelli wearing Genoni’s Tanagra Dress, 1908, Per una moda italiana, from author’s collection. 34 Figure 2  Borelli, postcard, 1910–18 (b/w photo), Italian Photographer, (20th century). Private Collection/Alinari/Bridgeman Images. 49 Figure 3  Borelli as Salomè, Postcard, Album/Art Resource NY. 50 Figure 4  Alba/Lyda Borelli in veil sequence, Rapsodia Satanica, dir. N. Oxilia. 62 Figure 5  Princess Mira walking alone towards her daughter’s home, Sangue Bleu, dir N. Oxilia. 62 Figure 6  Francesca Bertini in Assunta Spina (1915), dir. Bertini and Gustavo Serena. Caesar Film/The Kobal Collection, Art Resource, NY. 62 Figure 7  Francesca Bertini, c.1921 (b/w photo), Italian Photographer (20th century), Private Collection/Alinari/Bridgeman Images. 63 Figure 8  Pina Menichelli, c.1915–25, Italian Photographer (20th century). Private Collection/Alinari/Bridgeman Images. 70 Figure 9  Establishing Shots, Contessa di Parma, dir. A. Blasetti. 93 Figure 10  Establishing Shots, Contessa di Parma, dir. A. Blasetti. 93 Figure 11  Marcella modeling the dress, Contessa di Parma.93 Figure 12  Marcella and Gino as bride and groom in fashion show, Contessa di Parma.105 Figure 13  Lauretta and Bruno discovering the label on the ski outfit Lauretta took from the store, Grandi magazzini.105 Figure 14  Clelia wearing the chinchilla coat, Le amiche, dir. Antonioni. 121 Figure 15  Eleonora Rossi–Drago modeling the chinchilla coat worn for Le amiche at her home in Rome, Photo Giuseppe Palmas, Rome, 1954, Courtesy of Roberto Palmas. 121 Figure 16  Paola and Guido, Cronaca di un amore.122 Figure 17  Fashion show in Cronaca di un amore.122 Figure 18  Fashion show in Cronaca di un amore.123 Figure 19  Nene and Lorenzo at gallery, Le amiche, dir. Antonioni. 123 Figure 20  Clelia exhibiting Gucci bamboo bag during her walk in her old neighborhood in Turin, Le amiche.129


List of Illustrations

Figure 21  Anna and Claudia, L’avventura, dir. Antonioni. Cino del duca/ Pce/Lyre/The Kobal Collection, Art Resource/NY. 134 Figure 22  Woman saying: “You see, the dollar gets everywhere,” La notte.134 Figure 23  Close–up of Giuliana wearing high-heel pumps, Il deserto rosso.135 Figure 24  Claudia, L’avventura.135 Figure 25  Giovanni and Lidia, La notte. Nepi/Sotiledip/Silver Films/ The Kobal Collection, Art Resource/NY. 141 Figure 26  Antonioni, Alain Delon and Monica Vitti on the set of L’eclisse, dir. Antonioni. Interopa-Cineriz-Paris/Times/The Kobal Collection, Art Resource/NY.142 Figure 27  Three girls from Rome (orig. title, Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna), Liliana Bonfatti, Lucia Bosè, Cosetta Greco, dir. Luciano Emmer, Bellotti Film, The Kobal Collection, Art Resource/NY. 165 Figure 28  Ava Gardner, Ciampino Airport, greeting friends (Micol Fontana) and paparazzi. Photos Giuseppe Palmas, Courtesy of Roberto Palmas, Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive. 165 Figure 29  Ingrid Bergman, Rome (April 14, 1956). “Teatro Mobile” by Franco Castellani, Viale Libia. Photo by Giuseppe Palmas, Courtesy of Roberto Palmas, Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive. 166 Figure 30  Lace evening dress by Fernanda Gattinoni from Ingrid Bergman’s wardrobe donated to Tirelli Costumi, Rome. Photo by Fiorenzo Niccoli, Courtesy of Tirelli Costumi. 166 Figure 31  Evening dress worn by Stefania Sandrelli, Io la conoscevo bene. Courtesy of Annamode Archive.  181 Figure 32  Stefania Sandrelli, Viareggio, August 1962. Photos by Giuseppe Palmas, Courtesy of Roberto Palmas, Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive. 181 Figure 33  Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer, Rome, September 29, 1954, Grand Hotel. Courtesy of Roberto Palmas. Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive.196 Figure 34  Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, Rome, February 27, 1954. Courtesy of Roberto Palmas. Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive. 197 Figure 35  Valentina Cortese, star of Le amiche, at Emilio Schuberth atelier, Rome November 9, 1954. Courtesy of Roberto Palmas. Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive. 198 Figure 36  Fernanda Gattinoni in the late 1990s, author’s collection. 199 Figure 37  Antonia, Umberto Tirelli and Claudia Cardinale at fitting for film Il Gattopardo, dir. L. Visconti, costumes by P. Tosi. Courtesy of Fondazione Tirelli–Trappetti209

List of Illustrations

Figure 38  The two sisters and founders of Annamode, Anna and Teresa Allegri. Courtesy of Fondazione Annamode. Figure 39  Berselli, B/W sketch of three local people following the crew and described by Berselli as: “Bartolo, the one who is able to break up hurricanes”; Franco, “recalling an old Roman joyful type” and Giuseppe, “waiter at the restaurant.” Courtesy of Adriana Berselli. Figure 40  Cesare Attolini in his atelier in Naples. Courtesy of Cesare Attolini, Naples.



227 233

List of Plates Plate 1  Giuliana, Il deserto rosso, dir. Antonioni. Duemila/Federiz/Francoriz/The Kobal Collection/Art Resource/NY.0 Plate 2  Giuliana, Il deserto rosso, dir. Antonioni. Duemila/Federiz/Francoriz/The Kobal Collection/Art Resource/NY. Plate 3  Ugo Mulas in Settimo giorno, Milan, November 27th 1958. Photo Ugo Mulas. © Ugo Mulas Heirs. All rights reserved. Plate 4  Ugo Mulas, “Fashion and the skyscraper for Pirelli,” Milan 1959–60, Photo Ugo Mulas © Ugo Mulas Heirs. All rights reserved. Plate 5  color, Federico Fellini, in the underground, Roma, dir. F. Fellini. Ultra Films/ Prods Artistes Associes/The Kobal Collection, Art Resource/NY. Plate 6  color, Ecclesiastical catwalk, Roma. Ultra Films/Prods Artistes Associes/The Kobal Collection, Art Resource/NY. Plate 7  Monaci Gallenga Collection, Tirelli Costumi. Courtesy of Fondazione Tirelli-Trappetti. Plate 8  Monaci Gallenga Collection, costume worn by Florinda Bolkan in Indagine di un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto, dir. E. Petri, costumes by F. Carretti. Courtesy of Fondazione Tirelli Trappetti. Plate 9  Dress for Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) in The Age of Innocence, dir. M. Scorsese, costumes by Pescucci. Courtesy of Fondazione Tirelli–Trappetti. Plate 10  1970s embroidered evening gowns, Annamode. Courtesy Fondazione Annamode. Plate 11  Berselli, sketch for dress worn by Claudia (Monica Vitti) in L’Avventura, with note by Berselli: “Before leaving for the Sicilian island.” Courtesy of Adriana Berselli.


List of Illustrations

Plate 12  Berselli, sketch for Giulia (Dominique Blanchard) in L’avventura, with note by Berselli: “always doll-like.” Courtesy of Adriana Berselli. Plate 13  Berselli, sketch for Patrizia (Emeralda Ruspoli) in L’avventura, with note: “always eccentric and out of place.” Courtesy of Adriana Berselli. Plate 14  Berselli, sketch for Claudia (Monica Vitti) and Patrizia (Emeralda Ruspoli) in L’avventura party scene in Palermo. Courtesy of Adriana Berselli. Plate 15  Italian actor Toni Servillo (Jep Gambardella) at the fitting of one of the jackets he wears in La Grande Bellezza, dir. P. Sorrentino. Courtesy of Cesare Attolini, Naples. Plate 16  Servillo at the fitting of one of the jackets he wears in La Grande Bellezza. Courtesy of Cesare Attolini, Naples.

Acknowledgments Italian cinema launched Italian fashion to the world. This book is the story of this launch. The creation of an Italian style and fashion as they are perceived today, especially by foreigners, was a product of the post-Second World War years. Before then, Parisian fashion had dominated Europe and the world. Just as fashion was part of Parisian and French national identity, I argue that the process of shaping and inventing an Italian style and fashion ran parallel to, and at times took the lead in, the creation of an Italian national identity. In bringing to the fore these intersections, as well as emphasizing the importance of craft in cinema, fashion and costume design, the book aims to spotlight the films, directors, costume archives and designers who have been central to the development of “Made in Italy” and Italian style. Therefore, the single parts of the book, including the images and photographs in the main body of the book and in the Appendix, as well as the interviews with the people who have worked and are working in film for the excellence of the “Made in Italy”, complement each other and make up an interconnected whole. The relationship between fashion and the cinema and the arts has occupied many years of my career and research. This book is the result of a passion that has involved my research and teaching at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). I am very grateful to both institutions for having given me the opportunity to teach several courses on what have been my scholarly interests for several years: that is, the relationship between words and images, the impact of technology in shaping and reshaping this relationship and what this tells us about the narratives that make a nation. My heartfelt thanks, then, go to the many conversations I have had with the wonderful students at the CUNY Graduate Center in Comparative Literature, Women’s Studies, Fashion Studies and the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, as well as in the Italian program at Queens College. The threads of my research have taken up several forms in different historical contexts and have used different resources and material over the years. This book on Italian fashion and film is the continuation and natural development of a long (and ongoing) path of research and reflections. Over the course of the years, many co-workers and friends have shared with me in one way or another this project. First, I would like to thank the series editor Armida de La Garza for the incredible support she has given to this project. Along with Sarah Street, Pamela Church Gibson, and Nick Reese Roberts, Armida invited me to take part in a seminar in China in 2000 out of which a rich dialogue was created and that has been behind the reflections that have taken form in this book. With Armida, in particular, I share common interests in the relationship between fashion, film, stardom and national identity. I also would like to take the opportunity to thank the press’s

xii Acknowledgments anonymous reader for the valuable feedback and suggestions. Special thanks go to Katie Gallof, Michelle Chen, Rosamund Louvel, Kim Storry and all the staff at Bloomsbury for the enthusiasm they have shown since the beginning and the hard work they have dedicated to this book. I also would like to give a special thanks to Nick Reese Roberts and Bristol University for the Institute of Advanced Study Benjamin Meeker Visiting Professorship award in the Spring of 2013 and giving me the chance to present early versions of some of the work contained in the book at seminars and a public lecture. At Bristol, I appreciated greatly the conversations I had with students and co-workers, in particular with Charles Burdett, Catherine O’Rawe, and Sarah Street. On the topic of fashion and film, I have had the chance to collaborate on several projects, international seminars, film festivals and exhibitions with many co-workers over the years: Louise Wallenberg, who invited me to lecture at the University of Stockholm and collaborated on and co-organized the international conference Fashion + Film: The 1960s Revisited (2010); Antonio Maraldi (Centro Cinema Cesena, Italy) for collaborating on the same project and exhibition and co-editing the catalog with me; Marketa Uhlirova, for the invitation to co-curate with Ronald Gregg (Yale) the New York edition of “Birds of Paradise” (2011); and David Shwartz (Museum of the Moving Image, New York), Inga Fraser and Stuart Comer. They all offered me wonderful opportunities to develop this book, especially the section on Nino Oxilia and a section of the chapter on Antonioni. I thank them all for their input and encouragement. I also would like to express my gratitude to Djurdja Bartlett for inviting me to give a lecture at the London College of Fashion on “Rome, Fashion and Film.” There, I appreciated the conversations I had with Agnès Rocamora, Sonnet Stanfill, Sandy Black, Pamela Church Gibson and her students. I have also enjoyed my collaboration with Nancy Deihl and Drake Stutesman. Together we organized a conference held at NYU on costume and film in Spring 2013. Thanks go to Hazel Clark, Francesca Granata, Shannon Bell Price (Parsons, The New School of Design); Francesco Casetti (Yale University); Teresa Fiore (Montclair University). Thank you also to Cristina Mazzoni, guest editor of the special issue of Annali d’Italianistica on Rome, Vicki Karaminas, Toni Johnson–Woods, Joseph Hancock, co-editors of Fashion in Popular Culture for publishing earlier and shorter versions of the sections in this book on Rome as a city of fashion. Thank you to Graziella Parati, editor of Italian Cultural Studies, for publishing an earlier version of a section of the chapter on Antonioni, to Federico Luisetti and Luca Somigli, co-editors of the special issue of Annali d’Italianistica on Futurism for publishing an earlier version of the section on Futurism and fashion. Alessia Rinaldi of Deleyva editore for permission to include the section on Rosa Genoni taken from the book, Rosa Genoni. La moda è una cosa seria. Milano Expo 1906 e La Grande Guerra (bilingual edition, 2015). In my home institution, Queens College, I would like to give a special thank you to Dean William McClure for his continuous support for my research and the awards of Enhancement Research Grants, Eva Fernandez for being a receptive and supportive co-worker and administrator. I am also grateful to have received several PS-CUNY research awards (and the feedback from evaluators). Thanks also to the Andrew C. Mellon Foundation, I took part in the “Emotions Seminar” held at the Center for the



Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center (2010-2011) and to my fellow co-workers who were involved in the year long seminar; my co-workers in Film Studies at various CUNY colleges, Amy Herzog, Anupama Kapse, and Jerry Carlson, with whom I had fruitful conversations; and my co-workers at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Comparative Literature Program, the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program and Matthew Gold, and the home that is Women’s Studies (thank you, Elizabeth Small). Thanks also to Rhonda K. Garelick, Gaetana Marrone-Puglia, and Millicent Marcus. I also would like to thank Monica Montana (Queens College), my research assistant in the latter stages of this book, my former students Leo Rivera, Giulia Po De Lisle, Monica Hanna, Vincenza Kelly, Marcella Milio and the vibrant group of current students in Fashion Studies, Tessa Maffucci, Chrislande Dorcilus, Minn Hur, Nicola Certo, Scarlett Newman, and Matilde Fogliani (Comparative Literature). I have been lucky to be surrounded by such a group. Thank you all for your generosity, insights and friendship. You brightened up my days several times. I would also like to thank my co-workers in Fashion Studies, Elizabeth Wissinger and Veronica Manlow with whom I have shared many hours of work and conversation for the advancement of our Program at CUNY and at the Graduate Center. In Italy I would like to thank Natalina Trivisano at the Archivi della Moda del Novecento and Mauro Tosti Croce in Rome; Laura Ceccarelli at the Biblioteca Luigi Chiarini, Rome; Adriana Berselli; Dino Trappetti; Laura Nobili from the Fondazione Tirelli-Trappetti; and Teresa Allegri from the Fondazione Annamode; Roberta Fontana, Lucia Corrain (University of Bologna), the staff at the “Biblioteca delle donne” in Bologna; Michela De Giorgio; Alessandra Pozzati from Archivio Ugo Mulas, Milan; Massimiliano Attolini; and Giovanni Pellerito. I am also extremely grateful to Roberto Palmas for his generous collaboration on the publication of his father’s photographs. I thank them all for their kindness, loyalty and friendship. It has been a privilege to have met such wonderful people during my many years of research. All of them, in different capacities, have contributed to the development of the project. A special thought goes to the memory of Sam Rohdie whose work I have enjoyed reading and for the encouragement he gave me many years ago to pursue this study. Here it is, Sam. There is one person, however, who has shared every stage of this book and its many forms with me: David Ward, my husband and my friend, who is always there to discuss any single detail of film and fashion (not so hard to believe), often over Italian food prepared at home and shared with our many wonderful friends. Thank you, David, for all you do and for what you are. To you and Anna, our daughter, this book is dedicated con tanto amore. All translations of articles, quotations, interviews from Italian into English contained in the book are by the author.



Fashion, Film, Modernity Nostra Dea: the goddess of fashion Performance Notes Extreme rapidity is recommended in all changes of clothing. This recommendation is particularly addressed to the costume designer, who should bear it in mind when designing all of Dea’s dresses. Act I Dea is in her slip. She stands erect in the middle of the stage facing the audience, her arms hanging limp at her sides, motionless, her face absolutely without expression. There is something abandoned and at the same time rigid about her appearance, like a store window mannequin. (Massimo Bontempelli, Nostra Dea, 1925)1 In Nostra Dea (Dea by Dea), a play written in 1925 by the Italian playwright Massimo Bontempelli, the female protagonist changes behavior, gesture, language and identity whenever her maid, her dressmaker or anybody who belongs to her entourage dresses her in a different outfit.2 When she is undressed, Dea appears as a formless and lifeless machine, a store window mannequin, a robotic body, the opposite of nature. This is, in fact, how Dea is introduced to the audience up until the moment when her first maid Anna, an older woman, picks out her outfit of the day. In her slip, Dea does not have a life, she seems to be in a sort of undetermined neutral and zero degree of existence. Clothing gives her motion and life. It is her maid who has the task of dressing her: (with a discreet touch of her hand she leads Dea towards the screen. Anna goes to the wardrobe, which has remained open, quickly chooses a dress, and closes the wardrobe doors. She hurries over to her mistress, who has come to a full stop on the other side of the screen in the same mechanical position as before. Now they are both on the left of the screen). (258)

Anna plays the role of a costume designer assisting the actor to dress up before a performance. Clothing gives Dea not only motion and life but also gives her a context, a frame, a narrative. Clothing gives depth to the flatness of her naked body; it is like adding a stereoscopic lens transforming her body into a three dimensional identity.3 For each costume she wears, she has a different identity which provokes a different


Italian Style

reaction in her interactions with other people. The naked body is similar to that of a lifeless mannequin, while the dressed body takes on many different variants, a plurality of identities, each one of which is characterized by newness and fleetingness. Dress fires life into her body, which is otherwise trapped in an indecisive and “unnatural” nakedness: (Anna deftly helps her on with the outfit, bright red in colour: a smart straight-cut tailor-made suit, very masculine and youthful. She takes a white carnation from a vase and puts it in Dea’s buttonhole.) Dea: (with a huge shudder, as if her whole body had been galvanized into life, she turns to the mirror and takes a rapid look at herself. Then in a warm vibrant voice): Yes, it suits me. I look like a young man. (Anna in the meanwhile rapidly buttons up the outfit.) I’d like to go out for a long walk. In fact I’m going to stay out for lunch. I know, I’ll go to a bistro. (Anna in the meantime puts a red hat on her head that matches the dress, adding to the overall impression of vivacity, youth, and self-confidence). (259)

And, later, Anna, describing Dea to Vulcan, a male friend of hers, says: Anna: Madam is very sensitive. […] Very sensitive to the clothes she wears. She’s amazing! If she has on a bright-coloured dress, she’s bright, like today; if she has a timid dress on, she’s timid, like yesterday: and she changes altogether, altogether. She talks differently. She’s not the same person. One day I saw her in a Chinese outfit, and she began speaking perfect Chinese. If I were to put a black dress on her and a long black veil, she’d be off to the cemetery to blubber over one of the tombs. (263)

By the end of the play, several dresses have covered her body; and for each one of them she acts accordingly, assuming different gestures, body language and personality; she is a woman of multiple frames, each one adding a different dimensional depth. Dea is not alone in being a creature of the clothes she wears. Dress has a structural function, also, for the play’s male characters, and shapes the narrative and the interactions among them. Very astutely, Bontempelli tells us that dress, fabric, color and texture do not leave either us or the wearer in a state of indifference. Indeed, dress leads into a minefield of emotions. The theater stage, and by extension the cinematic stage, become important vehicles for the visual performance of costume and clothes. They move with the characters; and they move the audience with them. In her permutations of dress, Dea condenses a series of important ideas that are pertinent to the present study. In the doubleness of her nature (the naked body) and technology (the dressed body), Dea embodies modernity and a new visual awareness. But the realms of the naked and the dressed are never completely separated; rather, they are linked to circularity, interexchange and a process of negotiation. It is in Dea’s multiple and ever-changing identity that Bontempelli’s play is at its most modern. Indeed, Nostra Dea echoes Baudelaire’s analysis of fashion, the artificial, and the natural, and the impact that gesture and deportment have in defining a particular

Fashion, Film, Modernity


historical epoch. Even from differences in draping and the way pleats are arranged, he says, one can gauge a “new system” (The Painter of Modern Life, 1863).4 More importantly, what Baudelaire emphasizes is the way fashion manipulates and inscribes the body and its images in new frames and forms. But it is with Walter Benjamin’s writings on modernity that Nostra Dea shares stronger echoes, especially in the face of what was a new, emerging mass society where fashion and cinema were two of the most tangible manifestations in the maelstrom of a technological revolution, in a time in which technology allowed both for reproducibility and new visions and for apperceptions of the self and the world. Benjamin’s concern with the relationship between image (the naked body/“truth”) and copy (the dressed body) is very much Bontempelli’s concern, but, far more than in Bontempelli, Benjamin’s discussion has as its context the development of two industries of mass consumption: fashion and film. As Peter Wollen has noted, for Benjamin, under modernity, it is the copy that becomes “associated with the true, and the original with the false” (Wollen: 48).5 Nostra Dea illustrates eloquently this two-way dynamic of modernity: the image and the copy, the naked Dea and the dressed Dea; stasis and movement; dress and costume as a technology of the body and social performance. In this way, as in several films of the same time, Nostra Dea is the embodiment of the contradictory forces of modernity, materialized through, on the one hand, fashionable clothing, and, on the other, costume and spectacle—as we see in the extravagant snake dress that Dea wears at the costume ball at the end of the play. Bontempelli’s concern with doubleness in Nostra Dea is also a concern of some of the landmark films of the period such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), which came out a couple years after Nostra Dea. Doubleness in Lang’s film is represented by the split of the two Marias: the real one (the “good” Maria), and the false one (the “bad” Maria), the robot constructed by Rotwang, the mad scientist, who is also reminiscent of the medieval magician. The false Maria is turned into a femme fatale and a temptress, when she dances wearing the spectacular costume created for the film by Aenne Willkomm. She is also a seducer hinting at unbridled sexuality. In Wollen’s words: “Technology and sexuality are condensed in the figure of the robot Maria” (Wollen: 46). In order to be credible she needs to wear clothing that will convey, and perform, the message. If, in Metropolis, Maria performs her robotic actions thanks to light and electricity, Dea, in Nostra Dea, condenses, in one person, the different forces of technology with multiple changes of dress. There is, however, in this dynamic of true and false, real and imaginary, image and copy a trajectory well described in relation to the two Marias in Metropolis by film theorist Francesco Casetti: We face two polar opposites (nature/artifice), as well as the possibility of their continuity. This continuity is assured by the absolute likeness between the Real Maria and the False Maria: the exact same body lends itself to both woman and automaton. […] There is a circularity and synthesis between nature and artifice. The negotiation changes the terms of the problems […]. At the same time, it assures the active presence of both sides. Each pole of the dialectic has something that has to be preserved. (Casetti: 109)

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Fashion is as much a negotiation with modernity as is film; they both expose the seams of technology. It is in this light that Nostra Dea demands to be read. Thus, dress, as it appears in Bontempelli’s play, has the emotional and affective power that is epitomized by visual performance. As Nostra Dea illustrates, clothing has a highly symbolic charge, affecting the wearer, and his or her perception, in any social space. More specifically, clothing, fabrics, their color, shape and texture variations, frame the apperception of self. Clothing materializes a sentient way of perceiving the body in space.6 The materializing in film of the dynamics of image and copy, the natural and the technological, costume and clothing takes on the form of a dense and precise essay on language and signification. Fashion and film are very powerful industries; they are also media machines that shape and construct equally powerful symbolic narratives and identities, as true today as at the outset of cinema, even in our after-the-digital-revolution and globalized world. It is hardly surprising, then, that writers and filmmakers alike have been fascinated by the transformative power of the language of clothing and fashion and the impact that this language has on style, consumption and behavior.

Pirandello, cinema, and clothing: elective affinities I look at the women in the street, note how they are dressed, how they walk, the hats they wear on their heads; at the men, and the airs they have or give themselves; I listen to their talk, their plans; and at times it seems to me so impossible to believe in the reality of all that I see and hear, that being incapable, on the other hand, of believing that they are all doing it as a joke, I ask myself whether really all this clamorous and dizzy machinery of life, which from day to day seems to become more complicated and to move with greater speed, has not reduced the human race to such a condition of insanity that presently we must break out in fury and overthrow and destroy everything. […] I am an operator. […] This is what I do. I set up my machine on its knock-kneed tripod. One or more stagehands, following my directions, mark out on the carpet or on the stage with a long wand and a blue pencil the limits within which the actors have to move to keep the picture in focus. (Luigi Pirandello, Shoot!, 1915)7

Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936) was one such writer. It was he who directed the first production of Nostra Dea in Rome on April 22, 1925. Ten years earlier, Pirandello had published the first novel—Shoot! (1915)—about the new art born of science, technology and machines: film. The protagonist and narrator of Shoot! is the camera operator at the Kosmograph film company, Serafino Gubbio. Through his thoughts and reflections we are able to gauge both the anxieties generated by the technological

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revolution brought about by cinema, and the new possibilities brought about by the use of the camera. Serafino Gubbio defines himself as “a hand that turns the handle”; and while he turns the handle, complying with his director’s orders, he reflects upon his mechanized gestures and those of the actors: “Are you ready? Shoot!” And I start turning the handle. I might indulge myself in the illusion that, by turning the handle, I set these actors in motion, just as an organ-grinder creates the music by turning the handle. But I allow myself neither this nor any other illusion, and keep on turning until the scene is finished. […] Long live the Machine that mechanizes life! (6–7)

The triumph of the machine that has mechanized life also structured workers’ lives in the factories, as we can see in Lang’s Metropolis or Chaplin’s Modern Times. The factory workers carry out repetitive gestures and bodily performances; in Metropolis, they walk, dressed identically; the numbers on their caps make of them a nameless mass and crowd. Industrialization, technology and modernity led to a regime and an aesthetic of mechanized and geometrized bodily performances, whether in factories or in the world of spectacle. The mechanized gestures of the workers in the factory that we see in the films of Lang and Chaplin are of a piece with the gestures of workers like Serafino Gubbio, or the women like the “Tiller Girls,” the dance troupe described by Siegfried Kracauer, in his essay on The Mass Ornament: The process began with the Tiller Girls. These products of American distraction factories are no longer individual girls, but indissoluble girl clusters whose movements are demonstrations of mathematics. As they condense into figures in the revues, performances of the same geometric precision are taking place in what is always the same packed stadium. (75–6)8

This mechanization of life is, then, also part of the spectacle of cinema, but—importantly—it is one that also offers possibility of escape. As Casetti notes: “On the screen, besides seeing how the ‘mechanism’ of the world has reduced us to a series of images, we can see how this ‘mechanism’ permits us—even demands us—to see” (Casetti: 85). It is exactly this mechanism that enables us to see what is also at stake in Pirandello’s Shoot. The camera and the machine capture automatism, but they also open the door to new perceptions and a new visual awareness. Although the mechanized and repetitive gestures of the camera operator, Serafino Gubbio run parallel to those of the worker in the Taylorized factory, the fact that through the operation of the machine he can observe and reach a new apperception of the world around him creates, unwittingly, a space for awareness and liberation. Drawing on Benjamin’s work, Wollen has commented on mechanized reality in the age of cinema and Taylorism. Wollen also draws on Antonio Gramsci’s writing, especially his essay “Americanism and Fordism,” in connection with his thoughts on the new kind of intellectual.9 For Gramsci, in fact, automatic and repetitive gestures can allow the worker to think about whatever she

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or he chooses. It is rather like, Gramsci says, when we take a synchronized walk, but are still able to dedicate our thoughts and reflections to other realms. In other words, Taylor’s worker, as “trained gorilla”, has the potential, in Gramsci’s terms, to become a free intellectual. The cameraman Serafino in Pirandello’s Shoot! could be considered one such example of the worker/intellectual described by Gramsci. In producing and reproducing the bodies of the actors, who seem to be in “exile” from themselves, the camera he operates brings to consciousness the forms and anxieties of a modernity materialized in new configurations of cities and processes of urbanization and alienation, and a sexual revolution exemplified by the role of the diva and other stars of Italian cinema that we will turn to in Chapter 3.10 For film scholars Tom Gunning and P. Adams Sitney, Pirandello was one of the first theorists of early film.11 Essays by both critics are contained in the 2005 English edition of Shoot!, from which the quotation in the epigraph is taken. Gunning writes: “Cinema not only reproduces human actions but can also place our own image before us for observation.” He underlines that: cinema’s self-conscious aspect was grasped and fully explored already in 1915 [by Pirandello] in the first serious (and still perhaps the most probing) novel written about the cinema. […] Not only is Pirandello’s work a fascinating and carefully observed description of the film industry in Italy just before WWI. It offers a profound examination of the way the new machine art of the motion picture helped fashion a modern mentality as well. (2005, pp. vi, vii)

Adams Sitney argues that in Shoot!: Pirandello focused on the film industry as both an example and an allegory of the alienation and dehumanization of modern life. His detailed examination of all aspects of film production is not merely the first and the most rigorous representation of filmmaking in modern fiction, it is also a brilliant compendium of speculations on the implications of apparatus and the syntax of cinema. No previous essay in film theory can match its depth and range. (2005, 223)

Gunning and Sitney both place great emphasis on the theoretical depth of Pirandello’s novel, and go a long way toward recognizing his importance, which has largely been overlooked in film theory writings. Cinema reproduces human actions, but it also does much more. It places our own image and actions before us for observation; it enables us to “vedersi vivere” (observe our own act of living), which also happens to be the basis for Pirandello’s theory of umorismo. The consciousness of alienation that cinema brought about deeply influenced modernist writers such as Eliot, Joyce and Woolf and their exploration of disembodiment, as David Trotter has analyzed in his Cinema and Modernism. Although he does not reference Pirandello, Trotter’s remarks are useful to connect the theory of umorismo with a larger modernist aesthetic that he calls “will-to-automatism”: Cinema’s example provoked in some modernist writers a will-to-automatism.

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These writers chose, in certain texts, the ‘disembodiment of perception by technique’. For literary modernism should not be regarded as the product of the machine age. It was, rather, a wilful enquiry into the age of wilful absorption in the kinds of automatic behaviour exemplified by machinery in general, and by the new technologies of perception in particular. (Trotter, 10)

In Pirandello, then, the camera does not solely bring to the fore and document alienation from life and nature. Rather, the camera is the medium through which the “disembodiment of perception by technique” is chosen by Pirandello, as a writer and as a critic. However, what existing scholarship has largely failed to note is that a similar technique is at work in the way in which Pirandello analyses clothing and its power to signify, transform and perform. Pirandello, in fact, helps us to understand and unveil both a theory of fashion and a theory of film, as powerful twin technologies of self and identity in their respective public and intimate perceptions and performances. Pirandello offers a rich platform for understanding the multilayered transformative power of fashion and clothing (as well as that of the camera and the new art form of film) and how it acts as a second skin that adds new dimensions to the body. Nothing illustrates this better than his novella entitled “The Tight Frock-Coat,” in which specific items of clothing trigger a process of self-reflection and observation. In his writings, clothing and fashion are shown to possess magical transformative powers for the wearer.

“The Tight Frock-Coat”: performing dress Gori, trying to appear as small as possible, looked around the parlour and, turning to one of the guests, with his finger on his lips, asked: -“Quietly…Could you please tell me what happened to that sleeve from my frockcoat, which I threw in the air a short while ago?” And wrapping it up soon afterwards inside a newspaper and slipping away on the sly, he began to reflect that, after all, he owed his fine victory over destiny that day only to the sleeve of that tight frock-coat, because, if the frock-coat, with its sleeve that had come unstitched under his armpit, had not aroused such irritation in him, he, in the familiar roominess of his comfortable and worn-out everyday garments, would certainly have yielded, like an imbecile, to mere emotion and to inactive regret for the unhappy fate of that poor girl. In a state of total fury on account of that tight frock coat, he had found, on the other hand in his irritation, the courage and the strength to rebel against it and to triumph over it. (Pirandello, “The Tight Frock-Coat”)12

In his novella “The Tight Frock-Coat,” Pirandello allows us to see how objects and clothing have a philosophical depth that reveals the relationship between being and appearing, surface and depth, as well as revealing instances of social hypocrisy.


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Published in 1901 under the original Italian title of “La marsina stretta” (from which the second epigraph at the beginning of the chapter is taken), the novella is early proof of the dynamics that were to take center stage in his work as a whole. The novella is a pointed example of the power of clothing to affect behavior by uncovering its prostatic quality in re-shaping the body and self-image. The body is an integral part of the material and immaterial perception of the inner self. In Pirandello’s novella, the focus is on a specific garment and the effects it produces both at a physical and a psychological level. In a precise social context, in this case a wedding, an item of clothing reveals the wearer’s self-perception, the actions derived from this perception, and how she or he is perceived by others. In fact, as its title suggests, the frock coat is the real protagonist of the story, structuring the entire narrative. The novella tells of how the formality and tight fit of a suit bring about a transformation in the behavior of its wearer, a certain Gori, a university professor who hates formal wear and, judging by the description that Pirandello gives us, represents the stereotype of the intellectual, immersed in his studies and completely out of touch in terms of clothing. A social circumstance at the center of the novella, however, forces the professor to change his look, even if just for one day. He rents, in fact, a frock coat, since he has been asked to act as a witness at the wedding of Cesara, one of his former students. The case, we are told, is particularly delicate, since the student in question, while completing her degree had to work to support her widowed mother. Upon graduation, Cesara was offered a job as a tutor for the two children of a rich and widowed gentleman. Cesara refused the job, thinking it inappropriate for a young woman to move into the gentleman’s house. Unsurprisingly, the gentleman in question had fallen head over heels in love with the young woman and asked for her hand in marriage. At this point, Gori was asked by the gentleman to say a word or two in order to convince Cesara to accept this proposal. Everything went in the best of ways and the wedding between the two was about to be celebrated, with the professor reluctantly wearing the frock coat, whose tight fit and formality irritated him no end, but, as the professor arrives at Cesara’s home, he is greeted by terrible news. During the night, Cesara’s mother unexpectedly passed away, leaving her daughter in a state of shock, and the groom’s relatives eager to cancel the wedding, since it never met with their approval in the first place. It is at this point that almost out of the blue Gori finds reserves of verve and strength he did not know he possessed. In several passages of the story the narrator is at pains to tell the reader that on account of the tight fit of the frock coat a sleeve comes unstitched. As a result of this accident, Gori is almost taken by a “magical force,” pushed to exercise authority, intervene with perfect timing and thus recompose the threads of the story to the advantage of his protégé. In fact, he forces Cesara to proceed as planned with the wedding despite the death of her mother, thus saving her from her alternative destiny of being left alone, orphaned and a spinster, not a very appealing picture for a young woman living in a very male-dominated, chauvinistic society. The conclusion of the novella is a happy one, giving a detailed description of how the tight frock-coat bore the power to change the protagonist’s perception of himself, and allowed him to act out of character. The tight garment and the accident of the ripped sleeve were

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conducive to different behavior; the new outfit frees Gori by interrupting the linearity of a repetitive pattern of behavior of a man who is a prisoner of habitual gestures. It was clothing, then, that created, fashioned, one might say, a new, entirely unprecedented image of this conservative academic and creature of habit. Gori comments, in fact, that had he remained faithful to “the familiar roominess of his comfortable and worn-out everyday garments,” he would never have had the strength and ability to respond promptly to the emergency of the sudden death of Cesara’s mother and act accordingly, taking on the guise of an alternative persona. He would, perhaps, have passively accepted events, without ever believing that it was within his power to find a happy solution to Cesara’s bad luck. With his usual witticism and sharp sense of humor, Pirandello here expresses the dynamics of clothing, identity and performance for both the personal and the public self. The story vividly illustrates how fashion—as a system of recognized social codes— and clothing as individual acts operate in a state of constant interplay, as a fulcrum for negotiating the space between internal and external worlds. Let us return for a moment to an image that takes on the status of a figure of speech and a symbolic gesture in Pirandello’s story: namely, that of the unstitched sleeve of the professor’s frock-coat. This represents an unpleasant accident that disrupts his formal and elegant decorum, but functions also as a physical reminder of the tight fit of the coat, the cause of the rupture with the past that creates the re-fashioned professor’s new, more decisive, self. The unstitched sleeve is also described in the novella as the “cucitura segreta” (the secret stitching), that holds together the bourgeois hypocrisy of the relatives of the groom-to-be, who want to cancel the wedding invoking false codes of morality. The fact that the sleeve easily comes unstitched is a sign of the fragility of those codes and a sign of an identity that is not closed in on itself, and whose narratives and actions are not fixed once and for all, least of all constrained within the confines of the tight fit and formality of a frock-coat. This, then, is an identity that occupies a borderline whose seams can suddenly and unexpectedly come apart. We will see later, in Chapter 4, how the detail of an unstitched sleeve, the result of an accident, becomes part of the unraveling of both the story and the gender of the female characters in Alessandro Blasetti’s Contessa di Parma (1937) and Mario Camerini’s Grandi Magazzini (1939). Pirandello’s narrative style bears the traces of the turbulent contemporary times he lived in. This was a world that demanded new forms of representation equal to the intellectual challenges posed by modernity. Cinema, with its unique expressive powers, Pirandello wrote, was one of the answers to this challenge: “Why shy away from this new means of expression that allows us to give concrete form to facts that belong to areas that are almost entirely off limits to the theatre or the novel?”13 But it is in its focus on performance, clothing and the small, visual details we are shown in “The Tight Frock-Coat” that Pirandello’s writing is at its most cinematic.14 The secret stitching that holds things together, albeit flimsily, is metaphorically akin to the work of montage in cinema and narrative.


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Film, costume, fashion, and intermediality Pirandello helps us to understand how both fashion and film were, and still are in our “post-cinematic” age, part of a larger intermedial relationship. Several scholars have studied the processes according to which an old medium will interpret a new one (Bertellini, 2013). Ivo Blom has dedicated particular attention to the issue of intermediality in film, with special focus on the construction of the Diva, Lyda Borelli, to whom we will turn in Chapters 2 and 3.15 Blom offers examples of what Jen Schröter has termed “ontological intermediality”; André Gaudreault and Frances Marion write that “it is through intermediality, through a concern with the intermedial, that a medium is understood” (Blom, 2014, 22). Such a perspective is also methodologically relevant for a study such this one, focusing on film and fashion, and looking closely at how clothing may contribute to the iconographic construction of a specific film. It becomes crucial, then, to consider how other media, such as painting, photography, and theater, interact in the construction of the cinematic/moving image, especially at the time of early cinema when film was emerging as an autonomous art form.16 Of particular significance for the present study is the intermedial relationship between Italian silent cinema and the culture of fashion. Although the relation between early Italian cinema and a “whole range of visual and cultural practices that informed motion pictures’ style, narratives—from painting and photography to literature, theatre and publicity” (Bertellini, 2013, 4) —has been widely accepted, not enough attention has been devoted to one of the themes this book will pursue and whose lacunae it will seek to rectify: namely, the impact that fashion in, and on, film has had on the construction of an Italian fashion. In 1915, when Pirandello published Shoot!, cinema as a new art and technology was only twenty years old. As several film historians and critics have noted, cinema was very much at the center of a cultural debate about its potential and danger. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Italian writers devoted a great deal of attention to exploring cinema, either to exalt the new medium, to condemn it, or simply to express their curiosity. Cinema, in fact, spawned both fascination and anxiety.17 It was at this time also that fashion became an integral part of the spectacle of modernity, not only through films, photography, and the popular press, but also in new spaces of consumption such as World Fairs, department stores, movie theaters, and so on. As a vector of manifestations of popular culture, cinema facilitated the dissemination of fashion, consumption, and new forms of leisure and entertainment.

Italian style: fashion and film Although Italian style was disseminated and marketed to the world in the years following the Second World War and in the period of the country’s postwar reconstruction, the cultural and creative traditions on which the success of the “Made in Italy” and Italian style are based have much deeper roots. For this reason the present

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study takes as its starting point the modern period, the diva films of the 1910s and the impact they had on the creation of an Italian style and identity. Of course, national identity had been an Italian concern long before cinema came into being. In fact, film scholar Giorgio Bertellini (Bertellini, 2000, 2013, 2014) has drawn attention to the fact that the “voyage to Italy” and the many representations of Italy on film were the natural development of the older tradition of the Grand Tour, and the picturesque representation of the nation transmitted by paintings, photographs, and postcards. Several foreign cinematographers and operators, such as those sent by the Lumière brothers, filmed Italy, Italian cities, and landscapes.18 But Italy was not merely a subject for films, it had also its own industry, an Italian silent cinema, that had a golden age lasting from 1908 to 1914 and was successfully exported abroad: “Until 1915, Italian films circulated widely abroad and were extremely popular in Europe, the Americas, and Asia, where they intersected with a variety of societies, cultures, and commercial practices” (Bertellini, 2013, 4). One of these films was the epic Cabiria, directed in 1914 by Giovanni Pastrone. Cabiria became the quintessential emblem of the Romanitas upon which Italian nationalism was largely based in the run-up to the First World War and Italy’s entry into it, and, later, by way of continuity, with the fascist regime. Because of its spectacular cinematography, its nationalist theme, the incredible work of cinematographer Segundo de Chomon, and its set design and costumes, Cabiria had a profound impact on D.W. Griffith and was the model for his own 1916 epic, Intolerance. The first fifteen years of the twentieth century were a crucial time in experimental art, technology and cinema; but they were crucial also for the debate that linked fashion and national identity, and they are where the story of Italian style has its origins. It was in this period that Italy and Italians became part of, and object of, a cultural production and reproduction that found in film and print culture powerful platforms to portray national identity. The present study focuses on specific films, their forms, styles, and cultural contexts; and on their status as important case studies, where fashion intersects with nation. These films maintain what film scholar Dudley Andrews has called their “authoritative status” as vectors of an ongoing discourse on fashion, film, and nation, not simply as exemplary illustrations of theories.19 No book can claim to be exhaustive faced with such a rich and complex topic, especially if that topic includes Italy, a country that has so many layers of history and tradition, but also a strong composite identity that is prominently manifested in its cinematography and in its culture of fashion. This study devotes particular attention to films that look at, and have looked at, their historical present in terms of clothing and fashion. For this reason, costume dramas such as Luchino Visconti’s Il Gattopardo, or historical films such as Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Medea or The Gospel according to Matthew, are not included.20 However, the study does include a number of illustrations from, and references to, historical films from the Tirelli Costumi Company. An initial map of fashion and film Italian style is offered, where moments of continuity, as well as moments of rupture and experimentation, are charted. A book on Italian fashion and film cannot be solely about directors and actors; it must also


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be about the costume designers directors work with, and the costume archives and sartorie on which they draw. Without them, Italian cinema would not be what it is today. Indeed, costume designers and their archives are responsible for the synergetic relationship that exists, and has always existed, between Italian fashion and film. As some of the chapters will document, Tirelli Costumi and Annamode are landmark archives that not only contain costumes for the theater and cinema but also preserve the work of Italian and international couturiers, and give scholars and designers the opportunity to visualize and study their costumes. Costume design for film in Italy is an art that cannot be considered in isolation, or apart from the realm of fashion and stardom. Tirelli Costumi and Annamode continue today to provide costumes and inspiration for film directors from all over the world, and can be considered in their own right as a multidimensional creative laboratory of the “Made in Italy”. Costume designer Piero Tosi, officially recognized with a Hollywood Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013, is but one of the central figures who have contributed to the success of Italian style in cinema, through his collaboration with filmmakers such as Luchino Visconti, Pier Paolo Pasolini and others. Tosi, a meticulous philologist, who has obsessively reconstructed the periods, the ambiances, and the feelings of the time through the costumes of the films on which he has worked, has observed that in today’s world the historical costume cannot be reproduced as he reproduced it earlier in his career. This change is due in part to the proliferation, multiplication and dissemination of today’s technological visual sources, where, before the digital revolution, painting was perceived of as the privileged source. Nevertheless, costume design cannot be regarded as completely separated from the fashions contemporaneous with its production. In other words, the revisitation of the past occurs in the context of a present that gazes back on the past. Following the 2014 exhibition entitled “I vestiti dei sogni” (The Clothing of Our Dreams), held at Palazzo Braschi in the spectacular Piazza Navona in Rome, having visited the show and viewed the dress he had designed for Claudia Cardinale in Visconti’s The Leopard, Tosi affirmed that, today, his approach to working on it would have been completely different. Dino Trappetti, who inherited the Tirelli Costumi Company and archive, has reinforced the perception that costume design today looks at the past and the present from a changed perspective. In the interview included in the book’s appendix, he goes so far as to state that he, himself, would like to produce a small line of clothing with costume designers Tosi and Gabriella Pescucci. He says: in interpreting and designing an object of the past, one cannot avoid looking at current fashion, the quintessential manifestation of presentness and nowness. This process is a feature today more than ever thanks to the internet and the wide public exposure that fashion and couture enjoy. Of course, there are also financial factors involved in the production of costumes for films. It is not always economically possible to make fresh costumes for a new film; in many cases existing costumes can be adapted, recycled and altered in order to fit its needs. The present triggers and informs the interpretation of the past, even in costume. But temporality and intermediality in fashion and film can also work in reverse, another example of both circularity and negotiation. Period fashion and costume influence the runway, and

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even mass fashion—as did films like Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006), or Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013). In Luhrmann’s film, costume designer Catherine Martin worked with Miuccia Prada and Brooks Brothers to create the twenties-inspired costumes worn by the cast. In another example, in his study of Visconti’s Senso (1954), Blom mentions the magnificent costumes realized by Tosi, and pinpoints the striking similarities of the silhouettes, and details of Livia’s character (played by Alida Valli), and the designs for the evening couture dresses by Balenciaga made popular at the time of the film (Blom, 2006)—again, a case of intermediality in fashion, costume and film. In other words, costume design must be contextualized in the process of filmmaking, and in the larger context of fashion design, art, photography, and so on. Before the 1930s, the costume designer did not appear in an official role in Italian cinema. Until then, actors had brought their own clothing to the set. Indeed, their wardrobes were one of their assets, and on some occasions their passport to getting the role. The work of the costume designer in Italy came to be recognized rather later than in Hollywood. Nevertheless, shared by both Italy and Hollywood was the gradual construction of a “national fashion”, through the international dissemination and reputation of cinema. Especially in the aftermath of the First World War, American fashion and an attractive way of life were launched through film to the masses in Europe. American fashion set out to develop a distinct style, and to promote its independence from Paris, the city that had dominated the world of chic and beauty. Thus, parallels can be drawn between fashion and national identity, and how in the case of both Italy and the United States, it was the power of the media and cinema that made the messages they wished to broadcast particularly persuasive, and which enabled them to reach large audiences.21 In connecting the culture of film and the culture of fashion, I draw on as case studies, and closely examine, a select group of films. Starting with an examination of early Italian cinema, concentrating on the diva films of Nino Oxilia, Francesca Bertini, Augusto Serena, and Mario Caserini, the study then moves on to later periods of significant historical and social transformation, from fascism, with reference to directors such as Corrado D’Errico, Alessandro Blasetti, and Mario Camerini, to the postwar experimentation of Michelangelo Antonioni, and the phenomenon known as “Hollywood on the Tiber,” when Italian cinema launched Italian fashion globally with films such as Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, and eventually to today, with Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty, 2013). In addition to considering each film on its own merits, my aim is, first, to indicate how an Italian style was constructed through the intersection of fashion and film, and, second, how that intersection was both illustration of and spur to twentieth century Italy’s developing experience of modernity. The study gives great significance to the period of Italy’s postwar economic boom, a time during which Italian Style and the “Made in Italy” established themselves as labels and brands that traveled the world. Film and other media facilitated the process of the creation of the “Made in Italy”, rendering it recognizable, and a desirable aesthetic and lifestyle all over the world, a legacy still very much alive today. Yet, I wish to underline that Italy’s fashion-film-modernity nexus


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had its origins much earlier in the century. Hence the prominence given to the diva films of the 1910s, and films made under fascism such as the documentary Stramilano (directed by Corrado D’Errico in 1929), an example of how fashion had become part of the identity of a modern city, in this case Milan. The film includes a long fashion show sequence, one of the business entertainments heavily promoted by the regime as part of the process of nationalizing Italian fashion, as many of the Luce newsreels testify. However, it was only some years later, in 1937, with Blasetti’s film Contessa di Parma, a film that represents the Italian desire to free itself from the hegemony of Parisian fashion, that we find the first example of a tie-in with the brand name of the Turin-based fashion house “Mattè,” the supplier of the film’s costumes. The film itself is set in a fashion house, and presents the first fashion show in an Italian feature film (such shows had already appeared in several Hollywood films and contributed to the promotion of American fashion and glamor through cinema). During the 1930s, Gino Carlo Sensani became the first set and costume designer for cinema, and from 1935 he held the first Chair of Costume Design at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (the State School of cinematography) in Rome, a position he would occupy until his death in 1947. Sensani shaped the education of several costume designers for cinema, including Piero Gherardi, but especially Maria De Matteis, who worked on Luchino Visconti’s debut film Ossessione (1942). De Matteis’s assistant was Piero Tosi who, as mentioned earlier, went on to work on most of Visconti’s films.22 The twin crafts of cinema and fashion and their processes of labor are intrinsic components of filmmaking, and demand to be preserved, understood and valued, when we think of the “Made in Italy”. In the Appendix, the interviews and other texts focus on the role of the sartorie, and the clothing archives that remain active today in Rome, such as Annamode (interview with one of the two co-founders, Teresa Allegri), Tirelli Costumi (interview with Dino Trappetti), and the Neapolitan atelier of Cesare Attolini (interview with Massimiliano Attolini). Included, too, are details of the role of costume designers in film and theater such as Adriana Berselli (who worked on L’avventura by Michelangelo Antonioni, analysis of whose films takes up a significant part of the book) and an interview with Fernanda Gattinoni. The object of this section of the book is to give readers some examples of the craft that lies behind Italian cinema (but, of course, many more could be added), and to encourage reflection on how even auteuresque cinema is the result always of the collective work of specialized and highly skilled artists and artisans. The examples offer an opportunity also to reflect on the impact of the skilled craftsmanship for which Italy is known to the world. In addition, film and theater archives form an impressive repository of memory that testifies to the richness of the Italian history of fashion. I have also included a translation of the unpublished personal notes taken by Adriana Berselli when she was a crewmember working on Antonioni’s L’avventura, filmed at Lisca Bianca in Sicily. The interviews with Teresa Allegri and Dino Trappetti are directed towards illustrating the wealth and tradition of costume design in Italy, and how these two important laboratories and institutions, in themselves museums of costumes, contribute to the making of global film and

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spectacle and to the preservation of an important Italian craft tradition so cherished by international costume designers and filmmakers. The interview with Fernanda Gattinoni is an important testimony to that magical period known as “Hollywood on the Tiber,” the topic of one of the sections of Chapter 6. Gattinoni dressed Ingrid Bergman both on screen and in life, and made some of the costumes for King Vidor’s colossal War and Peace, starring Audrey Hepburn, Mel Ferrer, Anita Ekberg and others. Some of the pictures from Tirelli Costumi, where Bergman’s dresses are held, and the photographs from the Giuseppe Palmas Archive (Giuseppe Palmas (1918–77)—one of the greatest of the postwar journalists) serve as a further illustration of the role of fashion and film in Italy’s reconstruction during the postwar years. They document also the various forms of hybridization between Italy, the US and other countries. The archive is now managed by Giuseppe’s son, Roberto, whose own photographs have also been a rich source for this study and have helped to reconstruct visually this important historical moment of Italy’s postwar history. In Rome, during the years of the “Hollywood on the Tiber”, the dolce vita, the Venice Film Festival, and during the awards of the “Nastri d’argento,” Palmas photographed major stars such Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Anna Magnani, Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart and Laurel Bacall, Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer, Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, Gloria Swanson and Salvatore Ferragamo, the American Ambassador Clare Booth Luce; and other actresses and models attending the Venice Film Festival, such as Ivy Nicholson, Capucine, Myriam Brun, fashion icon and countess Consuelo Crespi. Some of Palmas’s photographs resemble “paparazzi” scenes in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, especially those of the arrival at the airport of such American stars as Ava Gardner, who was testimonial of the well known Rome-based atelier of The Fontana Sisters, as we will see in Chapter 6. In these pictures, in fact, we can see Micol Fontana, who would become a very good friend of Ava Gardner, welcoming her at the airport in Rome. Palmas also documented the Roman based sartorie, such as that of Emilio Shuberth, frequented by many actresses, whom we see posing in his creations, and Princess Irene Galitizine, whose pictures are also part of the book. The impact of craft and personalization is central in the interview with Massimiliano Attolini, whose sartoria was founded by his grandfather Vincenzo in Naples in the 1930s. It was thanks to Vincenzo that men’s jackets were revolutionized. Cesare Attolini reached notoriety beyond the congnoscenti with Paolo Sorrentino’s film La Grande bellezza, with which the book ends. It was, however, the diva films of the early years of the twentieth century, starring Lyda Borelli and Francesca Bertini, on which Chapters 2 and 3 will focus, that “showcased a distinctly Italian style” (Bertellini, 2014, 14). Borelli and Bertini were the precursors of the Italian and foreign stars who populated Italian cities and Rome in the years of Italy’s postwar reconstruction and the parallel phenomenon of divismo. The diva films, and their glamorous actresses, are the protagonists of an important debate on identity, style, models of femininity, fashion and modernity that took place in Italy at the beginning of the twentieth century.


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Notes 1 2 3

4 5

6 7

8 9

10 11 12 13 14

Bontempelli, M. (1995), Nostra Dea, English trans., Anthony Oldcorn, “Dea by Dea,” in Jane House and Antonio Attisani eds, 20th Century Italian Drama. An Anthology. The First Fifty Years, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995, pp. 255–8. Bontempelli, M. (1995), Nostra Dea, English trans., Anthony Oldcorn, “Dea by Dea,” in Jane House and Antonio Attisani, eds, 20th Century Italian Drama. An Anthology. The First Fifty Years, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. For a further analysis on vision, modernism and the haptic, see D. Trotter, “Stereoscopy: Modernism and the ‘haptic’”, which I would like to take up in Chapter 5 of the book with reference to Antonioni and his poetics of vision leading to a visual tactility. Baudelaire, C., The Painter of Modern Life and other essays, New York: Phaidon Press, 1964; and also the excerpts selected by Daniel L. Purdy in his edited volume, The Rise of Fashion, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2004, pp. 213–221. Wollen goes on to say that Benjamin reserved the realm of the “optical” for the original image (Bild), while the copy (Abbild) was assigned to the realm of the “tactile.” The image demands contemplation, absorbed attention, a fixed gaze. It is always at a distance, to be looked at. The copy, on the other hand, is always close, it can be handled, touched, and manipulated. The whole mode of apperception of modern life is “tactile” (Wollen, 50), see P. Wollen, (1993), Raiding the Icebox. Reflections on the Twentieth-Century Culture, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, in particular the chapter on “Modern Times: Cinema/Americanism/The Robot” pp. 35–71. See Bruno, G. (2002), Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film, New York: Verso. Pirandello, L. (2005), Shoot! The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator, Chicago: Chicago University Press, pp. 4–5. The novel first came out in Italy in 1915. The new English edition contains two essays by Tom Gunning and P. Adams Sitney. Kracauer, S. (1995), The Mass Ornament. Weimar Essays, trans., ed., and Introduction by Thomas Y. Levin, Cambridge: Harvard University Press; “The Mass Ornament,” pp. 75–6. Wollen, (1993, ibid. p. 51); A. Gramsci, “Americanism and Fordism” and especially the section on “Taylorism and the Mechanization of the Worker,” in D. Forgacs, ed., The Gramsci Reader. Selected Writings 1916–1935, New York: New York University Press, 2000 (pp. 294–6). Luigi Pirandello, Italian Stories: A Dual Language Book, p. 15 Thomas Gunning (2005, p. ix) and P. Adams Sitney (2005, p. 233) Luigi Pirandello, Italian Stories: A Dual Language Book, ed., Robert Anderson Hall. Pirandello’s quote is contained in C. Visentini, L’estetica di Pirandello, Milan: Mursia, 1985, (p. 204). There has been a film adaptation of four of Pirandello’s novelle entitled Questa è la vita (1954). “Marsina stretta” is one of the four episodes that is interpreted and directed by Aldo Fabrizi. The other film directors are Giorgio Pastina, Luigi Zampa, Carlo Innocenti and Vitaliano Brancati. However, in this rendition, the film is not able to capture the nuances and narrative sophistication of the original text.

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15 Ivo Blom, (2014, 30–1) 16 See Trotter, D. (2007), Cinema and Modernism, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, and especially his discussion on literature and cinema as sharing “parallel affinities.” 17 See J. P. Welle (2013, 2014); Casetti, F. (2013). 18 Welle J. P. (2008), “The Cinema arrives in Italy: city, region and nation in early film discourse” (pp. 164–71). 19 Andrew, D. (1984), Film in the Aura of Art (p. 4). 20 Indeed, specific studies should be dedicated to the way costume is used and rethought in the contexts of these films, where it delivers a distinct visual aesthetic that in turn builds narrative techniques. 21 See J. Gaines and C. Herzog, (1990), eds, Fabrications: Costume and the Female Body, New York: Routledge; S. Berry (2000), Screen Style: Fashion and Femininity in 1930s Hollywood, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 22 For Gino Sensani, see Stefano Masi (1989, pp. 25–8); Marco Pistoia (2004); Mario Verdone, ed. (1950); and Ivo Blom (2006).



Italian Fashion and Film in the 1910s: From the Futurists to Rosa Genoni Italian cinema and Italian fashion traveled at different speeds. Although Italian silent cinema had acquired an important identity and had been recognized in the European and international context, Italian fashion had not. At this time, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Paris was considered the absolute center of chic. In Italy, it was the pervasive belief that skilled dressmakers and tailors had to copy Parisian models in order to prove themselves and make their wealthy clientele happy. While Italian fashion was still in its infancy, the Italian film industry, on the other hand, was already well in place, had an identity of its own and had become very successful in cities such as Turin, Rome, Naples, and Milan.1 By this I do not mean that beautiful clothes and textiles, accessories, high skilled artisans and sartorie, successful and elegant department stores, and speciality boutiques did not exist; they did, and they had a profound impact on what later came to be marketed and identified with an Italian style. But a well-organized fashion system, like the Parisian one, and a concomitant culture of fashion creating a strong sense of national identity and cohesion built around it were still lacking in the peninsula. Italy’s nationalistic fascist regime set out to do something about this, and in the 1930s put into circulation slogans like: “Una moda italiana non esiste, dobbiamo inventarla” (An Italian fashion does not exist, we must invent it). The fascist regime was also among the first to recognize cinema as a potent ideological and propaganda weapon, so much so that another of its slogans was “La cinematografia è l’arma più forte” (Cinema is the strongest weapon). In fact, in the field of cinema, in the second half of the 1930s—the period in which the regime consolidated its grip on power—the regime created important institutions, such as the Cinecittà studios, the School of cinematography, and the first of the international film festivals in Venice (Esposizione internazionale d’arte cinematografica, 6–21 August 1932, held alongside the Biennale art exhibition), all institutions that survive today. Furthermore, these institutions became places where, despite the propagandist aims of the fascist regime, cinema as an art assumed an important role in defining Italian culture, identity and modernity, as well as preparing the ground for the postwar rebirth on a global scale of Italian cinema. Two examples of the early twentieth-century debate on the creation of an Italian national fashion help us to understand the different speeds at which fashion and film developed in Italy: one identified with a sense of rupture, and was epitomized


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by the Futurists; the other identified with a sense of continuity, as elaborated by Rosa Genoni’s campaign for the creation of an Italian fashion and women’s style. Whereas the Futurists’ notion of ‘unisex’ and the innovations they brought to men’s fashion centered on reconfiguring the color, design and cut of the male suit—and, more generally, masculinity in dress—Genoni, with her reinterpretation of women’s clothing, reconfigured the relationship between tradition and modernity.2 Both these experiments were modern and revolutionary on their own terms, even though their modernity would be translated into completely different and conflicting modes at the political level. In fact, both projects expressed opposing political stances and praxes. One problem that both Genoni and the Futurists faced was that there was no infrastructure in Italy able to support these two important, albeit different, fashion revolutions. Beyond fashion, major divides between the Futurists and Genoni were, initially, their diverging attitudes toward Italy entering the First World War, and, later, toward fascism. Both, however, are crucial to understanding the Italian fashion aesthetic and the experiments in design for both men and women which paved the way for the construction of the “Made in Italy” brand and meta-brand as we know it today. Both experiments illustrate the performative power of clothing. Let’s see how and why: first the Futurists, and then Genoni.

The Futurists, fashion, film, and performance We Futurists want to free our race from every neutrality, from fearful and peaceful indecision, from negative pessimism and nostalgic, romantic and soft inertia. We want to color Italy with futurist audaciousness and risk, finally, to give Italians happy and bellicose clothing. Giacomo Balla, “Il Vestito Anti-neutrale” (1914)3

Futurism’s contribution to fashion and dress cannot be divorced from urbanity, the cities and performance. It is not by chance that one of the best known philosophers of the time, Georg Simmel, who wrote on cities, also wrote one of the most significant, seminal, essays on fashion, first published in 1895 and republished in 1905, entitled simply “Fashion;” in this essay, he reflected on newness, change, and speed as the basic characteristics of fashion. These were also elements that fascinated Futurist artists such as Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero, Ernesto Michaelles (Thayaht), Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and others. All of them gave special emphasis to fashion and dress in their multidimensional projects, and, as in the case of Depero and Prampolini, put them on display in their costume and stage designs. In what follows, I will refer, first, to some of the most important experiments in clothing and design distinguishing the Futurists’ aesthetic and politics of style; I will then go on to give a couple of examples from Futurist film. Fashion, as treated by Futurism, cannot be considered merely as an aesthetic and cosmetic change of dress, appearance, and identity. Rather, it is a symptom, as is always the case in complex transformations in society, and a manifestation of

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culture. Clothing and accessories are objects that, when worn, communicate behavior, gestures, lifestyles, and performances—all features that were crucial for the Futurist project of reshaping space and form, and, of course, for the dream of “reconstructing the universe.” Indeed, one of the most striking features of Futurist fashion was the link it established between clothing and the refashioning of masculinity in public spaces. The Futurist interest in refashioning the male suit and accessories, such as the famous panciotto (waistcoat) worn by Balla and other Futurists, was, in fact, the first visible evidence of the attempt to undermine what Flügel would later, in 1930s, term in The Psychology of Clothes “the great male renunciation.” Following the industrial revolution and the triumph of the middle class, men’s public appearance was largely dominated by dark colors and a lack of ornamentation, the latter being the preserve of the fashioning of the female body. All of this was part of the anti-bourgeois polemic to be found throughout Futurism. As Giovanni Lista has asserted, writing extensively on Futurism and Futurist cinema, an anti-bourgeois attitude underlay a great many of the cultural practices of the opening years of the twentieth century: “Early popular cinema,” he writes, “when it did not attempt to duplicate bourgeois art, was unknowingly and instinctively Futuristic: it destroyed or parodied established forms of classical narrations and it reduced lengthy myths and legends to just a few, rapid images” (Lista, 2013, 204). One film taking on the codes and practices of bourgeois respectability, and bourgeois filmmaking, was Amor pedestre, made in Turin in 1914 by the Ambrosio studios. In this film, it is the featured objects and dress that convey the narrative, by talking back to the viewers, “speaking” a language.4 The five minute long film was directed and interpreted by Marcel Fabre, a former circus clown, whose real name was Marcel Fernadez Perez, and features Robinet, a character he created in Italy after having worked in France where he had made short comic tableaux for Pathé.5 The plot line itself flaunts bourgeois codes: it tells of a casual affair between a married woman and a passerby, a male dandy; but it is a story that is not told in a conventional manner. Rather, it is recounted through the shoes and the gait of the two protagonists, with partial appearances by some lesser characters. We never see their faces; the details of the plot and the intensity of the emotions can be gauged through the characters’ clothing, which we see only from the knees down. The film starts with a gentleman getting ready to go out for his walk in the city. We see a maid (she is wearing a white apron) helping her master to put on his coat. The objects in the film define strict gender and class relations. Then, while Robinet is walking in the street, he runs into an elegant lady. She, inadvertently, drops her purse; the gentleman picks it up. As viewers, we are introduced to the elegant woman by way of her beautiful shoes and her svelte gait (her skirt features a slit that opens while she walks, exposing her beautiful legs). An overt eroticism, innovative for film at this time, is communicated through her clothes and shoes and by the way she wears them. The two characters walk down the street, they stop and take the tram, a new feature of urban development and transportation in the modern city. The camera then focuses on the interior of the tram, where Robinet and the woman are sitting next to one another and also next to a second woman, who is holding a baby in her lap. Here, too, we can


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distinguish two interesting elements; the lady in question may be either a nanny (she is dressed more modestly), or a mother who does not belong to the upper-middle class. She moves, rhythmically rocking the baby, entertaining him, and playing with him, while sitting. All these contrasting roles in modern city life (people working, and people at leisure) are conveyed through a partial view of the characters. We do not see their faces or expressions. The talking is done by the objects. During the tram ride, Robinet tries to play footsie, a detail that establishes his pursuit of the elegantly clad woman. Later, Robinet offers to shine the woman’s shoes—the star turns of this film. While performing this task, he slips a note into the woman’s shoe asking her to meet him, later, at his place of residence. The woman goes back home and, in front of her husband, takes off her high-heeled shoes and changes into more comfortable slippers. The husband, a military man, judging by the style of the pants he wears, sees the note left in one of her shoes. As a result, he challenges Robinet to a duel, which, initially, it seems that Robinet loses, so safeguarding the husband’s honor. But as soon as the husband leaves the scene, we see that Robinet is well and happy. The woman reappears and comforts him. The final scene of the film summarizes the happy ending for the two lovers. They are in Robinet’s apartment, the woman takes off her skirt and, dressed in her white underskirt, walks towards another room. This is a simple narrative, but its novelty is represented by the way it conveys emotions and meaning through new camera techniques, rather than, as was more usual in silent films, by way of the faces of the actors. In Amor pedestre, instead, the objects, the clothing, take center stage. Although this cannot be called a Futurist film, it is of a piece with the Futurist idea of the performative, eloquent language of things and wearable objects. In addition, the film clearly made an impression on the Futurist writer and artist Marinetti, who, a year after the release of Amor Pedestre, staged in a Milan theater a play called Le basi, where only the actors’ feet were visible to the audience, thus adapting to Futurist theater the mode of representation of the body and emotions in Amore Pedestre. In 1916, the “Manifesto della cinematografia futurista,” in which cinema is defined as Futurist by nature, was published and signed by Marinetti, Bruno Corra, Arnaldo Ginna, Giacomo Balla, Remo Chiti and Emilio Settimelli. Cinema is here described as an autonomous art: Cinema does not have to copy theatre. As cinema is essentially visual, it must comply with the evolution of painting: detach itself from the reality of the photograph. […] In futurist film, the most varied elements of expressions will enter: from a slice of real life to the spot of color, from the linear to words in freedom, from chromatic and plastic music to the music of objects. In other words, it will be painting, architecture, sculpture, words in freedom, music of colors, line and forms, a mix of objects and a chaotic reality. […] Throwing a wonderful bridge between the words and the real object. (De Maria, 1968)

Many of the ideas contained in the Futurist manifesto will be realized later in film, but, at the time the manifesto was written, a recognizable Futurist cinema was not in place. One actual film, Vita Futurista, though, was shot in 1916 by Arnaldo Ginna, and included, among others, Marinetti and Balla, but it has not survived (Quaresima,

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2013, 213).6 In Chapter 4, which deals with the 1930s, we will turn to the films that have been identified as part of the Secondo Futurismo, and see how they function as a bridge between fashion, the city, modernity, and Futurism—as in Corrado D’Errico’s Stramilano (1933), a remarkable documentary that contains several ideas originally formulated in the manifesto of Futurist cinema. Embracing cinema as a new art form that allows objects to be “cinematografati” is important not only from a cinematic standpoint but also from the standpoint of film and fashion. Objects, décor, and costumes are crucial in the construction of narrative, as Amor Pedestre shows, but also in films that do not necessarily follow a linear narrative. In the Futurist manifesto for cinema, we read: Dramas of objects that are cinematographed (animated objects, humanized, made up, dressed, passionalized, civilized, danced). Objects that are taken away from their usual environment and located in an abnormal condition that, by contrast, exalts their wonderful construction and non–human life.

Another film that has been loosely identified as Futurist is the highly stylized diva film Thaïs directed by photographer Anton Giulio Bragaglia. The film, produced by Novissima Film in Rome, came out in 1917 and, because of the set design by Futurist artist Enrico Prampolini, is considered the only surviving Futurist film. In his manifesto on photography, Bragaglia had been experimenting with the idea of movement in photography and photodynamism. Movement and photography had been the bases for Marey’s graphing machines, which had enabled him to create a horse’s gait and human locomotion. Marey used photography following the work of the Anglo-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Both are associated closely with the history of photography, of the moving image and film. Marey and Muybridge and, later, Edison’s experiments combined to make an immense impact on scientists and artists (painters and photographers), and, of course, on the birth of cinema and the moving image.7 In line with Bragaglia’s experiments in photography and the moving image, Thaïs does not call much attention to the story, which is in line with the predictable narratives of the diva femme-fatale film, the focus of Chapter 3. The protagonist, Thaïs Galitzky, plays the triple role of Thaïs, Countess Vera Preobrajenska, and Nitchevo (Nothing)—who dances and moves on screen seducing men and treating them as puppets. She is the embodiment of the “femme fatale.” Ileana Leonidoff plays the Countess Bianca Stagno-Bellincioni, who is both friend and rival of Thaïs, and both are involved with the Count of San Remo. After Bianca’s accidental death, the result of falling from her horse, Thaïs feels guilty and commits suicide. Besides the plot and its quite conventional narrative, the most striking elements of the film are the décor, and the costumes worn by Thaïs. The geometric shapes of curves and triangles designed by Prampolini are quite remarkable. The texture of dress, the printed fabric that is juxtaposed between the body of the diva wearing it, and the backdrop of the scene resemble abstract art.8 Some of these very stylized shots can be seen in their non-narrative link with the film and the character as a whole. They stand on their own. Thaïs, in fact, looks like a model in a photoshoot for an elegant magazine exhibiting couture and very dramatic dresses and costumes. The fashion-shot sequences in Thaïs


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illustrate Tom Gunning’s notion of film produced before 1907, that is, of a cinema of attraction, where a spectacular moment is emphasized at the expense of a narrative, or where a narrative thread is lacking or secondary.9 The costumes in Bragaglia’s film are part of a narrative of performance and take on the semblance of abstract art. It is this kind of performativity that allows us to see Thaïs as a Futurist film. Any public space could be the occasion for a Futurist performance. As Claudia Salaris has noted: “Futurism was born with a talent for performance, making its public name with serate arranged for that purpose” (Salaris, 2014, 35).10 And, of course, dress was part of that performance. In fact, dress for Futurists was acted out in serate futuriste, where many of the artists appeared in theaters and galleries with the express intention of creating an impact on the audience through their extravagantly dressed personae. In common with other European avant-garde movements, the Futurists retraced the boundaries that defined what art could, and should, be, by contaminating interactions between languages. Painting and textile design, visual art and literature, everyday objects transformed into art objects, fashion and art, the redefinition of the construction of appearance of male and female dress, color, form, accessories and the aesthetic of masculinity in dress— all are elements that can be seen in Italian Futurist fashion and dress. Clothes, then, in Futurist thinking became wearable art, and bore with them a political agenda that extended to every area of daily life. As Giuliana Bruno has noted, in every sphere, Futurism sought to bring new experiences and aesthetic sensations. In fashion, she writes, Futurists created “a new tactilism of surfaces” (Bruno, 2014, 25). The Futurists’ innovative mode, she goes on, in both conceiving and making dress was an integral part of what Bruno calls their “haptic mode of surfacing the design of rooms, furniture, clothes, roads and theaters” (Bruno, 25). Along the same lines, Balla’s invention of modificanti (modifiers) that could change shape according to the wearer’s mood and Marinetti’s idea of a light bulb tie were forerunners of what today we would call wearable technology. The radical nature of Futurist fashion and the impact and influence it had on color, design, and construction of dress was to be especially visible and appreciated in many of the artistic experiments of the postwar period.11 Futurists shared with other avant-garde movements—French Surrealism, Russian Constructivism and German Bauhaus—the desire to deliberately effect a rupture with the past and present in order to achieve a completely new way of conceiving dress and appearance in public and private spaces, underlining the lack of symmetry, the combination of opposite elements and material. The experiments and creations of painters like Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero, and Ernesto Thayaht—so radical that none of them became part of mainstream fashion at that time—were a far more elitist form of rupture and transgression, and were later taken up in France, where there was a more fertile terrain and a more developed infrastructure in terms of collaboration among the arts, commerce and industry. The Italian émigré Elsa Schiaparelli was only able to carry out her experiments with surrealism and avant-garde artists in France. Redesigning the world and creating a rupture with the immediate past involved the identity and the actual body of the Futurist artist and his public persona. In terms of dress and performance, the Futurists also had individual tastes, and ideas on how

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to create their personal style and make an impact on the audience. Marinetti, Balla, Thayhat and Tullio Crali would all appear in public dressed in completely different and individualized styles. Thus, although similar principles were elaborated in the manifestos, each artist took the liberty of designing his or her unique public persona in dress. If, for Balla, his experiments with color, print, cut, and design were in line with a more flamboyant/colorful look, Thayhat’s fashioning of his unisex Tuta was all about minimalism and extreme simplicity. Thayhat, a designer and illustrator for Madeleine Vionnet in Paris, best remembered for the bias cut of dresses that fell asymmetrically and were “literally activated by the body” (Clark, 2001, 8) was the only Futurist who had the opportunity to work in the world of fashion and couture. In 1919, Thayhat designed the logo when Vionnet reopened her house in Paris after the end of the First World War. In the period 1919–1920, he launched his tuta, the first track-suit not linked to work-wear—as the Russian constructivists had designed it. Much like the Futurists, and like Balla and Marinetti, he began to develop his ideas about dress from the fashioning of his own public persona. This meant performing in public. Although similar garments, echoing the tuta, had already existed since the end of the nineteenth century, what Thayhat offered was a witty translation in cut, fabric, and construction, lending itself to multiple uses of the same design with the addition of simple details, like a belt, a collar, and so forth. In contrast to the rigid formality of men’s wear at that time, he put the soft collar of his own shirt in opposition to the stiff white collar that epitomized the bourgeois gentleman. Thayhat was not in pursuit of the polished elegance of the bourgeois male suit, but rather a discreet elegance of simplicity and detail, with which he revolutionized the concept of the male jacket into what he would call the bituta. In the photographs by Savini, in Florence, Thayhat appears as a refined dandy, wearing the two-piece outfit realized out of the same basic concept as the tuta. The jacket is deconstructed, unstructured and unisex in its look; so too are the details of the sleeves, the collar, all with the possibility of transforming the look with accessories like a belt. This reimagining of gender and masculinity in dress was to be one of the most avantgarde experiments in fashion design. None of the US and French companies Thayhat approached to produce his tuta was able to understand his ultra “experimental” design. A few years earlier, between 1913 and 1914, Balla had written his “Manifesto futurista del vestito da uomo,” later published in French with the title “Le vêtement masculin futuriste. Manifeste.” The Italian version of the manifesto would appear on September 11, 1914 under the title “Il vestito antineutrale,” with a strong emphasis on supporting the “interventisti,” the pro-war lobby—nationalists who would form the backbone of the later fascist movement. The text of the manifesto is accompanied by the design of a Futurist suit featuring an asymmetrical cut. Balla lists what, in his opinion, needs to be abolished in the male suit, always emphasizing color and cut, and suggesting that it must be made out of fabric in the three colors of the Italian flag—white, red and green—a patriotic gesture to move Italy toward entry into the First World War. (In the fiery debate that preceded Italy’s decision to enter the First World War, the Futurists were among the most vociferous.) Fashion, then, was, for the Futurists, integral to their aspiring aesthetic of being, seeing, being seen, behaving and performing; and their politics. Fashion became the


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visual and social commentary of their cultural and political projects. But they were not the only ones to find connections between fashion, gender, and politics, and between fashion and modernity, but without the bellicose and proto-fascist overtones. It is to the work of the antifascist Rosa Genoni and her pacifist revolution in women’s fashion that we now turn.

Rosa Genoni: Per una moda italiana: fashioning the diva Air transportation requires practical and close fitting clothing but that does not deprive women the attractions of their femininity. The regular width skirt is tighter thanks to the buttoning at the waist. The hood’s wings, raised and buttoned at the back of the neck, add an elegant touch (1918: 39).12 The impotent, the inept, and the crazy, with their air of being misunderstood geniuses, complain about present civilization, which they call scientific, mechanical and industrial, and declare that they are enemies of Art and of its lovers. These people do not realize that from the blossoming of this very new civilization, different from, indeed the exact opposite of any other before it, Art can take an unexpected direction, make very daring leaps and embrace the very modern forms of beauty. It is around such beauty that the reality of life meets the ideal of vision, the truth of science meets the fluctuating and indeterminate space of fantasy. (Rosa Genoni, “Vita d’Arte nella Moda”)13

Rosa Genoni (1867–1954) was a pioneer in several fields. She was a founding mother of transnational feminism, of peace activism and of Italian fashion. The story of Genoni’s life is one of multiple but parallel, and intersecting, tracks: her initial work in dressmaking led her to become a designer in her own right (designing clothes for silent film divas like Lyda Borelli), and a leading figure in the call for the development of a home-based Italian fashion industry to rival the, then, fashion hegemon, Paris; this led her to teaching in Milan’s Società Umanitaria, which in turn exposed her to the plight of workers and working girls, and to contact with the city’s women’s and socialist circles (where she also met her life partner, father of her daughter Fanny, the well-known lawyer and socialist Alfredo Podreider); contact with such circles led to her forceful opposition to Italy’s entry into the First World War and the fascist regime that came to power shortly after the war ended. For Rosa, her work in fashion as designer and advocate of Italian fashion, her ideological commitment to the workers’ and women’s struggle, and her all-out opposition to war and fascism were overlapping and intersecting activities that made up the multi-faceted identity that was Rosa Genoni. At the dawn of the twentieth century, Genoni embraced modernity. But, for her, modernity did not include the bellicose war-mongering of the Futurists, or the violence of the fascists who followed them. Indeed, Genoni was to devote a great deal of her political energy to her work with the women’s peace organizations lobbying

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hard to persuade the world’s nations not to go to war. For her, rather, modernity meant the creative interaction of art, science, and technology, and the opportunity this gave her to express her creativity as a designer, a writer, and a feminist—as we can see clearly from the quotations with which this section begins. As an acute observer of the reality around her, and as a doer, she embraced presentness, the moment. Genoni was a strong and vociferous advocate of Italian fashion. She was well aware of how dress could revolutionize women’s visibility in public space, and how fashion was a powerful system for molding and projecting not only individual and collective identities but also the identity of a country. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Genoni was already speaking of an Italian fashion, an idea that might seem obvious to us today but one that was far from a given for her contemporaries. At that time, it was hard to believe that Italy could produce its own fashions. Among the most sceptical were wealthy Italian ladies whose only desire was to dress in the Parisian style, where couture had been born. Fashion was not a priority for the newly born Italian State, although there had been a few sporadic, barely organized, attempts to make fashion a national business. However, it was Genoni who broke new ground in the laying of the foundations that would lead to the creation of an Italian Fashion, and later to “Made in Italy” and Italian style. The dynamism of her mind and life, her travel and work abroad, especially in Paris, and her ability to capitalize on these experiences gave her the awareness and strength to elaborate her multidimensional feminist revolution. She also advocated for women to be the authors of their own image and style, and not to limit themselves to being passive followers of fashion. She was able to do this because she lived and worked in multiple places and inhabited multiple domains: from the sartoria, to the places of her socialist political activism, her humanitarian and pacifist initiatives, her encounters with women working in the international feminist movements, with writers, journalists, workers, and so forth. Genoni started at the bottom of the fashion ladder, beginning work at an early age as a piscinina in a Milan atelier, but she rose rapidly from the lowest and least paid job to the top of the ladder. She was an eager learner, going to night school and learning French. It is in the awareness she developed of being part of a labor force involved in the production of clothing and fashion, allied with her intellectual curiosity, resilience, eagerness to learn and to express her creativity that we find one of the most original manifestations of the overlay between fashion and feminism. In this capacity, she was a strong advocate for the emancipation of all women, especially workers, and their right to have access to education. Her ascent in socialist circles was as rapid as it was in the world of Milan fashion. Between 1884 and 1885, she was sent to Paris as a delegate of the Italian Workers’ Party, which was the predecessor of the Italian Socialist Party, officially founded in Genoa in 1892. Here, she took part in an international congress discussing the conditions of workers. She was the only woman to attend. After this, Genoni decided not to go back to Milan, but to remain in France. In Paris, she found work in a small Italian seamstress shop, where she learnt as much as she could in the, then, world capital of fashion and chic. She was particularly interested in perfecting her tailoring and embroidery techniques, and, of course, the French language, which at that time was the


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international language of fashion and culture. As a document by Genoni’s daughter, Fanny Podreider, attests, Rosa also worked in well-known and established fashion houses, and so was able to familiarize herself with their design methods and marketing strategies. While working in Parisian ateliers, she learned several lessons: she saw how the design and making of a dress was the product of a team, and how inspiration from the past was a crucial component of the creative process. In fact, her inspiration came from all sorts of art and textiles held at the Louvre and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. From this unique experience, she saw how fashion was intimately connected to the history of a nation and its people. She capitalized on all this knowledge on her return to Milan. Despite the Unification a few decades earlier, Italy and Italians had not been very successful in forging a national consciousness, and were still mired in the task of building a nation state, a sense of nationhood and national identity. On the back of her Parisian experience, Genoni understood how vital the role of fashion could be for this complex and multilayered process. Once back in Milan, her love for fashion, political activism and feminism fed off each other, and became the basis for her battle to create an Italian fashion, different and separate from the then hegemonic Parisian model. In fact, in Milan, she formed a committee of aristocrats and prominent industrialists—such as Count Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone, father of the film director Luchino Visconti—to support her project to create her pura arte italiana, linking her craft, political activism and the national cause. For Genoni, fashion was always dressed in political garb. In 1888, the sartoria Bellotti in Milan offered her a stable position as a specialist in the making of sumptuous costumes for balls at the La Scala Theatre during the celebration of Carnival, a period in which Milan fashion houses were very busy. But the sumptuousness of the costumes she made for the Milanese upper classes did not lead her to ignore the plight of the workers actually making the dresses. By 1893, she was deeply involved in women’s wage demands and in the protests against the exploitation of women’s labor. It is in this context that she established contact with other women involved in the socialist and feminist movements, such as the journalist Anna Maria Mozzoni, who invited her to participate in the Socialist-Laborist International Congress in Zurich. Genoni was also active with other women at the beginning of the formation of the Lega femminile, which grouped seamstresses and milliners and was a key player in linking women’s work in the clothing industry and production to the wider context of the women’s movement toward emancipation, the right to education, and equality. It was, in fact, at one of the seamstresses’ protests that Genoni met the prestigious feminist and socialist leader Anna Kulishoff, who, as a result of their conversations, wrote an important document entitled “Alle sarte di Corso Magenta” (To the seamstresses of Corso Magenta, 1894 and 1898). It turned out, though, to be difficult to organize the many seamstresses then working in the workshops in the city, because of the profound prejudices that impacted women’s lives, and especially their role as fashion workers. Although tailors and seamstresses were both organized in a league and their rights advocated for in a publication called Il sarto (The tailor), an ambivalence persisted toward the seamstresses. Some of the articles in Il sarto, in fact, took on conservative and paternalistic overtones towards the sartine, who were

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accused of not being politically engaged enough, or lacking in morality. We can also glean a picture of the way the sartine were considered at the time, as well as a picture of Milanese urban life, in some of the short stories written by Giovanni Verga. He depicts the sartine as women who cared for their appearance, and enjoyed a certain independence, reasons enough for them to be regarded with suspicion in a patriarchal society. The sartine were also the new popular audience of the cinematographers, as we will discuss in Chapter 3. The sartine’s desire for freedom and attractive attire was considered immoral or dangerous; they were women of modest origins who wanted to visit the seamstress shop, as does one of the female characters in a Verga story who “[d]ressed up to go to the seamstress, wearing a black veil over her naughty head and swaying energetically in her frilly dress.” Another character, Gilda, who is not happy with her boyfriend’s job, which she considers below her station, is described as: Vain and ambitious, she had forbidden him [the boyfriend] from wearing his light blue worker’s shirt when he was out with her as she strutted the streets […] She would come home now with a new shawl that enlarged her breasts with fringes; another time with little shoes that made her feet look longer […]. 14

Verga hints at the fact that the sartine who wore fashionable attire were hoping to “marry up,” and thus were not interested in their lowly male peers. In his stories, Verga chronicled the transformation in women’s lives and the impact on those lives of the process of urbanization and modernization. But despite a certain degree of modernization, what seemed to persist was the old idea that fashion was a manifestation of frivolity and women’s vanity, and so lacking in intellectual depth and spiritual life. A sort of fashion phobia reigned, seeing it as an agent corrupting morality and dismantling boundaries between social classes and gender. But it was because of fashion that working women could erase class boundaries and proudly present themselves as ladies. In the period between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, the sartina became one of the favorite characters in popular literature and theater. A successful comedy of the time was Sandro Camasio’s and Nino Oxilia’s Addio Giovinezza (Farewell to Youth, 1911), in which a sartina is woven into a romantic love story with a university student.15 Nino Oxilia will emerge as one of the most innovative filmmakers of the 1910s, as we will see in Chapter 3. Historian Bassignana vividly describes the sartina: The sartina from Turin possesses a sober and a penetrating elegance. Of medium height, with a pointy nose, dark and naughty eyes, she looks like a little restless swallow. She quickly darts, smiles to a shiny, red-faced old man and hides behind a column to evade a strict mother, goes into a doorway and immediately after comes out feverish, vivacious and reassured.16

The sartina, named Dorina in the play Addio Giovinezza, is quintessentially modern and epitomizes the urban transformations of Turin and the customs of its inhabitants, and how through fashion and women the process of modernization can be tracked and identified. At the beginning of one scene, Mario (a student of medicine) declares his love and admiration for Dorina by saying:

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30 I love you like something whose name escapes me: I love you twice as much as my degree!

Dorina responds that she feels flattered by this news and that she loves him back. However, her linguistic dexterity defeats the flatness of the university student who is pursuing her. In this duet with Mario, Dorina appears more lively and self-assertive, and so undermines the difference in social standing and classes between workers like herself and would-be intellectuals like the university student. In saying that she loves him, Dorina offers a richer repertoire of images, defining a new, more autonomous gender identity and femininity. In fact, she gives a list of material and physical correlatives to her affection, and affirms that she loves him: Like a cinematographer, Or better like the timbre, Of the voice of a phonograph, Like the black cat: Like my feather boa That of real ostrich: like a beautiful dress Like a nice muff, Like candy

Note how the sartina mentions the movie theater, a new space that had opened up in modern cities and gave women the chance to engage in what would soon become a favorite pastime: movie-going. It has been emphasized, rightly, that “cinema-going was the most important way in which women joined in the urban mass culture of the first half of the twentieth century” (Lant, 2006, 1). As an industry, the cinema also allowed women to have greater involvement and to provide work, especially in Turin, which had become one of its most important centers. In cinema, women worked in various capacities, not only in acting but also directing.17 Indeed, fashion and cinema, the creative industries and crafts, were central to Turin’s status, and, with other industries, shaped the processes of modernization and made Turin the city of culture and technology. 18 Addio Giovinezza was a very successful story, which lent itself to several film adaptations, including the one by Ferdinando Poggioli in 1940, for which Gino Sensani made the costumes. Sensani was the first professional costume designer for Cinema, and a teacher at film school in Rome (Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia). 19 In the figure of the sartina, different forces converge: social, economic, and cultural. The sartina, in fact, embodies the conflicts and changes taking place in a society in the midst of processes of great transformation. That the sartine were sometimes described as young women who cared for their person and sought to dress well—acts that were condemned by the reigning doxa as immodest or lacking in awareness of their social status—was a dynamic that was mirrored elsewhere in the world, in the United States, for example. In D. W. Griffith’s early short films such as The

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New York Hat (1912), or The Painted Lady (1912), young women who desire to dress well or wear extravagant hats from a city milliner or put on makeup are punished by moralists for their effrontery. The meanings of clothing for those women who worked long hours in fashion houses, but still wanted to look good, although different from upper-class women, was still an affirmation of personal dignity. They cared about their appearance; it gave them a sense of identity and agency; they were able to assert their independence and the fact that they were women who worked for a living. If we look at the photographs of feminists, or women of the time involved in leagues and unions, we see that they took great care of themselves and were attentive to their image, style and beauty. They, too, are pictured in the beautiful hats that were so fashionable at that time; they assert themselves, they make themselves socially visible, and part of a process that Nan Enstad has called “Ladyhood”:20 Working women proudly declared themselves “ladies” when they dressed high. […] Ladyhood was a signifying practice, rooted in commodities, which allowed working women to occupy a creative space of cultural contradiction with a broad resulting range of meanings and implications.[…] Thus, the practice of working ladyhood created a site of multiplicity, a shifting identity that played off a range of cultural contradictions and instabilities in turn-of-the century society. (1998, 749–50).

The year 1906 was important for Genoni because she was able to participate with her own designs at the Milan World Fair, where she was awarded the Grand Prix by the International Jury. The overall theme chosen for the 1906 Milan Expo was transportation and mobility, and with it the celebration of modernity and dynamism. As visible signs of the nation’s drive toward modernity, or at least the drive in the north of the country, Italy organized two world fairs in the opening years of the twentieth century, 1906 in Milan and 1911 in Turin. World fairs are showcases for the hosting city and nation to reveal to the world their products, their arts, and their achievements. The two Italian world fairs were part of a cultural battle to decouple Italy from the image of backwardness and romantic nostalgia for primitivism and naturalism that many foreign visitors came home with. Italy had been, in fact, one of the favorite destinations in the Grand Tour tradition. Travelers like Goethe and Stendhal enthusiastically praised the Italian picturesque, as if Italy were some kind of pre-modern exception to the new European norm. But with the beginning of the twentieth century, tourism in Italy began to change and come to be far more closely associated with fashion and modernity. It was now World Fairs and the celebration of science, art, technology, and progress that drew new visitors. Fashion was an integral part of the two Italian exhibitions and was used to show off the modernity, consumption, beauty, and identity of the still fledgling, but gradually modernizing, nation. At the Turin World Fair, fashion was given a high profile. A Palazzo della moda was created, and turned out to be one of the most visited attractions of the whole exhibition.21 At the Expo, the sartine were also prominent. Those who had distinguished themselves in the various city ateliers received numerous awards and recognitions. As Bassignana mentions in his study, on the day they were celebrated a sea of sartine populated the monumental bridge that


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had been built for the exposition.22 In June 1911, two months after the Fair opened, the sartine from Turin, along with factory workers from the textile industries, went on strike in demand of a nine hour day, other benefits, and fairer regulations. At the Milan World Fair, means of transportation such as the train, the ship, the car, and airplane took center stage, and it was to these symbols of progress, mobility, and modernity that a great deal of the Expo was devoted. The jewel in the crown of the Expo was the completion of the Simplon tunnel, a monumental endeavor—the world’s longest tunnel, 19,801 meters long (Gentile: 37–43)—that allowed Paris and Milan to be directly connected by train. The Simplon tunnel, presented as a marker of eternal glory and the arrival of the twentieth century, inspired several artists to celebrate the event with creations such as the poem “Gli eroi del Sempione” (The heroes of the Simplon tunnel), by Giovanni Pascoli.23 The development of trade and commerce were not the only beneficiaries of the enhanced communications networks and transportation systems then being created: so was tourism. More efficient systems of transportation meant that tourism was slowly becoming oriented towards the masses, and not just to the elites. The imaginaries, leisure time and fantasy of a growing number of people from a wider societal range were being transformed by new configurations of time and space. In fact, the most immediate effect of the building of the Simplon Tunnel was that it facilitated the travel of foreign visitors to Italy and Milan. With this exposition, Milan’s aim was to find itself at the core of the political, cultural, and economic geography of modern cities, both in, and outside, Italy. Milan was a city of dynamism and modernity, showcasing Italian products and technological achievements in a global context. Unlike Turin, Florence, and Rome, Milan was not included in the succession of the post-unified nation’s capitals. Nevertheless, it became a key center for the economic and cultural life of the nation. In its geographical position, close to northern European countries, with its important industries, financial power, commercial development and publishing houses and periodicals, Milan was, and still is, one of Italy’s capitals and a decisive contributor to the nation’s cultural capital. The decorative arts, as well as transportation, were highlighted at the Milan World Fair. A 20,000 square foot space was made available to give visibility to Italian products, or what we would today call “Made in Italy”. It was here that Genoni exhibited her designs. Milan’s plans were, however, set back by the fire that broke out on August 3 in the Italian and Hungarian Gallery of Decorative Art, and devastated a number of buildings, including the Architecture Pavilion and the exhibit on the Milan Duomo. Many other objects and installations on display were destroyed. Rebuilding work began immediately, and only forty days later new pavilions were completed, and re-inaugurated, on October 1 1906, by King Victor Emmanuel III. Genoni, along with many others involved in the show, was required to feverishly produce new work so as to be ready for the opening of the reconstructed space. The World Fair was a forum where Italian artisans could show off their wares to the world. In the world of fashion, this meant showing the world that Italian fashion was on a par with its Parisian rival. Genoni took up the cause of Italian fashion with a vengeance. Soon after the Milan Expo, she published her book Per una moda italiana, in which she advertised her designs to prospective customers, a kind of fashion catalog

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of her ideas and collections. She also published a bilingual edition of the book, in English and Italian, which both testifies to her understanding that fashion is both local and global and illustrates her aim to internationalize Italian fashion and market it to a broader audience of consumers.24 Fashion, then, was for Genoni a performing art, such as theater and cinema, and including the diva. Whether thanks to the catalog or not, one celebrity of the time—the theater star, Lyda Borelli—did know enough about Genoni to wear one of her most interesting designs, the versatile Tanagra Dress, of which we will speak later, in greater detail. In the service of creating a stronger national identity, Genoni was more and more convinced of the need to Italianize the clothing that was available to Italians in the clothing stores, instead of simply reproducing the models that were in fashion in France. Her own designs drew on the Italian cultural heritage. Gradually developing a woman’s silhouette that was freeing itself from the constraints of the corset, the designs she created, around the 1910s, went back to the simplicity of line and sumptuousness of fabric, color and embroidery that married Italian early Renaissance beauty and grace with classical antiquity. She quoted the past, but always gave it a modern twist. While she sought to create an Italian fashion and style, she translated into practice what she had learned in Paris, and combined the two schools and experiences. From her experience in Paris, she was able to learn the uses of modern and creative marketing strategies that are key for the recognition of an identity in design and, of course, to branding it. Genoni’s involvement in fashion brought her into contact with the world of the traditional performing arts and cinema, and in particular with the person of Lyda Borelli, already a well-known theater actor when Genoni first met her but destined to become one of the biggest stars of Italian silent films. Borelli, already an icon of Italian style, and the embodiment of a modern femininity, became a client of Genoni and wore her designs on stage, effectively turning the stage into a fashion runway, as Poiret had, previously, in France. It was during the June 1908 performance at the Olympia Theater in Milan of the play “Matrimonio di Giacomina”, by Paul Gavault, that Lyda Borelli wore one of Genoni’s most sophisticated creations, the Tanagra dress. The dress was inspired by the draping that appears in a fourth century figurine from Tanagra in Greece. Interestingly, the popular magazine L’Illustrazione Italiana, in featuring a photograph of Borelli, states that by wearing Genoni’s creations on stage she had carried out a patriotic mission: “Offering the eloquent support of her beauty to the crusade, initiated by Rosa Genoni in favour of an Italian fashion that took its inspiration from the masterpieces of Italian art” (1908: 25, 599). Genoni was fascinated by history, and the history of dress, in particular. She took every opportunity to study the construction of clothing, and took inspiration from paintings, frescos, and sculptures—as well as from everyday and modern objects such as airplanes and cars—that defined mobility and modernity. One of her most innovative contributions to fashion design was her elaboration on Greco-Roman draping combined with a modern aesthetic sensibility. Let us turn to one dress in particular that was already mentioned, the Tanagra dress, which synthesizes the fusion of the past and modernist eye and represents a departure from Genoni’s Renaissance


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Figure 1  Lyda Borelli wearing Genoni’s Tanagra Dress, 1908, Per una moda italiana, from author’s collection.

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inspiration, so highly praised at the Milan Expo exhibit. In fact, the elaboration of the dress’s design and construction, with the use of different fabrics and hues, accessories and details, creates a strong statement that bears further scrutiny. Genoni herself wore this new design when she went to speak at the first International Women’s Congress in Rome, as described in the epigraph above. With the Tanagra dress, Genoni was searching for ways to dress a new female body with a modern, dynamic identity, rejecting the rigidity of the suit that had characterized the end of the nineteenth century. Often, in her writings, Genoni reflects on the way a particular dress can shape the way the body moves and walks, and how this movement and posture can define the spirit of a particular time and the way ideas of gender, and presentation of the self, can materialize through the forms of dress. In her mind, the Tanagra Dress was a statement of a strong female identity and personality. Following a similar path to that of the Futurists, she was fashioning for herself and other women a new, strong persona, and the “abito mantello”, or Tanagra dress, embodied this new identity. In the book Per una moda italiana, containing the illustrations of her designs, we see a photograph in which she, herself, is wearing the dress. Next to her photograph, we see also a photograph of Borelli, the ideal model to wear Genoni’s most modern and interesting creation, the Tanagra dress. Indeed, in the different poses in which Borelli is photographed, the dress is elegant and stunning. The Tanagra Dress, or abito mantello as Genoni calls it, stands out for its versatility, the draping and sartorial technique used to make it, the fabric employed, its color and accessories. Interestingly, Genoni had in mind a sartorial revolution, and the ways in which a dress such as the Tanagra could be transformed by using different accessories and fabrics—as did the Futurists, as we have noted earlier. There are two versions of the Tanagra Dress: one is for more casual daywear, the other is the more glamorous evening version worn magnificently by Borelli, this time made of a light, shiny fabric. (We see Genoni again, in another pose, with a hat and feathers that transmit a more sophisticated image of the Tanagra daywear.) Hence, as previously observed, it has both a dressed-up and a dressed-down version. The photographs in which Genoni herself wears her design, and how its variation is worn by Borelli, bear further analysis. In April of the same year, 1908, Genoni wore the Tanagra dress at the National Congress of Women in Rome. Two months later, in June 1908, at the Olympia Theater in Milan, Borelli wore it in its stunning, sophisticated off-white satin version. The evening-wear edition of the dress worn by Borelli suited her fashionable persona. As Giovanna Gynex has noted: “Lyda Borelli represented a modernity that was interpreted through the images and poses of an ideal woman who changes herself, demands space, and moves freely in new fashionable clothes, gives voice to her feelings and at the same time claims a new social role” (Ginex, 2004: 18). From the documents, it appears that the dress was first created for Genoni herself to present at the Women’s Congress in Rome, and then adapted and re-elaborated for Borelli, whose style was later to be emulated and copied to the point where the neologism “borrellismo” was coined. It is difficult to determine from the documents what the exact steps of the design process were. In any case, it is important to note how Genoni disseminated her style by way of the bodies of the celebrities and actresses


Italian Style

whose public appearances advertised her moda italiana. Another actress who wore her dresses was Gina Favre. Cinema and divas, especially Borelli, must have had a profound impact on Genoni, and may have inspired the way she is seen posing in photographs. In a private archive there is a portrait of Genoni in a pose identical to one of Borelli’s. These are some of the first examples of what we know today as ‘celebrity culture’, driven then, as it is today, by the media: cinema, photography, magazines. Costume and fashion, especially as worn by divas, were part and parcel of this new popular and intermedial culture to which the masses had access as never before. In the research behind her designs, Genoni was very much in line with the spirit of the age. The revisiting of the past, of classical antiquity as well as the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were during this time crucial points of reference in the European artistic movements and culture as whole. Genoni’s designs, then, must also be studied in the context of the fabric and sartorial experiments of such artists as Mariano Fortuny and Maria Monaci Gallenga, in Italy, and of other artists working in the context of Art Nouveau.25 And, of course, the key role played by the draping and the bias cut elaborated by Madelaine Vionnet in the 1920s and 1930s could be linked to this new sensibility toward dress, accentuating rather than distorting the natural form, instead of constricting the body in corsets. It is clear that Genoni’s thought was to drape the female figure in order to free its movement, in line with similar fashion experiments of the time, and she starts this process as early as 1908. For her, fashion was empowerment, self-knowledge, self-affirmation; it created an image and an identity that women could project in public space, and be in control of. Genoni’s version of the Tanagra Dress, however, is not completely corset-free. One can clearly see—notably in one of the Borelli pictures—that she is wearing a corset. The dress attempts to create a balance between the sartorial and the draped. But it is in its transformative function and its versatility that the Tanagra dress is the fusion of modernist avant-garde and classical inspiration. The Tanagra Dress becomes almost a symbol of a strong femininity, an embodiment of the style of an assertive personality who demands to be taken seriously in the world of fashion—Genoni, as the sarta artista, and, in the world of film, Borelli, the actor as an artist. A diva such as Borelli will contribute decisively to legitimise cinema as art, while Genoni will conduct a battle to legitimise fashion as an art, and Italian fashion in particular. In different domains, fashion, cinema and the stage, women such as Genoni and Borelli are among the main actors in the gendered legitimisation of the artist. In a historical period during which the avant-garde movements in painting and literature begin to question the role of the artist, women in cinema and fashion seem instead to take a different path. It is to the examination of the role of the diva and the diva film that we now turn.

Notes 1

G. Bertellini (2013), ed., Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader, ibid.; J. Welle (2008), “The cinema arrives in Italy: city, region and nation in early film discourse”, in R. Abel,

Italian Fashion and Film in the 1910s


G. Bertellini, R. King, eds, Early Cinema and the ‘National’, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing. 2 On Futurism and fashion see E. Crispolti (1986), Il Futurismo e la moda. Balla e gli altri, Venice: Marsilio, the book contains several Futurist manifestoes; Lista, Giovanni (1997), “La mode futuriste” Catalogue of the Exhibition Europe. 1910–1939 quand l’art habillait le vêtement, Paris: Musée de la Mode et du Costume; L. F. Garavaglia (2009), Il futurismo e la moda, Milan: Excelsior; E. Paulicelli (2009) “Fashion and Futurism: Performing Dress” in L. Somigli, and F. Luisetti, eds, Annali d’ Italianistica. A Century of Futurism: 1909–2009; references to Futurism and design, see A. H. Merjian (2012), “A Future by Design: Giacomo Balla and the Domestication of Transcendence, Oxford Art Journal 35, no. 2 : 121–46; Kjetil Fallan and Grace-Lees Maffei, (2014), “Introduction: The History of Italian Design” in Made in Italy. Rethinking a century of Italian Design, New York, London: Bloomsbury Academics, 1–33; S. Gnoli (2014), The Origins of Italian Fashion. 1900–45, London: V & A Publications. 3 All translations from Italian into English are my own, unless otherwise mentioned. 4 G. Lista (2013), “Futurist Cinema: Ideas and Novelties” in G. Bertellini, ed., Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing Ltd, pp. 203–13; of the same author see 2001, Cinema e fotografia futurista, Milan: Skira; 2010, Il Cinema futurista, Recco, Genoa: Le mani; P. Bondanella (1983), Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present, New York: Continuum Press, pp. 9–10; G. Brunetta (2009) “Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Cinematic Universe: The Futurist word,” in The History of Italian Cinema: a guide to Italian film from its origins to the twenty-first century, Princeton: Princeton University Press. 5 Christel Tsilibaris, “Marcel Fabre’s Amor Pedestre” in marcel-fabres-amor-pedestre (last accessed July 4, 2015). 6 L. Quaresima (2013), “ Stracittà: Cinema, Rationalism, Modernism, and Italy’s “Second Futurism”, in Bertellini G. Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing Ltd, pp. 213–21. 7 On Marey, see Braun, M. (1992), Picturing Time: The Work of Etienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904), Chicago: University of Chicago Press; C. Musser (1990), The Emergence of Cinema, vol. 1: The American Screen to 1907, New York: Scribner’s series; A. McMahan (2004), “Beginnings,” in E. Ezra, ed., European Cinema, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 23–40; E. Luisetti, (2015) “A Futurist Art of the Past” Ameriquest, 12.1, pp. 1–9. 8 See Angela dalle Vacche (2008), Diva. Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema, Austin: University of Texas. 9 T. Gunning (2006), “The Cinema of Attraction(s), Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde,” in W. Strauven, ed., Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. 10 See also Günter Berghaus (2014), “Futurist Serate and Gallery Performances” in V. Greene, ed., Italian Futurism 1909–1944. Reconstructing the Universe, New York: Guggenheim, pp. 90–3. 11 See Braun, E. (2015), “Making Waves: Giacomo Balla and Emilio Pucci,” in Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 20:1: 67–83; E. Crispolti (2014), “The Dynamics of Futurism’s Historiography” in V. Greene, ed., Italian Futurism 1909–1944. Reconstructing the Universe, New York: Guggenheim. 12 Rosa Genoni (1918), Storia del Costume Femminile. Brevi Cenni illustrativi della





16 17

18 19

20 21

22 23

Italian Style serie di diapositive, Rome: Istituto Minerva. All translations of the texts in this essay by Rosa Genoni and others from Italian into English in this essay are by Eugenia Paulicelli unless otherwise noted. Rosa Genoni, “Vita d’Arte nella Moda,” in Vita Femminile; for a study on Genoni’s life and career see Eugenia Paulicelli, (2015) Rosa Genoni. La moda è una cosa seria: Milano Expo 1906 e la Grande Guerra, bilingual edition (Italian and English), Milan: Deleyva. Quoted in Impenti, Operaie e socialismo. Milano, Le Leghe femminili, la Camera del lavoro (1881–1918), Milan: Franco Angeli, (2007), p.166; see also Giovanni Verga, “In piazza della scala”, in Per le vie, in Verga, Tutte le novelle, vol. 1, pp. 345–6 and “Il canarino del n. 15”, pp. 356–9. Addio Giovinezza, a comedy written by Camasio and Oxilia, this latter was later to become a prolific filmmaker until his death during the First World War, in 1917, at the age of 27. The comedy was extremely successful and was the basis for four films, an operetta and various songs. The text of the Operetta can be downloaded at: (accessed June 16, 2014). The verses are a quotation from the operetta and the duet between Mario, the student and Dorina, the sartina. Quoted in Pier Luigi Bassignana, “La moda all’esposizione di Torino del 1911,” p. 62. Antonia Lant and Ingrid Periz, eds, (2006), Red Velvet Seat. Women’s Writings on the First Fifty Years of Cinema, New York: Verso; Giuliana Bruno, 1993, Streetwalking on a Ruined Map. Cultural Theory and the City Films of Elvira Notari, Princeton University Press; Angela Dalle Vacche (2008), Diva. Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema, Austin: University of Texas. On early film and the role of Turin, see Giorgio Bertellini, ed., (2013), Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Marco Pistoia, “Gino Carlo Sensani” in Enciclopedia del Cinema, Enciclopedia Treccani, (last accessed, September 1, 2015); S. Masi (1989), Costumisti e scenografi del cinema italiano, vol. 1, L’Aquila, pp. 25–8; M. Verdone, ed., (1950), La moda e il costume nel cinema, Rome: Bianco e Nero, the book is an homage to costume design and especially Gino Sensani. One of the chapters is authored by Michelangelo Antonioni who pays homage to Sensani; as for the costume design for theater and opera the name of Caramba (Luigi Sapelli, 1865–1936) is of vital importance. See the recent publication, Caramba. Mago del Costume, Vittoria Crespi Morbio,ed.,: Milan: Amici della Scala, 2013. Nan Enstad (1998), “Fashioning Political Identities: Cultural Studies and the Historical Construction of Political Subjects,” in American Quarterly, 50:4 (December):745–82. See also Jessamyn Hatcher, “Shirtwaists and the Price of Fashion,” unpublished paper. Pier Luigi Bassignana (2011), Torino 1861–2011. Storia di una città attraverso le esposizioni, Turin: Edizioni del Capricorno; Federica Di Castro, ed., (1991), 1900–1960. L’Alta Moda Capitale. Torino e le sartorie torinesi, Milan: Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri. Pier Luigi Bassignana, “L’ esposizione internazionale del 1911,” in Torino 1861–2011. Storia di una città attraverso le esposizioni, Turin: Edizioni del Capricorno, 2011, pp. 111–40 and in particular pp.135–8. Giovanni Pascoli (1906), “Gli eroi del Sempione,” in do;jsession (last accessed October 3, 2014).

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24 While conducting my research on Rosa Genoni, I came across the bilingual edition of Per una moda italiana. The book was published in 1910 in Milan by Ettore Balzaretti after the first edition published in 1909 by Alfieri & Lacroix, also in Milan. 25 See Clare Rose (2014), Art Nouveau Fashion, London: Victoria & Albert Publishing.



From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation The Italian divas and the “gowns of emotions.” Nestoroff? Was it possible? It seemed to be her and yet it seemed not to be. That hair of a strange tawny color, almost coppery, that style of dress, sober, almost stiff, were not hers. But the motion of her slender, exquisite body, with a touch of the feline in the sway of her hips, the head raised high, inclined a little to one side, and that sweet smile on a pair of lips as fresh as a pair of rose leaves, whenever anyone addressed her; those eyes, unnaturally wide, open, greenish, fixed at the same time vacant, and cold in the shadow of their long lashes, were hers, entirely hers, with that certainty all her own that everyone, whatever she might say or ask, would answer yes. (Luigi Pirandello, Shoot!)1 Because everything—from costume and coiffure down to gesture, glance and smile— for each age has a deportment, a glance, a smile of its own. […] This transitory, fugitive element, whose metamorphoses are so rapid, must on no account be despised or dispensed with. (Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life”)2 In his description of the diva, and with his usual wit, Pirandello captures her theatricality and the power of her performance on screen. If, at first, neither physical features nor style of dress identify her, it is the motion of her “slender and exquisite body” that unmistakably tells us who she is. The diva holds the scene, grabbing the imagination of a mesmerized and enslaved audience to such a degree that “everyone, whatever she might say or ask, would answer yes.” Thus Nestoroff, the exotic name given by Pirandello to his diva in Shoot!, is the embodiment of a powerful femininity; she is a femme fatale destined either for destruction or self-destruction. The diva does not lose the power and aura she holds in the audience’s imagination, even when she dies, whether by killing herself on screen, or on stage, in front of her lover, as the diva Lyda Borelli does in Mario Caserini’s Ma l’amore mio non muore (1913), the film that launched the genre of the diva film. Once again, Pirandello’s description of the diva captures the essence of her power: motion and gestural performance. The image of


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the diva is not a static picture. Rather, it is a body in motion. And it is her motion and her striking, well-studied poses that create her character. Antonio Gramsci described Borelli as “the artist par excellence of film in which language is the human body in its ever self-renewing plasticity.” Borelli’s body and the twists and turns of her arms and hands accompany the movement of her dress and its fabric, amplifying the motion of the moving image. As a new art form and technology, then only twenty years old in 1915, cinema revolutionized vision and perception of the world and reality. Italian actresses like Borelli (who was already a well-established theater celebrity), Francesca Bertini and Pina Menichelli—all of whom perfected an acting style that would leave a mark in film history and in popular culture—were all aware of how the new medium affected and changed their image. Whether in interviews or articles, on the meaning of cinema and the experience of being in front of a camera rather than being on the theater stage, they were active participants in the debate of the time. As we will see in the following pages, the Italian divas were involved in the fashioning of their characters on and off screen. However, the diva film was by no means a homogenous genre; and, on closer analysis, it can be seen as an illustration of the social and cultural complexity brought about by the great transformations that were taking place in many domains in the Italy of the 1910s. Modernity took many forms, but was characterized always, in one way or another, by motion, movement and change. As we can see in the field of the visual arts, modernity was the antithesis of stasis. It is sufficient to recall Bragaglia’s concept of photodynamism, or the experiments conducted by Balla—his famous painting of a dog on its leash, whose motion the artist attempts to capture, and his “interpenetrations” (compenetrazioni) where forms, light and color interconnect, and create, once again, a dynamic picture; or the sculptures by Umberto Boccioni and Medardo Rosso, whose bodies and faces turn into abstract forms that blur the boundaries and contours of bodies and matter. In the form of the moving image, cinema had a profound impact on the rupture of the boundaries between art, science, and technology. As several studies have emphasized, the process of modernization led to drastic changes in the perception of space and time.3 The new arts and technologies, including cinema, materialized and spurred on these changes. Cinema, and in particular the diva films, created new spaces for women, despite the conventionality of some of their stories. The diva films and the divas themselves enjoyed enormous success among working class women such as the sartine we encountered in the previous chapter. As discussed in Chapter 2, Dorina, the sartina in Oxilia’s and Camasio’s Addio Giovinezza (1911), declares her love not only for Mario but also for cinema and clothing. Later, in one of his poems “Tu ed io” (1918), Oxilia depicts a new urban space shaped by store windows and the commodities on sale in the window displays lined up under the eyes of passersby. He describes the pleasure with which strollers in the city gaze at the shop windows and their displays of clothing, books, jewelry and even chestnuts. Following along these lines, but in a more Futurist format, Aldo Palazzeschi’s poem “La passeggiata” gives us an eclectic list of signs, publicity posters and names of stores, such as one might see on a walk through the new

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


urban reality that defined the modern experience of cities at the turn of the twentieth century. The tempo with which the list of stores and signs is described in the poem mimes the rhythms of urban life where one is surrounded by continuous advertising and distractions. Palazzeschi mentions, among other things, department stores such as I fratelli Bocconi (the eponymous owners of the Milan department store that will later become the Rinascente), pastry shops, announcements for “seamstresses wanted,” and movie theaters. The ethos of the department store was to enhance “the goods through decoration and display” in order “to address both ‘class’ and ‘mass’ together.”4 This is also what cinema did. Both cinema and the department stores were powerful engines that propelled the spectacle of modernity. Movie theaters mushroomed in Italian cities. Writing under the pseudonym Gibus, in an article she published in 1906, the journalist and writer Matilde Serao coined a neologism, cinematografeide! to mean the “epidemic” of the new medium, but also to indicate that personal life was being invaded.5 Serao was well aware of how technology, and film in particular, had a transforming effect on urban life and the lived experience of the inhabitants of Italy’s rapidly growing cities. She noted: Cinema reigns supreme, ruling and dominating and bossing around and invading everything, society life, charity, the arts, the theatre! […] The dreadful machine is not satisfied to await you in the dark of the theatre; it springs out in the sunlight and catches you in movement, tricks you when you least expect it. […] Are you in the park waiting for somebody? There comes the cinema, which catches you in the middle of a conversation and immortalizes your innocent flirting in a film […].6

Despite Serao’s worries, many Italians were eager consumers of movies. Women were among the most eager of these new consumers and, of course, after viewing her films “they remembered all of Lyda Borelli’s costumes.”7 Commenting on a novella by Pio Vanzi—“Lungo metraggio” (Feature film)—published in La Vita cinematografica in 1918, Irene Lottini has noted how the movie theater acts as the space of fulfillment of women’s desire. Vanzi, in fact, emphasizes the extent to which cinema was able to create strong emotions and desires, so much so that the young women on whom the novella centers, Lilla, Lella, and Marietta, were no longer able to separate reality from fiction, or a cinematographic war hero from a real soldier (who had come back from the First World War and happened to be in the movie theater while they were watching the film). Vanzi identifies the power of cinema as a vehicle of emotions that affect the imagination and worldview of the viewing public (women spectators in particular), who then go on to imitate and reproduce the dresses they have seen worn by the actresses on screen. The movie screen becomes, then, akin to the shop window where women’s desires for fashionable clothing and accessories take on concrete form. It should be pointed out, though, that the consumer gaze of women spectators “was not merely acquisitive.”8 Rather, a more attentive eye towards the complex nuances of the process of negotiating identity and subjectivity for women at this time is needed if we are to have a fuller picture of the role played by fashion and cinema in those early years of the twentieth century. The case of the divas, in fact, helps us to understand the dynamics of producing and consuming images, and points to how these actresses


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need to be seen not only in their glamorous on screen dimension but also as “ladies of labor and girls of adventure,” to quote an important study by historian Nan Enstad, which focuses on American culture at the turn of the twentieth century. Enstad argues that the gaze of women, especially those working class women who became “movie-struck”, “was interwoven with complex narratives and fantasies.” She adds that: “When working women gazed at posters, dreamed of stars, and attended shows, they enacted subjectivities in a new public arena and engaged contradictions that they experienced [in their daily lives]”.9 In the context of Italian culture, the divas were a unique phenomenon, testament to the complexities and contradictions of the process of modernity. Divas brought with them a notion of changing female subjectivities at a time when women in the off-screen world were fighting for the vote and more humane working conditions. “La donna e la cinematografia,” an article published in the magazine La Donna in 1916, begins by describing the excitement of the young women working in a milliner’s shop when one of the divas they have seen at the movies, but now in the flesh, is trying on several hats in the course of a shopping spree: The bellissima, breezing through the store, was trying on hundreds of little hats, one after the other. […] This no, this yes… One after the other, as the parade progressed, the purchases were being piled up on a table. The milliner was happy, the customers were amazed. The young women working in the atelier, who were peeping from behind all the doors and curtains – their eyes wide open and having a great time. […] The frail diva, in her fast automobile coupé, was already going somewhere else to do more shopping. Outside the atelier’s door facing the street, curious and envious eyes of young women were following her, their eyes shining with thousands and thousands of envious desires; one of the apprentices ran towards her car and when she reached it, she threw a small bouquet of flowers to the diva: an homage that was much more eloquent and sincere than those of the aristocratic admirers. 10

The article gives us both a depiction and a reflection of the impact of cinema on the working class women who admired the diva and fantasized about her. The fantasy induced by the glamor world lived by the actress is accompanied by the recognition that the new role of women working in the nascent film industry has given them the chance to be paid astronomical salaries. The article mentions, in fact, that Bertini (the diva who came from modest social origins and who could conceivably have been one of the women working in the millinery workshops, atelier and sartorie) had received a salary of 2,500 lire, during the war increased to 10,000 lire. As described in the article, the power of cinema over the mass audience seems inevitable, part of modern times, in the same way that the telephone, electric lighting, and the newspaper were. Cinema is aligned with the power of the diva to make the magic of the spectacle seductive enough to be dreamed of and imitated: In Paris as in St. Petersburg, in Italy as in Latin America, the young beauties aspiring to live a life of love and art are subject to a cult for the great stars of the

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


cinema; each one of them has a favourite: there are some who adore Borelli (in general, men like her more…), there are those who love Bertini […] There are also those also who judge Menichelli unique […]. All of them end expressing their admiration by way of some tangible sign or other, sometimes perhaps unconsciously and inadvertently—they imitate the suffering poses, the gait—the Marquis Colombi would say—a bit rambling, the insistent but pretty sneer. The gentle sex now bertineggia as some time ago it had borrelleggiato or tomorrow menichellerà. The easy way the queens of the silent film acquired fame and wealth in such a short time is the preferred topic of their conversation. The young women working in workshops know that some of the divas belong to the same breed as they do, who once went to work every morning, and received a poor salary for long hours of work: they speak about their salary, their small town house, their automobile, their stay at the seaside, and their numberless princely admirers. (35)

The article stresses how the motion and gestural performance of the divas defines not only their on screen identity but also represents a blue print for women of all classes to pose, walk and fantasize: You laugh at the sartina who touches up her hair copying the pose of Borelli, or the women intellectuals who before entering a drawing room will stay for a few seconds near the door gazing towards the infinite in that narrow space feigning an interrogative gaze a la Bertini. (emphasis mine, ibid.)

Note the reference to pose—mossa, in Italian. Going back to Pirandello’s words, in her motion, Nestoroff—his diva in Shoot!—is the embodiment of a sensual and provocative femininity both on and off screen. Her allure is emphasized by the moving image reenacting a living body that moves in space. Motion and movement are singled out by Pirandello as the identifying and alluring property of the body that signifies through the performance of clothing and the costumes of the diva on film. Although the diva films have been amply studied, my aim will be to re-interpret them and their actresses—Lyda Borelli, Francesca Bertini, and Pina Menichelli—in the context of fashion, but always focusing on the specific cinematic language of their gestural and performative qualities.11 I argue that costume plays a pivotal role in films such as Ma l’amore mio non muore and Sangue Bleu (as well as others we will examine), to the point that meaning is mainly conveyed through fashion parades and the way the divas walk and move on screen. Meaning, though, is conveyed not only by movement but also by the poses that the divas “strike” in their films. The divas’ gestural performance, then, is, characterized by motion (duration in film), but also by pose, which represents an interruption in movement, a still image that stems the flow of the film. As we will discuss later, specific accessories such as the shawl in Assunta Spina, the Owl Hat in Il Fuoco, have a structural meaning in the context of film and costume. These objects, in calling attention to themselves, become in Bergsonian’s terms “intervals of duration.” At the same time, as philosopher Federico Luisetti has noted in commenting on the Bergsonism of Futurist photographer Bragaglia, these intervals of duration help us to understand the dynamics between movement and pose


Italian Style

in the fashion show and on film.12 By extension, clothes and accessories act as catalysts in this process of materialization and dematerialization of the visible. Movement and pose, in fact, are the gestures identified by Caroline Evans in her study of the origin of the fashion show, but they are also terms that describe the way in which divas parade their costumes on film. Miming both film and photography, the fashion show is characterized by flow and duration as well as by intervals and interruptions through the pose. In the case of the diva films, the plot or the story of the film in question assumes a function that is secondary to, and subservient to, the form of the film. In the absence of Italian newsreels of fashion shows during the 1910s, the diva films with the magnificent costumes exhibited on the bodies of Borelli, Bertini, Menichelli, and others not only fill this void but also, by way of the high visibility they enjoyed, take some of the first steps toward the creation of an Italian style. In this way, dress and costume on the bodies of the diva play a role in the context of the larger history of the origin of the fashion show, as studied by Evans, with reference to France and the United States. Looking rather closer at the performance of dress in the Italian diva films, we can see how the fashion parades featured in them both resemble, and differ from, the parades organized in France and the United States, with the dual role of spectacle and marketing strategy for promoting French and American fashion. In the 1910s, an autonomous Italian fashion and an organized infrastructure did not yet exist. This might explain the absence in Italian fashion shows of newsreels of the kind produced by Pathé-Fréres or Gaumont, and those advertising Poiret’s fashion or the English entrepreneurial dressmaker Lady Duff Gordon (Lucile), which were part of the French fashion scene. Evans has noted that: “At the same time that Poiret began to exploit film for publicity purposes in his fashion business, a significant quantity of newsreel footage showing fashion modeling began to be shown in cinema programs. It was internationally disseminated in a weekly newsreel format by PathéFréres from 1909 (Pathé Revue) and by Gaumont from 1910 (Gaumont Journal)” (Evans, 2011 in Munich, p 123). Earlier, in 1900, the magician of special film effects, Méliès, had made short films to advertise Mystére corsets, and a film for Delion hats. These were projected “at night in the street outside his magic theater, the Théâtre Robert-Houdin.”13 It bears recalling that the prewar years were highly profitable for French couture, as it was becoming known all over the world, with the result that, in the media, the belief was created that “French” was a secure passport for the social distinction, elegance and beauty so well described in Edith Wharton’s novels on Gilded Age New York.14 In fact, the historian William Leach states that “the most sensational innovation in American fashion was the introduction of the exclusive and intimate Paris fashion show into the mass market.”15 He describes, in fact, the enormous success of fashion shows, with live models parading “down ramps in store theaters or departments, spotlighted by lighting engineers” and achieving dramatic effects that left the spectators completely mesmerized by the spectacle. In fact, thousands of women in New York and other American cities visited the department stores to see for themselves the models exhibiting Parisian fashions. The shows were organized around Chinese, Persian, Mexican, and other themes and often resembled a cinema set. When Paul Poiret brought his themed spectacular shows with live models to the United

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


States, his oriental theme was already one of “the most popular of all merchandising themes” before the First World War. Shows of this kind, however, while serving to advertise French couture and reinforce its power, were also the inevitable inspiration for elaborating and producing an American fashion. Something similar was at the core of the Italian dressmaking business, textile, and decorative arts, as merchants sought to create a national fashion and gain the recognition that French fashion had been enjoying for centuries. In Italy, for instance, the newsreels of fashion shows shown in movie theaters during the intermission were to appear in the 1920s, after the advent of the fascist regime, as we will discuss in Chapter 4. However, there did exist an intense movement and debate, as we saw in Chapter 2, in relation to the drive to build consciousness toward the construction of an Italian fashion that could free itself from Paris and create an Italian style. The players in this debate had different roles, power, and political agendas. Nevertheless, the impact made by the world fairs held in Milan (1906) and Turin (1911) should not be underestimated. These Fairs represented a great opportunity for Italy to showcase the nation’s progress in art and technology. Fashion and cinema, especially at the Turin Fair, found a convergence. In fact, at the 1911 Turin Fair, great attention was dedicated to displays of clothing set in the context of social events in the form of tableaux vivants, but featuring also dioramas in which clothing was displayed. The dioramas had a cinematic quality, almost like screen shots, creating a narrative around clothing (the salon, dinner, conversation, and so on). The beginning of fashion shows and the emergence of models (or “mannequins” as they were called in France) to present dresses was part of a narrative designed to evoke fantasy. Evans notes that Lady Duff Gordon, one of the initiators of “fashion shows at the turn of the century […] also introduced the practice of naming rather than numbering gowns, inaugurating her ‘gowns of emotion’ at the same time as the new science of psychology was emerging” (Evans, 2013, p. 15).16 This strategy of giving dresses exotic or evocative names, as if they were borrowed from novels, endowed the dresses with a narrative quality that animated dreams and fantasy. In this animatedness, both in a narrative or thematic setting, and when worn by the walking models, clothing had an enormous impact on emotions. Interestingly, while the gowns of the Paris-based dressmaker, Lucile (referred to above), embodied and communicated emotions, her models were trained and instructed to appear indifferent, and to display not emotion but impassiveness. Evans notes that: “Her [Lucile’s] mannequins were widely admired by the English press which used them to proclaim a new kind of modern glamour. Trained to strike dramatic poses, during the parade they barely smiled and never spoke” (Evans, 2013, 35 and 97). There are clear parallels between the models parading fashionable items in the fashion shows and the actresses in the diva films. If, on the one hand, in their dramatic poses and gestural exhibitionism of clothing on film and their way of walking, the Italian divas shared with the models a common language of glamor and stardom, on the other, their—far more animated—bodily gestures and facial expressions differed markedly from those of the models, and went hand-in-hand with the “the gowns of emotion” that they were wearing in their films. Italian divas looked, posed, and moved, on screen, like fashion models, but their gestural performance was not at all passive


Italian Style

or indifferent. Rather, it was all about passion and emotion, sometimes excessively so, whereas the models wore an emotionless mask as they performed their walk for wealthy customers. In other words, as models they were required to efface themselves as they “performed” the dress; the divas, on the other hand, emphasized their individuality and lent it to the clothing they wore. The invisible and faceless models helped to produce and market name brands (for example, Poiret, Paris fashion, and so on); the Italian divas’ strong individuality and persona—adopting a different approach but achieving similar ends—helped to brand an “Italian Style.” Here we see a clear link not only between fashion, film, and modernity but also a first glimpse of the relationship between fashion and nation. As powerful symbolic machines and industries, fashion and cinema have a history that runs parallel with narratives of national identity. The body of the diva became the crossroads of a new female spectacle, a new woman who had been produced by cinema and who bore the imprint of ideas and ideals about nation and nationalism. Lyda Borelli and Francesca Bertini, in particular, became testimonials of Italian patriotism, supporting the soldiers, for example, during the Great War; their beauty was reproduced in hundreds of postcards that soldiers brought to the front with them. Bertini, in particular, was called the “piccola fata benefica” (little charitable fairy) because she devolved the money from the Rome opening night of her film Odette (1916) to the “Opera di Assistenza dei Soldati Feriti” (Assistance to Wounded Soldiers Foundation).17 Although different in style and manner, as we shall see as we examine some of their films, Lyda Borelli, Francesca Bertini, and Pina Menichelli all contributed powerfully to the development of cinema and fashion as cultural institutions of modernity.

Lyda Borelli (1887–1959): the ethereal melancholic beauty and Ma l’amore mio non muore! (love everlasting) I am very fascinated […] with clothes, with the question of a woman’s elegance, with that fantastic and, without a doubt, complicated world which is a woman’s wardrobe. I, just like you, believe that a wardrobe is a sort of poetic medium or instrument. (Lyda Borelli, Letter to a writer)18 Movement, time, rhythm of the gestures, are all undoubtedly influenced largely by what is worn. (Georg Simmel, Fashion, 1906, in Purdy, 295)

The film Ma l’ amore mio non muore! (Love Everlasting, 1913), directed by Mario Caserini (1874–1920) for the Turin production house, Gloria, gave Lyda Borelli, playing Elsa Holbein, the protagonist, a profile as a film actor. Prior to making this film, she was already an acclaimed stage actress, above all in the role of Salomè and Zaza. In fact, in L’amore mio non muore!, a love and espionage story, she reverts to type. Elsa is exiled to Switzerland, where she becomes a stage actress named Diana

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


Figure 2  Borelli, postcard, 1910–18 (b/w photo), Italian Photographer, (20th century). Private Collection/Alinari/Bridgeman Images. Condoleur, who reaches great fame and popularity, and—importantly—wears the costumes of the characters that rendered her famous in theater. We see Elsa, like Borelli as a stage actress, dressed as Salomè on and off stage, with her very long blond hair, a dreaming gaze like that of the beauties depicted by pre-Raphaelite painters, and a body whose gestures speak a language that is at the same time unique and universal. The film marks the beginning of the intense and brief film career of Lyda Borelli, which she abandoned on marrying Count Cini in 1918.  Caserini’s film was a national and international success at the box office. Audiences in Italy and abroad,


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Figure 3  Borelli as Salomè, Postcard, Album/Art Resource NY. ready and eager to welcome the melodrama that so defined the narrative of the diva film, watched and emulated the fashion worn by Borelli, and glimpsed the aristocratic world and lifestyle it depicted. The stage role that had given Borelli popular recognition and appeal was that of Salomè, as scripted by Oscar Wilde. Borelli was such a visible star that Italy gave itself over to a Salomania craze, and with it a growing fascination with the orient and the exotic, on a par with that of other European countries and the United States. But it was with cinema that Borelli achieved international popularity and a mass audience. The aura that grew up around her and her beauty led to an early manifestation of today’s celebrity culture. Borelli was certainly a precursor to what, later on, Hollywood would project through stars like Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, and others. Borelli performs the character of Salomè in both Ma l’amore mio non muore! and Rapsodia Satanica. However, the performances and contexts are different, as are the costumes. In Caserini’s film, her Salomè costume is for her stage appearance. One long sequence is set in her dressing room, the space that takes center stage in the second part of the film. Here we see a three-paneled mirror that, as she is reflected, frames her figure and multiplies her persona, doubling the role of the camera; we see how she is framed from the back, then the front, giving  the scene a montage effect. But the three-paneled mirror also allows the audience to inspect the different details of her dress, and, in turn, acts as a multiple screen. It is also in front of the mirror that she performs and strikes the poses that most characterize her persona, and makes the sinuous movements of her body after the Salomè performance. The three-paneled mirror is also reminiscent of the typical décor of a fashion house and the fitting space

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


where customers try on their dresses, as seen in countless illustrations. The Salomè costume that Borelli wears in Ma l’ amore mio non muore! is more revealing than the costume she wears in Rapsodia Satanica. In Caserini’s film, her brassiere is exposed, revealing her semi-naked bust covered by veils. The fascination with the orient was likewise spurred on by other arts, including the enormous impact and success of the Ballets Russes, with costumes by Leon Bakst, and by the several balls organized by Paul Poiret on the theme of The Thousand and One Nights.19 Costumes designed for theater also had a strong influence on fashion in Europe and the United States, especially in the New York of fancy parties, where millionaires and socialites commissioned spectacular dresses and costumes. Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth describes some of these parties and social gatherings, where costume was exhibited in Tableaux Vivants. Poiret took several trips to the United States with his models, and organized parties and fashion shows around the theme of The Arabian Nights. In Italy, the Milanese Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881–1957), a friend of Gabriele D’Annunzio, an eccentric diva, organized outrageous parties and wore a number of incredible dresses ordered from Poiret, Erte, and Vionnet, among others.20 In the world of fashion, Poiret was well known in the prewar years for the exoticism of his creations, his harem pants, and the jupe-culotte, worn by Borelli in Alberto degli Abbati’s film La memoria dell’altro (1913), where she interprets a female pilot; he was known also for the “lampshade” dress style, of which we see several versions in the diva films (one is worn by Borelli in Rapsodia).21 This latter was a fashion that transgressively revealed women’s bodies and, with the harem pants or jupe-culotte, challenged gender definitions of dress.22 Ma l’amore mio non muore!, an operatic tour de force, centers on doubleness, and performance on stage, in cinema and in life. When Elsa Holbein is forced to leave her country following her father’s suicide, as we have seen above she becomes a stage actress with the new name of Diana Condoleur. The father, Colonel Holbein, had been unjustly accused of losing important state papers, actually stolen by a spy pretending to be a friend of the family. After the tragedy, Elsa travels to a new country, having been offered a contract to play the part of Salomè. The figure of Salomè, and the kind of femininity it represented, was already a dense trope and a site of intermedial connections that came to be materialized on screen. However, Borelli not only performs Salomè, she also performs dress, whether this is on or off stage. In this way, the private space of the diva (Elsa/Lyda) turns out to be ichnographically similar to that of the fashion atelier frequented in real life. And it is this space, of both intimacy and theatricality, that arouses the imagination of the viewers—especially women—and their desire for fashion. Actresses find a new pleasure in being and acting in front of the camera as a way of scrutinizing and fashioning their persona. A similar process is at work in the act of wearing clothes, looking at oneself, and imagining the reactions of others. Mirrors are always present in the diva films, and play a crucial role in communicating the doubleness of representation and filmmaking, the spectacle of identity, the projection and reflection on being and seeming. Borelli’s room backstage is lavishly decorated, there are opulent flower arrangements near the mirrors, and a divan where admirers sit and surround her after the performance. Her dressing room


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is apparently an intimate continuation of the front stage set. But it is a staged intimacy. At the same time, her going back to the mirrors also gives the audience the chance to observe her body and costume, her facial and body expressions, and she as an actress in control of her image, the scene and performance. In Malombra (1917), a later film, directed by Carmine Gallone, in which Borelli plays Marina, there is a key sequence in which we see her discovery of several objects that belonged to Cecilia, the lady of the house, now dead. Marina finds letters written by Cecilia in which she explains that whoever finds her belongings will reincarnate her and seek revenge for her lost life. The new path for Marina and the pact with the past are sanctioned by a mirror and its fragments, which ultimately determine her appropriation of the past through becoming or embodying someone else. Marina is described as being ill, suffering from some sort of psychological imbalance, somebody who is bothered by “modernism in every sense.” Malombra testifies to the conflict of different models of femininity, the relationship between modernity and tradition, and the sense of entrapment defining women’s lives. A similar sense of imprisonment is present in Ma l’amore mio non muore!, a play in which Elsa does not escape her destiny or her past when she is made victim of the tragic trick played by a spy. And yet, the melodramatic tone of the story does not match the aesthetic and visual quality of the film that makes it memorable from a cinematic point of view. It is the poses, the walk, the décor, the landscape, and the clothing Borelli wears in the film that leave the strongest impressions. Ma l’amore mio non muore! and the other diva films are in themselves a fashion parade.23 The diva in the film always moves slowly and turns to the side, to the back, taking off the luxurious coats trimmed with fur, as if she were on a catwalk where everyone can see the details of the dress and gauge its appeal and emotional impact in the construction of the scene. Even Borelli’s gestures and on-screen walk give emphasis to the dress she is wearing, as they do in the scene where she enters her private room in the theater and parades an opulent toilette wearing a Poiret style opera coat. She takes it off, leaving it on the chair for the camera to reveal the rich silky and patterned lining fabric and the trim fur, so that we the audience can have a close look at the coat, worn and in motion, as if we were in a fashion atelier and could approach the coat and inspect it firsthand. Here is an early cinematic version of what we call today “product placement”. In his essay on “The Techniques of the Body,” published in 1934, Marcel Mauss analyses how gestures, walks, swimming and so forth were not hereditary or “natural” movements. Rather, they were culturally determined and acquired in a specific historical and societal context. The importance of gestures as a manifestation of cultural identity was also part of the Italian humanist tradition, in particular the genre of conduct books, where the focus was on learning to become a gentleman or a gentlewoman, how to acquire grace, perform the right steps in dance and deportment, and so forth. Mauss’s writings detail the dynamic process of acquiring a specific walk and gestural habits that connote one group of individuals from an other. In addition, as Simmel had before him, at the beginning of the twentieth century, he links acquired behavior to a mix of the power of imitation and education. In both cases, cultural

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


institutions such as fashion and film have the power to offer models the potential for being imitated. Mauss writes: “Coats are more involved because the lining has to be shown. Fur pieces have to be wrapped along the shoulders, then around the hips, held out in front the way a butler holds a big platter, and then laid on the floor. All very fast, like a scarf dance.” Here, he could almost be making comments on the sequence where Borelli exhibits her outfit as she enters her dressing room.24 Gowns of emotions become, with cinema, gowns to be imitated. In this way, dress loses its immediate referential quality to assert a power on screen in all its different forms, including those occasions when it is seen in motion, worn by the diva in the film. There is, in fact, another moment in the film when we see Borelli wearing one more magnificent coat, trimmed with white fur, as she walks in the open air. It is the moment when she decides to go back to the theater after having learned the real identity of her lover— Prince Maximillian—and realizes the impossibility of their relationship. Maximillian’s father had earlier condemned her to exile because of her father’s “betrayal.” We see her coming from a distance, walking slowly, gradually getting closer to a camera that captures Borelli’s model-like gesture of opening and closing her coat as she walks, showing off her magnificent outfits, surrounded by a striking landscape and accompanied by melodramatic tones. These films are important documents that testify to the high fashion of the time, but also serve as indexes of how fashion conveyed a sense of pleasure, beauty and spectacle otherwise missing from real life. Some of the films’ sequences fall into the category of today’s most experimental and innovative fashion films. Before the death of her father, in Ma l’amore mio non muore!, the happy youthfulness of Elsa is conveyed by the many-layered white chiffon dress she wears. The layers create movement when she walks about the house, where at first there is a carefree atmosphere, quite at variance with what we are about to discover. The dress leaves her ankle exposed, and it is possible to see her foot and her dark pointed shoes with crisscross straps. She is wearing the high-heeled black ballerina-like shoes seen in some paintings and illustrations of the time. She has a dark flower on her chest to match the shoes, and a long dark necklace with a cross for a pendant. When she goes outside the house she wraps herself in a white silk stole with a dark flower appliquéd. She is about to discover the dead body of her father, who has shot himself in his bedroom. Her impeccable dress performance is at odds with the tragedy that is about to be disclosed. However, what is most striking in the diva films, and in Caserini’s in particular, is how so much emphasis is put on the form and aesthetic of the film, to the point that the details of the story take on a secondary importance. The attention to the form and construction of the frames, and the clothing worn within them by the divas, are instrumental in conveying conflicting values and ideas about gender and femininity, the role of women, the fragility of emotions, the fugitive features of life. Diva films are also a rich visual source for the clothing styles and fashion of the 1910s. It is like seeing the drawings, illustrations, and photographs found in the popular magazines of the time come alive through the performance of these Italian divas. Although the diva, her clothing and gestures, are the center of attraction, her


Italian Style

male counterparts and adversaries, too, are impeccably dressed, in a range of suits, Edwardian long jackets, frock coats, and tuxedos, all portraying an ideal aristocratic sense of elegance and chic. The male bodies are athletic and slender and depict a sophisticated masculinity that is very different from the macho epitomized by the rippling muscles of the heroes of the Maciste genre of films, very popular at the same time as the diva films.25 Male actors wore tailored suits; their poses and the way they moved on screen were less theatrical than that of the divas. The male actors’ gestures are, for the most part, constrained and measured, their masculinity and demeanor projected by way of the narrow collar shirts worn by the gentlemen in Ma l’amore mio non muore! and Sangue Bleu. In contrast to Prince Egon in Oxilia’s Sangue Bleu, Prince Alexander in Ma l’amore mio non muore! wears a wide variety of suits, from the formal tuxedo to the informal, softer and less structured suit he is wearing at the Riviera when he and Elsa, dressed as an Amazonian, talk for the first time. In their romantic outings, the couple display a relaxed and sophisticated elegance. In both formal and informal settings, they put on display the refined, elite taste that was popularized for the masses on film. This was a spectacle that was made in costume and made possible by costume. At this time, the role of the film costume designer did not exist. Actresses had a say in the clothes they would wear on screen, and themselves acquired clothes for their costumes, as part of their contract for a specific film. In a recent study on American fashion and film in the 1910s, Michelle Tolini Finamore states that: “There is […] ample evidence that in those years [1905–1915] conscious decisions were being made about dress and its screen presentation by actors, casting directors, art directors, and unaccredited designers, who were working in far greater numbers than has hitherto been recognized” (Tolini Finamore, 2013, 3). In the context of Italian early cinema, and with particular reference to Cabiria and to the Maciste films that came out at the same time as the diva films, Jacqueline Reich has noted that there are no records that allow us to identify a specific costume designer.26 What we do know, though, is that, as Tolini Finamore points out, costume design was a collaborative project and process. That said, the highly skilled and professional work of Luigi Sapelli, known by the pseudonym of Caramba, bears mentioning. He worked first as illustrator, and then as costume designer and director of stage design at the prestigious La Scala in Milan. 27

The veil: modernity in motion in Nino Oxilia’s Rapsodia Satanica And as far as people saying that the cinema is a new art? Yes it is, in its form […] Perhaps it is a transformation of the art of posing which Euripides valued so much, after all, precisely because it is the simplest, the dance of human passions— transformed for our modern mentality—[…] I would call the cinema the art of silence in the sense that it is an art of sculptures, one following the other. (Nino Oxilia, emphasis added)28

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


A dress wrongly worn is like an adjective that is not appropriate to the name that it is supposed to modify or the object that it is supposed to define. Its intrinsic value is out of tone and it seems that it cannot regain its useful function. This harmony between exteriority and interiority of the artist is all the more necessary for the cinematographic interpreter as it is more difficult to create a mood in front of the camera if it does not really happen on the set […] And who does not know that emotions are the absolute condition to render the life of creatures in which we have to transform ourselves? (Lyda Borelli, “Bellezza ed Eleganza,” L’arte muta, I (1916), n. 6–7 Transparent fabric – which also serves practical and morally religious purposes (e.g. as a veil)—and lace (originally a mere luxury product) have received their most refined configuration and most ingenious application only through the creative spirit of eroticism. […] For he knew that clothing is more naked than nakedness, and that we see more behind a veil than in the unveiled[…]. (Karl Kraus)29

Rapsodia Satanica, directed in 1915 by Nino Oxilia, is a true masterpiece, a film that demands to be recognized as such and set in the wider context of the history of both Italian and global cinema. My aim here is to examine the use of fashion and fabric in Rapsodia Satanica, the veil in particular, in order to gain a better insight into Oxilia’s reinterpretations of the Faust legend, its meanings, and its gender implications. Thus the film will be examined through the lens of dress in order to understand better some of the key characteristics that define early cinema as a form, especially those of movement, time, space and depth. All of these properties are, after all, at the heart of fashion and dress.30 The role of the fashionable diva, as portrayed in Rapsodia Satanica, consists of an ability to inhabit and animate dress and fabric in ways that bring cinema close to poetry. Dress becomes, then, a layering device that helps to convey a sense of depth, and enacts a process of transformation of the moving image that leads it from the optic to the haptic, from distance to proximity. Before turning to Rapsodia Satanica in detail, it will be useful to briefly outline the career of its director. Beginning his career as a journalist for the newspaper La Gazzetta di Torino, the Turin-based writer Nino Oxilia soon started writing poetry and theater plays. While a student at the University of Turin, he came into contact with the literary movements of his day, the crepuscolari and the Futurists. The work that made him famous was his 1911 play Addio Giovinezza! (Farewell to Youth), co-written with Sandro Camasio, and in 1913, as mentioned previously, adapted for film. The play went on to have several cinematic versions. In fact, in 1918 another film of the same title was directed by Augusto Genina to commemorate Oxilia’s work after Oxilia’s untimely death at the front, in the First World War battle of Monte Grappa, at the age of only twenty-eight. Although he directed more than a dozen films between 1912 and 1915, including the successful Sangue Bleu (Blue Blood 1914) starring Francesca Bertini (we will turn to this in the next section), Oxilia is best known for Rapsodia Satanica. A large-scale


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production by the Roman production house, Cines, Rapsodia Satanica was an ambitious collaboration between cinema, as a rapidly developing visual form, and the world of “high” culture—the opera, modernist art, literature, and theater. The film was conceived as an opera d’arte totale, a total work in which all the arts would be brought together, thus affecting all the senses. Its source was the poem Rapsodia Satanica: Poema cinema-musicale, written in 1915 by Fausto Maria Martini (1866–1931), who also authored the film’s melodramatic intertitles. The well-known composer Pietro Mascagni wrote the original symphonic score (and the tardiness with which he finished the task was possibly the main reason for the film’s delayed release). Rapsodia Satanica was completed just a year after the epic film Cabiria, directed by Giovanni Pastrone in 1914), and produced by Italia Film in Turin, for whom the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio had written the intertitles. D’Annunzio’s participation in Cabiria sealed the new alliance that was at that time being forged between cinema and literature, an alliance that recognized cinema’s status as the seventh art.31 Cinema, then, was coming into its own as a legitimate means of artistic expression, so much so that a writer like Verga could call cinema a “phantasmagoria,” while D’Annunzio himself remarked that:  “We must hope in the serpentine virtue of the film reel. May poets follow my example and give to cinema the virtue of liberation and destruction. Let us consider cinema an instrument of liberation.” Breaking with the tradition of the several versions of the Faustian narrative, in Rapsodia Satanica it is an elderly woman, Alba d’Oltrevita (whose name we could translate as Dawn Beyond Life), played by Borelli, who makes the pact with the devil. The price she is asked to pay to regain her beauty and youth is to give up love. The film foregrounds themes of time, the fragility of human actions, and feelings, pauses, interruptions, durations, emotions, the impossibility of divorcing love from youth and life, the transience of human existence and actions, and how the past unfolds into the present. Time and its inherent slipperiness is a central motif and is, of course, a quintessential property that characterizes film in general—time is embedded in the cinematic machine in its kinesthetic multidimensionality. And it is the movement of the image in time, the unfolding of images and their transience that come to define the experience of modernity. In its very title, the film offers itself as a challenge to the tradition of the art of storytelling in the age of mechanical reproduction. The Greek etymology of the word “rhapsody” brings together two verbs rhaptein (to sew) and aiden (to sing); its cultural origins are steeped in the epic tradition of the Odyssey. Rhapsody is a section of the poem and rapsodos is the singing poet, Homer. In the nineteenth century, rhapsody referred to a musical composition. In bringing together the recent and the more distant past, Oxilia’s film is a modern reconceptualization of the art of storytelling, and an open challenge to time, duration, truth, and illusion—an even greater challenge given the regendering of the Faustian protagonist in Alba, a female character. The film opens with a Convegno della giovinezza (Gathering of Youth) in the Castle of Illusion, the abode of the countess Alba D’Oltrevita. The choice of names and the location of the story are not casual; they convey from the start the dynamics of time, aging and illusion. Indeed, in the course of the film, the Castle of Illusion will play

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


as the counterpart to open space, the outside, the garden, which is a sort of locus amoenus, and the surrounding countryside, the river, and so on. The opening scene takes place in an interior, where we see a gentleman talking with the elderly Alba, a lady with a walking stick. They look together at a marble bust of a young woman wearing a veil. The décor of the house is typical Art Nouveau, the rooms crowded with objects. After the company leaves, and Alba remains alone, the inter-title tells us that it is a “[s]ordid squalid evening, Alba envies the fate of Faust.” She then contemplates a large painting on the wall, which appears to be dark, from where all of a sudden the contours of a hand and a body emerge and jump out of the painting. It is the devil, wrapped in a red cloak, visiting Alba to offer her a Faustian contract. The lending of movement to the still image epitomizes the ability of the arts to play tricks on the viewer. The devil’s leap out of the painting alludes to another kind of leap—one out of the screen, almost as if the devil is extending his pact to the audience. But in Rapsodia Satanica it is a woman who makes the deal with the devil. In order to regain her beauty and youth, to go “beyond life,” Alba must give up love. Youth and beauty are exchanged for an eternal life devoid of emotion, passion and sensuality— almost a contradiction in terms. And so, as Alba unfolds herself into younger skin, she becomes a femme fatale. From this moment on, she is the initiator of her own transformations, and in each of them she will be dressed differently, shifting from one identity to another, from one fold to another. As we mentioned earlier, prior to the professionalism of the costume designer during the 1920s and 1930s, film actors were expected to bring their own costumes to the set. Borelli, for one, loved exquisite clothes. She was a keen follower of the orientalist and “exotic” couture production of her time, which reinterpreted Eastern and Greek styles, “modeled” on iconic screen looks by Paul Poiret and Mariano Fortuny; this may be one of the reasons for her liking for the Tanagra Dress designed for her by Rosa Genoni in 1908. Thanks to the popularity of cinema, Borelli became something of a trendsetter both nationally and internationally. As Debauche notes, of Borelli and fellow diva Bertini: “The[ir] costumes […] were published in fan magazines in Japan and their public personas, as models of fashion, affected the roles that they took on their film work.”32 Borelli’s unmistakable style, combining a sophisticated dress sense with a distinct body language and repertoire of gestures, spawned many imitators and inspired the language of borellismo. Mario Carli writes of Borelli: Formula of her beauty: intelligence expressed in flesh. Intelligence that has violated its prison, and has made itself visible…Triumph of rhythm. Aesthetic of movement. Drama and poem of the line […] Sumptuous generosity of silks and veils that come to her from every smithy of elegance. Paquin’s virtuosity against divine virtuosity. Who will win?33

In his dedication to Borelli, Carli writes: “She has revealed to us a poetry we ignored, the poetry of clothing. She is our modernity, the woman of our times.”34 Borelli had demonstrated that dress and fashion can be so much more than mere decoration, and, especially in Rapsodia Satanica, she showed how clothes have a multilayered identity that rebounds from character (Alba) to actress (Borelli).


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In the Castle of Illusion where Alba lives, anything can happen. It is as if the castle itself is a movie theater in which acts of magic and illusion are performed on screen. However, the metamorphosis viewers see on screen from one scenario to another, through the film’s rhythms and interruptions, does not prevent Alba’s inevitable death; the multiple dances and masquerades only defer death, postpone it; there can be no salvation for Alba. The price she pays for youth is loneliness of the heart. Alba appears as the veiled lady and, as such, she is the object of several transformations (as well as their initiator). The veil accompanies all her rituals of dressing, re-dressing and even addressing, a piece of fabric that covers and uncovers, envelopes and exposes her body and her face. It also helps to communicate. It is Alba’s habitus. As a recurring element throughout the film, the veil is also what binds together, in its narrative and non-narrative moments, the several threads of Rapsodia Satanica. Alba’s is a veil that is never stitched. Scene after scene, the veil is always flowing, as if to emphasize the elusiveness of human life and actions. It is never wrapped up or closed. It folds and unfolds, almost ad infinitum. In Oxilia’s film, the binding fabric that holds it together always flows, never losing its suspended meaning. The film is an experimental rhapsody, and words connoting the domain of the sartorial are its most potent metaphors. Fabric performs here “like an epidermis, it responds to what it covers, hiding and revealing the body, showing what skin and wrinkles no longer say.”35 “Veil,” or velo, in Italian, brings with it a doubleness of vision contained in the terms velare (to hide) and rivelare (to uncover, reveal). Friedrich Nietzsche used the trope of the veil in The Gay Science (1882), linking the revealing and concealing of truth to women’s emphasis on the practice of self-presenting, creating an appearance. Writing about women and veiling, Nietzsche shifted the focus from the notion of supposed truth that hides beneath surface (imagined as illusion) to the notion of a surface itself as truth. In the veil, the sartorial and the cinematic come together—for both, in one way or another, engage in veiling. As Mary Ann Doane has noted: “What the veil in the cinema makes appear to be profound, is in fact, a surface. Here the function of the veil is to transform the surface of the face into a depth, an end in itself.”36 But the face, like a landscape, changes through time; it has hidden corners, wrinkles and folds, dark and light places. Similarly, the cinematic veil is not a static canvas; it constantly moves and changes. In Oxilia’s film, the veil’s movement acts as a mise en abyme of the will to live beyond the imprisonment of one’s own body and moral constraints. Alba’s ways of moving are fueled by desire, and this renders her character very modern, yet also very unsettling. The veil, for its part, has a long history in literature, fashion and visual culture. With specific reference to Italy, the veil’s original significance as a sign of modesty and chastity was radically transformed by women’s social practices in public spaces during the sixteenth century, when it took on the contours of an entirely different symbol: namely, one of sin and seduction. The veil became a symbolic site of struggle between two opposite forces: modesty and seduction. Whereas in Italian fashion the veil has epitomized a transformation from the sacred to the secular, in Rapsodia Satanica, the

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


veil marks a different trajectory. Although it accompanies the transformation of the old Alba into a new, sensual femme fatale, it also leads her to her final “dance” as a “priestess of love and beauty,” where she is completely enveloped by the veil and transfigured into a diaphanous and chaste presence.37 Although the dynamic of the veil maintains its ambiguity, it has a number of distinct features that touch on the trope of the femme fatale, her re-inscription within the context of the Faustian legend, the sensorial and emotional dimension of cinema, and how time is spatialized in it. One of the most powerful incarnations of the feminine as a threat, the femme fatale, is, as Doane writes, “a potential epistemological trauma.”38 It is not by chance that figures such as Salomé, linked to a persistent and popular orientalism, are omnipresent in the culture of decadentism, Art Nouveau (and their persistent orientalism) of the fin-de-siècle, a period characterized by wide-reaching transformations in urban space, science and technology, and industrialization, as well as by the definitions of gender roles. Structurally, the veil in Oxilia’s film embodies the fluid and slippery passage from one act to another, from one transformation to another, punctuating the sense of duration, interruption and suspension. The diaphanous veil is also a fragile screen that keeps porous the borders of what is inside and outside, conscious and subconscious, private and public. In its fluidity, its lightness and malleability the veil performs both a haptic and an optic spectacle. What we see and what surrounds us form a visual and sensory experience; what we see and perceive with our other senses constantly moves and passes on, one of the reasons why artists have long been fascinated by the idea that movement could be expressed in the still image or an object. Film emerged at a crucial time of modernity, and as such can be understood as an attempt to re-connect the optic with other senses, especially touch.39 As Jonathan Crary notes: “the sense of touch had been an integral part of classical theories of vision in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The subsequent disassociation of touch from sight occurs within a pervasive ‘separation of the senses,’ an industrial remapping of the body in the nineteenth century.”40 Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the new medium of cinema and the subsequent theories and practices of the artistic avant-gardes aimed at countering such a separation, offering multisensory aesthetic experiences. Dress, too, played a role in this; it was thanks to its interaction with costume and décor that cinema achieved a new perceptual dimension. The objects that surround Alba in her moment of transformation include, on top of a coffee table, a little statuette of Cupid, which the devil asks Alba to break. The center-piece, however, is a clock, whose top is a sculpture representing a young couple happily walking together. In crucial moments of the film, the camera focuses on the clock, and so on time. In the choice of objects defining the décor, and on which the camera ponders, we see the opposed forces of the inevitable progression of time and the instrument that measures it. What the little statue of the two lovers walking on the clock tells us is that stopping time is an illusion, only, like the movements of the couple frozen in the sculpture. Alba, then, seduced by the promise of eternal youth, grabs hold of Cupid’s statue in order to break it, following the devil’s instructions. Although the statuette is


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thrown to the floor, the symbol of love does not break. We see, however, that Alba’s transformation begins, marked by her loosening her long hair, which regains its original brown color, and unbuttoning her cloak and dress. Gradually, under our and the devil’s eyes, her wrinkles disappear, she sheds her old clothes as if they were an old skin, and renews herself by way of new clothes, becoming a younger and more attractive woman. The process of the unfolding of selves transports Alba from the interior of her dark castle to the exterior of the garden and the feast of light. Here we see many youths dancing and enjoying themselves. This sequence stands in sharp contrast to the somberness and darkness of the first part of Rapsodia Satanica. We see now a happy gathering of young women wearing light and cheerful dresses, all complemented with a voile shawl that they wear gracefully as an ornament to their dancing and playing. The dance the young women perform here has something of a fresh and light feel. Wearing a light and unconstructed dress, Alba is seen as a quintessential representation of the “Primavera,” her gown decorated with flowers. She resembles a figure from a Pre-Raphaelite painting. From this moment onward, the light voile or chiffon fabric remains ever-present throughout Alba’s transformations, only differently draped each time. Each of her transformations, and her attempts to defeat the passage of time and death, is announced by a new dress. Alba, literally in costume, comes to a costume ball, one of the most dramatic moments of the film. Here, Alba dresses as Salomè, a trope of dangerous femininity. In one scene, set at one of the most conventional and fashionable gatherings of the time, where high society ladies showed off their fancy dresses, Sergio, one of Alba’s two suitors, his love unrequited, commits suicide. For the three characters involved—Alba and the two brothers, Sergio and Tristano—the whole episode revolves around issues of time, waiting, and desire. Moments later, in the presence of Tristano, Alba/Salomè mimics the exaggerated gestures of a snake-like body, reaching out for her would-be lover. Through Alba’s Salomè, Rapsodia Satanica references not only the old myth but also the orientalising “Salomania” of the Belle Epoque: by then, the biblical figure had come to personify a link between eroticism, luxury, and death. As Carli wrote (referring to Borelli’s stage Salomè): “Lean lightly, detach yourself from the ground like a taper, will of wings, elasticity, ‘Dance, Salomè!’ balance. A creature made to be drowned under mountains of jewels, satins, velvets, furs, laces, sweets and perfumes.”41 The heightened emotion of the Salomè sequence in Rapsodia Satanica marks the film as a melodrama, while Borelli’s melodramatic gestures mark her divismo. As in other parts of the film, stenciling and hand-coloring are used here simultaneously, both to highlight and decorate dress and to emphasize a particularly dramatic moment. Alba’s striking Salomè costume, consisting of pink bodice, light green skirt, and jeweled orientalist tiara, makes her stand out from the other guests in the room. As she abandons the party, she drapes herself in a large pale green shawl resembling a sari— another hint of orientalism. In the aftermath of Sergio’s death, Alba’s dramatic encounter with Tristano marks the moment of realization that she cannot remain true to the pact with the devil or avoid her own mortality. Tristano, having witnessed his brother’s death, cannot stay. So Alba is left alone in her Castle of Illusion where,

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


gazing at her reflection in the mirror, she notes the reappearance of a wrinkle. It is here that Alba’s dangerous and exaggerated sensuality suddenly gives way to a completely different identity. She turns into a chaste diva, clad in a loose monastic tunic that appears stiff and sober, in stark contrast to the lightness of the veil she wore before. Dress, here, plays a role similar to that of the space of the garden, nature, and freedom, in opposing the somber interior. The veil acts as a reminder of her happy past when she was surrounded by love and youth. As Alba walks, the camera dwells on a close-up of a beautiful, yellow butterfly, a typical Art Nouveau motif, and also a symbol of spring, youth, and transformation. Upon her return to the castle, Alba asks her maid to bring her the most beautiful flowers in the garden; with these she decorates the room, a profusion of them. She does so wearing an exquisite asymmetrical draped ankle length black dress with strapped sandals, an outfit that could well be found in many of today’s fashion magazines, while the veil is left on a chair. Following this solitary celebration of spring and youth, Alba, as the intertitle tells us, “veil[s] herself as the priestess of love and death.” Now wearing the Fortuny Delpho gown in the penumbra of the interior, Alba looks at her reflection in the mirror and drapes herself with a veil. Her entire body is caressed by pleats and drapes. From a multitude of angles the room-full of mirrors captures Alba’s veiling. As a “veiled priestess” she goes outside onto the terrace and eventually into the garden, her movements resembling those of a mannequin deprived of life. Paradoxically, it is her dress and veil floating in the wind that give her figure life, but it is a ghost-like effect. The landscape, as it appears on screen, is somewhere half way between an abstract painting and the art of Gustav Klimt, an appearance owed, especially, to the spectacular hand color technique. Once outside, Alba’s gown takes on a delicate shade of pink, evoking the color of dawn. Her earthly presence becomes almost engulfed by the light fabric, and it seems that her body is returned to the very beginnings of life, as an infant nestled in the womb—life before life. The powerful color effect in the penultimate sequence was achieved using the stenciling technique of pochoir. As Angela Dalle Vacche notes, Fortuny’s pochoir method enabled him to transfer color to cloth very precisely, and it may have been this that inspired Oxilia.42 As a designer, Fortuny was also interested in the notions of time and movement, and it is perhaps no coincidence that his background was in painting and theater, with experience in stage and costume design (he was a friend of D’Annunzio, and collaborated with him on his 1901 play Francesca da Rimini). One of the innovations in set design developed by Fortuny was a system of indirect lighting through a cyclorama situated at the back of the stage, which served both as a backdrop and as a screen. He made a strong case for this innovation, claiming that it would be a “complete reform of the visual element in the theater […] because theatrical scenery will be able to transform itself in tune with music, within the latter’s domain, that is to say in ‘time’, whereas hitherto it has only been able to develop in ‘space’.” Once again, the cinematic and the sartorial go hand in hand.43 Fortuny’s trademark silk pleating technique used on his famous Delpho gown is itself an approximation of the cinematic, rendering through textile the idea of movement and space. Dress, here,


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Figure 4  Alba/Lyda Borelli in veil sequence, Rapsodia Satanica, dir. N. Oxilia.

Figure 5  Princess Mira walking alone towards her daughter’s home, Sangue Bleu

Figure 6  Francesca Bertini in Assunta Spina (1915), dir. Bertini and Gustavo Serena. Caesar Film/The Kobal Collection, Art Resource, NY.

and its surroundings, enhanced by the pochoir, became the embodiment of haptic cinema.44 The attempt to reconfigure the time-space relationship in theater has echoes in cinema, especially in Rapsodia Satanica in its clever play of spaces within spaces created by mirrors, frames, open doors and arches. It is also present in the mise en abyme of Alba’s dance toward death, for Alba’s veil dance ruptures order, and the space around her turns into a labyrinth, a paradise lost, whose trajectory exposes the wounds of modernity. In Oxilia’s cinematic opera d’arte totale, this dance of modernity is performed through the convergence of the sartorial and the cinematic, underlined by Mascagni’s symphonic score and the painterly qualities of film coloring. All the above-mentioned techniques used in Rapsodia Satanica suggest an idea that is typical of modernity: that reality and fantasy can be mechanically reproduced. Time unfolds, embodied in the veiled Alba, until she eventually unveils herself in the face of mortality. This moment of truth and revelation can only be, as Derrida puts it, “in quotation marks;” in other words, translated—veiled—onto the screen. Meaning is here suspended, as the veil is thrown over a surface, hinting at the desire hidden in the twists and turns of its folds.

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


Francesca Bertini (1892–1985): the glamorous embodied Nino Oxilia’s Sangue Bleu (1914) and Gustavo Serena’s Assunta Spina (1915) Since the early years of my adolescence, I gave all of myself, with always growing passion, passing through the thorns of obstacles and going on to the roses of hopes and the glowing joys of victories, to the art of silent film. My daily dream was to climb ever-higher steps on the golden staircase of beauty. This art of ours is like Greek art, it is in the sun, and it has direct relationships with things and nature, it is not a new art, but the continuation of the old thanks to the developments and the unforeseen possibilities that are continuously multiplied by the perfecting of technical elements. (Francesca Bertini)45

To one commentator, another famous film with the diva Bertini seems rather like a fashion parade, where outfits to be imitated and reproduced are presented: Bertini

Figure 7  Francesca Bertini, c.1921 (b/w photo), Italian Photographer (20th century). Private Collection/Alinari/Bridgeman Images.


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wears one for each emotion. “It is necessary that she has a toilette for when she cries, one for when she laughs, one to be happy and another one when she is in love.”46 If Ma l’amore mio non muore! consecrated Lyda Borelli as a new cinematic heroine/star, she was soon followed by another diva, Francesca Bertini (born Elena Taddei Vitiello), who had first gained experience in stage theater in Naples, where she had been an extra in Assunta Spina, a melodrama by Salvatore Di Giacomo, and in which she was later to star in its 1915 cinematic version, playing the role of the main character. Bertini had successfully appeared in many productions since 1910, beginning at Film d’Arte Italiana, where she had roles in pictures such as Salomè, and many others. In 1912, she signed a contract with Cines in Rome after meeting Enrico Guazzoni, one of the most important artistic directors of the time. While at the Cines, she also met Count Negroni, who suggested her to Celio, one of the best production houses, with an eminent team of actors (Leda Gys, Emilio Ghione, Pina Menichelli, and others), director Augusto Genina and operators such as Giorgino Ricci, who worked with Oxilia. In 1914, Oxilia’s sophisticated cinematic eye teamed up with the acting professionalism of Francesca Bertini. They worked together on Sangue Bleu, a film that would guarantee both of them incredible success. Sangue Bleu tells the story of Princess Mira. She is first abandoned by her husband, Egon, and almost forced to become a stage actress and dancer by an opportunist actor and gambler, Jacques Wilson. On the very brink of taking her own life, on stage, that is, a non-staged suicide where reality would rupture the fiction, she reunites with her husband and daughter. The film consecrated Bertini’s status as a star. At the time of the Great War, Bertini was at the apex of her career, a period in which she was involved romantically with the lawyer Giuseppe Barattolo. Because of the war, he decided to reduce the salaries of his employees, and suggested to the actress that she switch to the new company, Caesar-Film. Bertini demanded and obtained a contract that branded her for future films—known as the Bertini series—as the absolute prima donna. She was very young, but had already demonstrated her entrepreneurial and creative gifts. The actress was then able to negotiate a size of salary that had never before been paid to any Italian actor. During the war she had received a salary of 1,500-2,000 lire, high for the standards of the day.47 Bertini worked hard to construct her public persona and the myth that surrounded her as a star of Italian silent cinema. As noted by Cristina Jandelli, the public image that Bertini managed to create through the popularity of her many films was consecrated in the postcards that celebrated her beauty. But she kept the details of her private life a mystery. She had delicate features, like Borelli, but, unlike her, she had dark hair, which lent to one of her screen personae the representation of the quintessential Mediterranean beauty. She says in her autobiography: I never went out in the evening. Usually I was in bed at nine. Only during the winter months did I go to the Theater at the Opera […]. I used to arrive late, when the performance had already started and I left before it ended.[…] My life was completely immersed in mystery.

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


Later, she says: “Nobody could ever find me, see me or knew where I was.” The strategy of separating her public image from her personal life had the effect of amplifying her attractiveness and cachet as a star. In the journal Film, a column called “Piccola Posta dei curiosi” (1916) offers a glimpse of the status she enjoyed. Men sent several letters in which they declared they were madly in love with her, so much so that they wanted to commit suicide; they wanted to know the kind of food she preferred, if she smoked or not—and so on. Such curiosity towards celebrities is still very present in our postdigital world, where the “piccola posta dei curiosi” has been replaced by tweets sent directly by stars to inform their followers of their lives, daily activities and food preferences. In 1916, the divas epitomized the beginning of celebrity culture and its world of popular press and film gossip. In the rich landscape of the magazine publications that flourished in Italy, the journal Film became one of the vehicles that was used to advertise, by publishing several pictures including portraits and set scenes, the nascent Italian phenomenon of divismo. The fast growing film industry and its female stars were becoming part of mass and popular culture. Oxilia, as noted for Rapsodia, was an innovative filmmaker; Sangue Bleu is a confirmation of his sophisticated style. As film historian Michele Canosa has noted, the diva films were characterized by “modern settings, fine tailoring, and Toilettes à la page”. This high-society version of a “Made in Italy” genre became known by the term, which later became antiquated, cinema in frac (tux films) – in “heels and tuxedos”, to use the words of Emilio Ghione, Bertini’s screen partner and connoisseur of notorious dances.48 In fact, the final film that Oxilia directed was titled L’uomo in Frack (The Man in a Tuxedo, 1917). As, since 1907, he had been covering cronaca mondana in a column called “sans sourcie” for the Gazzetta di Torino, Oxilia had become a master in depicting the world of opulent costumes and beautiful décor, and uncovering the contradictions of a world to which the Italian bourgeoisie nevertheless aspired. Dalle Vacche notes that Oxilia had a keen sensibility for textiles and other materials used for décor. In some cases, he chose fabrics himself, because he wanted to control the cinematic effects, the light and the whole atmosphere of the film.49 At the beginning of Sangue Bleu, the audience is offered a glimpse into high-society, aristocratic life, and its social scene, by way of representations of their exclusive parties. The camera captures a view of the whole princely palace from outside, as automobiles and carriages arrive. Elegantly dressed guests walk up the stairs and enter a beautiful building that looks like a modern castle. In a large hall at the entrance, we are introduced to Princess Mira (Francesca Bertini) and her husband, Egon, while they welcome the guests.50 The way the couple move and how they are dressed immediately communicate a rather difficult relationship. While Bertini looks magnificent and moves graciously and naturally in her black gown, which falls all the way down to her ankles, with two longer panels in sheer black chiffon that as she moves and turns flow delicately, giving her a harmonious effect, her husband, by contrast, seems to be wearing his tuxedo as if it were rigid armor. The stiff and high collar of his shirt, along with the monocle, give the impression of mechanical movements. This contrast in their gestural performance is a tangible sign of the lack of communication between the couple, an impression that


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is confirmed when a guest, Countesse de la Croix, arrives and seems to be particularly friendly with Prince Egon—naturally upsetting Princess Mira, who notices immediately. Later, she suspects that her husband is having an affair with the Countess. Some of the most magnificent scenes after the party are particularly significant both for fashion and for film. Indeed, Canosa has identified the sequence as one of the many fashion parades appearing in the film. This is a recurrent feature in many diva films, but Oxilia frames the space during the sequence in a new cinematic language. Oxilia had a special sensibility in framing scenes where the female character was the center of attention. As we have seen in Rapsodia Satanica, he was a master of light, and his pictorial sensibility gave the images of the film a unique aesthetic effect. In Sangue Bleu, after all the guests have left and Mira has had an argument with her husband about her suspicions of his affair with the Countess, the camera captures her completely alone, with a melancholic and pensive expression. She walks slowly down a long corridor in which light and shadow alternate as she moves forward and approaches the camera. Canosa has identified this important sequence of the film as the first defilè of the film: The Princess—alone, gazing into emptiness—moves forward through the depth of field from the back of a vast hallway crossed with light. The space is a device: as she moves, Mira appears/disappears, emerges/vanishes, struts like a sleepwalker to a close-up, held together by a mere alternation of shadow and light (from the side window). This creature exists temporarily through an intermittent flickering, here representing a conflicted state of mind. 51

The sequence, as in other instances in Oxilia’s films, hints at the actual process of filmmaking, and the potential film has to capture what happens inside the character by means of focusing on outward effects. One of Oxilia’s most innovative contributions to filmmaking is depicting how not only the costume, décor, and landscape but also—and importantly—form represent on screen what a character feels. Both the space and costume are crucial. The split between the Princess of Monte Cabello and her consort, which we noticed at the beginning of the film, takes center stage, focusing on the female character who narrates her conflicts, loneliness and disappointment. She wanders in the empty palace and questions her role as a woman, a wife and a mother. Mira’s walk ends in the room of her sleeping daughter, where Mira gives her a goodnight kiss. This sequence—Oxilia’s signature shot—is particularly crucial for its formal point of view. In another significant shot, we see Mira from behind, looking out of the window into an empty space. These shots are evocative; they add a poetic level to the film (and to the art of filmmaking). We encounter a similar atmosphere of emptiness and solitude, this time in the open air, when Mira is found walking in a completely unadorned and void landscape. A long, dusty and deserted road is in front of us and Mira is walking alone. Here, she is wearing a simple and elegant dark suit with a draped long coat, a hat whose feathers on top move in a sinister manner against the deserted road, which is bordered on both sides by very tall trees. Her walk and the background are particularly significant. Her gait speaks to her pain and as somebody

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


who has no home. Her facial expression is the image of the desperation of a mother who is trying to reach her daughter, a woman who seems to have lost everything. She does not even have any money at this point; she walks alone. She is headed towards the villa where her daughter lives; she wants to have a chance to tell her that she is not dead, as the girl’s father has told her. Mira had been falsely accused of having betrayed her husband with the inept mime artist Jacques Wilson, who had taken advantage of her generosity after the divorce. Now, Wilson is selling all Mira’s jewels to cover his huge gambling debts at the Montecarlo Casino. We see Mira on an empty and long road, walking slowly, wandering while she hopes to reach her destination. The composition of the scene and the cinematography is impeccable, and seems to be a premonition of the visual and psychological atmosphere created much later in his films by Michelangelo Antonioni. Empty spaces, female characters elegantly dressed, walking; and as they walk they create a rhythm of the emotions that define the character on screen and embrace the audience. The locations chosen by Oxilia are also particularly significant. He frames Bertini against the high wrought-iron gate of the villa or, in other instances, near windows, doors or arches, as he does Borelli, in Rapsodia Satanica. Oxilia’s delicate style and his subtle filmmaking always whisper, never scream. His films are about balance, not excess. Even when Mira is forced by Wilson to become a stage actress, her theatricality in the wonderful scene in which she dances the tango is always discrete, and is happily married with Bertini’s natural style of acting and moving. Mira is terrified when she sees her image in the huge publicity posters carried by sandwich-men, as was customary at that time, announcing that the Princess of Montvallon will be dancing the Tango of death at the theater. Once again, we are made aware of the split between Mira as a woman and suffering mother, and Mira in her new role of actress, a degrading profession not considered appropriate for a woman with her aristocratic upbringing. The Tango craze had started a few years earlier in Paris, and in 1914 it had become popular in Italy. The major couturiers like Poiret, Lucile, and Paquin had all designed dresses specifically to suit the new dance, and had even incorporated it into the spectacle of their fashion shows. However, in Italy, the Tango was considered too overt in its eroticism, and thus sinful to the point that it was subject to the condemnation of the Catholic Church. Even the Futurist Marinetti thought that it was “a pantomime of coitus for the camera.” But it was its eroticism that seemed to attract Oxilia. He dedicates to the dance one of the most crucial sequences in the film. Bertini appears on stage in an Argentinian setting; she is dressed in a Hispanic costume and starts to dance with a gaucho. In contrast to the stage scene in Ma l’ amore mio non muore!—where we see Borelli from behind while she is performing, with the theater audience in front of us, watching her—here in Sangue Bleu the movie spectators view the stage from the same perspective as the audience, which includes Prince Egon. Suddenly Wilson interrupts the dance: jealous of what he sees on stage, he wields a knife with which he desires to kill the gaucho; but the princess is swift enough to grab the knife, and attempts to kill herself with it in front of the audience, similarly to Borelli in Ma l’ amore mio non muore! However, in the nick of time her husband bursts onto the


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stage to save his wounded wife; he takes her home; the family is reunited. More than this happy ending, which is conventional and par for the course, it is the visual poetry that Oxilia brings to Sangue Bleu and Rapsodia Satanica that leaves the most lasting impression. Bertini’s costumes in the film—she changes at least fifteen times—are stunning, and in themselves examples of the fashion of the times. Films, and the diva films in particular, were the perfect showcase for an emerging modern sensibility of change and self-creation. In the words of Francesco Casetti, cinema (and fashion with it) is “the negotiating face of modernity” (Casetti, 2013, 280). These films are an illustration also of how fashion and film worked together as industries and powerful symbolic machines. In her article entitled “L’eterno femminino,” published in Film on the occasion of the release of Odette, in which Bertini also starred, the journalist Bianca Bruno states that it is cinema that influences fashion.52 She mentions that the two, beautiful, Italian actresses who dictate fashion are Lina Cavalieri and Francesca Bertini. In particular, Bruno meticulously describes the toilette and the hat Bertini is wearing in Odette, adding that all the women in the audience were completely mesmerized by her beauty and costumes. She decides to go back to see the movie again, just to make sure she has gathered all the details of the hat—“made of black velvet, large, lifted and held in place by two decorative feathers”—and her “newly shaped” fur muffler.53 In 1916, Bertini appeared in the film Fedora. The posters and advertising materials for the film announce that “the toilettes of signorina Bertini are from the sartoria Finzi in Milan.” These were first attempts at a productive collaboration to promote Italian fashion and Italian Style through film, a strategy that will be taken up again during the 1930s under fascism, and fully developed in the postwar period, as we will see in the following chapters. One year after Sangue Bleu, Francesca Bertini played the title character in Assunta Spina, but the diva does not wear the magnificent clothes she paraded in Oxilia’s film. The diva, here, is a popolana, a working class woman who works, managing a laundry and ironing shop in Naples. In some scenes, we see her paying the women workers their wages. As Bertini often wrote, in this film she played a crucial role, not only as the protagonist but also as co-director with Augusto Serena. From the very beginning of the film, we see the diva striking a pose, over her shoulders a luxurious shawl that fills the entire screen. In the background, we see the postcard-like skyline of the city of Naples with Vesuvius and the bay. Bertini is identified with the city of Naples. There are several instances in the film in which Bertini is framed in close-up. Film historian Charles Musser suggests that the function of the close-up (or, in this case, an almost still pose of Bertini) is used to give the spectators a chance to gaze at the star, or, in fashion terms, to allow them closer scrutiny of her dress.54 Assunta Spina moves and poses on screen, her shawl draped around her shoulder and arms; she is moving her hands, neck and face; her eyes watch with a certain defiant air. She expresses both the awareness and the pleasure of being in front of the camera. She is not a passive executor or receiver. Even as an object to be regarded, she is an active producer of her gaze and of her image on screen. In her article “Sensazioni e ricordi,” which appeared

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


in the film journal In Penombra (as shown in the paragraph opening this section), she makes it clear that she took immense pleasure in becoming one of the protagonists of popular culture and the popular imagination. In particular, she notes how cinema as a new medium gave her, as an actress, the opportunity to delve into a complex process of identity awareness and the negotiation of new forms. Some years later, in 1938, she will declare that: I understood from the very beginning of my involvement with cinema, how this new art would require a simple and humane acting style: an economy of gestures, of attitudes and expressions. Film […] was completely different from the stage. For the most part, my secret consisted in the intuition that allowed me to adjust interpretations to particular needs of cinema. Stylization: here it is in brief, a good definition of my art.55

Bertini, the diva, is, then, the author of her own image. She legitimates the figure of the artist as a maker; she sees herself at the same level as the men working in the film industry producing dream worlds. New art and technology allowed women like Bertini and other major and minor divas to be the protagonists and creators of their own new models of femininity and subjectivity.

Pina Menichelli (1890–1981): “the other woman” and the end of an era Pina Menichelli speaks to me of the role of stage manager in cinema, and we agree completely, because she believes, like me, that the driving force and the creator of a work is the cinematographer. And yet, I add, with all the actresses in cinema that I have interviewed on other occasions, it has never happened that any of them have spoken about the role of the stage manager. (Interview with Pina Menichelli by Giovanni Innocente, In Penombra) Eroticism received its essential meaning only with the invention of clothing. The configuration of eroticism has gone hand in hand with the configuration of clothing and in our unconscious experience eroticism and clothing are no longer at all separable from one another. (Karl Kraus, in Purdy 241–2) Fashion is a public act. It is the placard, displayed advertising of how one intends to officially manage the business of public morality. Hence, fashion always contains the most precise formula of the general historical situation. “Appearing naked in full dress” is exactly this. For it is nothing other than the solution, construed by moral hypocrisy, to the fashion problem of women’s clothing: to be dressed completely, that is, up to the neck and down to the tips of the toes, and yet also to stand before male fantasy in erotic nudity. (Edward Fuchs, in Purdy 325)


Italian Style

Figure 8  Pina Menichelli, c.1915–25, Italian Photographer (20th century). Private Collection/Alinari/Bridgeman Images.

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


In the short film by Enrico Guazzoni Tragedia al cinematografo (Cines, 1913), Pina Menichelli plays the wife of a jealous husband who is suspicious of her leisure time activity: going to the movies. The film stresses on the one hand the popularity of movies and how they attract a female audience, on the other the fear that the movie theater was a space where women could gather and do who-knows-what? Perhaps a space not only of fantasy but also of sexual exchange and other activities, licit and illicit. Hence the husband’s suspicion that his wife is having an extramarital affair. If in the films examined above the stage is incorporated by way of theater, here it is cinema as an autonomous space that takes center stage. Pina Menichelli, the last of our divas, is most remembered for her power of seduction and femininity in sinister and almost diabolic form. The titles of her films— Il Fuoco (1915) and Tigre Reale (1916), two of her best known films, both directed by a big name director, Giovanni Pastrone, who had just been internationally acclaimed for his big epic production of Cabiria—immediately give the game away. They suggest the destructive and seductive power of her beauty and eroticism. She is the sex symbol of Italian divas, far more so than her fellow actresses Borelli and Bertini, and epitomizes what Fuchs has identified as the notion of “appearing naked in full dress.” Pina Menichelli represents the “other woman,” the seductress, the femme fatale on the verge of becoming a “vamp”, an antagonistic specter to the apparent bourgeois order. Once again, clothing and costume play a pivotal role in the way her erotic charge is conveyed and constructed. Menichelli acknowledges the role played by the direttore di scena (set designer) in the meticulous construction of her image, and of films in general, as she made clear in the interview in the journal In Penombra quoted in the epigraph to this section. Film, she says, is the result of a collective effort; the diva is the beneficiary of this effort as well as being part of it. In all her photographs, she appears adopting a gesture similar to the pose that had characterized her image in Il Fuoco, half-closed lips that do nothing to hide their sexual overtones. Neither Lyda Borelli nor Francesca Bertini are ever shown in such a pose. The dynamic between motion and posing in Menichelli describes a different kind of femininity, but describes also a different cinematic rhythm and language. There are a number of shots in both Ma l’amore mio non muore! and in Rapsodia Satanica where Borelli is surrounded by flowers; as the story enters its final act, she gracefully throws flowers about her in a lavishly carpeted and decorated room. The flowers recall the atmosphere of Victorian paintings of the Shakespearean character of Ophelia. If Borelli is in tune with this pre-Raphaelite sensibility, Menichelli is not. In a magisterial scene in Pastrone’s Tigre reale, she devours a bouquet of roses, putting them in her mouth and eating them, a gesture that has overtly sexual overtones. Death is also awaiting Countess Nakta/Menichelli, in Tigre reale, but she does not linger in a romantic dream. At night, she sits in an elegant automobile, wearing an exquisite, elegant outfit, and traverses the city. Salvator Dalì was touched by Menichelli’s performance and said: “In those days characterized by such a violent eroticism, palms and magnolias were bitten off and devoured by these women […]”.56 Specific accessories, like flowers, serve to amplify the power of the diva and her iconic status. We have seen how, in Assunta Spina, the shawl defines Bertini’s


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performance; it can also be seen as a more general symbol indicating her poetics of motion and acting. In the context of the outfit, accessories function as moments of pause in the continuous movement of fabrics and clothing. A hat, a necklace, a pair of shoes attract the attention of the eye, so that it focuses and stops wandering; the accessory works as a marker, and can be considered both as an interruption and as a meaningful space, defining identity; a moment of rest, and arrest, of the moving image. Menichelli seems to be the queen of accessories. Whoever made her hat in the shape of an owl in Il Fuoco was a genius. Her headgear functions as a catalyst and trope for her persona (the owl has sinister associations, often linked with darkness and death). Menichelli is the quintessential representation of otherness, that which is feared and desired at the same time. She is a powerful woman, her pose dominating the scene on and off screen. In Il Fuoco, Menichelli is a poetess who at the beginning of the film arrives in style: a chauffeur drives her, so that she can write in a wooded marsh. Here, she meets by chance the painter (Febo Mari) who falls madly in love with her. She invites him to her mansion and estate. Il Fuoco was coded as an “art film,” but this did not spare it from being banned by censorship and the Catholic Church, a theme she discusses in the interview published In Penombra. Menichelli’s performance is particularly striking, thanks to the lighting effects of cinematographer Segundo de Chomon, who had previously worked with Pastrone on Cabiria. Of the fire scene that is at the heart of the film, the critic Vittorio Martinelli has said: “The valuable lighting effects of Segundo de Chomon, […] framing it from below, highlights the looks: now intensely sensual, now sardonically contemptuous of the protagonist, emphasizing it with bizarre hairstyles.” Tigre reale confirmed Pina Menichelli as a sex symbol of Italian early cinema. She plays the Russian Countess Nakta, who becomes involved with an Ambassador, Giorgio La Felita, and in the end kills herself with an overdose of morphine, with the help of her lover, who is unaware of the nature of the medication he has been asked to hand to her. She could not be crueler than this. In this film, there is an accessory: namely, Menichelli’s six-foot-long pearl necklace with a dangling crucifix at the end. In one scene, she is surrounded by several of her admirers; as she sits, she moves the end of the necklace with the crucifix to near her crotch. The accessory is excessive and outrageous—that is the point. At the same time, the accessory is both telling and disturbing in relation to her personality. We had to wait until the 1980s for the rock star Madonna to achieve a similar, and showy, crossing of the border between the sacred and the profane. Early Italian cinema was not to last long. As historian Adrian Lyttleton noted: “War and American competition put an end to the first flowering of Italy’s film industry, which was brilliant but financially fragile, like so much of Italian enterprise” (Lyttleton, 16). Far from being liberated, Italian women were only granted the right to vote thirty years later, at the end of the Second World War; the diva film soon disappeared; and divas themselves withdrew from the film set after, in some cases, marrying prominent aristocrats (in the case of Borelli, she was forced to leave the industry). As a whole, the movie industry in Italy went through many years of crisis and difficulty. Following the First World War, Hollywood cinema became

From the Body of the Diva to the Body of the Nation


much more popular in Europe, as did its glamorous stars. Lyda Borelli, Francesca Bertini, and Pina Menichelli, however, were the precursors of the phenomenon of stardom, Italian style. On November 17, 1917, Nino Oxilia, the most experimental of the directors of the diva film, died in action in the First World War. He had been recruited as an artillery officer and was assigned to the army’s film department, for which, in 1917, he made the documentary “Dalla ritirata di Albania alle trincee di Macedonia”. His masterpiece Rapsodia Satanica was also released in 1917. In an article by Ottavio Di Nessim in In Penombra, commemorating Oxilia a few months after his death, he is remembered both as a poet (he was carrying his manuscript when he was killed and his collection, Gli Orti, was published posthumously) and as a believer in the art of cinema. He wrote: “from the marriage of storytelling and painting, cinema is born.”57

Notes L. Pirandello (1915), 2005, Shoot! Ibidem, pp. 22–3. C. Baudelaire (1863), 2004, “Modernity” in L. D. Purdy, ed., The Rise of Fashion. A Rider, Minneaopolis: University of Minnesota Press, p 217. 3 D. Harvey (1989), The Condition of Postmodernity: An Inquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, Oxford: Basil Blackwell; S. Kern, (2003) The Culture of Time and Space: 1880–1918, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 4 W. Leach (1993), Land of Desire. Merchants, Power and the Rise of New American Culture, New York: Vintage Books, p. 78. 5 Gibus (1906), “Cinematografeide!” Il Giorno, March 30, 1906. The article is reprinted in A. Bernardini, (1981) Cinema muto italiano, vol. 2, Bari: Laterza, pp. 20–1; see also L. Annunziata, (2010), “On Cinema. The Novelist Matilde Serao and the New Medium,” in S. Bull, and A. Söderbergh Widding, eds, Not so silent. Women in Cinema before sound, Stockholm: Stockholm University, pp. 85–95; G. Bruno, (1993), Streetwalking on a Ruined Map: Cultural Theory & the City Films of Elvira Notari, Princeton: Princeton University Press. 6 Quoted in Irene Lottini (2013), “‘Il delirio del lungo metraggio”: Cinema and Mass Phenomenon in Early Twentieth-Century Italian Culture” in L. Bayman and S. Rigoletto, eds, Popular Italian Cinema, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 7 See P. Vanzi (1918), “Lungo metraggio”, La vita cinematografica, December, 152–6 and I. Lottini, ibid., p. 152; for the relationship between literature and cinema see, I. Gambacorti, (2003) Storie di cinema e letteratura. Verga, Gozzano, D’Annunzio, Firenze: Società Editrice Fiorentina. 8 Nan Enstad (1999), Ladies of Labor. Girls of Adventure, New York: Columbia University Press, p. 163. 9 Nan Enstad (1999), ibid. p. 163. 10 Romano, F. (1916), “Le donne e la cinematografia” in La Donna, pp. 34-35, n.277, 1916-07-20. 11 Dalle Vacche, A. (2008), Diva. Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema, Austin: University of Texas; I. Blom (2013), “Diva Intermedial,” ibid.; see also M. Marcus (1996), “Anton Giulio Bragaglia’s Thais, or, the Death of the Diva, the 1 2


12 13 14

15 16 17 18 19

20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

28 29

Italian Style rise of Scenoplastica and the birth of Futurist cinema.” South Central Review 13, no. 2–3 (Summer–Fall) pp. 63–81; C. Jandelli (2006), Le dive italiane del cinema muto, Palermo: L’ Epos. F. Luisetti (2015) ibid. p. 7–8. C. Evans (2011), “The Walkies: Early French Fashion Shows as a Cinema of Attraction”, ibid., p. 120, and D. Robinson, Georges Méliès (1993), Father of Film Fantasy, London: British Film Institute. E. Wharton (2013), The House of Mirth, New York: Penguin Books. Book about fashion and Wharton’s novel; see also D. Albrecht and J. Falino, eds, Gilded New York. Design, Fashion, and Society, Museum of the City of New York: The Monacelli Press. W. Leach (1993), ibid., pp. 102–3. C. Evans (2011), “The Walkies: Early French fashion Shows as a Cinema of Attractions” in A. Munich, ed., Fashion in Film, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 110–34 [p. 15]. C. Jandelli (2006), ibid., p. 67. Lyda Borelli, quoted in Dalle Vacche. Inga Fraser (2013), “Born fully clothed: the significance of Costume for the silent cinema Vamp” in M. Uhlirova, Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle, London: Koning Books, pp. 180–201; P. Wollen (1993), “Out of the Past: fashion/ Orientalism/The Body”, in Raiding the Icebox. Reflections on The Twentieth-Century Culture, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. S. D. Ryersson, M.Orlando Yaccarino ( 2009), The Marchesa Casati, New York Abrams; D. Albrecht, J. Falino, eds, (2013), Gilded New York. Design, Fashion, and Society, The Museum of the City of New York: The Monacelli Press. Angela Dalle Vacche (2008), Diva: Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema, Austin: Texas, p. 110 Caroline Evans (2013), ibid., p. 207. Although the diva film defines an Italian style in cinema and a new model of femininity and beauty, the actresses turned to French couture for their clothes, for example, to Fortuny for the Delpho gown, as we will see in Rapsodia Satanica. M. Mauss (1933), Fortune, January, p. 12; and, of the same author (1995), “Techniques of the body” in Crary and Kwinter, 454–77. J. Reich (2015), The Maciste Films of Italian Silent Cinema, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. J. Reich (2011), “Slave to Fashion: Masculinity, Suits, and the Maciste Films of Italian Silent Cinema”, in A. Munich, ed., ibid., p. 243. Luigi Sapelli (1865–1936) was a friend and collaborator of Mariano Fortuny and worked on costume design for important theaters in Rome, and even in the Metropolitan in New York. He may have worked for costumes in cinema. More studies should be dedicated to the role of Sapelli and cinema. Recent publications about his work include the catalog (1987) Fortuny e Caramba: La moda a teatro 1906–1936. Venice: Marsilio; (2008) Caramba: Mago del costume, ed., V. Crespi Morbio, Milan: Amici della Scala. Mario Oxilia, quoted in Dalle Vacche. K. Kraus (2004), “The Eroticism of Clothes” from Die Fackel (1906) in D. L. Purdy, ed., The Rise of Fashion. A Reader, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 243–4.

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30 See Antonia Lant, “Haptical Cinema,” October, 74 (Autumn, 1995): 45–73. In this essay, Lant offers a rich methodological and historical overview of how early film constructed haptic spaces. She identifies in the Viennese and European culture of the first two decades of the twentieth century a crucial time for a new elaboration of art, its theories and film, its making and reception. Lant also points out orientalism, and the attraction of Egypt in particular, translated on and off screen, as crucial to the transformation of the vision and birth of haptical cinema; and it is just as crucial to connect, as she does, especially in The Work of Art in the Age of mechanical reproduction, the work of Alois Riegl, Burch and Walter Benjamin. 31 It is worth mentioning that Segundo De Chomon collaborated with Pastrone on Cabiria, and also worked in the Italian film industry for several years. He was responsible for the tricks, special effects and color, and his mesmerizing work was mentioned in the essays contained in the “Birds of Paradise” fashion in film edition. See Gian Piero Brunetta, Cent’anni di cinema italiano, vol. 1, Dalle origini alla seconda Guerra mondiale (Bari and Rome), Editori Laterza, 1995, especially the chapters “Torino Filmopoli,” pp. 34–8, and—for the references to Verga and D’Annunzio—“La grande migrazione,”pp. 50–75. 32 Leslie Midkiff DaBauche (2005), “Fashion” in R. Abel, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, New York: Routledge, pp. 329–30. 33 Mario Carli (1915), Retroscena: Romanzo, Studio Editoriale Lombardo, n 2. 303. 34 Carli, ibid. p. 5. 35 R. Flexner (1996), “Fabric-Made Body” in New Observations (“Art in the Folds”), eds, Elena Berriolo and Roland Flexner, no. 110, January–February 199, p. 26. 36 Mary Ann Doane, “Veiling over Desire. Close-ups of the woman,” in Femmes Fatales, p. 55. 37 Eugenia Paulicelli, “From the Sacred to the Secular: the Gendered Geography of Veils in Italian Cinquecento Fashion,” in Ornamentalism, Bella Mirabella, ed., University of Michigan Press, 2011. 38 See Mary Ann Doane, “Deadly women, epistemology and film theory,” in Femme Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory and Psychoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 1. 39 This is a field that needs further elaboration within film theory, theory of vision and fashion theory. Antonia Lant’s article on “Haptical cinema” mentioned in the previous note is a landmark text in this direction. In addition, I would like to mention Laura Marks’s study, The Skin of film. Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (Durham and London: Duke University Press: 2000); Giuliana Bruno’s work on Wong Kar Wai, connecting the optic, haptic, texture and architecture, as well as her Atlas of Emotions (2002); and Thomas Elsaesser and Hagener Malte, “Cinema as skin and touch” in their book Film Theory. An Introduction through the Senses (2010). On the issue of vision, the work of Jonathan Crary is relevant, especially his Techniques of the Observer. On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991. See the following quote: “In my delineation of a modernization and revaluation of vision, I indicate how the sense of touch had been an integral part of classical theories of vision in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The subsequent dissociation of touch from sight occurs within a pervasive ‘separation of the senses’ and industrial remapping of the body in the nineteenth century” (19). Film and the moving image intersect with a crucial time of modernity and transformation and can be repositioned within this context of optic and haptic, mind and body.


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40 J. Crary (1991), Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century, Boston: MIT Press, p. 27. 41 Carli, ibid. p. 301. 42 See “I film dipinti delle origini del cinema” and “Film dipinti a pochoir”, in the wonderful book by Laurent Mannoni and Donata Presenti Campagnoni, La Lanterna Magica. 400 Anni di Cinema, Il Castoro, Museo Nazionale del cinema, 2009. This was also an exhibition held in Paris in 2009 and in Turin in 2010. 43 Fortuny patented the lighting technique in 1904, see Guillermo De Osma (1980) Mariano Fortuny: his Life and Work, Aurum Press, p. 73; and p. 70; Fortuny’s pleating technique was a closely guarded secret and has only been approximated since; see for instance the work of the Japanese designer Issey Miyake; see also pp. 80–121. 44 Fortuny’s pleating has never been successfully copied since, only translated in many different ways, as in the case of Issey Miyake. 45 This is an article Francesca Bertini published in the journal (1918) In Penombra, “Sensazioni e ricordi. La prima posa,” June, 22–5, p. 25. 46 Quoted in C. Jandelli (2008), ibid. p. 69. 47 C. Jandelli (2006), ibid. p. 55. 48 M. Canosa (2014), “Lady with Ermine”, in the booklet accompanying the DVD edition of Sangue Bleu, issued by the Cineteca di Bologna, p. 17. 49 A. Dalle Vacche (2008), ibid., p. 227. 50 The princess goes under different names in the Italian and English versions of the film. In Italian, she is Princess Mira van Monte Cabello; in English, Princess Elena of Montvallon. 51 M. Canosa (2014), “Lady with Ermine” in the booklet accompanying the new DVD release of Sangue Bleu, a production by Cineteca di Bologna in collaboration with EYE Filmuseum, p. 18. 52 Bruno, B. (1916), “Eterno Femminino”, Film, III, n. 32, p. 5. 53 C. Jandelli (2006), ibid., p. 69. 54 C. Musser (2006), “Rethinking Early Cinema: Cinema of Attractions and Narrativity,” in W. Strauven, The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, Amsterdam University Press, pp. 389–416. 55 Quoted in C. Jandelli (2006), Le dive italiane del cinema muto, Palermo: L’Epos, pp. 47–8. 56 Salvador Dali in Dalle Vacche (2008), ibid., p. 143. 57 O. Di Nessim, (1918), “In memoria di Nino Oxilia”, In Penombra, n. 02, June, pp.58–9.


Fashion, Film, Modernity, under Fascism One hundred and ninety-two million people, of every age and class, pack themselves every week into almost ninety thousand dark movie theatres throughout the world. The many features of human life, its joys and torments, its falls and victories, are called on to reproduce themselves on the screen so that women and men, the most of them tired out by their daily activities, can be entertained, distracted and persuaded to think “cinematograficamente” for one or two hours. […] Cinema is an enormous written encyclopedia for mobile images; and we can say that there is not one entry in this universal encyclopedia, or there is not one film, either shabby or banal, that does not provoke in the spectator a positive or negative reaction; or that, in sum, it does not contribute to their psychological and mental experience, to the formation of their knowledge, in short, to their interpretation of the world.1 (Luciano De Feo, Cinema, emphasis added) Under fascism, fashion and film were both identified by the totalitarian regime as powerful vehicles for shaping and projecting national identity and a politics of style. As such, they became recognizable cultural institutions of Italian modernity. No government in post-unified Italy (the period from 1860 onwards) had been able to create anything like the distinctive image with which fascism made itself visible: the black shirt, which still today epitomizes the image of fascism and Il Duce. Fascism understood very quickly how powerful a medium cinema was for the diffusion of visual messages. It was with massive state support, in fact, that Italian cinema rapidly developed in the 1930s. The early 1930s saw the first regime-sponsored fascist propaganda feature films, such as Gioacchino Forzano’s Camicia Nera (Man of Courage, 1933), the story of the reclamation of the malaria ridden Pontine marshes by the regime, and Alessandro Blasetti’s Vecchia Guardia (1934), celebrating, twelve years on, the March on Rome and the “success” of the regime in saving Italy. However, overtly propagandistic feature films such as Camicia nera and Vecchia Guardia were in the numerical minority when compared to the other genres of film made under fascism. In fact, it is inaccurate to think of film under fascism as merely a vehicle for political propaganda. Things were much more complex than that. A study of film under fascism involves an in-depth investigation of the stylistic forms adopted in the filmmaking of the period. Fascism saw in cinema a powerful medium that would help it to achieve its ends, and not only in cinema but in fashion, likewise. In fact, the regime invested a great deal of energy in, and exercised State control over, the fashion industry. It was under fascism that fashion and film first traveled at the same speed.


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In 1932 and then, renamed, in 1934, Mussolini founded the Ente Nazionale della moda (ENM, National Fashion Body). The aim of this government institution was to control the entire productive cycle of textile and fashion. But, in line with the regime’s totalitarian project to create “new” Italian men, women and children, it’s aim was also to inculcate an Italian fascist lifestyle through dress codes. In fact, one of the credos of the ENM was to persuade female consumers and dressmakers to seek inspiration in Italy’s domestic roots and traditions.2 In the following pages, through reference to specific films, I will show the complexity of the fascist regime’s involvement in the fashion industry and the many nuances that accompanied it. It is to the films in themselves that we need to turn to gauge the extent of the materialization on screen of the regime’s complex discourse on fashion. Following the crisis in the post-First World War years of the Italian film industry it was in the 1930s, the period of the consolidation of the fascist regime, that Italian cinema saw an important moment of rebirth with the inauguration of the “Città del cinema”, or “Cinecittà”, and the school of cinematography, the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (CSC). This was part of the massive reorganization of both the film industry and educational institutions that took place under the fascist regime. It was also at this time that the fashion industry was organized under several national boards and State controlled institutions, and was greatly promoted through the media: film, newsreels of the LUCE Institute, periodicals, fashion shows with lively mannequins and also fashion exhibitions in several Italian cities (Milan, Turin, Rome and Venice). Fascism saw the great potential of fashion and style as tiles in its construction of a “new” Italy and “new” Italians. Cinema, under fascism, received enormous State subsidies, both for the documentary Cinegiornale LUCE newsreels and the commercial film industry. Inaugurated in 1937, Cinecittà was the largest film studio in Europe; the Italian film school, the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, housed in Cinecittà, was also inaugurated at that time.3 In “Come si impara a far del cinema” (How to learn cinema), an article published in the journal Cinema, Luigi Chiarini, director of the CSC, painstakingly recorded the work students carried out at the Center, stressing the extent of the study required for those who wanted to work in the film industry: This short piece aims at demonstrating how much work, how much toil and how much study cinema requires to understand its complex aesthetic, technical, scientific and economic problems. The young students of the CSC usually work from 8 to 10 hours every day. Cinema, thus, now that the State is directly involved, is not a field for lazy people, or those who have failed in other activities.4

Cinema’s first editor was Luciano De Feo; he was succeeded by Il Duce’s son, Vittorio Mussolini, who loved silent film and Hollywood cinema, and who edited the journal until July 1943. The construction of a new Italy and new Italians—men, women and children alike—was a vital plank in the fascist regime’s political and cultural project, and the regime used a variety of media, fashion and film in the forefront, to disseminate its message and achieve its ends. “Dressing in the fascist style”, to quote the title of a 1934 article by Francesco Salvori—“Vestire alla fascista”—was an important first

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step on the road to becoming a fascist. In his article, Salvori strongly encouraged the adoption of civil uniforms (Del Buono, 1971, 247): “We live in a corporative epoch, an epoch of permanent civil militarization […] The new Italians must live like heroes; if not all of them with magnanimous gestures, which is impossible, at least with their thoughts and desires. Being heroes in style at least is very often the first step towards the substance of being real heroes.”5 Fascist propaganda exploited fashion to the fullest extent as a vehicle of communication, making style—including military style—one of the major concerns of fascist ideology and aesthetics. As Stephen Gundle points out, “to give style”—the aesthetic expression that reflected Mussolini’s political aim to transform the populace—had a pragmatic counterpart in the expression “to fascistize” (Gundle 2000, 131). The fascistizzazione of the Italians meant controlling and disciplining also their lifestyle, behavior, leisure time, ways of walking and talking. Fashion is not, in fact, clothing alone, but can be extended to social interactions, gender codes, body forms, gestural performance and behavior. Film was one of the most “powerful of weapons” that could be put to the service of the fascistization project; its marriage with fashion was certified during fascism, and played its part in what the historian Emilio Gentile has called an “anthropological revolution.” The consolidation of the regime’s policy on fashion was part and parcel of a more general move to consolidate control in other areas of Italian life. The 1930s saw the creation of several government institutions set up to ensure fascist control over areas of sport and leisure time. Along with fashion, in fact, the regime used cinema and sport to convey and solidify its message of modernity, discipline, order, and amusement. It goes without saying that cinema took on an important role in the diffusion of cultural models, in the construction of gender and identities, and in the politics of style—but so also did fashion. Fashion and cinema are interrelated in many ways, arguably the most important tool they share being the visual power inherent in the spectacle and feast for the eyes that they provide in displaying dynamism and modernity. As a consequence, cinema and fashion were also linked in those years in the creation and diffusion of national models and physiques with which women and men belonging to different classes and geographic areas could identify or fantasize. In the culture industry, fascism took the form of a powerful machine that historian Philip Cannistraro has called the “the factory of consensus.” However, as Cannistraro has also shown, fascism used alternative propaganda techniques during the 1920s and the 1930s. In fact two types of propaganda can be identified: one of “agitation”, the other of “integration.” Propaganda by means of agitation characterized the first revolutionary and ultra-violent phase of fascism, between 1919 and 1922, and was aimed at achieving quick short-term results; propaganda by means of integration, however, was typical of the phase in which the regime consolidated its power. This latter propaganda sought long-term results and approached its aim in a much more indirect manner. If agitation propaganda can be considered a kind of coercion, integration propaganda is a more subtle, non-coercive, kind of coercion. The regime produced myths, such as the dynamism of the northern Italian cities and the phony use of southern culture:


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peasants and massaie rurali—the athletic woman, the prolific mother, and so on— were presented with a veneer of modernity and came to represent models on which to base one’s sense of fascist identity. It is in the context of this construction of a fascist popular culture that fashion, along with the press, cinema, and newsreels, took on an important role for the regime. In the culture industries, fascism identified a crucial and powerful machine to “educate” the masses and, of course, to build consensus. This is a phenomenon that was identified by the Frankfurt school and then developed in a much more sophisticated manner by Walter Benjamin, a figure who wrote extensively on fashion and film’s power mechanisms, and on the politics of the body in what was fast becoming mass society. It is, indeed, within the context of the great transformations of the early decades of the twentieth century—the reorganization of capitalism, changes to lifestyles, modes of production and consumption, as well as the spread of new cultural ideals through the media (cinema, popular press and so on)—that we can understand the role that fashion and film played under fascism. Any kind of transformation inevitably implies a redefinition of time-space relationships and in the case of fascism this meant, in order the better to serve its aim of molding the masses, determining and policing, in accordance with the diktats of the totalitarian regime, the boundaries of ways of being, walking, speaking, dressing. Although long-term fascist propaganda was certainly subtler than the propaganda of the early years of the regime, it was no less totalitarian in its quest to “fascistize” Italians. As Gentile has argued: The term “totalitarian” and its derivatives began to be used by the Fascists themselves after 1925, who adopted it as a badge of identity that defined their own conception of politics and of the state. This was based on the idea that all power should be concentrated in the hands of the party and its leader, and that the fascistizzazione of Italian society would be achieved through the expansion of the power exercised by the Fascist Party. This would extend to every aspect of social life to bring about what Mussolini referred to as “the reformation of the character of the Italians” that was needed to make the Italians a race of conquerors and rulers. (Gentile, 141)6

Behind the totalizing project lies a book, The Penultimate Fashion, by Alfredo Panzini, a well-known linguist in the 1930s ; it was published in a series, directed by Margherita Sarfatti, in which architects and artists such as Marcello Piacentini and Giò Ponti also published.7 For Panzini, fashion is about a totalizing fascist experience that includes clothes but also simple gestures like washing one’s hands (for purposes of hygiene and the greater health of the fascist body politic). He writes: “Fashion is not just clothing; fashion is a series of ways of behavior and lifestyles, even including how one washes oneself …”.8 But even as the regime sought to infiltrate every corner of Italian daily life, both public and private, “the cultural innovators,” as Adrian Lyttleton has termed them, still found space for creative artistic activity. It was they who “found ways of escaping the suffocating embrace of the regime and of profiting from the opportunities which

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it afforded” (Lyttleton, 16).9 We find many such innovators in the fields of film and fashion. Fascism’s totalizing project was carried out in different ways: on the one hand, the regime attempted to fascistize the small details of everyday life, washing your hands as a fascist gesture, for example, use of the second person plural “voi” instead of the third person “lei” as a mark of respect, a Roman salute—the raising of the right arm—instead of shaking hands; on the other, it sought to promote a whole new “ethos” and lifestyle based on the burgeoning modern world of which fascism was in the forefront, a modern world of speed, machines, urbanity, and the city, all of which had characterized Futurism in the pre-fascist years and that were to be picked up again in the second Futurism, as we will see in the Stramilano documentary (1929). In terms of physical appearance, fascist propaganda promoted the idealized myth of beautiful, muscular and athletic bodies, and of youth in general. Giovinezza was, in fact, the title of a very popular fascist song. Yet, despite the all-pervasive influence of such myths, the weight of the fascist propaganda machine, and a fashion and film industry under State control, there did exist space for aesthetic innovation and experimentation.10 Let us turn now to a number of examples of fascist film propaganda in action: newsreels drawn from the LUCE collections documenting fashion under the regime and a documentary by Corrado D’Errico on Milan, all illustrations of the dynamic between propaganda and the aesthetic experimentation of fascist Italy’s cultural innovators.

Fashion in motion: the LUCE newsreels L’ Unione Cinematografica Educativa (The Educational Film Union, LUCE) was created between 1924 and 1925 as one of the most important institutions for regimeinspired education and propaganda. The Institute was founded initially as a private concern, but was taken over by the Italian State and received financial backing, thanks to Decree no. 1985, passed on November 5, 1925. From this transaction, the financial capital of the institute was more than doubled. A later decree, no. 1000 of April 1926, made the dissemination of LUCE productions compulsory in all movie theaters. But modernity had not yet reached every corner of Italy, and there were many isolated and remote areas where no movie theater existed. With the intent of spreading the message throughout Italy, in 1927 the Istituto Luce sent twenty-five Fiat trucks equipped with movie projectors to remote cinema-free Italian locations so that films could be watched. Not surprisingly, this was an initiative that turned out to be very successful with the “thousands of spectators” who were extremely grateful to the fascist regime for its generosity (Pierluigi Erbaggio, in Bertellini, 226).11 With the LUCE newsreels, we have the first cinematic documentation of fashion shows and fashion parades with a specific aim of advertising Italian products. As discussed in Chapter 3, fashion in motion in the 1910s was conveyed through the divas in fiction films; now, with the fascist regime, we see fashion being advertised by professional models. It is relevant to note this shift in the Italian context, and how


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the regime was “selling images of fashion as paths to modernity,” a phenomenon studied by sociologist Elizabeth Wissinger. She writes: “models led the way into a consumption-defined lifestyle by showing goods as a way to become part of the consuming community” (Wissinger, 69).12 The relationship between the promotion and propaganda of Italian fashion and the production of the LUCE newsreels was not straightforward. Rather, the LUCE newsreels featuring fashion, which began in 1928 and continued well after the fall of the regime, are complex and rich and certainly deserving of the attention of scholars from a variety of fields of expertise, not only from fashion history. Hundreds of LUCE newsreels, now accessible through the Istituto Luce Digital Archive, covered fashion in the late 1920s and 1930s. Even though Italian fashion had been nationalized and subject to policies that controlled production and marketing, the newsreels do not limit themselves to documenting and reporting on State initiatives. Two trends emerge from the newsreels: first, Italian fashion appears to be already linked to the traditions of several Italian cities (Rome, Turin, Milan, Florence, Venice) and to historical locations with landmark architecture (Villa D’Este, Cernobbio, Como, and others). The newsreels show no picture of a centralized Italian fashion, even in the throes of the regime’s nationalistic drive: first, Italian fashion appears to be the product of a plurality of fashion cities in the Italian peninsula (as it remains largely today); second, but no less important, in the newsreels we see massive attention given to foreign fashion from Paris, Berlin, Budapest, London, Sweden, even Shanghai and Mexico—and from the United States, of course, clearly the main inspiration and the nation to which most space was dedicated. Analysis of the newsreels on fashion reveals two different components: first, the advertising and marketing strategies of the fashion film; second, the use of the camera, the techniques of storytelling in a compressed time frame (usually about one minute or so), the formal aspects of the décor, landscape and background, the way models walk and their gestural performance. How did all these elements impact the cultural and symbolic meanings of fashion? How were fashion and style filmed during fascism? From the newsreel reports of fashion from other European countries and the United States we see that these countries filmed and disseminated fashion and fashion parades taking place in multiple locations: Radio City Hall where opulent furs were presented with the Ziegfeld Girls as models; Washington, DC, in an airplane; fashion shows set in Florida with spectacular views of tropical landscapes and luxury hotels. In one newsreel, the episode from Washington is entitled “La moda tra le nuvole” (Fashion in the clouds, 1935, B0601); in another show of the same year, we see models smoking while parading their dresses. Models did not simply reproduce standardized gestures, they were also mediators of changes in women’s style and behavior. For instance, in a fashion show from Mexico, the models move as if they are taking dance steps. In 1938 (B1299), a fashion show from New York is set on the iconic Italian ship, the “Rex,” while it is at anchor. In these newsreels, fashion as spectacle changes according to the different locations and landscapes; and the camera, while always attending to the details of the clothes on display, is keen to experiment, too, with formal composition, using fashion to that end.

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These fashion films were made available to a wide audience that, in one way or another, would be able to appreciate fashion as a spectacle, copy some of the models, get to know about the latest trends and visit virtually the different cities and localities in Italy and abroad. Film historian, Pierluigi Erbaggio, has stressed the importance of the role of the international agreement and the exchanges between the Istituto Luce and William Randolph Hearst’s newsreel services. The agreement with Hearst was signed in May 1927, stating that it “provides for the publication of photographs taken by the Luce and the exhibition of films produced by our national institute in the cinematographic halls and theaters served by the powerful American organization of William Randolph Hearst” (Erbaggio, 227). In the first Istituto Luce fashion film of 1928, we see mannequins in a fashion house slowly rotated to show the details of the dresses. In subsequent films, we see live models parading the fashionable items. These first films are silent and come with inter-titles. With the advent of sound, which in Italy came in 1930 but in the United States was already in use in the late 1920s, the films have titles, and a commentary supplied by a reporter by way of a voiceover. Ironically, because of the slowness in implementing sound technology in Italy it was American audiences that first had an opportunity to match the voice of Il Duce to his appearance (Italians had either seen him in photographs or heard him on the radio, but had not both seen and heard him simultaneously). On September 28, 1927, a Fox troupe filmed Mussolini delivering a speech for American, and Italian American, audiences that was screened in New York. Following this event, much discussion took place in Italian institutions about modernizing the technology, and an agreement was signed with Fox Movietone. One cannot argue with Erbaggio when he says that scholars have neglected to pay due attention to the collaboration between Italy and the United States in this sector. Although Erbaggio does not specifically mention fashion, the fashion newsreels confirm the collaboration and crosspollination of the US/Italy relationship. Cinema, also, benefited from this relationship. If, on the one hand, institutions like the Istituto Luce, the CSC, and Cinecittà paved the way for an Italian way of filmmaking that would bear fruit in the post-Second World War period, on the other, neorealism was also made possible by the opportunity practitioners, intellectuals, and government officials had to observe foreign film industries—especially the American one. In the Italian LUCE fashion films, one cannot fail to note the variety of gestural performances of the models, the attention to settings and décor, the plurality of the cities and spaces where fashion shows took place, and the many efforts to showcase Italian fashion in the context of fascist policies and initiatives. Emphasis is given to the formal aspects of the catwalk and storytelling, and the context; the camera captures the details of cut, design, fabric, wearability, and glamor. From the way Italian cities and architecture were presented in the backdrop of the shows, it is clear that filming fashion became an important commercial device and promoter of tourism; this mixing of commerce, promotion of tourism and filming fashion continues to this day, with the digital short fashion film. The first LUCE fashion film in 1928 shows mannequins in a fashion house wearing an overcoat called “Cappa circolare” (Circular Cape). Two mannequins are juxtaposed:


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one is still; the other in a 360 degree rotation, tracing a full circle to show the outfit, the shape of the garment, and how it can be worn. The majority of the subsequent films show lively models parading on catwalks; in some cases we see a combination of a mannequin on display as if in a shop window and walking models. Fashion is presented in the context of the latest technology, the filming of the body in motion. In its own public events such as parades and events, fascism put a great deal of emphasis on the choreography of the spectacle of the masses. Italian citizens of all ages, dressed in fascist uniforms, paraded along the streets and in the squares of towns and cities all over Italy. The sense of style and the attempts at synchronizing the movements of bodies as they marched and paraded, their deportment and demeanor were important components of the process of fascistizzazione of Italian society. And it was not only a question of form; this was fascism as a “secular religion” that bound the nation together under one God, as it were. Let us now see how fashion models walked and paraded. In her entry, “La moda di ieri e di oggi”, in the 1939 Enciclopedia pratica della casa (531, 32), Ada Salvatore writes of what is expected from a fashion model and what the most distinguishing features of her performance are in the many events organized under the regime. She says: What we ask of these creatures is not only a perfect figure, a fine smile, gracefulness and especially an elegant and self-confident way of moving. If you do not know how to walk you can’t be a fashion model. Some never learn. Others need training to a greater or lesser extent, in accordance with their natural talents. And then a certain understanding is necessary because you shouldn’t think that you can walk in the same way with different clothes. For morning or “sport” clothes you need a swift and casual gait; for afternoon “outfits” comportment is less jaunty though still free and easy: the model opens the topcoat to show the lining, or she takes it off and puts it on her arm or lets it drag along the carpet with well-mannered negligence. Evening clothes call almost for a certain solemnity of attitude, proportional to their sumptuousness: the train should never appear as an encumbrance. And when you turn round, take care not to step on it or trip up!13 (emphasis added)

Salvatore stresses the importance of movement, gait and the gestural performance of the models, but offers also suggestions on the style to be adopted for modeling different kinds of clothing. She gives emphasis to the performance of a constructed naturalness, a certain sprezzatura, we may say, that shows off the clothing as if it belonged to the body that wears it and enhances its beauty. In a LUCE newsreel of 1928, showcasing the “moda italiana a Milano,” models follow Salvatore’s tips, synchronizing their gait and movement according to the outfits they wear. Ample coverage is given to different fashion spaces such as an elaborate 1929 show at the Rinascente in Milan. Several newsreels are dedicated to children’s fashion, which is either integrated into other shows or given special attention in some of the episodes. The children, too, are given instructions on how to walk or turn while on stage. Walking and parading are skills that are acquired and learned.

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Salvatore stresses the unglamorous side of the models’ work, and the intense labor the models go through in order to be able to feign effortlessness in their performances and poses. She comments that: During the presentation of new items—i.e. three or four times a year with the changing of the seasons—fashion models are subjected to really heavy work. […] On their feet without a minute’s pause: walking up and down the salons without ever being able to look tired, and with an immobile smile on their lips. […] After each show the girls are worn out, in pieces. They throw themselves into an armchair with their feet pressed high up against the wall to bring down the swelling. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get into their ordinary going-home shoes! (Salvatore, 532)

A 1934 newsreel, entitled “Come si orienta la moda cinese,” presenting fashion in Shanghai, offers a point of comparison with Italian fashion parades and models. The Italian newsreels portray the plurality of gaits adopted by models according to the clothes they are presenting; in the Shanghai shows the models are more static and walk in a straighter line; the camera work appears to be much less elaborate. Strange as it may seem, the various modeling styles and gaits of models can give us insights into the culture and politics of the time and the country where the films were produced. Whether reporting on Italy or China, these newsreels show that the filming of fashion, and fashion shows in particular, was a global concern in both West And East, in a fascist regime like Italy’s, in a democracy like the United States—and in distant China. It would be misleading to analyze the LUCE newsreels, the hundreds of pictures published in fashion magazines, and the photographs housed in Italian archives and libraries, solely in terms of political and ideological propaganda. Rather, they demand to be viewed in the wider context of film experimentation and theory, of their commercial aspect, and of the role that fashion and film have in the “Italian way to modernity” in conjunction with other film and documentary. A LUCE newsreel, aptly titled “Un originale sistema di presentazione della moda” (An original system of presenting fashion, B0373: 1933), focuses specifically on how best to stage fashion. This short is not concerned just to present fashion, it focuses as well on the ways fashion can be showcased in the most enticing and appealing of modes. It is a sort of instructional video. These modes are extrinsically cinematic, and are very much at the core of fashion parades in feature films, where clothing is worn by movie stars (as we saw in the previous chapter). As we will see later, proper fashion shows were to be incorporated into Italian cinema, starting with Alessandro Blasetti’s 1937 film Contessa di Parma. Every formal aspect in this 1933 LUCE newsreel is curated; particular attention is dedicated to the role of stairs and mirrors. The stairs trace a circular movement, and the model is filmed while descending them; she then walks towards the mirrors, all strategically positioned to multiply her image and create an optical effect almost like an abstract canvas. Particularly significant is the presence on screen, both at the same time, of these two features of the décor: the staircase, and the physical act of walking, and the mirror, which hints at a pause and


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a pose. The dynamic between the staircase and the mirrors produces cinematic space. The fashion film makes explicit the relationship between fantasy and reality, what can be constructed and faked. In fact, some of the frames freeze the multiplied image of the model in front of the mirror, and viewers perceive the space and the spectacle in its mediated form: the camera and the mirror. The staircase and the mirror between them bring to the fore the dynamic between movement and the pose that we saw in the previous chapter in reference to Bragaglia’s photodynamism, “the intervals of duration.” In fact, this particular newsreel in its initial pedagogical intent brings to the fore how fashion in film through clothing and objects and the body of the model mimes and renders explicit the role of montage. In his book, Montage, film scholar Sam Rohdie has examined the forms and complexity of montage in specific films. He writes, in fact: The filmstrip is made of still frames, that when projected at a set speed of 24 frames a second, give the illusion of movement and continuity. Film has had to reconcile these contrary directions of stillness and movement, continuity and rupture, and has done so in one manner or the other, most often in the variations of the two. […] Montage simply is the joining together of different elements of film in a variety of ways, between shots, within them, between sequences, within these. (Rohdie, Montage, 1)

Especially crucial for fashion in film and for filming fashion is the “illusion of movement.” Indeed, the illusion of movement is even greater today than it was for Eadwaerd Muybridge, to whom the first chapter of Rohdie’s Montage is dedicated. The movement then becomes dematerialized in the intervals of duration, between the staircase and the mirror we see in the 1933 LUCE newsreel. Rohdie’s book concludes with the experiments of the French physiologist, Étienne-Jules Marey, and explains the core differences between the two approaches to movement and stillness and the gaps in between them. In referring to Muybridge’s photographic experiments of 1887, when he reproduced bodies in motion in a sequence of stills, Rohdie observes that: These reproductions, though sequential, were composed of intermittent, discontinuous immobile units, in effect, a linked series of snapshots. Nothing moved, no body, no animal, no stick, no ball, no hand nor eye, nothing went from here to there. The sensation of movement was realized by the construction of a logical and progressive line between one image and the next. Movement was not seen, but imagined in the gaps between instances of stillness. Muybridge’s locomotion studies though appearing to be successive moments of a continuous movement were at times faked. In these cases, he had his models pose in a succession of gestures imitating rather than enacting movement. A Muybridge nude descending a staircase or washing linen might, for example, hesitate at each step or each stage of the process. It was her pose in suspension that Muybridge photographed as if in movement. (Rohdie, 2–3)

“As if in movement” is what is at stake in staging fashion, in every way akin to the “perennial debates concerning film” that “involves the difference (and opposition)

Fashion, Film, Modernity, under Fascism


between the realistic (natural, real-seeming) and the real” (Rohdie: 104). In this way, the LUCE newsreels, and especially those on fashion, need to be considered in the larger context of debate about film and image, and how fashion is relevant to this debate. They are also important material to study in order to see the Italian fashion production of the time, and the work, effort and experimentation that went into filming fashion. This was not a straightforward project, but needs to be considered in different contexts, analyzed in depth, and also considered in relation to documentaries and feature films. But how about newsreel and more overt propaganda? In terms of the propaganda of the fascist policies on fashion, the LUCE cinegiornali offer an important platform for analysis. The newsreels documented the many official exhibitions and events organized by the fashion industry with the support of the regime. One of the strongest propaganda slogans transmitted by the regime as soon as the ENM was founded in 1932, exposing the national intent that lay behind this phase of fascist policy on fashion, was that “the Italian woman must follow Italian fashion.” Through the LUCE newsreels we can track this strand of policy, especially in the coverage they gave to the national fashion exhibitions. The first of these was held in Turin in 1933, and was inaugurated by Elena of Savoy, Queen of Italy. To the fore, in the coverage of this event, even before we see the actual shots of the inauguration, we read in very large letters: La Donna italiana deve seguire la moda italiana. Gusto, eleganza, originalità hanno dimostrato che l’iniziativa può e deve avere successo (The Italian woman must follow Italian fashion. Taste, elegance and originality have demonstrated that this initiative can and must be a success). After this, we see a tracking shot of the Art Deco building where the exhibition is held and where the queen arrives welcomed by the black-shirted gerarchi, all of them surrounded by a large crowd. Following these opening shots we see a series of scenes that focus on single outfits worn by mannequins displayed in shop windows in a tableaux vivant style. Real models then follow, and appear wearing suits, sports outfits, cocktail and evening gowns, and surrounded by modern furniture that complements their style of dress. Parallel to this display of modernity, the camera gives special emphasis to local traditions and crafts. Lace, along with a variety of accessories, is especially highlighted. This was to be a recurrent trend at the subsequent semiannual exhibitions. Local craftsmanship would always be presented and exhibited alongside the new models and textiles, underlining the fascist desire to combine tradition with modernity and to stress the economic importance of industry and craftsmanship. Another LUCE newsreel, this time from 1936, shown in the midst of the regime’s autarchic phase, covers the National Exhibition of Textile and Clothing, again held in Turin. Here, we see first a medium shot of the motto Vestire italianamente (Dress in Italian style), written on the building where the exhibition was housed, while in a tracking shot the camera dwells on the word RAYON written, like a slogan, in huge letters. Rayon, in fact, was one of the regime’s great successes in the field of textiles, and Italians were enjoined to produce and buy clothes made out of this homeproduced intelligent fiber. Textile exhibitions were organized all over Italy, including one organized by the prominent fascist Achille Starace in the Circo Massimo in Rome (November 18, 1937–January 31, 1938).


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Although, as the newsreels demonstrate, Turin was elected capital of fashion during the regime, it was not the only Italian fashion city. Rome, Florence and even Bolzano and Naples were represented in the Cinegiornali as hosting various events, initiatives and exhibitions with an advertising and commercial scope. From an examination of the Istituto Luce fashion films it is evident that the rich history and diversity of Italian cities was used to present Italian fashion as the result of, and as an integral part of, this plurality of centers, including the names of famous and established fashion houses in Italian cities, such as “Ventura” and “Marta Palmer” in Milan, or “The Tortonese” in Turin. “The Tortonese” had been known as “The Merveilleuse” and was forced to Italianize the name following the fascist policy of eliminating foreign terms from the Italian lexicon. The inauguration of a new branch of “The Tortonese” in Turin is filmed in a LUCE episode where we see, along with the exhibition of clothing in an elegant setting, the presence of several fascist representatives dressed in fascist uniforms (1938, B1319). Other LUCE episodes feature a fashion show in a prestigious hotel in Rome, or at the seaside with models in bathing suits, the wind blowing in their hair at the Lido di Roma (1935, B0714); an exhibition at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence focusing on “Mode d’altri tempi” (Fashion of other times, 1936, B0889); the breathtaking setting in Cernobbio and Como on the occasion of the “settimana della seta” (silk week); the Lido in Venice. Each of the cinegiornali presented fashion with a different setting, emphasizing the landscape or the architecture and its plurality. Indeed, Italian natural beauty and the architecture of the cities was part and parcel of the promotion of an Italian style at a time of Parisian domination. In 1939, Italy participated in the Universal Exposition in New York, where both fashion and textile were represented; a newsreel—“L’Alta Moda Italiana all’Esposizione Universale,” 1939, B1543—documented the Italian fashion show. Used to entertain, inform, advertise and document fascist policies on fashion, the fashion films in the cinegiornali are also testimony to the vivacity of an Italian film production that even under the dictates of a fascist regime that very attentive to what the Italian public saw on the silver screen nevertheless succeeded in engineering aesthetic innovations in filmmaking practice. We will find similar innovatory practices in the cinema of the second wave of Futurism, to which we now turn.

Rhythms of the modern city: fashion in Corrado D’Errico’s Stramilano (1929) [The sixth art] will be a superb conciliation of the Rhythms of Space (The Plastic Art) and the Rhythms of Time (Music and Poetry). […] The new manifestation of Art should really be more precisely a Painting and a Sculpture developing in Time, as in music and poetry, which realize themselves by transforming air into rhythm for the duration of their execution […] The Cinematograph is thus the theatre of a new Pantomime, consecrated Painting in motion. (Riciotto Canudo)

Fashion, Film, Modernity, under Fascism


From the first light of the day when its steel world wakes up, the life of a big station beats the rhythms of the breath of a huge metropolis. (Corrado D’Errico, Intertitle of Ritmi di stazione [Rhythms of a Railway Station], 1933)

Born in Italy but educated and active in France, Riciotto Canudo was an early film scholar. In a well-known essay entitled “La naissance d’un sixième Art: Essay sur le Cinématographe” (1911), he examines how film can be the meeting point of space and time and how the rhythms of both establish the tempo and a new dimension of lived space. This definition is particularly relevant for a film he made in 1929 about Milan entitled Stramilano (SuperMilan), directed by Corrado d’Errico (1902–41). D’Errico was a journalist, filmmaker and collaborator of film director Mario Camerini. For the Istituto Luce in 1933, he directed a documentary entitled Ritmi di stazione (Rhythms of a Railway Station) about Rome’s new and modern Termini station. As film historian Leonardo Quaresima has pointed out, the cinematic production of what has been called Second Wave Futurism, to which films like Stramilano and Ritmi di stazione belong aesthetically, is an area of film scholarship that has, until recently, been largely neglected. These films and many other examples testify once again to a high level of film experimentation in fascist Italy, as we can see in the periodicals of the time specializing in cinema, such as the Roman fascist weekly, Quadrivio. It is in Quadrivio that Francesco Passinetti offers an interesting map of the short films made by several cineclubs active among university students. Many of these titles deal with life in the city: Ritmi di una grande città (Rhythms of a Great City), made in 1933; Venezia numero due (Venice Number Two) and Una città che vive (A City That Lives), both made in 1934. These Italian productions can also be better understood if located in the wider context of the international productions by Walter Ruttmann, such as Berlin. Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Great City), made in 1927, and the earlier rhythmic cinematic experimentations of Fernand Léger and Hans Richter. Ruttman, was invited by the fascist regime to direct a film entitled Acciaio (Steel, Cines 1933), based on a short story by Luigi Pirandello “Giuoca, Pietro!” (Play, Pietro!).14 As noted for the Luce’s fashion films, we see here how national and nationalist interests live side by side with international collaborations. Closer to home, Stramilano is a portrait of daily life in the city from dawn until night. This film expands the horizon of investigating fashion in relation to film and the city, and the city and fashion. D’Errico’s film, in fact, includes two long episodes, one dedicated to the production of textiles, the other to a fashion show in a prestigious Maison in Milan. But before discussing the fashion show in D’Errico’s film, let us turn to what comes before it. Milan appears as a modern and industrious city. The pace of the film is quite frenetic; images of factories and machines alternate with those from nature, close-ups of animals and cows, the image of a food market, and trams running toward the viewers. At the beginning, we see a medium shot of the garbage collectors who clean the city streets early in the morning when the city is enveloped in fog. This is certainly a shot that recalls one of Michelangelo Antonioni’s early documentaries, to which we will refer in the following chapter. At times the factories are framed in


Italian Style

such a way as to resemble abstract paintings, which will be another characteristic of Antonioni’s filmmaking. After this, a long sequence follows the production of textiles, one of the regime’s commercial success stories. We move from inside the factory, where we see a cascade of fabric and cloth, different textiles that fill the screen, as in the case of a print fabric that morphs into the screen, to the warehouse where the fabric is packaged and ready to be sent. Here we see men and women working and moving among the hundreds of packages to be sent to shops and fashion houses. Immediately after the intense spectacle of textile production, which presents Milan as the center of modernization and work, we are introduced to a sophisticated locale. Here we find three elegant young women, the customers waiting to view the clothes worn by the models about to parade before them. A more mature woman, who seems to be in charge of the house, enters with the models. From the pictures published in several fashion magazines of the time she would seem to be Marta Palmer, a famous and creative dressmaker who had been active since the 1920s and had been very keen to explore clothing as a form of art. Her casa di moda had already been featured, in 1919, in the periodical La Fiaccola. Rassegna Femminile d’Italianità, in an article by Elisa Albano where she describes Palmer’s atelier, frequented by painters, musicians and writers, as an expression of her creativity in a space where she herself exhibits dolls dressed in children’s clothing. She adds that: Women who are young, beautiful, ugly and more mature, slender and […] shy and aggressive, intelligent and ordinary, bourgeois, aristocratic, artistic come and go to Palmer and ask her advice, directions and definitive decisions for how to dress with taste, in order to be certain to interpret their type in the style of dress, as it is the right aspiration for any woman, after the famous creation of Eve who started clothing and then fashion. […] her hands [Palmer’s], her brain, her fantasy are continuously running, producing rich fabrics, clothes that are masterpieces of grace, original draping, pleats never seen, new combinations of style and colors […].15

The article in question shows the artist and entrepreneur Maria Monaci Gallenga, who became well known for her textile design, wearing, and graciously posing with, a Marta Palmer dress whose print recalls Gallenga’s fabric. Ten years later, Palmer also stressed an international vision of fashion, arguing that “copying” was an integral part of fashion design and that perhaps it was an illusion to think of essential and original clothing that did not include various references to others’ designs (but she also maintained that dresses such as her own “Ball day” were not copied).16 The fashion show in Stramilano is elegantly staged in an intimate setting. The models’ gait is flattering, almost flirtatious; every gesture calls attention to a particular detail of the dress. The gowns are in shiny satin, fur trims and opulent collars accompanied by accessories such as beautiful big fans in feathers or lace. Some of the models seem to walk so lightly that they resemble ballerinas. One customer in particular is singled out by the camera; we see her posing like a movie star while she attentively examines the clothes as they flow and flatter the model’s figure. Following the parade, we see four models standing still in front of the camera, filmed in full length, attentive

Fashion, Film, Modernity, under Fascism


to the capturing of details of cut, decoration and print fabrics. Later, the designer herself—Palmer—shows the opulent and soft fabric to her clients. The fabric here takes center stage, thus going back to the previous episode of the film, which focused on the production of textile and suggesting how its production is the foundation of dress. There is no doubt that the film is there to advertise Milan as a vibrant and modern city on a par with other important European metropolises. However, more than just an exercise in promotion, its formal and aesthetic accomplishments make the film remarkable. The film juxtaposes factory workers, laborers, passersby in the misty atmosphere of the city early in the morning, tram drivers and market vendors, models in elegant settings, a fashion school, a night club, musicians and dancers. Above all, it juxtaposes people who seem to be stage actors with people crowding the streets or going about their daily activities and work routines. The second part of the film opens with an episode dedicated to dance; here, too, we see dress and costume as key components of the dancers’ graceful movement and rhythm. Some of the shots recall early experiments in filmmaking, when a static camera captured movement through the flow of fabric and cloth, as in Louie Fuller’s dance style film. But here, of course, we are at another stage of filmmaking, and the camera moves, dances, travels, is positioned on trucks and, in other experiments, on airplanes, to follow the rhythms and speed of modern life. Fashion here adapts to the svelte and dynamic silhouette of an urban woman who is eager to be beautiful and part of the social scene. The film has, in fact, other shots, in dance clubs where young people meet and, towards the end, shots of intermittent lights on a dark screen; and in a dark Milan we see advertising signs (Fiat, Brill, Magnesia and so on). Milan appears for sure as a super city, a city of fashion and film, where fashion and film are inextricably bound together.

Contessa di Parma (Alessandro Blasetti, 1937): a manifesto for the promotion of Italian fashion and Turin as a fashion city The essential issue can be stated thus: America is young while Europe is very old. The respective audiences suffer from this situation, even as far as a simple spectacular form of entertainment is concerned. It has been our good luck, with fascism, that Italy is on its own and is extraneous from other devastating trends. In this way, our situation lends itself to a wider and more autonomous movement in cinematography. Is it perhaps heresy to affirm that despite the obvious differences between different races, the spirit, mentality and temperament of Italian youth is closer to that of the US than that of Russia, Germany, France, and Spain? (Vittorio Mussolini, “Emancipazione del cinema italiano”, Emancipation of Italian cinema, 1936)


Italian Style Blasetti said that the reason he made Contessa di Parma was that he wanted to make a film in the American style, a film with important and sophisticated environments, with refined dialogues, with a unique ambiance to demonstrate that in Italy one could make a film on that level. (Stefano Della Casa, 143)17

The myth of youth that had occupied fascist propaganda and rhetoric in several fields is singled out above by Vittorio Mussolini as the common ground for two “young” countries: the United States of America and fascist Italy. It is through a closer relationship between Cinecittà and Hollywood that the “emancipation of Italian cinema” can be achieved. As we have seen in the LUCE’s fashion films, and especially those exhibiting staged and choreographed fashion shows, US films, in the form of both features and newsreels, were the models on which Italian fashion drew. Several steps taken by the fascist regime illustrate how its attempt to institutionalize the construction of both a national cinema and a national fashion went hand in hand with the projection of an attractive and modern image of Italy and Italians: Italy as a youthful and energetic nation. The interaction of fashion and film in fascist Italy was both a central component of the nationalist project the regime made its own and a reflection of a broader European and transatlantic negotiation with modernity, capitalism, consumption and national identity. Italian fascism knew well the power of the image. Cinema, under fascism, became a sort of “National popular literature,” able to reach out and support the interclass dreams of people living both in the countryside and in urban areas. Fascistproduced versions of Hollywood’s sophisticated comedies, known as white telephone films, were the kind of entertainment that influenced the masses in a seamless way. Blasetti, who directed Contessa di Parma and many other films under fascism, said that it was bad taste to make a film that was overtly political or propagandist. From 1932 onward, Luigi Freddi acted as general director of cinematography at Cinecittà, the headquarters of fascist cinema in Rome. He loved international cinema and explicitly invited Italian filmmakers—as too did Vittorio Mussolini in the pages of the journal Cinema—to pay attention to Hollywood’s sophisticated comedies and musicals. In addition, it was in the 1930s that an intense debate on décor, costume and set-design took place in the pages of magazines such as Domus and Casabella, and also in fashion periodicals. In this debate, the set designer for Blasetti’s Contessa di Parma, Enrico Paolucci, who was much praised for his work, represented one of the most interesting examples of the Italian route to modernity by way of Hollywood.18 Set in a fashion house in Turin—the Italian capital of fashion, chosen by the regime and where the official initiatives of the ENM were held—Contessa di Parma offers a useful and rich standpoint that illustrates and documents fascist politics on fashion, the regime’s quest to create a national fashion, and how this quest was interrelated with other activities such as sport and the development of new cultural models. Blasetti’s film shares similarities with Hollywood films such as Roberta (1934, William Seiter) insofar as it is an attempt to advertise national fashion: American fashion versus Parisian. But, of course, Contessa di Parma is something different from merely a

Fashion, Film, Modernity, under Fascism

Figure 9  Establishing Shots, Contessa di Parma, dir. A. Blasetti.

Figure 10  Establishing Shots, Contessa di Parma, dir. A. Blasetti.

Figure 11  Marcella modeling the dress, Contessa di Parma.



Italian Style

remake of an American commercial film. Rather, it is a film whose subtle and hidden complexities can be seen only through the lens of fashion and fashion’s interrelations with gender and politics. This is a film that reveals the manipulative power of the media in a totalitarian regime; but, just as importantly, in giving hints of the entrepreneurial quality and role of women who worked in the fashion apparel industry, it also presents interesting twists in gender relations and representation. Of interest, then, is the representation of gender relations offered by the film in which, rather than a unified model of female identity, we see several models. Present in the film are several identities—differing in age and economic power—that portray a mixture of traditional female roles, strong enough not to be pulled apart by the quest for independence and self-determination. Indeed, Blasetti’s cinematic eye surveys a sophisticated terrain in which one can explore both the politics and aesthetics of representation of gender and its interrelations with fashion. The film’s establishing shots are images of Art Deco buildings onto which credits are projected as if they were advertising signs. These are illuminated against the dark background so that the images have a pictorial quality and transmit an aura of both tradition and modernity. The establishing shots also introduce a commercial message: we are informed, first, that the clothes in the film have been supplied by Mattè, a well-known fashion house in Turin, and, second, that the fur coats worn in the film are from Viscardi, which had successful branches in Rome and Turin.19 In addition, through these titles we are also informed that all the costumes in the film have received the ENM stamp of approval by way of a certificate of guarantee. Further confirmation that this is designed to be a film with domestic concerns is found in the rational architecture of the buildings in the opening shots, which resembles that of the buildings in the LUCE newsreels that chronicled and publicized the national exhibitions of fashion and textile held in Turin at the Palazzo della moda. The film is the love story of Gino Vanni (Antonio Centa), a stylish and handsome football player in the Italian national team who looks more like a male model, and a mannequin, Marcella (Elisa Cegani), in the guise of an aristocrat. This guise is supplied by the very elegant dress she wears, which bears the name of Contessa di Parma. She is wearing this dress at the very beginning of the film when she first exchanges glances with Gino. Despite the predictability of this love story and its happy ending, the plot reveals interesting aspects of gender relations. From the start, the viewer enters a fashion house and sees its patronizing director, who is depicted as a faithful supporter of French fashion, seduced by its allure and chic. The viewer, for these films mainly female, also becomes immediately aware that the director treats the mannequins as commodities, there to serve the store’s advertising purposes. Throughout the film, the director of the Maison is portrayed as effeminate and pretentious, dropping French words here and there in his conversation. His entire persona and affected mannerisms and masculinity are depicted as a caricature. Even the name of the firm he directs has a French name, Printemps, like the well-known Parisian department store. When at the beginning of the film one of the employees of the fashion house informs him that a new owner, from Milan, the widow Marta Rossi, has acquired the business and

Fashion, Film, Modernity, under Fascism


that she is on her way to the atelier, he promptly answers that he has no time for her (or anybody from Milan)—he is about to leave for Paris and needs to buy his ticket at once; and he says: “Forget Milan, I am leaving for Paris.” He delivers this line with an air of arrogance and mystery that is soon to be made an object of ridicule by his affected and pretentious demeanor. Unlike this director, the true aristocrats appearing in the film are down on their luck, chic solely by virtue of their family names. These are aristocrats on a downward slide, forced to do what, for them, is demeaning work. In fact, circumstances dictate that they cannot hide their desperate need for money, and are forced to sell their titles and agree to become paid escorts for the fashion models at the high society balls and horse races where fashion houses show off their clothing lines. This was an established practice that French couturiers implemented as a marketing strategy for selling their designs. Models would parade in public spaces frequented by well-to-do aristocrats. In Contessa di Parma the models have to pretend to be in the company of the gentlemen, so it is a fashion show in disguise. The interior of the fashion house is refined and elegant, resembling the photographs of interiors depicted in Domus, where space was devoted to the presentation and display of fashion and clothing. Marta Rossi, the new Milanese boss, happens to be the wealthy aunt of Gino, the male protagonist. She is very masculine, and depicted as an independent and determined business woman who has at heart the project of Italianizing Italian fashion and its marketing strategies. Most importantly, she feels no sense of inferiority toward French couture, convinced as she is of the high quality of Italian clothing. Here, already, we see a twist in gender representation. Coming from Milan, the city that, no less than Turin, had a wellestablished tradition in fashion and textiles (which is why the regime’s choice of Turin rather than Milan as the official capital of fashion generated some resentment in the Lombard city), Rossi is shown to have the managerial and advertising skills completely lacking in the male manager, who exhibits an extreme case of love of all things French, and whose obsession consists in passively copying Paris fashion. The fact that a woman is chosen to represent this new entrepreneurial Italian fashion is not altogether surprising, given that women had been at the head of fashion and design in Italy since the 1910s. In the film, the female characters are, indeed, portrayed as innovators who have the better understanding of the facts of commercial life, which they know does not consist solely in glamorous gatherings of high-flying socialites. Female characters, then, come out of this film much better than their male counterparts. Although the new owner, Rossi, shows a greater sense of solidarity with the women working as models at the firm—which she has renamed Magazzini Primavera, Italianizing the name—she nevertheless has a hasty manner. But her virile manner is not to be confused with that of the 1920s maschietta, whose slender, young and sexy image was condemned by the regime. Rossi’s manliness proves to be a positive plus for the success of her business, while at the same time never being a source of any attraction or sex appeal. She is an older woman, content not to be forced to appear younger than she is in her choice of clothes, hairstyle, and makeup. She has the effect of reassuring both the audience and her employers with her motherly and yet authoritarian figure. By contrast, the former


Italian Style

Francophile manager, with his effeminate manners, a paternalistic attitude and habit of overtly treating the models as objects, comes off decidedly second best. At the beginning of the film, when we first encounter Marcella, the female protagonist, the director of the fashion house is introducing her, with another model, to the two aristocrats who have fallen on hard times and who have been hired to accompany them to a ball at the Opera and, the following day, to the horse races at Mirafiori. At the ball, Marcella is wearing the evening gown whose name (as previously mentioned) is a French aristocratic title, Countesse de Parme. Note that the original French name for the gown is then changed into Italian, as is the case for all the other terms in the film, thus following the process of “Italianization” of the fashion lexicon prescribed by the regime. As they dance, the models at the ball are instructed to slip their firm’s business card into the pockets of the tuxedos worn by their wealthy dance partners. This, and other French-inspired strategies, are encouraged by the “bad guy” of the film, the former manager of Printemps. However, in commercial terms, these strategies are seen to be a failure, as the models complain of being treated like commodities to be used by males looking for sexual amusement and with little interest in buying clothes for their wives. Indeed, from the opening shots of the film, Marcella is depicted as a young woman who rejects the logic of being commodified simply by virtue of being a model and a beautiful woman; and, in fact, while they are driving towards the horse races at Mirafiori, where she will later meet Gino, she states that she is not interested in engaging herself in any intimate conversation or relationship with her male partner. As a response to this, the duke accompanying Marcella says to her: “That dress you’re wearing has given you airs above your station, remember you are just a poor model.” To this she promptly replies that it is he rather than she who is at the low end of things since he has agreed to accompany her to social gatherings only to be able to pay off his debts. Marcella adds that hers is a job that she performs with dignity, and for which she earns money, whereas the aristocrats like the fallen duke have lost all dignity. It is at this point, as they arrive at their destination, that the duke, angered by her un-servile and feisty behavior, leaves Marcella alone in the car. While alone in the car, certainly not the ideal place to be seen showing off the clothing of Printemps, Marcella sees Gino, with whom she had already exchanged a few admiring glances at the Opera the night before. Confirmation of Marcella’s determination not to be considered solely as a sexual object comes with her claim that her need to work in order to make a living does not mean that she must accept being put in a weaker position and the target of sexual harassment. (This had been, in fact, her reaction, in the middle of the film, to the advertising campaign of Printemps that took place at a ball where models promoted the evening wear of the Maison’s collection and the male guests showed more interest in the model’s bodies than in buying the clothes that were destined for their respective wives.) It is at this point that Rossi accuses the former manager of incompetence and suggests that rather than using balls to publicize the company’s clothes they organize a fashion show in the trendy ski resort of Sestriéres. Especially during the autarchic phase, shows like this took place during the national exhibitions organized by the

Fashion, Film, Modernity, under Fascism


ENM in Turin, in local branches of the Rinascente department store, at Mirafiori, in Como, Rome, at the Excelsior Hotel in Venice and so forth. From her first meeting with the new Milanese owner, Marcella is considered her protégée. One of the reasons for the immediate sympathy established between the two women is that Marcella is wearing a suit that she wore for a show, borrowed from the collection sent from Milan by the new owner. Later, she wears it on her first date with the football player, who still believes, deceived by her clothes, that she is an aristocrat. But as she enters Gino’s car she accidentally rips the upper sleeve of the dress, and is now terrified by what has happened. It is interesting that an accident such as this marks a shift in the narrative of the film (a detail that will recur in another film, Grandi Magazzini,), but it also points to the dynamic between on the one hand fashion as a personal and embodied experience, and on the other fashion as an industry— the overarching framework of the film. Marcella’s outfit costs, in fact, 2,500 Lire, a substantial amount if we consider that 1,000 Lire a month, as a popular song of the day tells us, was considered a high salary. The outfit itself is of black silky velvet and features a jacket with a revers in white ermine. This is something that Marcella could never afford. In fact, on her following date with Gino, she timidly tries to reveal her true identity when she tells him that on this occasion she is wearing a 200 Lire dress, something that a milliner, or modest seamstress, or model would be able to afford. To this, Gino, fast establishing himself as the male hero of the film, promptly responds by saying that it is not the price of the dress that reveals the style of the wearer, it is the person wearing it who can ensure the attractiveness of any outfit, expensive or not. Gino adds, however, that he would never, in any case, be interested in going out with somebody like a seamstress or, even worse, someone with a dubious reputation, like a model. At this point Marcella feels ashamed of her real identity, and decides not to reveal it in order to be able to continue her relationship with Gino. Her fear is that it is the mysterious “countess” who is attracting Gino’s imagination, more than the brava ragazza (good girl) who makes polpette (meatballs), as is suggested by the football player’s aunt, Marta Rossi. Titles and appearances, then, play a huge role in this film, with aristocratic titles and exotic names given to dresses being shown in the film as devices for attracting possible buyers. Thus, the film seeks to persuade us that the quality and style of clothes made in Italy are not inferior to, or less attractive than, French garments. This agenda becomes clear when, during a fashion show in the now renamed Primavera fashion house, the Francophile former manager claims that the “chic” of the clothes on display from the new collection is such as to convince him that he is breathing Paris’s sophisticated air. At this, one of the assistants remarks that the dresses in the show come not from Paris but from Milan. Faced with this revelation, the manager is so disconcerted that he disdainfully says that he has changed his mind and does not like the new collection any more. By exaggerating the manager’s Francophile posturing to such a degree that he becomes a caricature, the film leads the viewer to condemn all of his actions and view his opinions as completely irrational, especially when we see the actual beauty of the chic outfits as they appear on the screen. In displaying luxurious and elegant female and male clothing—Gino, too, is impeccable in his well-tailored


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suits, complemented with fine accessories like the hats or snugly fitting leather gloves he wears—the film becomes a powerful advertisement for Italian fashion and style. In one sequence, Marcella and Gino are shown dressed in the same unisex mode. Through its narrative techniques of the comedy of errors and the popular love story format it adopts, the film attracted big audiences, especially among women, and sent a message whose efficacy was more powerful than that of other media. Blasetti himself, in an interview, affirmed that his film was tangible proof that fascism took very seriously the idea of promoting and building a national fashion. He added that at that particular point in his career he was in need of work, and making a film with the attractive ingredients of Contessa di Parma was a recipe for guaranteed success and pecuniary reward. Blasetti’s film can be considered the Italian counterpart of the Hollywood films, mentioned above, that adopted similar techniques, designed to give the best possible visibility and publicity to the clothes on display, such as close-ups of details emphasizing the cut, decoration and accessories of the outfits. In fact, in the way in which the costumes worn by Marcella are filmed, dwelling on their seductive power, this is a film that leaves a very strong impression on the viewer. When asked in an interview about the provincialism of Italian fashion in the 1930s, Blasetti replied: “I never believed that Italian fashion had been literally negative. Even then it had its positive side and I remember beautiful toilettes, of good taste too, that were prepared for my characters.”20 Marcella’s black velvet suit, ermine trimmed, fitted jacket, and her black beret with a light and transparent black half-veil delicately touching the white revers of her jacket represent the height of her elegance, her status and her seductive power. Here, the sophisticated use of the camera plays its part as angles, and close, medium and long shots all ensure that the audience gets a complete picture of the details of her outfit, almost to the point of fixation. Even the tear on the jacket’s sleeve provides an opportunity to emphasize with and revisit the seductive power of the dress. The audience, then, is put in the position of being able to gauge every possible nuance of the dress and “assess the exactness of its fit”, so that it could either be acquired by wealthy women, so promoting domestic production and sales (remembering the name of the fashion house given at the beginning of the film), or copied by skilled dressmakers for less wealthy customers, but nevertheless “Made in Italy.” This ploy reaches a climax in the grand finale of the film—the fashion show of the entire collection presented at Sestriéres, where the various narrative threads come together. (Again, here, we find a context and advertising techniques very similar to those analyzed by Charlotte Herzog, in “Powder Puff Promotion: The Fashion Show-in-the-film”, from American films such as Stolen Holidays, or others in which fashion shows are part of the film narrative.) Now, at the fashion show organized at the ski resort chosen by the new management, the camera cuts backstage to where Marcella and her fellow mannequins are changing their clothes and interacting with other characters. At this point, the narrative of the fashion house and that of Marcella and Gino intersect and find their respective moments of denouement. The audience’s enthusiastic reaction to the show is the forerunner of the collection’s commercial

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success, and the two lovers, Marcella and Gino, after the comedy of errors, outlined below, cement their relationship on solid ground. In the scene backstage, Marcella says to Gino, who has still not understood that she is merely a model wearing a wedding gown: “You don’t get it, I’m a model, a model.” Contessa di Parma has a few elements in common with Seiter’s Roberta: an overt appreciation of women’s work, the entrepreneurial quality of the owner of the maison, the work of the models seen as equally dignifying as other jobs, and a very strong anti-French narrative at the center of the film, very much in line with the intent of the regime to nationalize Italian fashion and control both the importing of French couture and its invasive presence. In its anti-French overtones, Contessa di Parma, is also a prelude to the strong anti-French polemic we will find in Blasetti’s historical film Ettore Fieramosca, made in 1938, about the Disfida di Barletta, the story of a duel fought out between Italian and French knights, and won, against all the odds, by the Italians. Gino Sensani, who made a great contribution to the profession of costume designer in the Italian film industry, made the costumes for the film. Through the fashion show in film, both Contessa and Roberta link fashion with national identity. These fashion shows, as shown in the films, are not mere spectacles or parades of beautiful clothes. Rather, they perform modernity, movement and dynamism, gender and national identity. In Roberta, for example, before starting the fashion show, the models are presented to the audience both in the film and outside it, all of them standing motionless as if they were mannequins in a shop window. Each model is identified with a different type of woman and sport. This sequence is particularly significant because of the style of clothing shown and presented by Fred Astaire (Huck Haines), who comments by way of song on the outfits worn by the six models. This sequence is the casual version of the ensuing elegant fashion shows, which culminate with Ginger Rogers wearing a stunning and sophisticated white satin fox-trimmed outfit, one of the costumes provided for the film by Bernard Newman. Nothing illustrates better than the film’s twenty-minute-long fashion show how fashion, film and national identity are interrelated in Hollywood films. The motionless models wearing the pants, shorts, bifurcated garments, and casual wear that were becoming popular in the United States and Europe as images of the modern and young; Fred Astaire, a singing and conducting master of ceremonies, presenting the collection as quintessentially American. The fashion show reaches its climax with the grand finale, the duet between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This is clearly a ploy to sell American fashion and, with it, “Americanness”, and a modern femininity that is appealing but above all on a par with French fashion.21 Although “entertainment” films, they nevertheless offer us a close-up view of their formal sophistication. Roberta and Contessa di Parma are tangible examples of the formal and stylistic investigations that were characteristic of the world cinema of the time. Indeed, Rohdie has argued that the development of Italian cinema in 1930s “mirrored the cinema of France and most particularly the cinema of the United States, that is, it shared the same classicism and stylistic forms,” and he calls this “a sign of the times”. From this perspective, we can see how Blasetti’s Contessa di Parma is open


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to several layers of interpretation that allow us to identify an Italian way that draws on foreign inspiration while at the same time elaborating an autonomous filmmaking style, in this case the genre of the sophisticated comedy.22 The comedies made by Blasetti and Mario Camerini, as we will see in a moment, are also the foundations on which another well-known Italian genre, the postwar “commedia all’italiana,” was built. Returning to Contessa di Parma, we see that, following these lines, the narrative of the fashion show in the closing scenes of the film is tailored according to the tropes of a traditional story, the protagonist being a woman whose wardrobe features the clothing she has worn from the day of her debut in society. The show follows all the stages of her personal life, her first kiss, and on to marriage, concluding triumphantly with the protagonist—Marcella, of course—dressed as a bride. This is the moment of revelation also for Marcella and Gino who, although they do not realize it, are going to play bride and groom on the catwalk. Here, the camera cuts backstage again to Gino, who in order to make Marcella jealous announces to her (she is wearing a Russian-style suit with pants and a long Cossack jacket) that he is engaged to be married. As a rejoinder Marcella invents the lie that she, too, is getting married and wishes to show Gino her wedding dress in order to ask his opinion. It is here, still backstage, that the camera lingers once again on very elaborate shots of Marcella’s wedding dress, thanks to which the female audience can grasp the details at length—the fit, and the precious lace decorations that form part of the head gear and frame Marcella’s face in a wide-screen close-up. Suddenly, as they walk in close proximity, Marcella and Gino are literally transported onto center stage in front of the fashion show audience, thrust there by a stagehand acting on Marta Rossi’s orders (he has activated the circular moving stage on which the two soon-to-be lovers are standing). In the meantime, the film cuts backstage again and we see Marta Rossi, orchestrator of both the fashion show and the soon-to-happen wedding of her nephew and her protégée. The final scene is a close-up of both bride and groom, who are enthusiastically applauded by the audience, marking their appreciation of the show. The camera lingers on the bride’s dress from different angles showing and emphasizing the details of the gorgeous lace out of which it is made, the fabric of national pride and tradition, the most Italian of fabrics, often on display in exhibitions and magazines of the period. Lace also symbolically represented a strong link to tradition, to the fine regional craftsmanship that fascist policy aimed to valorize alongside its interest in experimentation and modernity. Indeed, feature films such as Contessa di Parma or, as we will see, Grandi Magazzini, are quintessential manifestations of fascism’s use of different and often contradictory features of an Italian culture and identity which encompassed the poles of both experimentalism and tradition. In Contessa di Parma, the overarching narrative of nationalism and the dynamics underlying the policy of autarchic fashion and propaganda feed into the narrative of the film itself. Despite this, Contessa di Parma is a multilayered film, having a bearing on questions of gender and class, and on various models of negotiation with modernity in a still highly patriarchical society.

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Grandi Magazzini (1939, Mario Camerini): fashion consumption, gender roles, and work in Milan She only wants to go to the best movie theaters where they play the best shows, and that’s where she ends up spending half her salary. But isn’t it like travelling, after all? Like taking voyages around the world? […] The novelty of it and the feeling of leisure begin at the entrance, in the lobby, which is usually spacious and adorned with columns, lit by heavy, luxurious chandeliers, and decorated with broad stucco moldings and publicity posters with gigantic headlines and colored drawings. (Ada Negri, “The Movies”, 1928)23

The film, Grandi Magazzini (1939), directed by Mario Camerini, offers a further illustration of the process of modernization translated into domestic terms. Set in a department store in Milan, Grandi Magazzini, a popular sentimental comedy, is the story of the love affair between a sales girl, Lauretta, (Assia Noris) and a delivery truck driver, Bruno, (Vittorio De Sica). Cinema in Italy had come gradually to represent an important component in the construction of a national popular culture, hitherto, according to Gramsci, completely lacking in Italy, especially when compared to France and England, where popular novels appealing to a wide readership had existed at least since the nineteenth century. Yet, as Gramsci noted, if the Italian culture industry had never really produced goods that the lower classes could consume this was not due to any lack of demand but to the way that culture in Italy had always been identified with high, rather than popular, culture. There certainly was, however, an appetite for popular culture among the Italian masses, an appetite which had only partially been met by the popular culture art forms then available, namely, translations of popular novels published for the French market. Films like Grandi Magazzini, and their obvious attraction for the popular classes, found a ready audience. The 1930s were, in fact, a period that saw a gradual broadening of the audience for films, especially the female audience. Many women became avid moviegoers and eager consumers of fiction and romance exactly like the typist described in Ada Negri’s short story “The Movies.” The culture of consumption and its appeal in a modern city had been the subject of The Ladies’ Paradise, by Emile Zola, the first novel to be set in a department store. As well as a symbol of the triumph of a capitalist society in full bloom, the novel is a very accurate survey of how marketing strategies, mechanisms of power, money, gender relations, and competition play themselves out against the background of one of the newly established department stores in the Paris of the Second Empire.24 By its very title, Camerini’s film calls one’s attention to the proliferation of department stores in urban Italy, especially Milan, and the subsequent birth of new models of consumption and lifestyle. In this way, and not only because it was a commercial success, it can be considered an example of a national-popular text and narrative. This characteristic is confirmed by the publication of the brochures, articles and cineromanzi that accompanied the film release. Indeed, the pieghevole (brochure)


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that accompanied Grandi Magazzini confirms how the producers of the film saw it as a kind of romanzo popolare (popular novel). One of the descriptions of the film stills illustrating the brochure, in fact, says: [This is] a film that as well as having all the strengths of refined humor also has a new take on human feelings. Grande Magazzini has the delicacy of a 19th century novel and the agility of a modern story […]. It shows the tumbling of feelings and passions against the background of a large modern store. It is a drama within a comedy, a comedy that touches on the dramatic.25 (emphasis added)

In addition, several contrasting factors render Camerini’s film worth analyzing in depth. First of all, the film was produced during the most intense phase of development of the department store and during that of the investments made by the regime in mass media, sport, cinema, radio and fashion, representing the means through which it aimed to construct and spread a modern image of Italy both domestically and abroad. Although the relationship between Bruno and Lauretta seems to fit the traditional genre of a story with a happy ending—in which good triumphs over evil, and the corruption inside the community where they both work is exposed and punished—they are, nonetheless, something more than caricatures of the good boy and girl next door. They are credible characters, easy for people to identify with, especially for women who may have been working in similar environments, or for those aspiring to do so. In fact, the issues of the monthly magazine La Famiglia Rinascente-UPIM, whose readership was composed of the personnel working in the department stores, contain several announcements of marriages between the employees of the store. The intended message, here, is clear, of course: namely, that working for a large department store was like belonging to a family, or at least a to close-knit community. The word famiglia appears in the title of the magazine to reflect the employees’ de facto affiliation with the Rinascente-UPIM and to the paternalistic and hierarchical view according to which employees should know their place within the structure of the “family” (which mirrored the fascist hierarchical structure). The magazine goes on to report on the many social activities and gatherings of the store personnel, and trips made to visit the birth place of Il Duce in Predappio. Faithfully reproduced in Camerini’s film are the photographs we find in the magazine of salesgirls wearing black satin uniforms with white collar and cuffs. But among the salesgirls of Grandi Magazzini the film shows us a sharp contrast between two opposing models of young women: on the one hand Lauretta and her roommate Emilia, who maintain until the end their ethical integrity; and on the other, the ruthless Anna, who leads a life well beyond the financial means allowed her by the salary of a shop girl. She leads, in fact, a glamorous life, and in order to do so she has no scruples about colluding with Bertini, the head of personnel, to become his accomplice in the fraudulent scheme to steal from the store packages destined for customers. With her extra income, Anna, who adopts diva-like attitudes, can afford a maid and imitate the upper-class lifestyle of the Hollywood actresses she has no doubt seen at the cinema. Lauretta and Emilia are portrayed as vulnerable subjects, both in moral and economic matters. It is here that the film gestures towards a critique of family

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organization and structure. Because of his infidelity, Emilia has left her husband, Maurizio, a window dresser, and does little to offer a reassuring picture of traditional family values. In fact, at the beginning of the film, when Bertini gives Emilia and Lauretta a ride back home, he is quick to let the young women know what he thinks about Emilia’s non-respectable and socially unacceptable marital situation. Attracted to Lauretta, he uses his remarks as an expedient to underline the vulnerability of the two young women living on their own, offering himself as a form of sneaky protection to Lauretta. Although confined to some of the interstices of the film, there are hints in Grandi Magazzini of new models of daily life and their connected problems, and at the relative sexual freedom enjoyed by women living on their own and building economic and personal independence. It was for the moral issues and class implications such as these that Grandi Magazzini failed to meet with the approval of either fascist officials or the Catholic Church. In fact, Camerini’s film, despite its commercial success, occasioned one fascist Minister to say: “If you continue to want to make films like this about young people who eat very little, we’ll stop you making them.”26 In contrast to Lauretta and Emilia, Anna appears to be portrayed as the victim of US-influenced consumerist values. The opposition played out in female types in Camerini’s film is similar to that of Roberto Rossellini’s masterpiece Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City), which includes the character of Pina, whose heroism is opposed to the cowardice of Marina, the Nazi collaborator. But unlike Open City, where Pina pays with her life, Camerini’s sentimental comedy shows Lauretta’s integrity and honesty in the end rewarded with marriage and the great prize of furnishings for the apartment where she and Bruno are going to settle. In addition, the film brings to viewers’ attention issues that are intrinsic to the social and personal sphere of women’s lives. On the one hand, Lauretta, the victim of sexual harassment by Bertini—who is always eager to take advantage of any moments of emotional and economic weakness—does manage to fend off Bertini’s advances; on the other, however, her vulnerability, the result of a modest salary that does not ensure her complete independence, is often laid bare. Lauretta is very much an in-between character, independent enough to share an apartment with Emilia instead of living with her parents, but not independent enough to afford the luxury of the ski outfit she sees on display in the department store where she works. Indeed, there are hints in the film that Emilia needs a second job to make ends meet: we sometimes see her at a sewing machine working on dresses she is copying from drawings hanging on the wall. In this way Lauretta and Emilia embody a new version of the figure of the sartina discussed in previous chapters. In fact, besides displaying traditional sewing skills they also work in the new space of the department store. Skiing is an important element in this film, and the ski outfit that Lauretta craves plays a key role in the narrative. As it does in Contessa di Parma, sport, with its links to fashion and modernity, plays a significant role in the development of the plot. This time, however, it is a recreational, and not a competitive team sport like soccer. Skiing was encouraged by the regime and was an important occasion for socialites such as Il Duce’s daughter, Edda Ciano. Blasetti illustrates this in setting the grand finale in the


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fashionable resort of Sestriéres. What Camerini exposes, however, is that skiing was a class-based activity that could be afforded only by a minority; a ski outfit cost, in fact, almost two-thirds of a salesgirl’s monthly salary, which was about 300 Lire. Often, in magazines, skiing is shown as the chic and trendy sports activity of the moment, offering an opportunity to imagine romantic escapes and wear fashionable outfits. In La Famiglia Rinascente-UPIM, skiing is even praised as the sport of the intelligent, since, unlike warm weather sports, skiing can be practiced only in the cold, when the prevailing human instinct is to stay indoors. The chance of a romantic escapade on the ski slopes is certainly in Anna’s mind when, within earshot of Lauretta, she invites Bruno to join her for a midnight run at a nearby resort. Jealous of Anna’s attempts to steal the man who has been attempting, unsuccessfully, to court her, Lauretta goes, herself, to the appointment, borrowing a ski outfit from the store with the intention of returning it on the following Monday. Lauretta’s romance with Bruno thus begins when she meets him in the mountains where he is expecting Anna. Too tired, however, after an exhausting evening spent on the dance floor, Anna does not keep the appointment, and turns out to be not, in fact, at all interested in Bruno. In the meantime, Lauretta has had the misfortune to tear the ski outfit she had borrowed, and needs more time, to repair it before taking it back to the store. Once again, the tearing of clothing is a recurrent shifting device in the narrative (in film and in literature, as we have seen in Pirandello), but also for the performance and role of the character. At the same time, a scandal erupts in the store around the theft of packages that, it has been discovered, were not delivered to their destinations. Bertini, who is the real culprit, but has found out that Lauretta borrowed the ski outfit, accuses her of being behind these thefts. Bruno is so shocked when he learns of Bertini’s suspicions that he breaks off his brief engagement with Lauretta. In the end, however, as can be imagined, Bruno uncovers the truth and exposes Bertini and Anna as the masterminds of the scheme. Justice is done, the guilty are punished and Bruno and Lauretta, naturally, can get married. But how is class represented in Camerini’s film? The contrast that gives structure to the entirety of the film is between the humbleness of working class lives and the glamor of the goods on display in the department store, and, incidentally, in the store executives’ spacious, refined and Art Deco furnished offices (once again, Paolucci was involved in designing the sets); but any suggestion of fracture within the world of the store is warded off by the good relationship that exists between Lauretta and Bruno and the top executives, something dwelt on by the film. Bertini, however, occupying as he does a middle rank on the social ladder, is shown by contrast as a distasteful and corrupt individual, out of line with the ethos of the store. We are led, then, toward a sympathetic and benevolent picture of the top executives, who at the end praise Bruno’s actions and promise, as a reward, to furnish his and Lauretta’s apartment. While “middle” figures like Bertini and his ally Anna are punished for their dishonesty, the final outcome is that the hierarchy within the firm is reinforced and unchallenged. In the end, the gesture the film makes towards concern with class conflict is diluted, and the power relationship that governs interactions between managerial and working classes boils down to

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the principle that the latter should be happy with what they are given by the upper classes (who will reward them if they do good deeds), and should refrain from desiring to join, or be assimilated by, the upper classes, even when they are seduced by the attractive display and allure generated by the commodities in the department store. The couples featured in the film are composed of social equals who share concerns common to people of the same class and experience, the same economic hardship, but know their place.27 At the end of Camerini’s film we are left with two sets of couples: one formed by Bruno and Lauretta; the other by Emilia, who has discovered she is pregnant, and Maurizio the window-dresser, with whom she has reunited. We see them standing outside one of the shop windows that Maurizio has created for the coming Christmas holiday, staring at a doll who dances in a circular fashion like a ballerina in a music box, surrounded by other toys and babies’ layettes, a reference to Emilia’s pregnancy. They all admire Maurizio’s presentation in the shop window as if they were curious passersby or potential customers. In these final images, the working classes seem to partake, if only figuratively, with their gaze, in the enjoyment of the luxurious commodities that lie well beyond the range of their pockets. What characterizes Camerini’s film is its sharp narrative sensibility and its delicate eye, which takes in the new role played by advertising and window dressing in the developing social and cultural space that was the Italy of the 1930s. In fact, Maurizio, a window dresser who also makes mannequins, is adamant that his work must be considered art. Maurizio’s mannequins find a counterpart in the real life installations that were displayed in the exhibitions and events organized by the regime in the 1930s, especially those supporting autarchic production, all of which showed how much care and attention was dedicated to display.28 In conclusion, then, Camerini’s film is also an important resource for understanding social and class dynamics in a modern city like Milan, one of the most prominent of Italian fashion cities.

Figure 12  Marcella and Gino as bride and groom in fashion show, Contessa di Parma.

Figure 13  Lauretta and Bruno discovering the label on the ski outfit Lauretta took from the store, Grandi magazzini.


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Epilogue: towards a new dawn Joan Crawford’s story seemed to complete the elegy of the disdainful face of inexpensive clothes, of the self-made girl. Summing up a thousand other stories that seemed dramatic and close to us, female clerks swarmed out of their offices after work firmly convinced that they looked like she did and deserved, as she did, a villa with a swimming pool in California. (Irene Brin) There is no doubt that fashion can work in the interest of cinema because it can bring a special interest in modern films especially if the audience knows that the clothing worn by actresses are a foretaste of the “collections” that the fashion houses will present for the season. (Lucio Ridenti)

Irene Brin, a sharp observer of her contemporary culture and style, in 1943 published, in the journal Cinema, an article entitled “La moda e il cinema” (Fashion and the cinema).29 In it, she stresses the popularity, especially among female audiences, of myths such as those created by the screen personae of Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Joan Crawford. In her opinion, and not surprisingly, their imported ideals of beauty and elegance exercised a stronger appeal and power of imitation on the Italian female audience than their homegrown domestic actresses, who then found themselves forced to imitate the glamor of their foreign co-workers. Several periodicals and fashion magazines dedicated a great deal of attention to the relationship between fashion and film, turning the iconic Hollywood stars into fashion models for glamorous dress and style. One of the many popular magazines of the Rizzoli empire, Sovrana, began to run a column entitled “Ombre e figure di Cinelandia” (Shadows and figures of Cinelandia), with romanticised biographies of the stars. As we have seen in this chapter, both fashion and film, as industries and cultures were crucial factors in the creation of an Italian identity through a complex process of knowing, imitating and elaborating on models of foreign imports, especially those from Hollywood. The first feature film of the Rizzoli company, “Novella Film,” was the successful La signora di tutti (Max Ophüls, Everybody’s Woman, 1934) with Isa Miranda, one of the Italian film stars, who was dressed in the film by another important Milan-based Italian fashion house, the Atelier Sandro Radice. La signora di tutti launched Isa Miranda as a star through the pages of the popular magazine, Novella, where cinema, the publishing industry, and fashion interconnected.30 This was the only film made in Italy by Ophüls, whose real name was Maximillian Oppenheimer. In a 1974 interview, referring to the time she went to Hollywood and to the often-made comparison between her and Hollywood stars, Isa Miranda says: “They tried to compare me with Marlene Dietrich, with Greta Garbo. I always refused. And when I went to Hollywood the first thing I said was: ‘Marlene Dietrich is marvelous, but I am Isa Miranda. And that’s that!’ ” (Miranda, 1974: 793).31 These were also the times in which the figure of the professional costume designer began to be credited in a film’s end titles. As we mentioned earlier, this was the case for

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Gino Carlo Sensani, who worked on historical films as well as several of Blasetti’s films. Blasetti himself recognized Sensani’s wonderful work in relation to his film La Corona di Ferro (The Iron Crown, 1941), saying that his costumes played a determining role in the figurative and visual language of the film. The architect Del Prato, who was, like Sensani, a teacher at the CSC, commented on the costume design thus: “With his costumes, Sensani introduced a number of inventions that although not entirely connected with the demands of the script nevertheless worked well because the film itself was a huge fable.”32 The CSC and Cinecittà became an important creative laboratory for the rise of the film costume designer as a profession. At this stage, costume design was most associated with historical films, many of which were produced in the 1930s and early 1940s, even during the war. Modern films such as Contessa di Parma or La signora di tutti showcased Italian-based fashion houses and were vehicles for advertising Italian fashion. The most important costume designers from this period apart from Sensani are: Maria de Matteis who was to work with Luchino Visconti on his Ossessione, Veniero Colasanti (on Caravaggio, 1941), who was also a teacher at the CSC, and Vittorio Nino Novarese (on Blasetti’s 1860 and Ettore Fieramosca).33 In 1943, in the midst of the Second World War, Ossessione came out, the first feature film made by Luchino Visconti. The film starred Clara Calamai and Massimo Girotti, who had already worked on several films, including Blasetti’s historical films. Some critics jokingly stated that neorealism began with the sleeveless white singlet exhibited on the body of Gino (played by Girotti), the male star. Visconti’s film was certainly a watershed and inaugurated a new era of filmmaking. The costume designer for the film, who worked closely with Visconti, was one of Sensani’s best students, Maria De Matteis. Ossessione still, after many decades, maintains a timeless beauty and rigor in its depiction of the barren Italian provincial landscapes that were so much in contrast to fascist rhetoric and images of the triumph of the modern, the urban, speed and light. Antonio Pietrangeli, who collaborated with Visconti and would become a director in his own right, wrote, in an article published in Cinema in 1942: Ossessione will be a film in which we will not see boarding-school girls, princes consorts, millionaires affected by tedium vitae but a whole disadorned humanity, bare, greedy, sensual and relentless—so rendered by a quotidian struggle for the existence and for the satisfaction of unruly instincts; a humanity that instinctively reacts to actions, without the mediated corrective of thought, but with that impetuous push according to which desiring and taking constitute a sole spontaneous act beyond good and evil.34

Despite its emphasis on poverty and desolation, the film is extremely elegant in its depiction of the simplicity and frugality of the landscape, environments and costumes. The passion and charisma of the actors make them stars, albeit in a different mode from those dressed in silk, feathers and flowers or an elegant tux. Theirs is an unseen elegance and rigor that will characterize all of Visconti’s films no matter what direction the plots take. The characters are depicted in their profound humanity, in all their


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weaknesses and desires. This is their beauty, which they retain all the more when they are defeated, as is so often the case with such renegade characters in Visconti’s films. Visconti, who had worked in Paris with Jean Renoir, explicitly discusses his ideas for a new cinema in his well-known article on “Il cinema antropomorfico.” Here, he says: I was led to cinema especially by the commitment to tell stories of living men, men who were alive in things, and not of things for themselves. […] The experience I had has taught me that the weight of the human being, his presence, is the only “thing” that really fills the frame; that he creates the environment, his living presence, and from the passions that agitate the environment it gains truth and importance.35

At the time of Ossessione, Clara Calamai, who played Gino’s love interest, Giovanna, was already known as a femme fatale, having played this role in the 1940 adaptation of Oxilia’s and Camasio’s play Addio Giovinezza (Farewell to Youth directed by Ferdinando Maria Poggioli, costumes by Gino Carlo Sensani) and in Blasetti’s La cena delle beffe (The Jester’s Banquet, 1941), where she appears for one second showing her naked breasts.36 But in Visconti’s film what is really new is the sexualized body of the male lead, Gino, and the way he is styled and framed. He is certainly the star of the film. He wears almost no clothes at the beginning of the film. To be exact he is shirtless, the shirt being the symbol of respectable masculinity. He advances towards the viewer in his sleeveless t-shirt, which is really his underwear, and a Borsalino style hat. He is a wanderer, but he is styled with garments that go in opposite directions. The Borsalino hat is in stark contrast to his shirtlessness (and jacketlessness). Later on in the film, when he joins another character, the Spaniard (Elio Marcuzzo), in the piazza performances, he has a cleaner look, wearing a sailor-like beret. Through the styling of Gino and the Spaniard the depiction of masculinity is simple, sexy, yet sophisticated, blurring the traditional boundaries in the way males presented themselves in public. The Borsalino hat reappears after the two lovers have murdered Giovanna’s boorish husband Bragana (Juan de Landa), in the central scene of the film. This time, Gino is wearing a very tight pin-striped suit, whose tight fit is unusual for the style of the male suit of the period. His clothes always enhance his sex appeal and eroticize his male body. A further detail in styling is also of note: when Gino decides to leave the house and his lover to go to the city of Ferrara, where he has a brief sexual encounter with a young woman dancer, Anita (Dhia Cristiani), still wearing the tight pin-striped suit, he also wears the beret. Once again there is something that is at odds with the notion of a coherent presentation of traditional masculinity. In fact, he has a sort of a childish air, when we see him eating an ice cream in the company of the young Anita. The way the camera eroticizes the presentation of Gino, calling attention to the male star and explicitly displaying homosexual attraction in the meeting between Gino and the Spaniard, is a first in Italian cinema. But more than sexuality or homoeroticism per se, what is compelling in the film is the styling of the characters, especially Gino. Interestingly, as we have seen in other examples mentioned in the chapter, inspiration

Fashion, Film, Modernity, under Fascism


came from abroad. Ossessione was an adaptation of James Cain’s American novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, published in 1934. Visconti revolutionized the original text by translating the Californian coast of the novel into the Po valley. The first American adaptation of the novel had in fact been made in 1946, with Lara Turner and John Garfield, directed by Tay Garnett. The very first adaptation was, however, a 1939 French version titled Le dernier Tornant (The Last Turning), directed by Pierre Chenal (and we must not forget the 1981 version with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, directed by Bob Rafaelson). The Visconti and American versions of the film are almost polar opposites. The scene in the 1946 version in which the drifter Franck (John Garfield) and Cora (Lara Turner) meet says it all. Cora appears on screen like a ray of light in the night, she is dressed in white, wearing shorts and heels, her coiffure is perfect, her nail polish shining bright. The scene carries none of the tension and drama of Ossessione, where the characters are dressed in dark colors, Giovanna is wearing an apron with a dress that shows her svelte body, and on her feet slippers open at the back that conjure up the tired gait of a frustrated housewife. In Visconti, the ray of light is Gino; it is through the décor and his shabby clothes that the actor’s body is eroticized. His unkempt beauty is what makes him sexy and desirable. The characters in Visconti’s Ossessione are desiring subjectivities, this is both their strength and fragility. In comparing the versions of the films, the cinematic revolution of Visconti appears even sharper, a revolution that was not so much in the plot as in the style and aesthetic of the film. The 1930s represented a key juncture, when concomitant factors and institutions came to the fore in what was to be the basis of a new cinematography. It is from this environment that the acclaimed directors of the postwar years, such as Rossellini, Antonioni, De Sanctis, and others will emerge and make their contributions to the golden age of Italian cinema. It is to this period that we now turn.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Luciano De Feo (1936), Cinema, I, 1, July 10, p. 5 (pp. 5–8). See E. Paulicelli (2004), Fashion under Fascism. Beyond the Black Shirt, Oxford: Berg, for a more extensive treatment of the role of the ENM. Emily Braun (2002), “The visual arts: modernism and fascism,” in Lyttleton Luigi Chiarini (1936), “Come si impara a fare il cinema,” in Cinema, reprinted in Orio Caldiron, ed., (2002), “Cinema” 1936–1943. Prima del Neorealismo, Rome: Fondazione Scuola Nazionale del Cinema, pp. 70–1. See George Mosse (1980), Masses and Man. Nationalist and Fascist Perceptions of Reality, New York; and (1996), The Image of Man. The Creation of Modern Masculinity, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Emilio Gentile (2002), “Fascism in power: the totalitarian experiment,” in Adrian Lyttleton, ed. (2002), pp. 139–74; and Gentile (2006), Il fascismo in tre capitoli, Bari: Laterza; Margherita Sarfatti had been a close friend and supporter of Mussolini especially in the beginning of his political career. See Cannistraro B and Sullivan, (1993) Il Duce’s Other Woman, New York: William Morrow and Company.

110 8

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Writing extensively on the notion of hegemony and common sense from a Marxist perspective, Antonio Gramsci, who was condemned to prison by the fascist regime, offered a lucid analysis of the process of fascistizazzione, the key role of culture and the need for the creation of an alternative culture to counteract the damage that had been inflicted by an authoritarian state. 9 Lyttelton (2002), “Introduction,” in Lyttleton, ed., Liberal and Fascist Italy. 1900–1945, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–17. 10 This is the point Bertellini raises when he writes: “Modernity […] has different sides and outcomes, including those that may not inspire tales of democratic access or interclass culture and mobility. Modernity may also display a wider variety of dynamics and paces, including those that do not rely on radical breaks from the past or that unfold over a longer span of time (Bertellini: 2013, p. 3). 11 P.L. Erbaggio (2013), “Nazionale Luce: A National Company with an International Reach,” in Bertellini, Italian Silent Cinema, pp. 221–31. 12 E. Wissinger (2015), This Year’s Model. Fashion, Media, and the Making of Glamour, New York: New York University Press, p. 69. 13 Ada Salvatore (1939), “La moda ieri e oggi,” Enciclopedia pratica della casa, vol. 1, Milan: Garzanti, pp. 531–2. 14 Pietro Garofalo (2002), “Seeing Red. The Soviet Influence on Italian Cinema in the Thirties,” in Jacqueline Reich and Garofalo, eds, Re-viewing Fascism. Italian Cinema, 1922–1943, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 223–49. 15 Elisa Albano, “Una casa di mode. Palmer” (1919), La Fiaccola. Rassegna Femminile d’Italianità, nos. 10, 11, 12, October, November, December. Milan and Rome: Editori Alfieri & Lacroix. I would like to thank Michela De Giorgio for sending me a copy of the article. 16 Marta Palmer (1929), “Esiste oggi una vera moda delle vesti?”, L’industria della moda 11:1 (January): 24, 27); and “I nostri modelli al Teatro della Moda di Milano”, L’Industria della moda, 11:5 (June): 20–1. 17 Stefano Della Casa (2005), “I circoli culturali torinesi negli anni trenta,” in F. Prono and Stefano Della Casa, eds, Alessandro Blasetti Contessa di Parma. La Modernità a Torino negli anni trenta, Turin 18 See also Lorenzo Ventavoli (2005), “Conversazioni con Enrico Paulucci,” in Della Casa and Prono, Alessandro Blasetti Contessa Di Parma, pp. 147–66. 19 The atelier Mattè was active between the 1930s and the 1950s. In Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Le amiche (1955), the atelier is mentioned in a conversation among the girlfriends, most of them part of the Turin socialite scene. Viscardi was founded in Turin in 1904, had a branch in Rome and closed at the beginning of the 1990s. 20 Interview with Alessandro Blasetti in Francesco Savio (1979), Cinecittà Anni Trenta. Parlano i protagonist del secondo cinema italiano, 1930–43, 3 vols. Rome: Bulzoni, pp. 135–6; Luca Verdone (1989), I Film di Alessandro Blasetti, intro. Gian Luigi Rondi, Rome: Gremese; Francesco Savio (1975), Ma l’amore no. Realismo, formalism, propaganda e telefoni bianchi nel cinema italiano di regime (1930-1943), Milan: Sonzogno; Landy, M.,(1986), Fascism in Film. The Italian Comercial Cinema 1931–1943. Princeton University Press. 21 A nationalist intent was part of the zeitgeist of the 1930s as can be seen in the Hollywood films of this period, and invested several countries that wanted to promote both their fashion industry and national identity. The promotion of a



24 25 26 27 28

29 30

31 32 33

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national fashion was a cultural, economic and a political project that could also be better understood in cross-cultural contexts. On the relationship between Italian cinema and foreign productions see Mino Argentieri, “Un lungo viaggio verso il realismo e oltre ancora” (2001), in the volume A. Blasetti edited by the Committee on Alessandro Blasetti’s Centenary, “Insieme a questo convincimento, che fa di Blasetti e della rivista ‘cinematografo” i progettisti di un futuro da costruire, c’è l’impulso non a imitare le più avanzate scuole straniere, ma a tesaurizzarne gli stimoli, le sollecitazioni. Che – si badi bene – attengono alla scrittura visiva e non all’essenza e al senso comune sprigionati dai film americani, tedeschi, francesi, svedesi e russi, studiati e amati” (p. 99), pp. 95–110. Ada Negri, “The Movies,” originally titled “Cinematografia,” in Corriere della sera (Milan, November 27, 1928), p. 3, translated by Robin Pickering-Iazzi, in Antonia Lant and Ingrid Periz, eds, (2006), Velvet Seat. Women’s Writing on the First Fifty Years of Cinema, New York: Verso, p. 112. Emile Zola (1995), The Ladies’ Paradise, trans. and intro. Brian Nelson Oxford: Oxford University Press. Quoted in Reich (2000), “Consuming Ideologies: Fascism, Commodification, and Female Subjectivity in Mario Camerini’s Grandi Magazzini,” in Robert Dombroski and Dino Cervigni, eds, Annali d’Italianistica, 16: 208. See Reich, 195–212. For the notion of social immobility in Grandi Magazzini, see Barbara Sparkman, “Shopping for Autarchy. Fascism and Reproductive Fantasy in Mario Camerini’s Grandi Magazzini,” in Reich and Garofalo, pp. 276-92. See Paulicelli (2004), “Nationalizing the Fashion Industry?” in Fashion under Fascism. Beyond the Black Shirt, Oxford: Berg, especially 116–20; and Jonathan Morris, “Le vetrine della moda” (2003), in M. Belfanti and F. Giusberti, eds, La Moda, Annali 19, Storia d’ Italia, pp. 835–61. Irene Brin (1981), Usi e costumi. 1920–1940, Palermo: Sellerio, 95; see also Mario Verdone, ed., (1950), La moda e il costume nel film, Rome: Bianco e Nero. The article by Brin on fashion and cinema is also reproduced in this collection. Sergio Toffetti (2011), “L’abito fa il Monaco: Percorsi tra moda e costume nel cinema italiano,” in the catalog Moda in Italia. 150 anni di eleganza 1861–2011, Edizioni Conde Nast, p. 43; see also in reference to Rizzoli, Antonella Pellizzari (2014), “Make-believe: Fashion and Cinelandia in Rizzoli’s Lei magazine (1933–38),” in Journal of Modern Italian Studies, special issue dedicated to Italian Fashion, ed., Paulicelli 20: 1: 34–52; see also Gundle (2013), Mussolini’s Dream Factory: Film Stardom in Fascist Italy, New York: Berghahn. Mario Lupano, Alessandra Vaccari, ed. (2009), Fashion at the Time of Fascism. Italian Modernist Lifestyle 1922–1943, Bologna: Damiani, p. 124. Adriana Berselli (2001), “Vestendo i miei ricordi” in A. Blasetti, p. 308. Costumes for cinema borrowed from the sartorie teatrali, such as the well-established one in Turin owned by Giovanni Devalle, had provided rentals for costumes in film production such as Cabiria, La Saga di Maciste etc.; in Rome there was the important sartorial company Caramba that provided costumes for La corona di ferro and Ettore Fieramosca by Blasetti. See Roberto Devalle (2006), “Torino anni Trenta: la moda italiana tra tentazioni parigine e volontà di primate,” in Della Casa and Prono, p. 127 and p. 132; Umberto Tirelli and Guido Vergani (1981), Vestire I sogni, Milan: Feltrinelli.


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34 Antonio Pietrangeli (1942), “Analisi spettrale del film realistico,” in Cinema, reproduced in Orio Caldiron, ed., pp. 250–1. 35 Luchino Visconti (1943), “Il cinema antropomorfico,” in Cinema, reproduced in Orio Calderon, ed., 286–7 36 David Forgacs (2002), “Sex in the Cinema. Regulations and Transgression in Italian Films, 1930–1943,” in Reich and Garofalo, Re-viewing Fascism, pp. 141–71; William Van Watson (2002), “Luchino Visconti’s (Homosexual) Ossessione,” in Reich and Garofalo, ibid., pp. 172–93.


Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion: The Films of Michelangelo Antonioni The fabric of film: Sette canne, un vestito (1949) The Padania folk feel the Po. We do not know exactly what this feeling consists of; we do know that it is in the air. (Michelangelo Antonioni 1939)1 Cinema, like painting, is a fundamentally figurative art, and has its own means of formal representation in the external appearance of nature and individuals, provided that [cinema] lets their interiority appear clearly. (Michelangelo Antonioni 1942)2 (emphasis added) If, in the midst of fascism and the Second World War, neorealism made its debut with the sleeveless white singlet worn by Gino (Massimo Girotti) in Visconti’s Ossessione, a few years later it was the magnificent opera coat with trimmed white fur worn by Paola Molon (Lucia Bosè) in Antonioni’s Cronaca di un amore (1950) that inaugurated a new era for Italy and a new cinematic language, of which Antonioni would be one of the authors. Script-writer Tonino Guerra, who collaborated on many of Antonioni’s films, has stated that the white luxurious opera coat that Bosè wears outside La Scala, accessorized with fabulous jewelry, is the quintessential symbol of a new dimension and depiction of cinematic reality. Bosè’s gestural performance as she drapes the coat around her body, surrounded by luxurious cars, wrote the first words of a new chapter in the art of filmmaking. No Italian film director more than Antonioni has had such a knowledge of, and sensibility for, fashion. As early as 1949, in one of his first documentaries—Sette canne, un vestito (Seven Reeds, One Dress)—he investigated the twin worlds of fashion and textile. As a manufacturing industry, as a macro structure of signification, fashion plays a prominent role in all Antonioni’s films. With the sole exception of Il mistero di Oberwald (The Oberwald Mystery 1980), a film in costume, Antonioni’s films focus entirely on the present and on the fashions of the time. Many of his characters are linked directly to the world of fashion. Examples would be Clelia in Le amiche (The Girlfriends 1955), or the photographer known as Thomas, in Blow-up (1966), a film inspired by David Bailey, the fashion photographer of swinging London, which


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featured iconic models of the time such as Veruska and the aspiring-to-be-a-model Jane Birkin, both of whom play themselves in the movie. Fashion and characters who work in and around the fashion industry are of interest to Antonioni, insofar as they are involved in professions that deal with appearances, media culture, and cinema. As Rohdie has noted: “the world of fashion has always fascinated Antonioni” (1990, 121), “it is the world of almost all of Antonioni’s main characters: film stars, fashion photographers, directors, architects, journalists, novelists, and, perhaps, to be included as well, stockbrokers” (L’eclisse, 1963) (88). It is far from surprising, then, that even today, Antonioni is, with Fellini, one of the most quoted sources of inspiration for fashion photography in contemporary fashion magazines, such as W or American Vogue, and for photographers, themselves, such as Deborah Turberville, who has expressed her admiration for Antonioni and has drawn inspiration from his films. In other instances, high fashion shoots reference the Italian La Dolce Vita, where sexiness, sophistication, beauty, and warmth are blended with the kind of ideal lifestyle that is the image of Italy. But there is also a modernist, timeless quality in Antonioni’s films that attracts more sophisticated viewers and consumers of images and fashion. His Italy is certainly not that of a stereotypical postcard and has different connotations to those of La Dolce Vita (which we will discuss in the following chapter). But let us go back to his beginnings as a filmmaker. Antonioni wrote extensively about cinema in the 1930s; he also collaborated on cinematic projects with Roberto Rossellini, and was assistant director on Marcel Carné’s Les Visiteurs du soir (1942). He made his first feature film in 1950, Cronaca di un amore, but prior to that he had made a series of short documentaries, which can be seen as a foretaste of his later works. Indeed, his 1940s documentaries are important cinematic works in themselves. Film historian Leonardo Quaresima has argued: They [the documentaries] are entirely autonomous works, with their own sense of identity. In them we see—already fully formed—methods, aesthetic criteria and stylistic principles that will continue to manifest themselves in the later films— while, of course, continuing to evolve, mutate and be modified, as we would expect. (Quaresima: 2011, 131)

His first documentary was “Gente del Po,” made in 1947, a remarkable account of the lives of people who settled in the geographical region of the Po valley. His reflections about making a film about the Po River were contained in an article he published in Cinema, quoted above. Already, we find in this film several stylistic features that will come to be at the core of Antonioni’s vision of landscape and people. If, on the one hand, a film like “Gente del Po” is in line with the neorealist aesthetic in its depiction of ordinary people, their work and daily lives, their struggles and hardship, the countryside and so forth, on the other, the film is also characterized by a tension toward an abstract and modernist mode of composition. These two co-terminous movements will be the materialization of the poetic realism that will structure the entirety of Antonioni’s work. On the one hand, then, the emptiness of urban space; on the other, the volumetric dimension of nature, especially as it is expressed in Sette canne, a documentary on the new fabric, rayon. Antonioni made this film at the same

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


time and in the same area of the Po River as Luchino Visconti, filming his first feature film Ossessione. Antonioni wrote that: It was 1943. Visconti was filming Ossessione on the banks of the Po river, and, also on the Po river, a few kilometers away, I was filming my first documentary […]. As soon as it was possible for me to do so I returned to those places with a camera. This is how People of the Po Valley was born. Everything that I did after that, good or bad as it was, started from there.3

In the articles he published during the fascist regime, Antonioni reflected on a cinematic vision on the basis of which he would elaborate a new visual language. In his observations, expressing both his poetics as an artist and his humanity, he remarks on the way one feels natural landscape and how the appearance of landscape, décor and people, as he described them in the second quotation, act as a bridge toward what he calls people’s interiorità. Antonioni is drawn to the sentient quality of the landscape, and it is the experience of this inner relationship with landscape that he attempts to put on the screen. Antonioni develops a poetics that is meticulously attentive to what lies under our eyes but remains invisible. For Antonioni, the screen is “a space of exhibition”, on which people, objects and landscape “are positioned as objects of a spectacle” (Quaresima: 2011, 124). Later, on the occasion of a seminar with film teachers and students at the time he made L’eclisse, Antonioni went back to the notion of “sentience” and the environment and space in his films. He emphasized how crucial it was for him to go early to the site of the shoot, before the crew and actors arrived, so that he could rehearse the scene and have a solitary moment during which to “feel the environment.”4 The “sentient” quality of his approach to filmmaking is paradoxically what gives his films a sense of measure. There is very little unbridled emotionality in Antonioni’s films; they are profoundly human, but completely devoid of melodrama. The documentary Sette canne, un vestito (1949), the “favola del rayon,” is an ideal starting point for our focus on Antonioni’s films and fashion. The film was commissioned by the SNIA Viscosa, the important textile industry that made a great contribution to Italy’s post-Second World War economic reconstruction.5 From 1949, a policy was developed to promote home grown Italian fashion to US buyers. These latter were encouraged to come to Milan to see the production of the textile factories of Noberasco (where one of the scenes of Antonioni’s later Cronaca was to be filmed), Fercioni, and Tizzoni, where the synthetic fabric was produced, as well as to Rome, where they visited the Simonetta Atelier, which was to start a very successful partnership with prestigious US department stores.6 Sette canne has several stylistic layers and references that bring to the fore the relationship between fashion and cinema, but also contains complex references to modernist filmmaking. Antonioni chronicles the harvesting and manufacturing of this synthetic fabric, which was first produced under fascism but continued to be an important industry into the postwar years. The film is set in Torviscosa (SNIA), a town in the province of Udine in the region of Friuli, which had been established by Mussolini, in 1938, built around the production of what were then known as the “intelligent fibers.” The film follows the life of these textiles—rayon in particular—which are


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the basis of clothing, from their early stages in plant form and eventually to a fashion show, where we see that the clothing made out of the synthetic fabrics has been transformed into fashion. Antonioni’s film not only shows the process of making clothes (the ultimate product) it also mimes the process of filming. His camera captures the making of clothes from their degree zero, recording the creative process in which labor, design, and technique are involved in production, and he pinpoints the different stages, where one step flows and blends into another, until the dress, the final product, is produced. As the documentary’s voiceover states, it has been the hard, skilled work of many people at different stages in the chain of production that has transformed a plant into a colorful and stylish dress. Just as the making of a film is always the result of a team effort, the end product—film or garment—is never, or not only, the production of a single auteur or designer. The documentary ends with a fashion show in an elegant setting where we see models on the catwalk wearing beautiful evening gowns, the final outcome of the long and meticulous work that is shown in the documentary.7 Most critical accounts of Antonioni’s documentary on rayon do not consider fashion and the fashion show in the context of the film as a whole. But the central role fashion has in the documentary acts as a clear harbinger of the themes that Antonioni will pursue in his feature films of the early 1950s. At the same time that the documentary was being made, Franco Marinotti, president of the SNIA, began promoting Italian fashion through the organization of several fashion shows held during the art and film exhibitions at the Venice Biennale. Perhaps the fashion show in Antonioni’s documentary is one of these Venetian shows. Marinotti’s shows were a continuation of those he had organized earlier, during the fascist regime. In fact, in the 1930s, under fascism, Marinotti had been appointed president of the SNIA, but during the war and in the immediate postwar years his power had been revoked. In 1947, however, he was rehabilitated, a not uncommon occurrence in post-fascist Italy, and once again appointed president of the SNIA. The fashion show in Sette canne marks a new beginning for Italian fashion. As it so happened, Antonioni’s documentary appeared at the time when Italian fashion was about to be launched globally. It might be interesting to note that the first book on the relationship between fashion and cinema, La Moda e il costume nel film, was published in 1950, edited by the university professor and film critic Mario Verdone. The book contains a homage to the costume designer Gino Carlo Sensani; Antonioni, too, praised his work, in an article entitled “Un’intervista”. It was at this time that costume design started to emerge and be recognized as a profession in the world of Italian cinema, and to be seen in strict relation to fashion, especially as these developments were contemporaneous with the launch of Italian fashion. Verdone’s book also contains an article by Irene Brin on “La moda nel cinema” (Fashion in film), and an introduction by Antonio Petrucci, the director of the Venice Film Festival (1949–1953), who discusses the “Festival internazionale di Alta Moda e del costume nel film” that was organized on the occasion of the tenth edition of the “Mostra d’Arte cinematografica.” Petrucci, who as critic had been involved in the 1930s with the journal Bianco e Nero and in the postwar period with La Rivista del Cinematografo, underlines the importance of costume design for cinema and the implications for

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


fashion in the Italian context. From the very beginning—or at least from the date considered to be the start of the launch of Italian style—fashion, film, and costume design for cinema were intertwined in the launch of the “Made in Italy.” In February 1951, for example, Giovan Battista Giorgini, aristocrat and expert PR man, who had been a buyer for US department stores since the 1930s, organized at his house— Villa Torregiani—the first fashion show to launch Italian fashion as an international phenomenon. The show attracted important fashion journalists, and buyers from the major US department stores such as Bergdoff Goodman, B. Altman and Lord & Taylor, and was a huge success. On the back of this, Giorgini organized another show, this time at Florence’s famous Sala Bianca. This is why 1951 has been identified as the year of the “birth” of Italian fashion, but more accurately it can be considered the moment when, thanks to cinema and other media apparatus, Italian fashion received international acclaim and recognition. Despite all the attempts made by Mussolini’s regime to nationalize fashion and sell Italian style abroad, it was only in the postwar years that the hard work and creativity of Italian artisans, helped by Giorgini’s PR and entrepreneurial talent, became known to the wider world and its customers. As has been well documented, in the immediate postwar years, through to the period of the economic miracle, the textile industry, alongside fashion, was to play a crucial role in Italy’s economic reconstruction.8 Giorgini’s most astute move was to position Italian fashion in the context of Italy’s artistic heritage. The fashion shows were held in the quintessential Renaissance city of Florence, against the background of its aristocratic buildings and breathtaking art. The international recognition that Italian fashion enjoyed also had political connotations and was of mutual benefit both to Italy and the United States in the climate of the Cold War. Fashion shows at the Florence Sala Bianca or in the fashion houses themselves were more than just spectacles, or exhibitions of beautiful young women wearing wonderful clothes far more affordable than those produced by French couture. The fashion shows were, and continued to be, a new genre of diplomatic performance. The bodies of the models were not only presenting clothing but were also the embodiment of a new, tangible, modern, and attractive nation that was firmly Western in outlook and welcomed consumerist culture. Fashion shows performed a postwar Italian national identity that was dreamed of and much desired. It is in this context that Antonioni’s films of the 1950s are seen best. Fashion acted as “an economic and diplomatic rehabilitator” for both the Marshall-planned Europe (Italy and France in particular) and the United States (Stanfill 2015). Through the Marshall Plan, the United States exported $13 billion to Europe from 1948 to 1952 (Amerian 2014, 20). As noted by Victoria De Grazia (2006), American hegemony was built on European territory. At the same time, business and government officials made sure that European goods both appealed to and reached the American market, and fulfilled the policy and PR goals to market European products to the United States (Amerian 2014, 21). The connections between fashion and style in general and the sense of self and “national identity” were explicit in the way that the nation was presented by fashion in magazines and photography. Italy as idea and as concrete geopolitical entity was a constant reference.


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The year 1951 and Florence, though, were far from being the zero year and place of Italian fashion. In the same year that Giorgini organized his shows in Florence, an Italian exposition opened in Macy’s in New York City, taking up the whole of the fifth floor—the result of eighteen months of preparation. But this was not the only US-based Italian event of the time. The previous year, in 1950, the show Italy at Work: Her Renaissance in Design had opened at the Brooklyn Museum before, in 1951, traveling to the Art Institute in Chicago.9 It is in this cultural and geopolitical context that we can understand the importance of Antonioni’s Sette canne. As a sign of its formal and narrative complexity, Sette canne contains two different narratives, one of labor and one of glamor, but both hinting at Italian history and identity through the lens of cinema and clothes; and both bearing on affect insofar as they pinpoint the embodied experience of work and spectacle. The outcome of this was a history in the making that tells the story of a negotiation with modernity. Fashion shows appear several times in Antonioni’s films of the 1950s. Each time, the show establishes a different narrative within the context of the film as a whole. Fashion and the fashion show on film, especially in those films that came out during crucial periods in Italian history, interact with issues concerning the construction and projection of a new sense of self and national identity. In Antonioni’s 1950s films, we see both a sense of continuity with, and a break from, the fascist past. As we saw in the previous chapter, Blasetti’s Contessa di Parma, set in a Turin fashion house at the time when Turin had been chosen by the fascist regime as the capital of fashion, directly addressed fashion as propaganda and as a manufacturing and culture industry. The film is a showcase for a Turin-based fashion house called “Matté.” Its name will reappear in Antonioni’s film Le amiche (The Girlfriends 1955), which is also set in Turin and features fashion,and socialites beset with discontent and boredom. At a gathering at her apartment with a group of upper class women, Momina (Yvonne Fumeaux), one of the most cynical among them, takes a fancy to a blouse worn by Rosetta (Madeleine Fisher) and identifies it as having been purchased at the Mattè sisters’ downtown Turin atelier. Whenever Antonioni includes a fashion show in his films, two narratives—one of labor, the other of glamor—intersect. Sette canne, un vestito, like others of Antonioni’s documentaries appearing at that time, such as L’Amorosa menzogna (The Amorous Lie 1949)—a film that depicts the social changes that can be observed in the making and the readership of a new popular genre called fotoromanzi (comic strip photographic novels)—calls attention to the transformations that were taking place at this time in Italy, and to how new models of consumption, the negotiation of new models of identity, and gender roles were experienced on the Italian road to modernity.10 As we will see later, the narratives surrounding the different tropes, bodies, and images in fashion shows are in a state of constant flux and process, in need of contextualization within the films that depict them and the history they hint at. This documentary—L’Amorosa menzogna—will also be the basis for Federico Fellini’s film Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheik, 1951). Once again, as he was for Sette canne, Antonioni is interested in capturing the process and showing how to get to the finished product. He is interested in the unfolding, in the “in-between-ness.” In L’Amorosa menzogna, for instance, the spectator is taken into

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


the studio that produces this new popular genre in order to demystify the aura of the heroes and romances about which a growing readership made up of women was dreaming. But more than mere evasion of reality, this is also an affective space that is crucial for the formation of subjectivities, and is far from being devoid of political substance.11 Also to the fore in Sette canne are the striking similarities with another film made by D’Errico at the time of “second Futurism.” The film in question is Stramilano, which was discussed in the previous chapter. Like Stramilano, in the way that machines in the factory are filmed and juxtaposed to the rhythms of workers harvesting reeds in the fields, Antonioni’s Sette canne shares a modernist vision. Like Stramilano, Antonioni’s documentary includes a fashion show, this time clearly staged for a larger audience of prospective buyers, like the shows organized at the hotel Excelsior in Venice or at the Sala Bianca in Florence. Since these media-orchestrated fashion shows launched Italian style in the world of the postwar years, I will discuss those 1950s films by Antonioni that came out at the same time as the launch. I will then conclude with his works from the 1960s, where clothing takes on a different role in the diegetic of film, but also in the broader sentient space of film. Antonioni’s films are important not only from the historical perspective but also from the point of view of methodology. As I hope to show in the following pages, the relationship between clothing and film in Antonioni would lead to what I would like to call a visual tactility.

The 1950s: Cronaca di un amore, La signora senza camelie and Le amiche Today […] what is important is to see what’s inside the man whose bicycle was stolen, what his thoughts and feelings are, how much is left inside of him of his past experiences, of the war, of the postwar period, of everything that happened to our country. (Antonioni)12

In a sketch, Antonioni depicts Lucia Bosè dressed in the spectacular gown she wears at the end of Cronaca di un amore.13 This is but one hint that shows how deeply Antonioni was involved in the costume design for the film and in the fashioning of Paola (Lucia Bosè, the then newly-elected Miss Italia) as a star. She is the diva in this film. The sophisticated and opulent outfits she wears (about sixteen in the course of the film) make the plot secondary to the showing off of these beautiful costumes. She looks like a professional model in one of the top fashion magazines of the time. The film is a love triangle and tells the story of Paola, a beautiful young woman from Ferrara, married as a kind of trophy wife to a much older textile industrialist from Milan, Enrico Fontana (Ferdinando Sarmi). The third party of the triangle is Guido (Massimo Girotti), an old flame from her high school years, whom she meets again in Milan and with whom she plots to murder her husband. Count Ferdinando


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Sarmi, the actor who plays Paola’s husband, in real life an aristocrat from Trieste with experience as a stylist and involved in the world of fashion, is credited for the costume design in the film. This encounter was apparently facilitated by Antonioni’s first wife, Letizia Balboni, an elegant and sophisticated woman from the Venetian upper classes. Her father was a prominent antique dealer. Letizia was the sister of Loredana, wife of the well-known film critic Federico Pasinetti, and both were friends of Marcella Girotti, Massimo’s wife.14 They were responsible for introducing Sarmi to Antonioni and perhaps facilitating the contact with Girotti, who—after his role in Ossessione—was already an established star in Italian cinema. Letizia Balboni was one of four sisters. Antonioni had remarked on how it was the company of women that had influenced his interest in exploring the women’s universe (as we will see later in the film Le amiche, adapted from Cesare Pavese’s novella, Tra donne sole, published in the collection La bella estate in 1949). Budgets were always an issue in film production, and Antonioni was not spared these problems. It is probably the reason why Sarmi plays more than one role in Cronaca. However, even when money was tight, Antonioni gave high priority to the clothes worn by the actors in his films. In Cronaca, the costumes were the outcome of a collaboration between Sarmi and the young Fausto Sarli (one of the most inventive designers of the postwar years), Lucia Bosè, wearing her own wardrobe (in the tradition of the divas in silent film), and of course Antonioni himself, who had the final word. Cronaca di un amore is a film/manifesto of Italy’s rebirth and fashion reconstruction after the Second World War. We might say, in fact, that Cronaca di un amore (made a year after Sette canne un vestito and a year before Giorgini’s fashion show in Florence) is a water-shed, not only in terms of fashion but also in terms of cinematic style. In the film, a shift from a neorealist aesthetic to new experimental filmmaking techniques and framing can be observed, with fashion and costume playing a central role. An analysis of Cronaca di un amore can be inscribed in and extended to a broader intertwined story between fashion and Italian cinema; and Antonioni’s cinema in particular. There are, however, some major differences in the way clothing functions in the three films from the 1950s that I focus on here, Cronaca di un amore, La signora senza camelie, and Le amiche. In all three films, the clothes worn by the female characters seem to be costumes. Clothing glamorizes femininity, showing—nonetheless—a sense of entrapment, unease and lack of fulfillment. This is especially true for Paola and Clara in Cronaca and La signora. However, for Clelia (Eleonora Rossi Drago, who had been a model), the elegant, stagy clothes, especially her chinchilla fur, act as her protective armor. These films are also an accurate record of the high fashion produced in Italy at the time, and of the stagy glamor that was part of the 1950s sensibility of which Italian dressmakers and companies wanted to be a part. Lucia Bosè, the star of two of Antonioni’s 1950s films, recalled in an interview the importance of clothing in those days, and how refined her own wardrobe was. She says: “My own wardrobe was amazing. I had evening gowns by Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, the Fontana Sisters, Schubert and Fernanda Gattinoni.”15 Female characters, like Paola in Cronaca or Clara (Lucia Bosè) in La signora, would not exist cinematically without the painstaking

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion

Figure 14  Clelia wearing the chinchilla coat, Le amiche, dir. Antonioni.


Figure 15  Eleonora Rossi–Drago modeling the chinchilla coat worn for Le amiche at her home in Rome, Photo Giuseppe Palmas, Rome, 1954, Courtesy of Roberto Palmas.

attention that was devoted to their clothes and accessories, and to the performances these make possible. Paola and Clara, for different narrative reasons, seem to be always on stage. Paola’s husband, who harbors suspicions about his wife, hires a detective agency to find out more about her past. At the beginning of the film, we see the detectives looking at several pictures of Paola and noting the transformations she has undergone, from her high school days to the diva-like appearance of her present persona of a Milan socialite. Without the couture wardrobe designed by Sarmi, Paola would be just a beautiful young lady without any of the theatricality that makes up her character and activates the different levels of perception. Sarmi transformed Lucia Bosé, a girl from a very poor background who worked as a commessa in a Milan pastry shop, into a sophisticated woman of the Milanese upper bourgeoisie. At the time of Cronaca she was only nineteen, and Sarmi as a couturier and image maker (at that time not an official profession) was instrumental in the transformation of Lucia Bosé into a star. She looks like a dream, a sort of “apparition designed by Ertè” (as Laura Larenzi calls her).16 When her former lover, Guido, sees her against the backdrop of La Scala, she is wearing a stunning white evening gown, complemented with white fur and magnificent jewelry. Walking together at the Idroscalo, Paola and Guido rekindle their past attraction and embark on their affair. The episode is one of the most important sequences in the film. Prior to this episode, Guido and Paola had made eye contact outside La Scala when, glamorously clad, she was in the company of her husband and their friends. We can already gauge, in this scene, the contrast of class and the differences in social standing between Guido, standing on one side of the street outside a shop selling fabric (a sign is made quite visible in the frame) looking fragile, dressed in a worn out coat, and, on the other side of the square, the fashionable group of socialites, framed in such a way as to emphasize their luxurious cars and their equally expensive clothes. Guido looks at the elegant Paola with a mesmerized and admiring gaze. Later, he calls her and


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Figure 16  Paola and Guido, Cronaca di un amore.

Figure 17  Fashion show in Cronaca di un amore.

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion

Figure 18  Fashion show in Cronaca di un amore.

Figure 19  Nene and Lorenzo at gallery, Le amiche, dir. Antonioni.



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asks her to meet with him. They meet at the Idroscalo. We see Paola arriving in her sports car, once again elegantly dressed. Gino’s first remark is telling: “You are fantastic, what did you do to become like this?”, to which she responds, “What do you mean ‘like this’?”. Guido adds: “I don’t know, you’ve got something…you’ve got class.” Paola looks like a model who has stepped out of a page of a glossy fashion magazine. Her coat has striking similarities to the one shown on the cover of La donna (December 1948), shot against the background of an urban environment, cars, a tall apartment building, and billboards advertising Coca-Cola—all signs of Italy’s ongoing Americanization—and the “Formaggio Pastorello” of the Italian food brand Locatelli. Against this, we see the model posing, wearing an ample coat that reveals her tight-fitting red suit. Paola is clearly a high consumer of fashion, as Réka Bukley has observed.17 The main similarity with the photoshoot in La donna is the coat. In Antonioni’s film, and especially in the sequence at the Idroscalo, the character and her dress are not set in narrative correlation to the environment and the background. Paola’s outfit is, as in many other instances in the film, excessive; it calls attention to itself, and, by virtue of its excess, to a process of estrangement. As noted by film historian Leonardo Quaresima, there are striking similarities in the way Antonioni treats both landscape and empty space in relation to characters. Both are protagonists in the film, and offer up a sense of “estrangement”. The critic connects the sequence at the Idroscalo to similar sequences in Antonioni’s early documentaries, such as Nettezza urbana: “the long shot of the street sweeper who walks with his girlfriend along the vast, deserted bank of the Roman Lungotevere” (Quaresima: 2011, 123). In this case, however, Antonioni is filming the walk of a working class couple. In Cronaca, the camera moves with the character, it follows their restlessness and captures their internal conflict, their emotions and desires. Here and in another important sequence—known as the sequence on the bridge—Antonioni experiments with the camera and with the long take. This particular sequence, during which the two lovers plot to murder Paola’s husband, consists of one single take that is 129 meters of film long. The camera follows the characters as they move, walk, get close to each other and then go in opposite directions. Their movements are the tangible signs of their malaise and restlessness. The camera is unrelenting. Paola and Guido are filmed against the gray and monotonous countryside; Paola, once again, is elegantly dressed, wearing a hat with a veil delicately falling over her face. At the Idroscalo, the barren landscape, sordid in its emptiness, contrasts with the stagy and classy elegance of Paola’s clothing, which also works in contrast with Gino’s humble figure. In another part of the sequence, we see a deeper shot, in which the two lovers are sitting on the stairs in profile against the grayness of the sky. In other instances in the same scene, we see variations in the spatial relationships between the two characters as they interact with each other. As noted by film critic, Lorenzo Cuccu, there is a crucial moment at the end of this sequence that bears on both landscape and characters. In fact, after the two lovers leave and go to the car, we see them walking into the distance while the camera circles around to rest on the water at the Idroscalo. The camera depersonalizes the lovers and has the effect, in Cuccu’s words, of de-dramatizing the love story (Cuccu, 39–40). The plot is secondary to the vision

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


that the camera brings us. This is Antonioni’s film style, already apparent in earlier films, and later developed further and fully executed in his 1960s films. But clothing, especially the clothes worn by Paola in this context, had already been fundamental in the formal elaboration of the cinematic style and experimentation in Antonioni’s first films. Remarking on a sequence in “Gente del Po”, Quaresima notes how clothing plays a similar role in the depersonalization of the characters. When Antonioni captures a young teenage couple who go out courting on the river banks, he refrains from the close-up of their faces that would be conventional in an episode such as the one he is depicting, given its topic, love. Instead, the screen is taken over by the logo of the young man’s t-shirt, filmed from the back, with the young woman sitting next to him. The product that screams out through the logo —“DEI”—was a well-known brand of bicycle in the 1940s. Antonioni creates an effect of distance and alienation by departing from the narrative expectations that we as viewers may have when we initially see the two young people dating. The logo has greater prominence than the would-be romanticism or classic visual language of dating. Film historian, Noa Steimatsky, has also commented on this scene. She writes: “we witness what is surely the earliest and paradigmatic instance of Antonioni’s modernism.”18 Paola’s feeling of non-fulfillment is captured also when she is at home. Even before going to bed, she wears a rich and opulent brocade dressing gown with ample sleeves with fur trim. We see her during one of her passeggiate in the city center, where she visits both a boutique and a couture maison, accompanied by a chauffeur, while on the way to meet her lover in a squalid hotel room: she appears restless. She is dressed in a glamorous black suit with a tight jacket and a fur-trimmed pencil skirt, accessorized by a fur bag and a hat (one of the film’s recurring markers of her as an excessive character). She shops very quickly, in the way that only somebody who does not have any financial concerns can shop; she looks a bit distracted as if she has other things on her mind. She is restlessness personified. While she is at the fashion house, two models show dresses to customers. Paola is one of them. She chooses an evening gown, the one she will wear at the very end of the film.19 Her clothes are the sign of an aesthetic transformation from the austereness of neorealism to a new cinematic style. A tenuous link to neorealism is supplied by Girotti, whose familiar persona recalls another love triangle, the one in Visconti’s Ossessione. In Antonioni’s film, Girotti appears once again as a lover unable to offer any economic security to his partner. But if Ossessione’s sordid tragedy ends with a sense of closure through the murder, in Cronaca the murder that is planned is never committed. Paola’s husband dies in a car accident. The two lovers, however, do not stay together. The film ends with Guido, who has witnessed the accident from a distance, going to Paola’s house. She is dressed for a party that she is holding with her husband, and wearing the dress she had picked out during her visit to the fashion house (white again as in the first encounter with Guido near “La Scala”). There is nothing more theatrical than the moment when we see Paola, first waiting at the window, wearing her beautiful white gown, and then going down to see Guido. Indeed, in the intimate setting of her bedroom, while she waits for her lover to come back from the crime


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scene, she seems—as she often does in the film—to be parading in a fashion show. The camera captures every detail of the dress; each moment in which we see Paola so beautifully clad progressively distances her from the drama of the situation. The dress performs the task of distancing the character from the tragedy (Cuccu’s “de-dramatization”).20 We are left with a sense of lack of fulfillment, a feeling that we are made to share with the characters themselves. They take opposite paths; they are unable to cope, unable to be together. Although Cronaca has all the components of a film noir, the last thing Antonioni is interested in is revealing the mechanics of plot and solving the mystery. The mystery is inside the characters themselves and in the intimacy of their emotions, a theme that Antonioni will explore further in Le amiche. In fact, the fluidity and fragility of the emotions that characterize these films are stored away in their nuances and ambiguity throughout the narrative, and are never resolved in any ending, but always left open, creating a space for further thinking, questioning, and desire. The performative power of clothing is particularly relevant in the representation of women in Antonioni’s films from the 1950s.21 In these films, fashion and clothes play, on the one hand, a structural role in the narrative and aesthetics of the films, on the other, they establish a trajectory in the women’s search for subjectivity within the constraints of a patriarchal society. This complex process is exemplified by the attention given in the film to the most personal and intimate side of the women’s selves, so allowing viewers to see their entrapment. They seem to be imprisoned in stereotypical gender roles and expectations, in interpersonal relationships, caught in male-dominated creative industries, such as cinema in La signora, and driven by an aspiration towards freedom and independence epitomized by Clelia in Le amiche. It is not such a strange coincidence that costume once again defines the women in these three films. Antonioni’s fashion film trilogy, as we have identified it here, describes a trajectory in which women and fashion are part of an interaction that frames identities in progress. The 1950s films map class contradictions, individual despair and women’s desire during the years of Italy’s reconstruction. The self is here caught in a non-linear process that the camera captures in all its haptic and optical dimensions. Despite being very different from one another, the women in these three films share an inner search for identity, economic independence, a sense of freedom, and desire for release from their dealings with different kinds of entrapment in love relationships, fears, marriage, established expectations in society for women, and so on. Cinematically, these female characters share a multi-faceted social space: from the socialite Paola in Cronaca, and her appearance in the worldly life of the Milan of fashion shows, cafés in Via Montenapoleone to the Cinecittà studios, movie theaters and film festivals; to Clara in La signora; to the fashion house for Clelia in Le amiche. Space and place in the different urban environments are instrumental in describing the process of women’s subjectivity and capturing characters defined by fashion. Antonioni shows these affective spaces as the materialization of a new celebrity culture that will be further displayed in Fellini’s films. Indeed, fashion cannot exist without the multilayered concept of space, whether geographical, social or affective. Space and place are at work in Cronaca di un amore, where clothing and accessories play a key

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


role in the construction of Paola’s public persona. Her refined and spectacular outfits act as a deviation from the narrative, and call attention to how clothes eroticize the female body. In this film, it is the poetic, affective power of clothing that interests Antonioni, its ability to signify through the texture of fabric and color, and how all this works visually in the composition of the shot, in the twists and turns of the folds and details of dress.

The fashion show in Cronaca: a narrative mise en abyme An intimacy is established by the camera as it dwells on the details and texture of clothing and fabric on screen. Clothing unfolds its narrative not only on the body of the characters but also on the body of the often-present models in Antonioni’s films, and on the fashion shows which each time convey a different meaning. The fashion show is linked to what we may identify as affective and emotional labor: that is, the models as workers; fashion and the show as the result of production processes.22 In Cronaca di un amore, which can be considered an ongoing fashion parade by virtue of the costumes, hats and accessories worn by Paola, we see two specific moments of a single model fashion show. The body and the condition of the model as worker are juxtaposed to Paola, the high society signora. In the charity fashion show held in a restaurant, the model who is flirting with Paola’s lover, after parading before Paola and the audience, takes off the dress before offering it to her in response to the ridiculous amount of money she has had to bid to purchase it. The two women here expose themselves with their respective exaggerated gestures of overly generous bidding, and stripping. With her disproportionate monetary donation, Paola defines her class status in opposition to that of the model. The body of the model is the vector of the spectacle of the dress that she takes off in public, under the eyes of Paola and the audience. In this gesture, she actually makes undressing in public part of a performance that subverts the codes of the fashion show insofar as she deviates from the traditional and expected finale. Once the dress she is modeling has been sold and bought she takes it off and promptly delivers it to the buyer for whom the parade has been put on. The model’s act of undressing, which is supposed to happen backstage, takes place on the runway show. Subverting the codes of the show, making the backstage the visible front stage, she provocatively interrupts the narrative of submission of the worker in the face of the patronage of the signora. But more importantly she literally separates her body from the dress for sale. However, when Paola is given the dress by the model, she replies: “You can have it, I’ll give it to you.” The dress acts, then, as a commodity exchange based on a narrative of power and class. The semi-naked body loses the connotation of eroticism and scandal, as it is that of the author of the scene, and she controls it; she’s on top. Antonioni articulates the animatedness of clothing, but also brings to the audience’s attention how clothes signify and transmit ideas, feelings and values. In this scene, the subversion of roles initiated by the model, and the dynamic of dressing and undressing, as well as gift giving, what is given and by whom, again show the cinematic use Antonioni makes of clothing.


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In cinema, clothes are actions, and a language that communicates subtle details that might go unnoticed in other kinds of performance. A detail, an accessory, a hat might signal a shift in narrative, but also add a specific feature to a character. By way of example, let us look at the hats worn by Gino (Massimo Girotti), the male protagonist of Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione. Even when he changes status from that of a tramp and wears a more respectable suit, albeit one that is too tight, he still wears a beret (a coppola) that emphasizes his portrayal as a bohemian type. In Visconti’s films, accessories, especially hats, have a crucial role in defining the character in the context of the film as a whole. In Ossessione, they call attention to Gino’s eroticized male body. In Cronaca di un amore, hats function as “shifters” (Barthes: 1967) in the seamless fabric of the cinematic narrative. Five different hats introduce a shift in the narrative.23 Paola and her eroticized body take center stage in this narrative process, even though she was playing against an already established actor with star cachet such as Girotti. In fact, Antonioni has commented on the acting method he followed and how he wanted to limit Girotti’s expressiveness on screen: “With regard to Girotti (who already has sufficient experience but tends to ‘express’ himself too much in my opinion) I limited myself to checking, I’d say to measuring his acting more than anything else. […] Bosè required a greater, different commitment. Apart from the fact that she was just starting out” (emphasis added).24

“Was I a good femme fatale?” (Lucia Bosè (Clara) in La signora senza camelie) Clara, the protagonist of La signora senza camelie, is an attractive shop girl turned movie star who marries Gianni, one of her two producers—her “Pygmalion” figure. Clara is stunning and elegantly dressed by Battilocchi, one of the most important ateliers in Rome. Lucia Bosè was one of their most loyal customers. She recalls, in fact: “At that time I used to get my clothes at Battilocchi in Rome at the Hotel de la Ville. They brought in the clothes from Paris. For those of us who were thin, we could wear the clothes from the fashion shows. For those who were more robust, they had their clothing copied” (Laurenzi: 90). In the manner of Cronaca, in La signora Bosè is a glamorous diva. Initially, Antonioni had wanted Gina Lollobrigida for this role, not so much for her acting qualities, on which Antonioni was not so keen, but for what she represented, her star persona in the world of Italian cinema (Cuccu, 1973: 105). It might seem that marrying her boss, who has transformed the shop assistant into a princess wearing elegant clothes and living in a luxurious villa, would be the ultimate dream for any girl of Clara’s social standing. However, she is drawn into marriage without having the time to think or decide. All she wants is to continue working in the movie industry, something that turns out to be just as sour an experience, with no happy ending. From the beginning of the film, Clara seems not to fit into any of the environments she moves between, thus revealing her vulnerability. The film opens at night, when we see her wandering in the streets of Rome; she goes into a movie theater

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


where they happen to be showing her first feature film. She enters the theater at the point where—in the film—she is dressed as a femme fatale, singing “Addio Signora.” In the darkness of the movie theater she looks at herself on screen, sitting in the audience while her character sings and looks out at her. Her gaze is trapped by the constraints of the roles she is required to perform. Because of her looks and her lack of experience, Clara is manipulated according to the needs and circumstances of a film industry run by men who are pushed either by money or by possessiveness, as in the case of her husband. On the set of Clara’s second movie, which will be never completed because of her husband’s jealousy, the producer decides to change the script, and instead of the “wife” she is made to play “the lover.” When Clara appears dressed as a country girl, he says: “But how did you dress her? Please, fix her up differently.” And then, following the scene of the kiss with her lover, Clara asks: “Was I a good femme fatale?” Throughout, La signora senza camelie stresses the cinematic, fabricated dimension of the protagonist and how the process of refashioning and restyling her responds to the need to fulfill others’ desires. The film shows how Italian moviegoers in the 1950s craved romance and spicy stories. The film industry, for its part, craved commercial gain, while Clara’s mother, for her part, wanted her daughter to be a star, no matter what the price, even that of remaining unhappily married to the producer. Similarly, the Roman socialites and aristocrats agreed to let their houses be used in the shooting of the film, eager for their slice of stardom and to be able to mix and mingle with the

Figure 20  Clelia exhibiting Gucci bamboo bag during her walk in her old neighborhood in Turin, Le amiche.


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glitterati of the fashion and film industries. Nardo, the diplomat with whom Clara has a squalid affair, is not excluded from the hypocrisy of a world of appearances. However, if Clelia, who is a more mature woman, can be said to belong to herself in Le amiche, Clara Manni, in La signora, has no such strength or ability to detach herself from a world that uses her as an object to be displayed and consumed. She is a defeated figure, when we see her in the Cinecittà studios at the end of the film. After failing to become a serious actress, she has accepted a part where she plays a sexy queen and is photographed while hiding her tears. She is again on stage, wearing a luxurious leopard fur, queen of a desert island over which she has no ascendancy. This final frame is one more beautiful shot in Antonioni’s catalog of beautiful and stylish shots where the choice of costume plays a decisive role. The form, however, as Antonioni himself has stated, is not divorced from the content and narrative. In his essay on Antonioni, Barthes identified the revolutionary features of aesthetic and cinematic techniques that have an inextricable relationship with the meanings of the film: “A revolution in which ‘content and form are equally historical; stories […] are indifferently plastic and psychological’. (Plastic in its art-theoretical sense of moldable or capable of being given a form.)” (Seymour Chatman, Paul Duncan 2008).25 This preoccupation with style is also prominent in Le amiche, where fashion functions as a window and theater for framing actions. But Clelia is neither blinded by the glittering phantasmagoria of the world of fashion, nor blind to the emptiness and hypocrisy of the upper class people she meets in Turin, who have no understanding of how to face life and death, as is illustrated by the suicide attempt made by one of the members of her friend group, Rosetta. In Le amiche, Clelia is the manager of a Rome-based fashion house that is opening a branch in Turin, her hometown. A successful example of a self-made woman from a modest background, she finds herself at odds with the spoilt and corrupt men and women she, through an accident of circumstance, encounters in the city. In fact, she comes to be involved in their lives only because she is an accidental witness to the failed suicide attempt made by Rosetta, whom she attempts to help. Clelia is an outsider, even in her former hometown, where she does not seem to fit anymore. She understands, however, the cultural differences, and taste in dress, of her wealthy clientele. The Turin branch of the salon must, in her opinion, adjust and respond to the changes in the sartorial choices of the female customers. Towards the end of the film she says to her boss: “Women from Rome want to appear rich and try to spend less money, while women from Turin do not mind spending more to appear ‘humble.’ This is called social diplomacy.” Through her work in the world of fashion, Clelia seems to be in control, and keeps the world of appearance at bay. If clothes in Cronaca and La signora are powerful signifiers in themselves, in Le amiche, because fashion is explored directly, they seem at times to crowd the screen and the frame, corroborating Stella Bruzzi’s observation that clothing in cinema has an autonomous significance. Luisa Passerini has suggested how a more complex and nuanced notion of female subjectivity can emerge through exploring the worlds identified as “typically” feminine, or expressing traditional female cultures and economies, “concerning cosmetics, dresses, coquette behavior, knitting, cooking, sexual behavior.” She says, in fact:

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


The doubleness of subjectivity makes untenable the simple dichotomies between a culture of femininity forged by men or patriarchy and a feminist or womanist culture created by women, between feminine ideology and feminine resistance, between “women’s culture” and commercial cultures of femininity. These are too easy distinctions, precisely because women as subjects intervene heavily on both sides.26

The “doubleness of subjectivity,” a tensional space in between, is a key concept not only for women, but for gender in general. It is a space in which “oppositional” and “typical” features of subjectivity can live side by side. In Le amiche, in particular, women are often caught in a double-sided identity in a state of tension, epitomized by the role fashion plays within the narrative. Note, for instance, how Nene (Valentina Cortese)—an artist—is dressed when she appears in the gallery. She wears a dress that is sewn together using two differently colored fabrics. The effect is visually striking, especially when she appears with the portrait of Rosetta painted by her husband, Lorenzo. Clelia, Nene’s counterpart, in as much as she is the only other female character who actually works, can also be seen as the image maker for other women. We see this at the beginning of the film, when, following Rosetta’s attempted suicide in the room next to hers, Clelia encounters Momina, the cynical member of the group and the most accessorized and sophisticatedly dressed. She compliments Clelia for her style saying that it’s often unusual for somebody working in fashion to be so well dressed (at the time of Antonioni’s film, the figure of the fashion designer as super star did not yet exist, especially in Italy). Clelia dresses as elegantly and stylishly as the group of upper middle class people she is with. One of her signature styles, and a component of her public persona, is the stunning fur coat she wears at the beginning of the film and towards the end. The coat has an unusual pattern that makes her stand out, almost exceeding the confines of the frame. Her chinchilla fur coat is a statement in itself. With its intricate black and white design, the fur coat, especially as it is worn by Clelia, is the height of luxury in a woman’s wardrobe and certainly was one of the most desired items of the 1950s and 1960s.27 The newly-acquired status that the fur coat represents also acts as her protective armor in crucial moments of the film. At the beginning, we see her when she is giving instructions to the male staff, including the architect, who is taking his time about completing the renovation work at the fashion house; and in the evening she takes the big decision to leave Turin. Her coat makes a statement, marking and sealing her role and the newly acquired position in society that she is not willing to forgo. Rosetta’s death as a result of her second suicide attempt, however, disrupts Clelia’s sense of order. Here is where she decides to leave Turin; and her departure hints, on the one hand, at the impossibility of a return home, while, on the other, it marks her difference and distance from Carlo (Ettore Manni, the architect assistant and Clelia’s suitor), and the implicit promise of love and marriage. Clelia is a transitional character and her “doubleness” is expressed in both the desires and the doubts she has about conducting an independent life in the midst of a society undergoing deep


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transformations while remaining anchored to tradition. Fashion for Clelia is work, and the fashion industry was one of the fields from which women could emerge into the world, as was the case with fashion houses such as the Fontana Sisters (which provided all the costumes and even some of the models for the film). In fact, Clelia’s work in the world of fashion depicts the kind of 1950s Italian atelier that helped to launch Italian fashion globally— with great assistance from cinema. Le amiche is also a fashion parade, Italian style. Here, however, the show has a dual role, acting also as a counter narrative in the film. Alongside the fashion show and the conventional narrative form it takes—concluding with the happy ending of a beautiful lace wedding dress—there are intersections of dialogue between Nene, the only one among the women who dresses differently, and Rosetta (her husband’s lover), touching upon the crumbling of marriage. Backstage, a parallel parade of fashion models and events takes place. This includes the model who had worn the wedding dress and now appears dressed only in undergarments and corset, and mocks love after reading the card that Carlo has left for Clelia wishing her success.

The fashion show in Le amiche: the end of the game Fashion and the fashion show in Antonioni are not mere spectacle, but feed fantasy and desire. The fashion show in the film marks the culmination of the different tensions characterizing relationships, friendly or otherwise. In Le amiche, the fashion show, which parades the complete collection of the Fontana Sisters, prefaces a tragedy: the suicide of Rosetta, the youngest and the most fragile of all the friends, the only character who wears flat shoes in a movie peopled by women wearing highheels. The film spectators enjoy a privileged position compared to that of the people attending the fashion show. We are introduced to them backstage, and follow the parallel unraveling of the drama between Nene and Rosetta and the rest of the group of girlfriends, of whom Clelia is the one whose labor has controlled the show and the choice of models and body types. Clelia is the only character of modest origin; she has won her position through hard work. In this context, the happy ending of the show with the appearance of the bride is a sarcastic detail that is played out against the parallel dissolution of Nene’s marriage, itself symbolic of the bourgeois hypocrisy we see in the film as a whole. Toward the end of the film, we see Clelia at the fashion salon in the middle of another private show of evening dresses, created for a small group of clients; she bursts into tears after learning of Rosetta’s suicide, leveling the blame at Momina, who had encouraged Rosetta to embark on an affair with the husband of their mutual friend, Nene. With Nene, Clelia is the most independent woman in the film and sacrifices love for her career, whereas Nene gives up a grand opportunity to go to New York City to promote her art for the sake of keeping Lorenzo and what could only be an unhappy marriage. In the film, Clelia is the only woman who continues to travel into an uncertain future. We are left, and this will be typical of Antonioni’s films, with an open and unresolved ending. The destination seems to be the journey itself, the act

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of searching defines the doubleness of the identity of the female characters. In this way, Clelia paves the way for the women travelers and wanderers who will populate Antonioni’s films of the 1960s. But first let us look at clothing in these films and how Antonioni explores the ambivalence between identity and the dissolution of narrative.

The 1960s: from costume to fashion. L’ avventura and beyond Antonioni’s films, especially his 1960s films, create a new cinematic language and visual poetry into which his characters, their identities, and their narrative, dissolve. Clothing plays an integral part in this project. At first sight, this might seem an insurmountable contradiction since it is impossible not to acknowledge intimate links between dress and the formation of identity. It is, however, only an apparent paradox, because in Antonioni’s films clothing has multiple meanings. Clothing, in fact, and especially how it appears in cinema, does not have a straightforward relationship with identity. The clothed body is always “made up” (in the many senses of the expression). Dressing implies a sort of masquerade that is in turn a semiotic act. It is a process that ensures that the self enters the social scene and becomes, through clothing, culturally visible. As illustrated in many of Antonioni’s characters, self and identity are also engaged in a fluid process of becoming. The typical lack of continuity in Antonioni’s films, the ensuing sense of defamiliarization, and his use of the long take are all integral parts of an innovative cinematic language in which clothing plays a vital and leading role. Like any artist, Antonioni uses clothes to comment on and illustrate his characters’ roles and status. Clothing is linked to individual feelings and aesthetic tastes; but it does more than merely tell the story of a given character. Rather, in Antonioni’s films, clothes have a vital role in an opposite process, that of dissolving both the identities they attempt to capture and the narratives that hold together the complexity of their emotions and fears. If the narrative mode corresponds to fashion, the dissolution of narrative coincides, in Antonioni, with style. This is similar to the phenomenon that, in his essay on photography, Barthes calls punctum, which he distinguishes from studium. The latter is a mode close to narrative and to what is codified, whereas punctum stands for that which ruptures, a detail that produces affects (Barthes, 1982 [1980]). This is an ever-present ambivalence, but is far more than a binary opposition or dichotomy (yet it is complimentary). A further step in the process of translation is the passage from costume to fashion. An important aesthetic shift will occur with a film like L’ avventura (1960), where we witness a change in the way in which dress was conceived with respect to the films of the 1950s. In this film, for example, and especially for the female protagonist, clothing functions as “the Neutral,” as described by Barthes. Blurring the boundaries of dress and landscape, a film like L’ avventura blurs also the boundaries of the inner and outer self, the “marked” and the “unmarked,” the “distinct” and the “indistinct” and loses the connotation with costume that it had had in the 1950s films.28


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Figure 21  Anna and Claudia, L’avventura, dir. Antonioni. Cino Del Duca/ Pce/Lyre/The Kobal Collection, Art Resource/NY.

Figure 22  Woman saying: “You see, the dollar gets everywhere,” La notte.

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Figure 23  Close–up of Giuliana wearing high-heel pumps, Il deserto rosso.

Figure 24  Claudia, L’avventura. In L’ avventura (1960), clothes take on a double mode. At the very beginning of the film, the class contrast between Anna (Lea Massari) and Claudia (Monica Vitti), the film’s two main female characters, is made clear by their clothes and appearance. Through dress, Antonioni seems to reach what lies inside each character. Of the two protagonists, Claudia is the outsider of a group of friends and acquaintances setting out on a cruise around the islands north of Sicily. She is more the bohemian type and clearly not as well-off as her friends. In the film’s opening sequence, set in Rome, Anna, wearing a classy white silk shantung dress, accessorized with a Gucci bag and shoes, approaches her father against a background in which we can see the


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dome of St. Peter’s. The sketch of this outfit by the costume designer, Adriana Berselli, also shows the notes where she writes that Anna must carry a Gucci bag, and that the dress should be shantung and so on. In the foreground, we see new construction work near Anna’s family villa. This is even alluded to by her father, a retired diplomat, in a conversation she has with him; it is a visible sign of the economic boom that was then spreading over most of Italy, bringing with it corrupt building practices. Anna’s friend, Claudia, arrives, wearing an ensemble with a dark top and a pencil skirt in Prince of Wales check, apparently a pattern very much loved by Antonioni (Berselli 2007). Anna is in the mainstream of high fashion, Claudia of style. Claudia, who will become the central character in the film, is attractive and beautiful, but is not wearing the designer accessories that Anna wears; she is a social and fashion outsider in the group of socialites and aristocrats who are the other guests on the cruise. The contrast between the two is further accentuated through skin colors and hair: Anna is a darkskinned brunette dressed in white; Claudia is a pale-skinned blonde dressed in dark colors. Anna’s dress is cut at the waist and has an ample skirt; Claudia’s straight skirt allows the camera to capture the movement of her legs as she walks. In fact, we see her walking and wandering while she waits for Anna, who in the meantime has gone up to the apartment of her boyfriend, Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti). Clothes in Antonioni’s films are never simply an obvious and unambiguous representation of his character’s inner or outer self. Rather, they are instrumental to that which his cinematic language conveys, elsewhere, through landscape, architecture, and the framing of objects that, when they appear on screen, lose their utilitarian function in favor of an aesthetic perception of the image. In Il deserto rosso (1964), the first film made by Antonioni in color, the interior and exterior walls are unrecognizable as such, and take on the appearance of canvasses on which color is the only subject and protagonist.* Walls, in some sequences, especially in the very first frames, take up the whole screen, de-familiarizing the viewer, who expects elements of narrative continuity but is deprived of precise spatial referents and context. A painterly quality is recurrent in Antonioni’s films, a modernist, metaphysical style à la De Chirico, where even everyday objects appear through the lens of his camera as pieces of abstract art. Clothing, with its texture, design, fabric, and cut, participates in this aesthetic process and journey. Characters are almost embraced by the clothes they wear, caressed by them, both visually and cinematically. They express, as in the case of L’avventura, a delicate, aesthetic chromatism, of whites, grays, and blacks; or beautiful earthy tones, as in Il deserto rosso. More than merely illustrations of character traits, they become an integral component of the painterly quality of Antonioni’s films. This is the very act of “fashioning […] a framework” (White, 1978, 111) that transforms and de-familiarizes perception of an object, a landscape, a wall, and the identity of a character poised somewhere in a process of becoming, caught in a gray zone of in-betweenness. A geography of forms, emotions, and architecture underlies the choice of what Antonioni’s characters wear on film. The choices of location and clothing were crucial in the visual composition of his shots. As Berselli recalls (Berselli 2007), after carefully See Plate 1 and Plate 2


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choosing the location of the island “Lisca Bianca,” the director had a long conversation with her explaining how crucial it was for him that the clothing should blend into that particular landscape. What the actors wore had the function of a chronotope in a novel, where location, place, and landscape are key in the temporal unfolding of the story, but also in its visual perception.29 Deeply involved in the choice of clothing for his films, Antonioni was not entirely satisfied with the sketches he was shown and wanted a more concrete idea of clothing, demanding to see and touch the fabric prior to giving it his OK (Berselli, 2007, 17). Otherness, feelings that are impalpable, impossible to comprehend or contain in a frame are the very stuff of Antonioni’s films. The wandering, suffering, joy, and playfulness of seeing, as well as the fragility of his characters, do not pertain solely to their inner selves. Rather, these moments and events are treated always as “opportunities for cinema” and the aesthetic act in general (Rohdie 1990). It is the poetic, affective power of clothing that interests Antonioni, its ability to have a significance through the effects and texture of fabric and color, and how all this works visually in the composition of the shots, like the twists and turns of folds and details of dress. The breeze, the uncertain light of dawn, the darkness of night or of a sudden eclipse, the whiteness of a desert island in the Mediterranean, the grayness of a northern industrial town, all work to establish, along with clothing, an autonomous language, multifaceted in its nuances. The cut and fabric of a skirt have a say in the particular movement of the legs; the footsteps in an almost deserted city or in a crowded street are often the only sounds we hear when women in high-heeled pumps walk, wander, dream, explore. Walking—the passeggiata—is used as a structural function in Antonioni’s films, ever since he made Cronaca di un amore (Cuccu, 1973, 35). In the process of staging and framing, clothes have both a structural and an aesthetic function. In his 1950s films, dress and accessories have a more overtly theatrical function than they have in the 1960s films, where clothing is required to blend in with the visual language of landscape and architecture.

Outsiders, doubles, wanderers It is typical of Antonioni to signal the out-of-placeness of his characters, especially those we can call foreigners. Sometimes they are foreigners to themselves, like Claudia in L’avventura, or Vittoria (played by Monica Vitti again) in L’eclisse (1962). Antonioni had, however, an eminent forerunner for his depictions of the wanderings of the woman traveler: namely, in Roberto Rossellini’s film of his Ingrid Bergman period, Viaggio in Italia (Journey to Italy, 1953). Through Katherine, the protagonist, played by Bergman, the film establishes a cinematic recounting of a portrait of an artist, but as a self-referential film through Katherine’s wanderings in the streets of Naples and its surroundings it is also a reflection on the process of filmmaking. There is, however, a major difference between Katherine, how she is dressed and how she deals with feelings, and Antonioni’s female characters in his 1960s films. During her sightseeing, Katherine dresses as the typical upper class English tourist. She does her sightseeing


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in flats and a suit, holding an umbrella and a camera. The tight jacket is buttoned up, she wears a scarf wrapping her neck; she is beautiful and yet expresses a sort of prudishness, an uptightness that is emphasized by an outfit that makes her look older than she is. We see this clearly when Katherine goes to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples in the sequence involving the classical Greek and Roman statues. She is overcome by the intensity of emotion. Toward the end of the sequence, she appears dwarfed by the great size of the muscular bodies of the sculptures and the overflowing of an almost undefined passion, an overt sexuality. In his 1960s movies, Antonioni’s women are not overcome by their passions and fears. They wander through the films, they walk and drive through fogs. Take Claudia and Anna, the two female characters in L’avventura, in the scene in which they are getting dry and undressing after a swim: they are shot in opposite and contrasting settings, a technique that Antonioni will use time and again to depict a sense of a thin and yet insurmountable barrier that both draws the women together and pulls them apart (as happens later with the two lovers). Claudia and Anna are joined, not only in the intimate space of the cabin, but also by a thinly disguised sexual attraction between the two, which viewers grasp. Although presented as opposites, Claudia and Anna seem to be two sides of the same coin. They are both outsiders. But because of their being on the border of an undetermined area of an in-betweenness, they are, like all women in the 1960s films, more experimental, more able to travel, than their male counterparts (and thus, in this, similar to Katherine in Viaggio in Italia), and more able to feel what they cannot express or see, or cannot see yet. Claudia sees Anna vanishing, but also sees a part of herself disappearing, dying. She cannot and does not want to retrieve what she has lost, yet she searches for it, as she searches for the missing Anna. It is while the two women are in the cabin that Anna, pulling from her bag two shirts, one dark and one light, asks Claudia: “Which one should I wear?” Claudia has no doubt, she picks the darker blouse, and puts it on, asking her friend’s opinion. Anna comments that the shirt looks much better on Claudia, and she decides to give it to her. As soon as Claudia leaves the cabin, Anna puts the shirt in her friend’s bag without being seen by her. This simple gesture is a prelude to an exchange of identity and role between the two women. A similar gesture, although in a completely different context and narrative, appears in Antonioni’s The Passenger (1975), when David Locke, played by Jack Nicholson, exchanges his own check shirt for the light denim one of Robertson, now dead, in an attempt, futile as it turns out, to take over his identity and appropriate his life. In L’avventura, Anna vanishes from the island, never to be found again. The following day Claudia, having spent the night in a hut, on awakening goes toward the window. Claudia is seen from behind, it is dawn, and we see on the horizon the sea and the white rocks of Lisca Bianca. Then from her backpack she takes Anna’s shirt. She puts it on over a pair of skinny pants before going to meet Sandro. Later, when Anna’s father arrives at the island and notices Claudia’s shirt, she answers his question with, “Yes, it’s Anna’s. She gave it to me. I found it in the bag.” This is a shirt that, as with many of the clothes in L’avventura, chromatically and thematically blends in

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with the landscape, the rocks, and the nature around it. We see Claudia wandering on the island almost enveloped by her surroundings, becoming an integral part of the landscape, almost swallowed by it. Antonioni himself chose this shirt. Apparently, it was originally a shirt-dress, a chemisier, purchased by Berselli, who had followed the crew on the shoot. Antonioni liked it because of the ethnic print of the fabric, its brown and copper color combination, which he thought would work well with the chromatic tones of the film as a whole but in particular for the sequence after Anna’s disappearance. It was decided then to cut up the dress and transform it into a shirt for Claudia’s character (Berselli, 2007). From the moment in which Claudia puts on Anna’s shirt she becomes the new partner of Anna’s lover, Sandro; when Locke puts on Robertson’s shirt in The Passenger, he takes over his identity. In La notte (1961), as in L’avventura, there is an intimate moment, a conversation between Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) and Valentina Gherardini (Monica Vitti) that takes place during the all-night party at her father’s villa. A sudden thunderstorm has drenched many partygoers, some of whom take a swim in the rain in the open-air pool. Lidia goes on a car ride with one of the guests, who has been flirting with her. Her husband, Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni), has, in his turn, been flirting with the young Valentina. In this film, Vitti has been turned into a brunette (she is wearing a wig), reminiscent of an episode in L’avventura in which she tries on different kinds of wigs. When Lidia comes back from her ride in the rain, and appears, soaked, Valentina gives her dry towels; while she gets undressed, she appears in black lingerie to dry her hair and clothes. Here the two women, who should be “rivals,” appear instead to be accomplices, dressed in the same style, each wearing an impeccable “little black dress.” Vitti is wearing a dress by Valentino. They are the only two at the party dressed in black; their style is similar, both dresses exposing their bare backs. Lidia, after the rain, seems to be almost reborn, a liberation that has resonances with T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Costumes for the film and for Lidia came from the Milan-based designer Biki, famous for dressing international celebrities, including Maria Callas. As so often in Antonioni’s films, we see several shots where women are shown from behind, observing a landscape, wandering in the streets, or obliquely looking out of a window. We see them, still from behind, going, vanishing. He gives special attention to hairstyle, to the cut of clothes, and to where the cleavage ends. Antonioni’s wanderers are always sexy, women and men alike. In Il deserto rosso, we see close-ups of Giuliana’s necklines, when the group of friends are in the hut near the port, as well as of Vittoria’s in L’eclisse. Lidia, in La notte, wears only two dresses. One has floral motifs, a sophisticated sundress with back cleavage, and a white jacket with a three-quarter length sleeve that she wears open and unbuttoned while she walks in Chanel sandals, carrying a clutch. In the second part of the film, after her long walk and a bath on her return home, she wears her black dress until the end of the film. Her two dresses mark the temporal beat of the film. The makeup artist, Francesco Freda, who worked with Antonioni on La notte, recalls Antonioni’s obsessive attention to detail. In his memoir, he recalls that La notte was not an easy film: “The single scene at the night-time party lasted 30 days, from 5 in the evening till morning,” (Freda, 2014: 42).


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In contrast to neorealism, in Antonioni’s films there are no miracles, but there are narrative surprises. Expectations that the plot would follow a customary narrative path, as we have seen in Cronaca are often confounded. From this perspective, La notte is particularly striking. Lidia, playing the part of the unhappy wife, wanders around the streets of Milan and its outskirts; she appears elegantly dressed, a woman of a classy, sophisticated elegance that makes her stand out wherever she is and whoever she meets in the street. She appears at ease with her body; we often see from behind, her high heels clicking on the asphalt, the only sound accompanying the harmonic and sexy rhythm of her walk. She wanders through the film, either in the streets or during the party in the millionaire industrialist’s villa. At the party, Antonioni stages the spectacle of commodification of bodies and private and professional relationships in the wake of the boom era. At one point in the middle of the party a guest lifts her skirt to show her garter holding banknotes. It is quite a grotesque shot, if one compares it to the elegantly clad crowd present at the party. And yet this close-up, which fills the screen and interrupts the flow of the party scene, acts as a reminder of the vulgar culture of money and greed of this new phase of capitalism. On another occasion, this time having a bearing on professional relationships, the industrialist Gherardini offers Giovanni a job on the condition that he agrees to be one of the intellectuals in the “court” of one of the “new princes” of Italy’s economic transformation. In this, as well, Antonioni foresees, while it is still in its early stages, a phenomenon that will characterize the marriage between intellectuals and media magnates in Italy’s second republic and in global neoliberal capitalism in general. Within this sordid picture, Lidia is constantly observing, and constantly on the move. She is never still, only at the end, at dawn, sitting on the grass, does she tell her husband Giovanni that she does not love him anymore. He is a successful writer, but is afflicted by writers’ block and utterly predictable in his attempts at semicasual sexual encounters. He is also the fake intellectual, who features quite often in Antonioni’s films; a bit like Sandro in L’avventura, but in a different profession. In his conversations, Giovanni mentions his inability to find new words for his fiction. He simply recycles. At the end of the film, in one of the most striking sequences, Giovanni cannot even remember that he had written a passionate letter to Lidia when their relationship was not strangled by routine, when it is read to him by Lidia herself. He thinks the letter has been written by one of Lidia’s would-be-lovers, and takes action according to the story he has told himself about the reason why Lidia wants to end their relationship. In one of the film’s most tragic and grotesque moments, we see Giovanni intent on raping Lidia. She attempts to escape his clutches, but as she does so the camera pans away from the couple and moves toward a shot of the nearby landscape, leaving viewers with a sense of unease. Lidia is never predictable in any of her actions. In the course of her walk, she even ventures into the outskirts of Milan—Sesto San Giovanni—a place certainly not suitable for a signora. Here, she watches some boys, who look like local thugs, spoiling for a fight. She tries to stop them; there is a moment of tension; Lidia, an elegantly dressed bourgeois signora, is surrounded by muscular young men. They look like a

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


Figure 25  Giovanni and Lidia, La notte. Nepi/Sotiledip/Silver Films/The Kobal Collection, Art Resource/NY. Milanese version of the subculture known as “teddy boys,” after the name taken by London-based youth groups involved in the riots of 1958. Incidentally, in 1964, Pier Paolo Pasolini had written a film script under the title Milano nera set in Milan during the boom years. Here, a group of Milan-based teddy boys are the protagonists; the film is set on New Year’s Eve and concerns various adventures, some violent, of this gang.30 Among the episodes, there is one that deals with rape and sex, involving the boys and three upper middle class Milanese ladies wearing fur coats. In Antonioni’s


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film, although we are in Milan and have an encounter between two different worlds, and although we might expect either a rape or a sexual act involving the teddy boys and the signora, nothing happens. This episode is a Pasolinian event, but in reverse; it plays on the tensions, the waiting, but eschews the consummation of any act. At one stage, the boys all stare at Lidia, one in particular, as he puts on his shirt and then follows her. At any moment we expect him to rape her, all the clues and ingredients are there. Instead, nothing happens. He loses track of her. The gazes of the youths here recall a scene in L’avventura, when Claudia and Sandro are in the main piazza of the Sicilian town of Noto. While waiting for Sandro, Claudia is surrounded by local males who whisper in Sicilian dialect: “Forestiera questa, che bedda femmina, deve essere francese!” (“This one’s a foreigner, what a beautiful woman, she must be French!”). Here Claudia wears, for the only time in the film, a signora outfit, consisting of a black and white small-print suit with a string of pearls. Apparently, this was the only outfit not completely approved of by Berselli, who thought that the suit, chosen and bought in a boutique by Vitti herself, conveyed a different and a more bourgeois perception of Claudia’s character. It was, in other words, a deviation from her bohemian character, an interruption. There are two reasons why this deviation is important, but why it also works cinematically. Since Anna’s disappearance, Claudia has undergone a series of transformations, and has taken Anna’s place as Sandro’s love interest. The suit works well chromatically against the background of Noto’s baroque architecture, but also in

Figure 26  Antonioni, Alain Delon and Monica Vitti on the set of L’eclisse, dir. Antonioni. Interopa-Cineriz-Paris/Times/The Kobal Collection, Art Resource/NY.

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


contrast with the group of Sicilian males in the piazza, her admirers. However, there is one more important detail, which undercuts the classical signora suit and look. This relates to Vitti’s hair, and the fact that her kind of beauty was completely different from the typical Italian model such as Sophia Loren or Gina Lollobrigida. Bertellini has observed that Vitti “embodied a modern kind of distressed womanhood unknown to Italian screens” (Bertellini: 2004, p. 5). Vitti certainly contributed enormously to the modern, sexy and unsettling feel that characterizes Antonioni’s films. So the “deviation” represented by the suit Vitti wears in Noto is part of her star persona, but is also in dialogue with the construction of her cinematic presence and in line with the visual language of the film. Antonioni has a particular preference for empty spaces and minimalist architecture. Baroque Noto is transformed into a modernist masterpiece; so, too, is Rome, in L’eclisse. As film scholar, Jacopo Benci, has noted: Clearly Antonioni’s minutely careful—often mutely, unemphatically specific—use of Roman locations in his films of the 1950s offers us a key for understanding his critical approach to the contradictions of life in post-war Italy, but also to the shortcomings and blind spots of the neo-realist film-making that had initiated the project of looking at Rome (and all Italy) with new eyes.31

We have already mentioned how Antonioni’s attention to details and to ordinary people who would otherwise pass unnoticed, such as the street cleaners in N. U., becomes the tangible vehicle of a poetic vision that embodies the “emotional purity” of his filmmaking sensibility. As has been mentioned in several studies, Antonioni’s style has important resonances with modernist painters such as Mario Sironi, Giorgio de Chirico, and Giorgio Morandi. In L’eclisse, in fact, we see a close-up of the abstract sculpture by Francesco Somaini Forza del nascere (Effort to be Born, 1956). In La notte, Mastroianni appears in one of the scenes against the backdrop of a huge painting by Mario Sironi, La Caduta (1933–1935).32 N.U., L’Amorosa menzogna, La signora senza camelie and of course L’eclisse (this latter particularly important for its minimalist rendition of Rome) all stand in opposition to the opulent way the city has been represented and mythologized, especially in the tourist rendition of the eternal city to be consumed as a fantastic Italian meal. By contrast, Antonioni’s characters live out their lives against the backdrop of a semi-barren landscape and a mix of 1930s architecture and buildings under construction. There is a striking sense of suspension in L’eclisse, which is of course typical of Antonioni’s style, but the sense of suspension in L’eclisse is even stronger, especially in the last sequence of the film, where the two characters—played by Monica Vitti and Alain Delon—simply disappear, leaving us with details of buildings and objects and, of course, with the uncertainty of suspended time, waiting for something to happen or to appear. In the words of film scholar Lorenzo Cuccu, Antonioni treats the image not as “the result of an expressive process, but the representation of this process.”33 This suspension of meaning, or, to borrow from Barthes, the “fragility of meaning” is embodied by the actors and by the way they move, by what they wear, as well as by what surroundings or environments they happen to be in. The viewer expects


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something to happen, but nothing happens, leaving us with the suggestion that it is precisely the space left empty or the lack of an object that really matters, because it triggers a process of seeing with a new and more profound awareness of reality. It is in these blank spaces that Tonino Guerra sees Antonioni’s major gift to us and to our processes of reflection on, and rethinking of, reality. The EUR, the main location of L’eclisse, seems to be the ideal space for such a profound exploration of Vittoria’s journey and search. In the EUR, a whole new area of Rome, built under Mussolini, we see the haunting past of fascist Italy looming into a present and futuristic environment with an almost science fiction-like quality. Although the district of EUR stands for the recent past, in Antonioni’s hands it is completely transformed, and given a silent and almost metaphysical atmosphere. In the film, the EUR is juxtaposed against the screaming crowd at the Roman Stock Exchange where Vittoria meets her mother and connects with a stock broker (Alain Delon) her future lover. Indeed, here, silence, or the one-minute’s silence they are asked to observe as a sign of respect for a co-worker’s passing, is translated, in Delon’s words, into costing “billions”. The death, silence, or lack of screaming and action is translated into a monetary transaction at the Stock Exchange; death and feelings have become commodities. The way Rome appears in L’eclisse stands in sharp contrast to the outrageous parties and crowded scenes that will epitomize the spectacle of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita in the center of the eternal city (and to the parties in Paolo Sorrentino’s Rome-set La Grande Bellezza). However, Antonioni’s Rome in L’eclisse is complementary to the crowded and baroque Dolce Vita. Those empty spaces, the zebra crossings, the periphery, the on-going building construction are all reminders of Italy’s process of modernization. Such scenes were present in Fellini’s Dolce Vita and in many films of the period, such as those by Pasolini, Pietrangeli, Rosi and others. The EUR, however, has its own cinematic and visual charge, its minimalism deployed as a spectacular backdrop to Antonioni’s visual style. In L’eclisse, Vittoria is a translator. She mentions this at the beginning of the film in the scene where she breaks up with her fiancé Riccardo (Francesco Rabal). The film starts with silence and a claustrophobic environment where we see Vittoria from behind, her image doubled in mirrors or window panes, her body cut in two, allowing us to see only her legs and her elegant high-heeled sandals. It is early on a hot summer morning, and after an almost sleepless night she is breaking up with her partner. In fact, one of the sentences that Vittoria keeps repeating is“Non lo so” (I do not know), and her gestural performance in her softly draped classic dress is indicative of her restless search. Vittoria carries with her a sense of uncertainty about both her individual and our collective futures. Vittoria walks wearing simple and chic dresses, her hair, full and beautifully distressed. Her style is simple and elegant. Bice Brichetto, assisted by Gitt Magrini, who later worked as a costume designer for films such as Bertolucci’s The Conformist and, later, The Last Tango in Paris, was responsible for costume design in L’eclisse. As happens in other Antonioni films, Vittoria leaves the film and takes a leap into what David Forgacs has called the “paratext” of cinema. In fact, commenting on the relationship between Antonioni and his actors, and on Vitti in particular, Forgacs

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


has argued: “Frozen into a series of almost still shots, the beautiful woman [Vitti] momentarily leaves the cinematic narrative and re-enters the paratexts of cinema: the fashion photograph, the illustrated magazine article about a film star” (Forgacs: 2011, 173). That Antonioni is fascinated by photography is evident; never more so than in his Blow-up. This film is a quintessential example where the cinema and the paratexts of cinema coexist, a platform for an intermedial reflection. It is hardly chance that Antonioni chose a fashion photographer, Thomas (David Hemmings), and fashion itself to tell this story, in which the media of cinema and photography intersect. But there is another important layer to this film. Thomas, the protagonist of the film, cannot decide between a career in “serious” photography, documenting homeless people, and the “less serious” but more glamorous job of photographing models, their magnificent bodies (and having sex with aspiring models). But what we find out in the film is that the “naked truth” of documenting life for disenfranchised people and urban degradation is no less constructed, or more serious, than fashion photography; and that in the process of documenting there is always something that escapes comprehension and representation, as suggested by Thomas’s failed attempts to make sense of what went on in the park—the mystery of the film—by enlarging the photographs he took there. Blow-up illustrates that what is photographed is always constructed, no matter what the genre: documenting people in the street, fashion modeling, or, by extension, films belonging to the various genres, documentary and fiction. Reality is always mediated; each photograph is both a construction and a reconstruction. Fashion photography simply makes more explicit the tension that already exists in any kind of rendering of reality. Matilde Nardelli has argued, in fact: “Thomas makes […] fictional use not only of his fashion work but also of the very photos within which he wants to discover fact, evidence—for, as others have noted, Thomas’s examination of these pictures builds a story out of them. It is as much a construction as a reconstruction of the event” (Nardelli: 187).34 In this way, fashion photography in Blow-up and, by extension, film make the invisible seams of photography and film visible, thus exposing the ontology of photography and film, and their process. But, returning to Italy, and staying with photography and the paratext of film, interesting visual encounters between Antonioni’s films and fashion photography did take place in Italy at the same time—the 1960s. During the boom years many artists and photographers were concerned, as were filmmakers, by the changes in the urban landscape, and drastic changes in the environment. One such photographer was Ugo Mulas, whose fashion photography and complex use of the landscape had, as in Antonioni’s work, geopolitical and aesthetic implications, as well as having visual similarities to Antonioni’s 1960s films. In the 1950s and 1960s, Mulas worked for the magazine Novità, which later, in 1965, became Vogue Italia; he also worked for the artist Lucio Fontana, and collaborated with Mila Schön, whose 1969 spring/ summer collection was inspired by Fontana’s work.35 In the late 1950s, Mulas chose a model named Vera Lehndorff for a weekly reportage in Settimo Giorno; she was later to become the fashion icon Veruska, who in Antonioni’s Blow-up plays herself in a paradigmatic scene featuring the mimicking of a hyper-possessive—on the part of the male photographer—sex act. Mulas’s favorite model, though, with whom he worked


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extensively, was Benedetta Barzini, another 1960s icon and trademark, who had previously worked with Irving Penn, Bert Stern, and Richard Avedon for Vogue America when it was headed by the legendary Diana Vreeland, featured on the cover of Vogue Italia in its November 1965 issue. To underline fashion’s status as a phenomenon of modernity, Mulas often conducts his photoshoots in urban settings; these are also very cinematic. Taking a closer look at some of his photographs from 1958, we see that fashion is presented in the street; models pose in urban space, wearing beautiful dresses—expressions of 1950s trends—tight bodices and ample gowns, the position of the body, feet and hands of the models all inscribed in the accepted and conventional posing codes. Interestingly, however, the models are in profile, their gaze elusive, as if they were characters in Antonioni’s movies. Their gaze is directed between the landscape and a vanishing point that is not immediately identified.† As with Antonioni’s films, the landscape deserves special comment. Although the models are in Milan, the modern city par excellence, the cityscape is not immediately recognizable, or presented as fashionable. We are, in fact, in the area of the navigli, the canals, which in the meantime have been gradually gentrified, but in the late 1950s were only slowly being reconstructed and modernized. The water gives us a foggy and out-of-focus background, perhaps it is dawn. We see a construction site (the labor of immigrants, many of whom were from Southern Italy and would contribute to the transformation and rapid development of Milan); to this, the glamorous world of fashion is set in opposition, typical of Antonioni’s use of fashion and fashion models (in Cronaca and Le amiche for instance). In another picture, where we see a model wearing a hot pink dress and white long-sleeved gloves, an additional layer is added by the presence of the urban landscape. We see apartment buildings (part of the old town), new construction sites mirrored and doubled by their reflections on the water. From a formal standpoint, these photographs are highly innovative and call attention to the space that lies between fashion and urban transformation and the restructuring that was taking place during the economic miracle. The doubling of the image and the mirroring of the landscape as a cultural marker, along with the ungraspable gaze of the model, all hint at the maelstrom of change transforming the old into the new. As W. J. Mitchell has noted: “Landscape is a medium not a genre and as an agent of power it has a double role. It simultaneously represents itself and makes that representation operational by interpolating its beholder.”36 In Mulas’s photographs, we see the new represented by fashion, the not-yet of new construction, and the old by the city buildings that appear in the background. These layers express different temporalities that live through the object, each a distinct language with its own set of codes. What is elusive and ungraspable in this picture is the relationship between the composed and elegant pose of the model, wearing Italy’s new glamorous clothes, and her gaze. It is as if the photograph wants to document the explicit fiction of fashion photography, anticipating Antonioni’s Blow-up, made eight years later. Another photograph by Mulas, taken in 1950s Milan, depicts the Pirelli skyscraper, designed by Giò Ponti and finished in 1958, later to appear in the opening shots of Antonioni’s La notte with See Plate 3

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


“a long, upward-tilting shot […] juxtaposed with a Beaux Arts building in the shot’s foreground” (Rhodes, 286).37 ‡ Until the construction of the Pirelli skyscraper, no building had been granted permission to be taller than the Madonnina overlooking the spires of the duomo. In the photograph, the elegant and assertive signora looks straight ahead, while in the background we see again a fusion of the old, the new and the not-yet. Her gait and the slim and elongated body of the model, with gray tweed coat and white fox collar, mime the shape of the building in the poster behind her. Advertising the construction of the Pirelli skyscraper, she is wandering around the construction site, illustrating very economically Italy’s transitional phase during the economic boom and the contradictory and multifaceted process of the Italian road to modernity. Such contradictions were to have a great effect on the environment, and will be at the core of Il deserto rosso, a film where Antonioni achieves a new visual texture and chromatism. In Il deserto rosso, Giuliana, the protagonist, is a neurotic, who suffers on account of her excess of vision; she sees too much, too intensely, she perceives too many things. She could certainly be a character in today’s over-saturated world where we can feel literally bombarded by visual stimuli. Giuliana does not know how to deal with and contain what she sees without making her mind or the objects themselves explode—as they are willed to do by Daria, the female protagonist in the final scene of a later film, Zabriskie Point (1969). Giuliana’s questions, however, are similar to those of visual artists who might ask themselves how the canvas, and the frame, can contain what one feels and sees. In Il deserto rosso, the textures and combination of colors between the way the characters appear and the way they are dressed vis-à-vis the landscape are rendered in such a way that one can almost touch the walls, feel the fogs, and the green woolen coat Giuliana wears, as she walks with her son at the beginning of the film. Gitt Magrini, who had collaborated on the costumes for L’ eclisse, also designed the costumes for this film. In the opening shot, we follow Giuliana wearing a knee-length green coat, her blondish copper hair seeming almost to emerge from the screen, as she walks against the grayness of the factory. These have become iconic shots in global film history. We see in the film several close-ups of detritus, resembling debris after a catastrophe (an environmental one?), the visible damage to the environment contrasted to other sequences of sea, the rhythmic movements of the waves, leaves rustled by the wind. (A similar shot was already present in L’eclisse, although representing a different kind of tree, and reappears in Blow-up, when Thomas the photographer is in the park.) Although never shown by either watches or clocks, time plays a crucial role in Antonioni’s films, especially in its intimate links with both imaginary and real space. In one sequence, Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris), a friend and associate of Giuliana’s husband Ugo (Carlo Chionetti), joins Guiliana in the unfinished shop she seems to be opening in Ravenna. At the beginning of the sequence the frame is entirely occupied by a gray wall, after which we see Corrado’s head emerge from his car. The interior ‡

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of the shop is still empty, with patches of different colors on the walls, paint left in some corners. Giuliana, dressed in purple, moves from one wall to the other, giving a painting-like quality to the whole sequence. The makeup artist Francesco Freda worked with Antonioni on this film as well as on The Passenger, another film where color is particularly striking. Of this experience, Freda has written: Once, when we were filming The Passenger in an Algerian desert during a change of shot, I enjoyed following Antonioni in silence while he was choosing the new position for the camera. […] He positioned the camera and called Jack Nicholson. It was a simple close-up, but one could sense a whole world of a desperate explosion, made up of colors, shadows and lights, an expanse that looked like it was painted by hand. And what can I say when he [Antonioni] used to call me in the middle of the night to tell me: “Tomorrow, when we get up, I want to see the dawn on the faces of the actors!” And in the same way he asked me for the red of the sunset reflected on the whole scene, or that the desperation of an abandonment appeared on their faces.)38

In Il deserto rosso, the whole Ravenna episode in Giuliana’s shop is a visual tour de force that is carried over when the two characters go outside onto the sidewalk to be enveloped in grayness. While Giuliana and Corrado are outside, a newspaper page very slowly falls from the sky. Wearing a beautifully crafted high-heeled pump, which we see in close-up, Giuliana traps the newspaper page on the ground with her foot. She tells us that it is “today’s paper,” reminding us of time, and the measure of time. She, however, reminds us of contingency, becoming timeless, weightless like the floating page or the overflowing perceptions and feelings couched in her visionary mind. Giuliana’s coats and clothing in Il deserto rosso are timeless, and are still referenced today in advertisements in international fashion magazines. There is little non-diegetic music in Antonioni’s films. In its absence, it is often shoes, and high-heeled shoes with their tick-tack sound, that establish a rhythmic tempo as the camera follows the footsteps of women wanderers (Lidia in the streets of Milan, Vittoria in the streets of Rome, Giuliana in Ravenna and its vicinity, Claudia in multiple localities/spaces). Each one of them has a distinct way of being in the world articulated by the rhythms of her heels touching the ground, in a restless search, a desire for a somewhere and a something that is not always identified. Desire is what drives these protagonists. But on screen they also become objects of desire. They seem almost suspended in their search, their paths neither predictable nor predetermined. Style in Antonioni does not cause him to lose sight of the crucial political issues that are present, discreetly, in his films. The issue of class, especially at a time when Italy was going through a radical transformation that would gradually propel the country onto the global stage and market, is always present in Antonioni’s films. It is present, however, in the subtlest of ways, avoiding the too obvious, or moralistic, representations of which classic neorealism was sometimes guilty. In the 1960s films, he addresses very specific issues: the boom in the building trade and the contrast between natural and historic landscapes in L’ avventura; the Stock Exchange and

Launching Italian Style in Cinema and Fashion


the fear of a new, nuclear, conflict during the Cold War in L’ eclisse; Milan and the relationship between industrialists, intellectuals, and media culture in La notte; alienation, damage to the environment, and pollution in Il deserto rosso. The notion of “progress” as opposed to sviluppo (development), to borrow Pasolini’s terminology, is played out in Il deserto rosso. All the signs of “capitalist” alienation— including pollution and serious damage to the environment—are seen here. We also witness an attempt at a global capitalist initiative made by Corrado to launch his corporation into a global venture in Argentina, another promised land for both neo-capitalism and Italian workers (from the North) in search of a better future. Corrado is attracted to Giuliana and establishes an intimate relationship with her, something entirely absent between Giuliana and Ugo. Corrado, too, seems to be a character in transition. He is alone in having a foreign family name; he is an industrialist not by choice but by family inheritance. He says that he fulfils this role under protest despite his misgivings. He also travels, not sure where to stop, where to take root—all reasons why he connects with Giuliana. He says to her in one of their conversations: “You say, ‘how do I have to look?’ I say, ‘how do I have to live?’ Basically, they are the same things.” In one scene in The Passenger, journalist and reporter David Locke, the Jack Nicholson character, talks to Robertson, his next-door neighbor in the hotel in the middle of an African desert. Locke tape-records the conversation, and, when he listens to the recording later, we hear him say the film’s most important lines, probably written by Peter Wollen, the co-screenwriter: “It’s us who remain the same, we translate every situation, every experience into the same codes. We just condition ourselves.” Locke wants not to remain the same. He attempts to escape from the codes that condition him, and to escape from his self and his past by assuming Robertson’s identity after his accidental death—but to no avail. Locke’s desire is translated visually in a sequence later in the film, in a scene with the girl he meets (Maria Schneider) and who accompanies him on his journey. Pictured while driving in a convertible car, she asks him: “From what are you escaping?” We then see the girl standing on the back seat of the car with her arms open as if she were flying, almost disappearing, into the trees and foliage along the road. However, The Passenger, as much as it is a film of imprisonment is also a film about liberation, paradoxical as that might seem, given that the main character fails to escape from the confines of his previous life and identity. But, returning to Rohdie’s words, the imprisonment of the self becomes an opportunity for film. It is the film and the cinematic experience that is liberating, and rebels against old codes. This is a constant feature of Antonioni’s films of the 1960s. The Passenger’s final scene shows us Locke’s liberation from the material nature of the life he has been forced to live, even when he changes persona to live a new life, but one that turns out to be equally empty. The gravity-defying camera that in a long take, seven minutes in duration, goes beyond the materiality of the metal bars of the window of the room where Locke is “locked in” affords him the liberation he had sought as he finally escapes the prison-house of his identity to take on, perhaps—who knows—a new one; it is a scene that signals his transcendence. Similarly, in the final sequence of Zabriskie Point we see Daria (Daria Halprin), the female protagonist, imagining a violent, destructive explosion of the


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luxury apartment in the desert where she had just attended a meeting with her boss. He is a real estate agent who disgusts Daria because he has a purely utilitarian view of nature and life in general. The final sequence of the film is, for Daria, a moment of liberation from this utilitarian ideology. We see, in new contexts, deprived of their conventional use value, everyday objects taking on unprecedented forms and shapes. The sequence tells us that liberation can be achieved aesthetically by the making of an art that goes beyond the constraints of the everyday. The refrigerator, the chicken, the furniture, clothes and packages we see explode take on the new forms of things they have never previously been: abstract shape, pure form.39 At the Hotel de la Gloria, death awaits Locke. Was he killed? Did he kill himself? We do not know, nor does it really matter (just as it doesn’t really matter what happened to Anna on the Sicilian island). The murder is unsolved, as it is in Cronaca di un amore. There is a scene in L’avventura with which I would like to conclude. Claudia is with Sandro. As he is about to leave their pensione in Noto, we hear a popular song with the lyric “You will never leave me.” Claudia is dancing in the room to the rhythms of the song. We see her tracing a series of shadows on the walls following her movements. Sandro watches her on his way out. During her sexy performance, Claudia asks him to tell her that he loves her. Then, toward the end, Claudia’s cheerful face becomes sad and thoughtful while she looks at Sandro, whose mind seems to be elsewhere. Finally, Sandro goes out. It is at this point that we see a close-up of Claudia sitting on the floor with the balcony door open; through it we can see the town behind her. She is wearing a house coat, funny and housewifely-looking compared to the other dresses she has worn in the film. She looks at the camera, puts her hands in the front pockets, which are detachable like little wings with fringes, lifts her hands while they are in the pockets and makes a funny gesture with her face. With this simple gesture of her hands and face, she almost mocks all the drama: Anna’s disappearance, her love story with Sandro, her attempts to understand his feelings or measure his emotional involvement with her. All of this is dissolved in a gesture that also dissolves narrative itself. The result is a light playfulness that could not have been achieved cinematically without the complicity of the house coat Claudia is wearing.40 In Claudia’s gesture we see Barthes’s punctum in photography, a detail that has the power to disrupt any sense of linearity or conventional expectation, and that affects and exceeds the logic of identity. Barthes’s point about photography, and his interest in the still, could also be made about Antonioni’s cinematic style: Photography must be silent (there are resounding pictures that I do not love): this is not a question of “discretion,” but of music. Absolute subjectivity can be achieved only in a state striving towards silence (close your eyes to make the image speak in silence). The photograph strikes me if I pull it away from the usual bla-bla: “Technique,” “Reality,” “Reportage,” “Art,” etc. Do not say anything, close your eyes, let the detail alone come to the surface, to the affective conscience.41

In Antonioni’s films, single gestures and details enable us to look at the world with new eyes and with a deeper sense of intimacy, strengthening the perception of our emotions and feelings. Gestures, gestural performances and their recollections

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become powerful mnemonic devices that activate the involuntary act of memory, just as an old shirt accidentally found in a forgotten corner of our closet can activate a chain of images. Interwoven, materialized in music and images, clothing is the fabric of memory.

Conclusion: a visual tactility There is a psychological law that says that for every movement of the soul there corresponds an external reason; to discover these reasons is the most important task of film directors. (Antonioni, 1939, “Cinema,” in Cuccu p. 32) For Antonioni, cinema is vision in process.

(M. Marcus, (1986, 190)

We know that Antonioni loved clothing. He was fascinated by fashion, by the tactile and sensual components of fabrics, and the ability of dress, costume and makeup to shape, transform, and play with identity on screen. Self-fashioning and performance are embedded and embodied in both fashion and film. As fashion historian Christopher Breward has put it: “If fashion can be said to be cinematic in its social and visual effects, then cinema is also very clearly a primary product of the aesthetic and technological processes of ‘fashioning’” (Breward, 2003). Fashion and fashioning, however, have a far broader reach. As shown in Antonioni’s films, including his documentaries, fashion is at the core of these complex processes of identity formation and negotiation in the context of social and cultural changes. Like cinema, fashion is a complex system of signification that touches on emotions and fantasy, but can also be turned into a very powerful political weapon. It is in this light that we can best see how fashion in film is a rich subtext that touches not only on the personal but also on wider cultural and political features. In Cronaca, translation and transformation are at the core of a character like Paola as she is transformed into a diva. In the 1960s films, characters and clothing seem to dissolve and blend into each other creating new textures that position self and identity at a mid-point, somewhere “in between” (or what Barthes called “the Neutral”, where color persists but where its contours blend and dissolve).42 The dissolution of the image alluded to by Barthes is apparent also in Antonioni’s short 1977 documentary Khumba Mela, his personal vision of the Indian cathartic ritual or “festival of immortality” that takes place at the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna.43 Here, his camera reviews men, women, children belonging to different classes and castes, all wrapped in beautiful, rich and colored textiles. The camera settles on naked bodies, as well as other bodies wearing stitched uniforms. The result is a chromatic fluidity where people blend into the water without ever erasing their difference, transforming, rather, the screen into a flowing, unfinished, sensual fabric, on which Antonioni intervenes and writes.


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“Drape” has traditionally defined Eastern dress, whereas Western dress is identified by the stitch: the sartorial and the constructed, of the Western hand, against the softness and draping of fabric around the body, of the Eastern hand. Khumba Mela, then, is but one more example of Antonioni’s fascination with texture, where the Western dress and eye unstitch the fluidity of drape. The Western vision blends into the Eastern, a translation, but a non-possessive translation, that caresses rather than possesses the real (to borrow Barthes’ words on Antonioni).44 Clothing and costume in general become an alternative language. Through the different layers of the fabrics out of which identity can be made, clothing draws on the materiality of memory, aesthetics, and emotions. As Bruzzi and Church Gibson put it: “Clothing is no longer simply a means of reflecting meaning, rather it is a way of creating meanings and different levels of resonance” (emphasis added).45 My concern has been to highlight the affective power of clothing, the interaction between image and the body and how this interaction affects and triggers emotions.46 The word emotion implies a movement already contained in its etymological root (motion, in English). This movement is also implied in the moving picture and the materiality of its making and its reception. Clothing in Antonioni’s films is never simply an obvious and unambiguous representation of his characters’ inner or outer selves.47 Rather, in his films, dress is of a piece with the impact his cinematic language registers elsewhere, through landscape, architecture, and the framing of objects that, when they appear on-screen, lose their utilitarian function in favor of an aesthetic perception of the image. The use of clothing and accessories in Antonioni problematizes the very notion of identity, and emphasizes a provisional condition of the self, a self-in-process. It is within the framework of this process of translation between different languages and domains of intermediality that I locate fashion and cinema. In historical terms, the interaction between fashion and film during the immediate postwar years is particularly crucial insofar as it helps us to understand the discursive nature of both the one and the other, as well as to see how and why both industries contributed to the launch of Italy as a “modern” and “stylish” country. But how sweet was this new life during Italy’s boom?

Notes 1 2 3 4

M. Antonioni (1939), “Per un film sul fiume Po” in Cinema, reprinted in O Caldiron ed. Cinema. 1936–1943, ibid. (117). M. Antonioni (1942), “Suggerimenti di Hegel”, (Cinema, p. 258). M. Antonioni (1996), “Preface to Six Films,” in The Architecture of Vision: Writing and Interviews on Cinema, Carlo di Carlo and Giorgio Tinazzi, eds, trans. Marga Cottino-Jones, New York: Marsilio, pp. 57–68 (pp. 65–6). D. Forgacs (2011), “Face, Body, Voice, Movement: Antonioni and Actors” in Antonioni Centenary essays, Laura Frascaroli and John David Rhodes, eds, London: BFI; Antonioni M. (1959) Fare un film, pp. 17–19 (p. 17).


6 7

8 9 10 11

12 13 14


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Nicola White (2000), Reconstructing Italian Fashion. America and the Development of the Italian Fashion Industry, Oxford: Berg; V. Magni (1995), “American Influence on the Italian Economy (1948–58) in Italy in the Cold War. Politics, Culture and Society 1948–58, C. Duggan, ed., Oxford: Berg, pp. 77–87; E. Morini (2005), “Anni Cinquanta. Moda”, in Anni Cinquanta. La nascita della creatività italiana, Exhibition Catalogue, Florence: Skira, pp. 267–307; M. Rosina, “Tessuti italiani anni cinquanta: tradizione e fantasia,” ibid., pp. 309–20, and of the same author, “The Textile Industry and High fashion”, in Bellissima. Italy and High Fashion 1945–1968, catalog of the exhibition, M. L. Frisa; S. Tonchi, L. Mattirolo, eds, Rome: Electa, pp. 288–91; M. Canella, “Elisa Massai” ibid., pp. 276–9. V. Caratozzolo, J. Clark, M. L. Frisa (2008), Simonetta. La prima donna della moda italiana, Venice: Marsilio. 1949 is also the year in which fashion shows were organized at the Hotel Excelsior in Venice during the Film Festival. Maisons such as Biki, Carosa and the Fontana Sisters participated in the shows. See Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli, Breve Storia della moda in Italia, (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2011), p. 196. See Nicola White, Reconstructing Italian Fashion; and L’età dell’eleganza—le Filande e Tessiture Costa nella Como degli anni Cinquanta, Margherita Rosina and Chiara Francina, eds. For an analysis of these exhibitions, see Catherine Rossi, (2015) Crafting Design in Italy. From Post-war to Postmodernism, Manchester: Manchester University Press. L’Amorosa menzogna is the inspiration for Federico Fellini’s Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheik 1951). Indeed, Fellini’s film takes up again all the issues addressed in Antonioni’s short. Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth, eds, The Affect Theory Reader, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010. Seigworth and Gregg in their introduction “An Inventory of Shimmers” make specific reference to the work of Roland Barthes on “the Neutral.” This is particularly relevant to my article on Antonioni and my study as a whole. Seigworth and Gregg, in fact, state that “The Neutral, for Barthes, is not synonymous in the least with ready acquiescence, political neutrality, a lapse into grayness; in short, it does not imply a well-nurtured indifference to the present, to existing conditions. Instead, the Neutral works to ‘outplay the paradigm’ of oppositions and negations by referring to ‘intense, strong, unprecedented states’ that elude easy polarities and contradictions while also guarding against the accidental consolidation of the very meaning that the Neutral (as ‘ardent, burning activity’) seeks to dissolve” (10). M. Antonioni (1958), “La mia esperienza,” English Translation “My personal experience”, in C. Di Carlo (2005), Michelangelo Antonioni, pp. 10–21 (p. 14). D. Païni (2013), Lo sguardo di Michelangelo Antonioni e le arti, catalog of the exhibition at Palazzo Diamante, Ferrara, p. 84. A. Levantesi (2004), “Sui sentieri della memoria, Alessandra Levantesi a colloquio con Francesco Maselli rivedendo con lui Cronaca di un amore”, in, Cronaca di un amore. Un film di Michelangelo Antonioni, Turin: Lindau, pp. 31–52, (47); my interviews with both Francesco Maselli (2011) and Carlo di Carlo (2011). Carlo di Carlo also showed me a painting that Antonioni made of the Balboni’s sisters seen from behind, one of Antonioni’s signature shots. Laura Laurenzi (2004), “Firmato Count Sarmi” in Cronaca di un amore. Un film di Michelangelo Antonioni, T. Kezich A. Levantesi, eds, Turin : Landau, pp. 85–90 (90).


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16 Laura Laurenzi, “Firmato Count Sarmi,” Kezich Tullio and Levantesi Alessandra, eds, Cronaca di un amore. Un film di Michelangelo Antonioni, 2004. 17 These were also important in market diversification in the Italian fashion industry during the period of reconstruction and the launch of a distinct Italian style; one more affordable and still refined, the boutique fashion, and the other the couture, more expensive. Paola in Cronaca seems to be a consumer of both. See Buckley: 2013, p. 172–3, E. Morini, Moda Anni Cinquanta, pp. 270–2. 18 N. Steimatsky (2008), Italian Locations: Reinhabiting the Past in Post-war Cinema: Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 19 Paola wears a quite elaborate gown that during the shooting of the film needed to be mended almost every day as it got dirty in the rain and mud. In the interview, Maselli has explained that the film crew worked closely with a Milan dressmaker, even working during the night to be ready for the next day’s shooting. 20 L. Cuccu (1973), ibid., p. 54. 21 I consider in this context Antonioni’s trilogy to comprise Cronaca di un amore, La signora senza camelie, and Le amiche, even though he made other films. 22 Elizabeth Wissinger, “Modelling a way of life: Immaterial and affective Labour in the Fashion Modelling Industry,” Ephemera, 7:1: 250–69. 23 Interestingly, Francesco Maselli, one of the writers who worked with Antonioni on the film, recalls that they were especially taken by Sarmi’s creativity when he showed them some sketches of his hats. See “Sui sentieri della memoria. Alessandra Levantesi a colloquio con Francesco Maselli rivedendo con lui Cronaca di un amore,” in Cronaca di un amore (2004). Maselli confirmed the creativity of Sarmi who worked in a very well-known fashion house in Milan, Biki. “Sarmi was Biki’s ragazzo di bottega” (interview with Maselli by Eugenia Paulicelli, Rome, April 27 2011). Biki was to collaborate again with Antonioni, in his La notte. 24 M. Gandin (2004) [1950], “Parola di Antonioni. Intervista nel corso della programmazione” in Kezich and Levantesi eds, ibid., pp. 27–9 (28). The interview was originally published in “Il progresso d’Italia” and then republished in the volume in 2004; the English translation was published in the booklet accompanying the DVD, re-edition and restoration of the film, 2004. 25 The quotation is contained in Seymour Chatman (author) & Paul Duncan (editor), Michelangelo Antonioni, Cologne: Taschen, 2008, p. 11. 26 Luisa Passerini, “Becoming a Subject in the Time of the Death of the Subject,” In Memory and Utopia. The Primacy of Intersubjectivity, London and Oakville, CT: Equinox Publishing, 2007, pp. 33–53. 27 See the photos of Eleonora Rossi Drago wearing the same fur and other fur coats in Giuseppe Palmas photographs contained in 28 Roland Barthes, The Neutral, “Color” 1. The Colorless: Two references,” p. 49. 29 Interview with Adriana Berselli, 2007. 30 I wish to thank Scott Budzinski for the paper he gave about this topic on a conference at Yale in the Spring of 2015. He was also kind enough to share the film Milano nera. 31 J. Benci (2011), “Identification of a city: Antonioni and Rome, 1940–62” in Rascaroli, Rhodes, eds, ibid., pp. 21–63 (p. 47). 32 See in particular, D. Païni, ed., (2013), Lo sguardo di Michelangelo Antonioni e le arti, Ferrara Arte, catalog of the exhibition on Antonioni and the arts held at the Palazzo Diamante in Ferrara, 2013, p. 108.

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33 L. Cuccu, (1973), La visione come problema, ibid., p. 155. 34 M. Nardelli (2011), “Blow-up and the Plurality of Photography”, in Antonioni centenary Essay, ibid. pp. 185–205. 35 M. L. Frisa (2013), “Portrait/Self-portrait: The Image of Fashion” in S. Stanfill, ed., The Glamour of Italian Fashion, London: V & A Publication. 36 W. J. T. Mitchell, (2002) Landscape and Power, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, p. 2. 37 J. D. Rhodes (2011), “Antonioni and the Development of Style”, in Antonioni Centenary Essays, ibid., pp. 276–300. 38 F. Freda (2014), L’artigiano della bellezza, Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone ‘Franco Marasca, p. 47. 39 See on the relationship between Antonioni and modern painting, D. Païni, ed., (2013), Lo sguardo di Michelangelo Antonioni. Antonioni e le arti, ibid. 40 This was one my pressing questions to Adriana Berselli, the costume designer for L’avventura. She told me that she presented two kinds of dresses to Monica Vitti who chose the more playful one because she was dying to do a little comical piece in the film. In subsequent years, after Antonioni’s 1960s films, Monica Vitti became one of the most important comedians in Italian cinema. 41 Roland Barthes (1982) [1980], Camera Lucida, New York: Hill and Wang, p. 56. 42 (New York and London: Routledge, 1994). Roland Barthes, The Neutral, Lecture Course at the College de France (1977–1978), New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. For Barthes the Neutral is not the absence of color or the space devoid of politics and action. Rather, he wishes to undermine the language of arrogance, violence and a fixed notion of identity and gender. See, for instance, his report of the following incident: “Thursday, March 9, fine afternoon, I go out to buy some paint (Sennelier inks), bottles of pigment: following my taste for the names (golden, yellow, sky blue, brilliant green, purple, sun yellow, cartham pink—a rather intense pink), I buy sixteen bottles. In putting them away, I knock one over: in sponging up, I make a new mess: little domestic complications […] And now, I am going to give you the official name of the spilled color, a name printed on the small bottle (as on the others vermillion, turquoise, etc.): it was the color called Neutral (obviously I had opened this bottle first to see what kind of color was this Neutral about which I am going to be speaking for thirteen weeks). Well, I was both punished and disappointed: punished because Neutral spatters and stains (it’s a type of dull gray-black); disappointed because Neutral is a color like others, and for sale (therefore, Neutral is not unmarketable): the unclassifiable is classified – all the more reason for us to go back to discourse, which, at least, cannot say what the Neutral is” (48–9). 43 The documentary was filmed in 1977 and shown at the Cannes film festival in 1989. Many thanks to Carlo Di Carlo for providing me with a copy of the film. 44 Roland Barthes, “Cher Antonioni,” in Cher Antonioni: 1988–1989, (Rome: Ente Autonomo di Gestione per il cinema). 45 Stella Bruzzi and Pamela Church Benson, “Dressing the Part: Cinema and Clothing,” Fashion in Film Festival: Between Stigma and Enigma (2006). 46 I am aware of the different classifications that scholars attribute to “affect” as being indistinct, diffuse, and precognitive, non-narrative if we wish, and “emotion” as being more recognizable on the geography of passions and presenting a more narrative mode. See, for instance, Debora Gould, Moving Politics. Emotion and Act


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Up’s Fight against AIDS, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press (2009) and its introductory chapter where she lays out the paradigm of affect/ emotion; see also Jesse J. Prinz, The Emotional Constructions of Morals, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. 47 This particular point was developed in Eugenia Paulicelli, “Framing the Self, Staging Identity,” in Paulicelli, Clark, eds, The Fabric of Cultures. Fashion, Identity, Globalization, New York and London: Routledge, 2009.


Rome, Fashion, Film From “Hollywood on the Tiber” to La Dolce Vita Before writing this chapter, now, in 1968, I asked Alberto Fabiani, Roberto Capucci, and many more protagonists why in January 1952, they chose one city or another. With absolute honesty they answered me that they did not know, they did not remember, whether they were in Rome or Florence? I find myself in a similar situation, looking at the slightly creased telegram, with which Giorgini alerts me that he has obtained a special train to go from Rome to Florence that has on board the American Ambassador, Dunn. I also have a typed program: it appears that in Rome [fashion houses] such as Lola Giovanelli, Stefanella Sciarra, Gabriellasport, the Ferdinandi brothers, Maria Antonelli, De Gasperi Zezza and Moschini were putting on shows. Where was Biki? And Emilio Pucci? Vita Noberasko? Was she still active? The dust of fashion is, without a doubt, golden, but because it is dust it gets lost. Some figures remain, the ones that dominated it and were able to impose not only a way of dressing, but also of living and thinking.1 (Irene Brin) In her recently published diary entitled L’Italia esplode. Diario dell’anno 1952, Irene Brin offers a series of fascinating and intimate insights into the atmosphere of postwar Rome and Italy. In the quotation above, drawing on her usual wit, Brin calls attention to the ephemeral quality of fashion, “the golden dust,” and also hints at the multiple Italian fashion cities (Rome, Florence, Milan) where Italian collections were presented. But she also underlines the PR ability of Giorgini to be able to organize a special train from Rome to Florence carrying the American Ambassador, Dunn, to a fashion show. In a short paragraph, she gives a wonderful depiction of postwar Italian fashion in the era of the Marshall Plan. At the time of the so-called “Hollywood on the Tiber,” a phrase coined in 1950 by Time magazine, the Obelisco gallery in via Sistina that Brin had opened with her husband Gasparo del Corso in 1946 was one of the most prominent spots in The Eternal City, a space where fashion, arts, painting and literature intersected.2 “Hollywood on the Tiber,” a phenomenon of the 1950s and 1960s, during Italy’s reconstruction and economic boom, was fueled by the marriage of fashion and film, in particular the American films shot in Rome. Together, the fashion and film industries helped to construct an attractive image of Italy, turning a nation in ruins at the end


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of the Second World War into one of the world’s most desirable tourist destinations. The large volume of critical attention that this phenomenon has received has, on the one hand, given special focus to cinema and to Rome, and on the other has offered a mostly descriptive, and partial, account of the relationship between the films made at that time and the Roman sartorie. Not enough analytical work has been devoted to the role fashion played in defining a narrative of urban experience and desire. In particular, critical studies have overlooked, first, how fashion took a central role in the process of the hybridization of Italian and American cultures, and second, how fashion developed connections with the film industry and the multi-layered history of Rome. My aim here is to offer some reflections on how the complex phenomenon “Hollywood on the Tiber” paved the way for several important events that were to have profound resonances with the film, fashion, and tourism industries. It was in the early 1950s that the global launch of “Made in Italy” took place. The success that Italian fashion and design enjoyed projected a new image and perception of the Italian peninsula: Italy had become, almost overnight, a modern and appealing country. Italian fashion became sexy and glamorous, thanks to the media and cinema that materialized these new images in the imagination of those who could afford to visit Italy, but also those, the great majority, who were virtual visitors, attracted by Italy’s beautiful products and designs, which they saw on screen and in magazines. Since low-cost and more affordable flights were not available, films (as film scholar Pamela Church Gibson puts it), became “air travel,” transporting audiences not only to places they could not afford to visit, but also serving as a showcase for styles and fashions that they might not otherwise see.3 The fact that many of the Italian films made during this time were shot on location against the backdrop of breath-taking Italian art and architecture contributed enormously to the way that cities and Italy as a whole were experienced. It is these links between fashion, film and the specific city of Rome, and how certain films helped to construct a narrative of a glamorous Italian identity that I propose to investigate. Through the eye it gives to fashion, to the work of fashion houses, to the highly skilled people working in them, and to the emergence of costume designers and creative laboratories for cinema, the chapter also aims to connect the glamorous side of Italy’s postwar narrative of success with the labor that fueled and materialized the mediatic success of Rome, fashion, and film. These narratives were constructed and sewn with fashion, film and the locations that allowed viewing publics to have the experience of Italy through its cities. The analysis will also offer a wider understanding of how fashion, film and the city shape discourses of modernity and negotiations of individual and collective identities. In connecting the important objects of experience, fashion, film and the city of Rome, I take my lead from Francesco Casetti whose work has focused on the “filmic experience”. His reflections on experience and the theoretical framework he develops are useful for a better understanding of how the fashion experience, too, must have a central role in relation to film and the city, and how they share, although in different capacities, what we may call the market of experience. Let us see how Casetti defines the meanings and function of the “filmic experience” and its overlap with the fashion experience. In Casetti’s words:

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a discourse is always a representation, but also an action. On this note, one can say with certainty that the filmic experience is not really a filmic experience if it is not certified at the level of discourse as well; it is this certification that leads to the emergence of that social and individual consciousness without which the filmic experience would not effectively exist. In other words, the filmic experience, like any other experience, would not be such if it did not find an echo in the network of the discourses that surround it.4

Casetti goes on to say that if cinema “thanks to its apparatus, embodies the real […], fashion takes the process of embodiment almost literally.” In fact, if cinema provides the means for a virtual or symbolic identification (“mental garments” as Casetti calls them), fashion “responds quicker and more aptly to the needs of expressing/ performing oneself.” In his most recent book, The Lumière Galaxy (2015), Casetti has further explained that experience is a “Cognitive act, but one that is always rooted in, and affects, a body (it is ‘embodied’), a culture (it is ‘embedded’), and a situation (it is ‘grounded’).”5 As these three levels work interchangeably, we can use them to connect fashion, film, and the city. Further clarification, however, is needed to explore the meanings and implications of experience in our context, as both fashion and film bear on implications with the senses (Casetti’s embodied experience). The typology, however, is and could be different: in wearing clothing, one has an immediate physical, bodily and symbolic response to the object one is wearing. Clothing, though, also elicits a response from people looking at the wearer. A wearable object can also be possessed in one’s wardrobe. But just as clothes can be worn so can the symbolic experience of living a city be worn. We can “wear” the city of Rome without actually being there, but simply by being made aware of the city and all it is made to stand for, just as people the world over wore Rome after seeing the glamorized representations of it on the screens of their local cinemas. “Wearing” a city is, then—in Casetti’s terms— symbolic, both embedded insofar as it is part of a cultural discourse and grounded insofar as Rome was a city that actually existed, even though many of the people who invested in the cultural discourse of the city had never even set foot there. For generations of viewers, iconic films such as Roman Holiday or La Dolce Vita have spurred a process of desire that has led to a symbolic wearing of the city simply because the spectator acquires the experience of fashion, film, and the city. Fashion, style, and film are sewn on the body of the city at different levels of the imagination. In this way fashion, film and the city create a sensuous and emotional experience in which there are interchanges of different domains and affective layers. In other words, the experience of cinema is, first, optical, and then becomes haptic thanks to the presence on screen of fashion and clothing; the experience of fashion is, first, haptic, and then becomes optical. The city, Rome in our case, becomes the site in which optical and haptic experiences and discourses take shape and render lived experience palpable, readable and consumable. Fashion functions as both an optical and haptic device that binds together the different levels of experience. However, each discourse that surrounds the lived experience of fashion and film requires that it be contextualized and historicized.


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Robert Gordon has discussed the inter-textual relationship between Roman Holiday and La Dolce Vita as two interrelated iconic “snapshots from a proliferating web of connection and hybridisation between 1950s Hollywood and Italy.”6 I would add that fashion and the parallel development of costume design for cinema in Rome also contributes greatly to this process of Italian and American hybridization. It was thanks to the success and widespread diffusion of the “Hollywood on the Tiber” phenomenon that Rome came to be perceived as a “filmic and fashion experience” to be lived and consumed by the city’s visitors, largely on account of its history, art and architecture. Rome itself, then, became an object of experience similar to the ones engendered by film and fashion. Rome came to embody a series of emotional experiences and fantasies that had a special force for visitors from outside or abroad and constructed for them a picture not only of the city but of the whole nation. As Angelo Restivo has noted, “Rome remains throughout [the economic boom] the centre of image production within the nation, so that the Roman story stands in for the story of the nation itself.”7 In the same vein, the major producers of images—fashion and film—mediate and materialize the urban experience, shape personal and collective identities and shape the myths of the city. It is, then, quite important to examine closely the operations of fashion and the cinematic experience to see the different modalities in which this relationship manifests itself and to productively explore the experience of cinema, fashion, and the city of Rome, all three of which share the modes defining experience. An experience first implies the involvement of the senses and the sensual. This initial emotional involvement leads to a set of practices and consumption choices. In this way, both fashion and cinema find a correlation in the social discourses that go together to create a narrative structure that cements and certifies social practices. In the last decade, studies in neuroscience in the field of fashion and consumption have found a fertile terrain of application and study, generating a branch called “neuromarket,” a word, by the way, often used in fashion marketing strategies and in the storytelling that aims to give a brand a luxury identity (but is also a central part of the process of branding in general).8 Branding, though, is a concept that can be extended and connected to the cultural capital of a city or country. The bridging of the fashion/film/ city experience is a productive framework that helps us to understand the operations of their discursive processes. Fashion and film enable us to think of experience not as an origin, but rather as the site of questioning through which discourses and practices of embodiment unfold in their historicized contexts. Our first-hand experience of streets, shops, neighborhoods and urban space in general signify, thanks to the way we as viewers and consumers perceive and breathe reality, is always mediated in specific contexts. In this way, fashion and film can be a very productive field of analysis insofar as they foreground the nature and the process of knowing, apprehending and desiring. The examples I will draw on, all taken from the world of the art films of the 1950s and 1960s set in Rome, pose questions that concern the temporality of fashion, which—according to Roland Barthes—has two durations: one strictly historical and the other “memorable.”9 It is the “memorable” that possesses the quality to affect and have a longer life beyond the strictly “historical” time to which it belongs. It is

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this interplay between the historical and the memorable, the optic and the haptic, that nourishes the relationship of film to fashion and links them to the notion of experience. Cinema, like fashion, has the power to activate new sensibilities and identities, masquerades, fictions and performances. But in re-viewing the world on screen the result is a “magnification” of reality. This process determines a “new” (other) version, a new skin, a new layer, perception and experience of the world. In the process of mediating between observer and observed, “filmic vision depends on technology but also presents itself as an essential condition in order for something to be seen.”10 Fashion too would not and could not exist without mediation; it is a manifestation of the technologies of body and mind, history and identity. Nowadays, of course, the mediation of fashion takes place more and more on screens: multiple ones, multiple sizes and forms, from the cell phone, to the computer, to the window display, and has narrowed the boundaries among different media, rendering them more porous, but also generating a sense of loss and nostalgia, for the 1960s, for example, the locus of continuous attraction for younger generations towards a decade that was characterized by a “youthquake” in fashion, sexual mores, pop art, and design.11 By keeping the two experiences of fashion and film connected, we can see how productive this relationship can be as we explore Italian style and its tropes as they appear in Rome, one of the most cinematic Italian cities and one of the most ‘looked at’ cities in Western culture.12 As Robert Gordon has noted, “Rome-on-film is, inevitably, layered into a panoply of images and sites, histories and representations.”13

Rome as a fashion city in the postwar years As a preliminary, a glance at the process by which Rome was designated as Italy’s fashion capital and at the specific historical contingencies that have contributed to this identity is necessary.14 Differently from the case of Paris, and the identification of France with Paris, studied by many scholars, Italy has always been a composite nation. The history of Italian fashion reflects the nation’s plurality and diversity insofar as there has always been more than one fashion city on the Italian peninsula, and so makes the task of establishing a history of Italian fashion far more complicated and multidimensional, and not only in terms of geography. Although recent scholarship has given us a deeper and critical understanding of fashion and its “many direct points of contact with the study of a city,” we have to critically adjust the paradigmatic structure for Italy in order to answer the question “Just how many Italian fashion cities are there?”15 And in what way and to what extent do they contribute to the umbrella concept of the “Made in Italy”? Indeed, Rome was far from being the sole competitor in the race to be considered capital of style. Competition with other fashion cities, most notably Florence, was rife. After the Second World War, before Rome and Milan had established themselves as centers of fashion, it was from Florence, as we have seen in the previous chapter, that Italian fashion was launched nationally and internationally. In addition, as we have seen in Chapter 4, Turin could boast an important


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privilege: that of being nominated Italy’s first fashion capital during the fascist regime. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fascist regime’s hatred toward France, it was no coincidence that Italy’s fashion capital was located geographically and culturally close to Paris—the then undisputed world fashion capital. Florence became Italy’s fashion capital in 1951, thanks to the Sala Bianca shows where Italian fashion had first been marketed to an audience of American buyers, triggering the fashion for Italian fashion. After Florence, though, it was Rome—“The Eternal City”—which became the center for alta moda—high fashion. After the Second World War, the city of Rome underwent a cultural rebirth, leaving behind it the images of destruction that had appeared in the film Roma città aperta (Rome open city, Rossellini, 1945). In the aftermath of the Second World War, Rome reconstructed itself, once again becoming, as little as ten or so years after the end of the war, a cultural destination of choice. An intrinsic aspect of this cultural reimagining, fashion had a great impact in constructing and reshaping the postwar city. Micol Fontana in her autobiography recalls this period: “Now our polar night was over. But the day did not present itself as anaemic, faded: inviting and warm rays of sun flickered in postwar Italy. Those rays brought with them an explosive desire to live (joie de vivre), of building, making, to make up for the annihilated time and inhuman game of the war. And above all a desire to forget.”16 Maria Francesca Bonetti quotes a comment made by journalist Elsa Robiola in 1954 about a manifesto in the pages of Bellezza, the official magazine of Italian haute couture. The magazine, founded by architect Giò Ponti in 1941, had been very active in promoting “Italian fashion” during the final years of the fascist regime. Robiola says: Fashion in Italy—it isn’t the first and it won’t be the last time we say this—is building itself a prestigious base. And if this foundation is already sufficiently solid, this is also due to other countries’ perception of the enormous prestige of our cities. Rome has an evocative appeal with ancient roots, sustained by literature, art, poetry, all over the world […] To use a modern expression in vogue with the latest generations, we might say that it is precisely the ‘direction’ of these Italian cities and islands that facilitates fashion presentations and sustains their tele-photo-cinema documentation around the world […] the concept of a unique, unmistakable ‘direction’ as in cinema, is what sets the fashion of one country apart from the others.

The magic year, the annus mirabilis, of Roman fashion and style was 1949. It was on January 27 of that year that Tyrone Power, who was in The Eternal City to film The Prince of Foxes, married the young actress Linda Christian in the medieval basilica of Santa Francesca Romana. The couple celebrated their marriage, a Catholic rite, amid the most cinematic scenery. The Fontana Sisters had made Linda Christian’s dress, Caraceni the suit for Tyrone Power. The wedding was one of the most important media events of the time. Following the cult status of the divas of the early years of the century, Italians experienced a second wave of celebrity culture, as did the world.17 As a result, Italy and Italian style gained its appeal, and as Micol Fontana recalled in an interview: “that day sanctioned our success as a Roman-based fashion house.” But

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it was also the day that Italian fashion showed itself to be inextricably linked to film, almost sewn to it through the bodies of the stars and their iconic status. The dress the Fontana Sisters made for the wedding became famous worldwide and was featured on the cover of Life magazine. In fact, the Fontana Sisters have claimed that this was the origin of the glamorous concept of the “Made in Italy,” and was also the beginning of their international fashion fame, which began when the Hollywood stars dressed by them advertised their creations in the media and popular press. A parallel process was at work for male fashion, making the fortunes of Roman tailors such as Brioni and Caraceni. Micol Fontana recalls: “Outside the Santa Francesca Romana church it was like a chaotic and festive carnival. We were besieged by people, journalists, photographers, those same photographers that ten years’ later Fellini would baptize as paparazzi ” (Fontana, ibid., 59). The Power/Christian wedding sanctioned the international fame of the Fontana Sisters and with them that of Italian style. “True, very true: that was the decisive magic event. At last, the newspapers began giving attention to the world of fashion. When the great Irene Brin, first ‘poet’ of fashion in Italy, dedicated a long article to us […]: ‘a fresh, original Italian style […] the inimitable creations of the Fontana Sisters” (Fontana, ibid., 62). It was also in May of 1949 that the Chamber of Commerce in Rome organized the First National Conference on Fashion, followed on November 5 by the formation of a Committee on Fashion charged with developing production and design, and with maintaining relationships in national and international markets.18 This was also an important year for Italian and American political and economic relations, as well as those with France, another country that had benefited from the Marshall Plan. As concerns cinema, it has been argued that what happened in Italy between 1949 and 1951 was an attempt to transform Italian cinema from the status of artisanship to that of industry. Italian-French co-production agreements were first signed in 1949, with the government legislation of July 26 and December 29 of that year, followed by the 1951 agreements between Anica-MPAA. These were the first stepping-stones toward the America/Italy film exchange. The relationship between Italy and the United States was cemented, thanks to the Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program, ERP) and a series of national government measures that “certified” and promoted cultural transformation.19 This was also the time in which the process of modernization brought about a radical change in the Italian economic and social landscape. A massive emigration of Italians in search of a better life took place from the rural South to the industrial North, as well as to Rome. It was also at this time that directors such as Antonioni, Fellini, Visconti, Pasolini, Pietrangeli, Monicelli, and others recorded in their films a profound anthropological revolution. The Marshall Plan achieved two outcomes: it succeeded in helping the economic recovery of the European countries defeated by war, but it also guaranteed American cultural hegemony and economic expansion in Europe and especially Italy. New legislation relating to Italian cinema, Law 958, passed on December 29, 1949, was designed by Giulio Andreotti (then State Under-Secretary in charge of entertainment) with the aim of protecting the Italian film industry. In the event, however, this law was the official permission that allowed what Pescatore has called the “invasion” by the Hollywood studios of the newly reconstructed Cinecittà.20


Italian Style

Also in 1949, radical change occurred in international politics, with the world divided into two power blocs, the onset of the Cold War, and Italy’s official membership of the NATO Alliance. But, as several film historians have argued, Hollywood had in fact landed in the Italian peninsula a few years before 1949, in Rome in particular, with the arrival of the US army of liberation. This complex economic, political, social, and emotional conjuncture allowed the United States to exercise what Brunetta has named a “sguardo telescopico” that perhaps could be translated almost into the Foucaldian “panoptical gaze.” The United States exercised overall control thanks to the presence of American diplomatic offices on Italian territory, especially in Rome.21 Fashion followed a similar pattern of development and branding as a result of the American presence in Italy, and successfully made the transition from artisanship to industry referred to above. It is for these reasons, too, that some scholars maintain that the birth of Italian fashion took place in the postwar years.22 As mentioned in the previous chapter, the international recognition of Italian fashion was facilitated and cemented by international relations between Italy and the United States, and through PR and business relations that were mutually beneficial. In a recent study, in 2015, Catharine Rossi shows the key role that craft had in modern Italian design from the postwar to the postmodern period. In one of the chapters, she refers to two important exhibitions that took place, one in the United States, the other in Milan at the Triennale.23 A major exhibition, Italy at Work: Her Renaissance in Design, opened in November 1950 at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. The show was enormously successful and traveled across North America, closing at the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design in November 1953. Meanwhile, in 1951, the Triennale di Milano esposizione internazionale delle arti decorative e industriali moderne e dell’architettura moderna (Milan Triennal International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts and Modern Architecture) was dedicated to L’unità delle arti (The Unity of the Arts). As Rossi writes: “While industrial design was present, craft remained the mainstay of Italy’s exhibits, and both were given multiple roles by competing visions for the nation’s post-war future” (Rossi 10). The notion of craft and the “fine Italian hand” has been a staple of the “Made in Italy” and Italian identity.24 Following the wedding of Tyrone Power and Linda Christian, the Fontana Sisters, but especially Micol, started to visit the United States and present their collections to American stars in Hollywood, New York, and other American cities. This was a time of intense exchange between Italy and the United States. In her diary of 1952, Brin recalls that at the beginning of October of that year she was tasked with representing Italy during the “settimana italiana del cinema” in New York. At that time the mayor was an Italian American, Vincent Impellitteri. She comments that she took under her wing several Italian stars and film directors arriving in New York on October 4 for the week of the festival (Eleonora Rossi Drago, Luciano Emmer, the director of the film Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna, Luigi Zampa). Later to arrive were Silvana Mangano and Dino De Laurentis, Carlo Ponti and others. Brin was in charge of organizing as many photoshoots as possible, as well as interviews with the Italian crews. While in New York, she met Ferdinando Sarmi, who

Rome, Fashion, Film


Figure 27  Three girls from Rome (orig. title, Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna), Liliana Bonfatti, Lucia Bosè, Cosetta Greco, dir. Luciano Emmer, Bellotti Film, The Kobal Collection, Art Resource/NY.

Figure 28  Ava Gardner, Ciampino Airport, greeting friends (Micol Fontana) and paparazzi. Photos Giuseppe Palmas, Courtesy of Roberto Palmas, Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive.


Italian Style

Figure 29  Ingrid Bergman, Rome (April 14, 1956). “Teatro Mobile” by Franco Castellani, Viale Libia. Photo by Giuseppe Palmas, Courtesy of Roberto Palmas, Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive.

Figure 30  Lace evening dress by Fernanda Gattinoni from Ingrid Bergman’s wardrobe donated to Tirelli Costumi, Rome. Photo by Fiorenzo Niccoli, Courtesy of Tirelli Costumi.

was living there and working with Elizabeth Arden. Brin mentions in her memoir that, after the success of the Florence shows and the creation of the costumes for Antonioni’s Cronaca di un amore, Sarmi was still in his early thirties, while Arden was in her seventies: “Arden was proud that she was escorted to the Metropolitan Museum and to the gala lunches by the Italian nobleman who was so adept at wearing a tail-coat” (Arden, 73). It was Sarmi who in 1952 organized the dinner with Brin so that Arden and the other notable guest, Fleur Cowles, the founder and creative force behind the short-lived and glossy Flair magazine, could praise the Italian Week in New York and promote Italy in the United States.25 These historical contingencies and media practices explain how and why one city or place more than another acquires the iconic status symbol of being a fashion city. David Harvey has identified fashion as one of the most potent vehicles through which cities acquire a mark of distinction that is, in turn, transformed into capital that can attract tourism and other business.26 According to Harvey’s theory, it was in the postwar boom that Rome acquired the status of “monopoly rent,” a term he borrows from economics. It was Rome that became the center of fashion and film; it was Rome that had the monopoly of this status over the other Italian capitals of fashion. The notion of monopoly rent is different from that of “symbolic capital”, as developed by Bourdieau. Many Italian cities had symbolic capital, as shown in the example of Florence and the Sala Bianca’s fashion. But what Florence lacked were film

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production studios. The shift from Florence to Rome can be explained by the presence of Cinecittà; this, in turn, paved the way for the development of costume design as a profession parallel to that of fashion. It is also at this time that professional recognition came to costume designers such as the legendary Piero Tosi, whose remarkable sense of style and beauty was greatly admired; and alongside Tosi so many other important costume designers working with the Italian film industry and Hollywood in Rome, such as Gattinoni and De Matteis for War and Peace, (directed by King Vidor, 1956) or the Fontana Sisters for The Barefoot Contessa (directed by Mankiewicz, 1954). From the end of the Second World War, Americans spent more and more time in Italy—especially Rome. Among them were Americans involved in the film industry and filming in the Cinecittà Studios. Some of the big American productions in these years, such as Quo Vadis? (Mervyn LeRoy, 1951), Ben-Hur (William Wyler, 1959) and, later, Cleopatra (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1963), revisited the past of Imperial Rome; but others featured Rome as a tourist destination for Americans, notably William Wyler’s classic Roman Holiday (1953).27 Again, Irene Brin recalls in her chapter titled “Giugno: la grande estate del cinema” (“June: the great season of cinema”): “The spectacular events were based on, above all, Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Bill Wilder and Roman Holiday. […] and so they saw Audrey Hepburn in via Margutta. And on the banks of the Tiber they built a fake, popular dance hall that was so brightly illuminated by search lights that you could see it when you were landing at Rome airport. There, Audrey, incognito, would meet Peck, dance with him and drink Coca-Cola (Brin, 103). Fashion houses such as those of the Fontana Sisters (located in Piazza di Spagna) and Fernanda Gattinoni (near Via Veneto and strategically close to the American embassy and Rome’s nightlife) were instrumental in establishing the relationship between glamor, cinema, and the city. They collaborated with American costume designers in creating clothes for the stars of American films made in Italy. This signaled a further step in the process of the hybridization of the relationship between Italy and the United States. Fashion shows, fashion parades, and models appeared in films, a trend that, as we have seen, began in the 1930s, but the inclusion of fashion shows within film narratives became much more prominent as a device in the postwar years. In 1951, Luciano Emmer set his film, Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna, starring Lucia Bosè, in the Fontana atelier in Rome, in Via Sebastianello28, and in the same year the couturier, Shuberth, playing himself, helped the aspiring new star Sophia Loren to put on her dress in the film Era lui, sì, sì (It was him, yes, yes 1951), directed by Mario Girolami, Marcello Marchesi, and Vittorio Metz. They were followed by American and international film stars—Ingrid Bergman, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, and Audrey Hepburn—and Italian fashion designers capitalized on the presence, fame, and glamor of their clients to use them as vehicles to elevate the increasingly worldwide status of Italian fashion. The Fontana Sisters created a dress called “Roma antica” (Ancient Rome) for Ava Gardner, one of the American ambassadors of Italian fashion, who in 1956 was invited to the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier. Ava Gardner was a personal friend of the Fontana Sisters, in particular Micol, and acted as a living testimonial to their


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skill in several fashion shows. She was very taken by the elaborate and glamorous evening gowns produced by the Fontana atelier. They can be admired in Mankiewicz’s film The Barefoot Contessa (1954), where Gardner wears colorful and spectacularly crafted designs that are exquisitely embroidered and decorated. As Stella Bruzzi has argued, “this close relationship between couture house and individual star has proved an enduring and essential component of the history of fashion’s association with cinema” (165).29 The increasingly hegemonic role played by Rome and the city’s designers in dictating the current mode also led to changes in men’s fashion. In the early 1950s, men’s fashion—its sartorial elegance epitomized by Brioni’s “Roman style”—was presented alongside women’s fashion at the Sala Bianca. Launched as a brand in 1952, in the early 1960s Brioni’s “Roman style” was accorded even greater exposure by the continental suit that had, in fact, made its first appearance in the late 1950s, worn by Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita. Italy has had an important role in tailoring men’s fashion the world over, following the well-established sartorial male tradition in Naples, Milan, and, especially, in Rome. Later, the Neapolitan suit was to bring about a sartorial revolution, insofar as its style softened the cut of the male jacket, as we can see in the documentary, O’Mast, made by Gianluca Migliarotti in 2011. As Glenn Adamson notes, the Neapolitan jacket had a radical effect on men’s wear and offered itself as an alternative to the British hegemony of Savile Row. He argues, indeed, that in 1932, when Rubinacci opened his tailor’s shop in Naples, he called it “London House” in order to attract the local sophisticated male clientele. For male fashion at that time London was the counterpart to Paris and female fashion. Adamson reports: “Fast-forward to the year 2000. In that year, Italy exported £28 million pounds worth of suits to the UK and imported less than ₤1 million pounds worth of British suits in return.” This, he says, is “one of the great success stories of twentieth century Italian fashion” (Adamson, 218).30 In fact, a different image of masculinity was taking shape at this time, thanks to a suit that was gradually dispensing with armor-like stiff edges and embracing the body with soft fabrics and sartorial fineness of detail. In addition, a color revolution in men’s wear put an end to what Flügel had defined as the “Great Male Renunciation.” Brioni, for instance, introduced red for men’s evening wear; Angelo Litrico in 1956 created a purple dinner jacket and borrowed from women’s wardrobes for his experimentation with color for men’s wear.31 One of the most innovative colors in men’s wear was ottanio, a mix of green and light blue created by the Trading Tex, and wool firm Cerruti. On April 23 and 24, 1959, at the Excelsior Hotel in Rome, a fashion show featuring men’s wear was organized, where this new color, ottanio, was the unifying theme of the catwalk.32 Both American and British customers embraced the Italian style revolution in men’s wear. And, of course, cinema powerfully publicized it. It was, then, the encounter between Italy and the United States that launched Italian fashion on a global scale, and it was cinema that provided the fashion industry with a sufficiently high profile, and increasingly international shop window, to promote and publicize to the world the Italian designers’ creations. And it was the bodies and images of both male and female celebrities that powerfully mediated the experience of fashion and film. Through fashion and cinema, Rome began to project an image of glamor, art, and beauty, and gained the status of a leading fashion city.

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Later, the crucial 1950s and 1960s—years of the postwar ‘economic miracle’—were defining times for the Italian capital in the larger global economy, and the identity of Rome, ever-more shaped through American mediation, was made possible by popular culture, fashion, film, and photography, and sanctioned the concept of Italy as place for fashion and style.33 Fashion was at the forefront in telling the complex story of how different systems of cultural mediation (film, journalism, art, architecture, and so on) made critical contributions to our understanding and experience of Rome and Italy, defined by the past, in the present, or in terms of an aspiring dream or destination. For the foreign press, buyers, visitors, and movie people, Italy and its cities, and especially Rome, became an unforgettable sartorial, cultural, and personal experience of the kind so often romanticized in literature and cinema. Wearing Italian, especially Roman, fashion meant wearing Italy’s culture, its breath-taking artistic heritage; in other words, it meant wearing and embracing the country and its unique and beautiful cities. Hollywood stars patronized the Roman fashion houses not only because this is where they could find the costumes used in their films but also because they had discovered that Italian couture was elegant and stylish. Above all, the ateliers were a uniquely warm and friendly environment. The combined fashion and film experience was produced and constructed through personal interactions between customers and couturiers: between Micol Fontana and Ava Gardner; Fernanda Gattinoni and Ingrid Bergman. From a more prosaic standpoint, filming in Cinecittà was also much cheaper for American filmmakers, who benefited from a tax break that made the cultural exchange even more attractive; in addition, for their film costumes, American film directors relied on the expertise, knowhow and creativity of both the Italian ateliers and the more specialized theater/film costume houses, such as Annamode, Tirelli, Farani, Safas; and others, related to accessories and wigs, like Rocchetti.34 The 1950s and 1960s were a vibrant time to be in Rome. The city was a magnet that attracted both foreign and Italian filmmakers, the locus of a creativity that revitalized design, fashion, and the arts in general. A vital synergy linked filmmakers, journalists, writers, artists, costume designers, ateliers, and stars, manifesting itself in the richness and complexity of the culture of the “Hollywood on the Tiber” epoch. Rome as a city— and as an idea—became an ongoing “dream spectacle,” a promised land for visitors from abroad and from the Italian provinces who hoped to play a part on the city’s stage. These characters can be seen in Fellini’s and Antonio Pietrangeli’s movies, where costume plays a key role in the process of fashioning and doubling, and in the miseen-abyme of identity. The doubling of identity, and the suspension between two different worlds: fantasy and and reality; the rapid and uneven process of urban transformation in Italian cities (especially Rome) and the “backward” countryside of the South; the tensions between the center and the periphery—all these provide a background for films by Antonioni, Fellini, Pasolini, Pietrangeli, and others, many of them films in the very successful genre of the commedia all’italiana. A film such as Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheik, 1951), by Fellini, proves to be a long way ahead of its time in grasping the impact of a growing media culture, and the powerful effect that


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fotoromanzo (comic-strip story) characters can have on provincial young women like Wanda, the protagonist of the film. The fotoromanzo was a variety of romantic literature that first appeared around 1947 and enjoyed a huge boom during the 1950s and 1960s. The protagonists, often women of modest means, followed their dreams and fantasies, which for the most part involved the pursuit of male hero figures. Fellini’s Wanda represents the quintessential reader of fotoromanzi. She goes to Rome on her honeymoon, but instead of spending time with her husband, a banal, petit-bourgeois, provincial stereotype, she seeks out her real hero, a character from the fotoromanzo that she avidly devours each week: the White Sheik (played by Alberto Sordi). Wanda is offered a role in the making of the new fotoromanzo, dresses in exotic costumes, and ultimately plays the part of the Sheik’s love-slave. Parallel to Wanda’s search for a world of fantasy is the quest of her husband, Ivan, in his provincial town, to find ways to maintain a façade of bourgeois respectability and social advancement, in his case by participating in the ritual audience of newly married couples with the Pope. In The White Sheik, Fellini focuses on the nuances and meanings of dress and its emotional and social impact, relating it to the world of appearances, rituals, and religion, all the time blurring the boundary between the sacred and the profane. Later, in La Dolce Vita, Fellini dresses Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), an international superstar actress who is visiting the city, in a priest-like outfit (an idea Fellini borrowed from the Fontana Sisters’ 1955–56 Winter collection: the pretino that was worn by Ava Gardner). Elsewhere in La Dolce Vita, Fellini treats “religious miracles” as media events and as pretexts for the fabrication of new heroes. In both their theatrical and their everyday rituals, dress and appearance in The White Sheik tell the story of the development of a new Italian identity, suspended somewhere between fantasy and glamor on the one hand, and petit-bourgeois hypocrisy and decorum on the other. Fellini’s film was based one of Antonioni’s stories, included in his documentary L’Amorosa menzogna (“The Amorous Lie” 1949) and also set in Rome in the period of postwar reconstruction. Here we might recall Antonioni’s preoccupation with the role that fantasy and dreams have for women living in the provinces or working class neighborhoods, whose gray days can be brightened by the presence of a star or a fotoromanzo. If the star in The White Sheik was the product of dream and fantasy, from 1949 onwards actual stars from Hollywood came to Rome and filled the imagination of many Italians. Rome became the perfect stage for glamor, love, and paparazzi.

La Dolce Vita La Dolce Vita was in part inspired by a dress that was very fashionable at the end of the 1950s. It was very elegant, but it looked like a sack covering a woman’s body. I needed the woman who wore it to be, on the outside, a marvelous pure creature full of life, but on the inside a skeleton of loneliness and vice. (Federico Fellini, Sono un gran bugiardo)

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Why do I draw the characters in my films? Why do I take visual notes of faces, noses, moustaches, ties, bags, how people cross their legs, of everybody who comes to visit my office? Perhaps I have already said it: this is a way for me to begin looking the film in the face. (Federico Fellini, “Il disegno come pretesto”)

No other film has been able to capture better than Fellini’s La Dolce Vita the essence and complexity of life in Rome in the wake of “Hollywood on the Tiber”. As film historian Peter Bondanella has noted, “[with the appearance of La Dolce Vita] the focus of international cinema was as much upon The Eternal City as on Los Angeles” (Bondanella 68).35 Via Veneto, as depicted in La Dolce Vita, became the hub of Roman night life, where stars and celebrities met and where the work of celebrity journalists such as Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni)—reporting on high society gossip—became an industry in itself. The photographers who had the task of capturing sensational scoops for gossip columns and tabloids became celebrities in their turn. The name of Walter Paparazzo, the photographer who accompanies Marcello on his journalistic assignments, is the origin of “paparazzi”, a neologism now firmly embedded in the English language. In 1960, Alberto Dal Co’, one of Rome’s most renowned shoemakers, his shoes worn by many celebrities, designed a shoe that he named—one must assume inspired by Fellini’s movie—Paparazzo. The Paparazzo shoe is a high-heeled stiletto pump with a pointed shape, ending with a metal ornament that seems to be somewhere between an orientalist touch and a tool for self-defense.36 In fact, the Paparazzo seems the appropriate shoe for the diva—as a form of stylish self-defense—as she is being followed by paparazzi. Capturing this tabloid sensationalism, in La Dolce Vita Fellini continued the story that he had begun in The White Sheik. He offered a visual exposition of the role of fantasy and desire in the creation of modern myths, and in the movie-star cult of personality, with all its excesses. La Dolce Vita is a powerful tactile spectacle of life in Rome during the economic boom; but it is also timeless theater, showing off Rome, The Eternal City, as spectacle, and putting on display the power of costuming and fashion. The marvelous sets and costumes designed by Piero Gherardi in collaboration with Fellini are to this day the inspiration and materialization of Italian style. Thanks to Fellini, the name La Dolce Vita has become a powerful trope, signifying in Italy, but even more so abroad, Italian style, fashion and glamor. No film has done more than La Dolce Vita to embed these images in the collective consciousness. Both as a film and as an idea, La Dolce Vita is a mandatory starting point when talking of Italian style. It is not by chance, then, that many prominent Italian designers, from Dolce & Gabbana, to Valentino and Prada, have taken inspiration from Fellini’s fashion; we often find the catalogs of high-end American department stores featuring Italian style under the Fellinian trope of La Dolce Vita. In 1995, the Dior Maison launched a fragrance called Dolce Vita and promoted it with a video inspired by Fellini’s film. Fellini’s movies, and the ecclesiastical fashion show in his Roma, which we will examine later in the chapter, have also inspired the American designer Tom Browne who referenced the film and the scene in his Winter 2014 collection. Dolce & Gabbana, in particular, on the occasion


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of their twentieth anniversary in 2005, organized a fashion show and celebration dedicated to dresses worn in La Dolce Vita, including (and especially) the excessive ones worn by Anita Ekberg: the pretino (clergyman), and the evening gown from the Trevi Fountain scene.37 The film is Roman, almost quintessentially so, but The Eternal City stands here for all of Italy, its ancient history and architecture.38 In La Dolce Vita, Anita Ekberg epitomizes the Hollywood diva who comes to Rome to star in a film and who refashions herself in Italian couture. In the much cited sequence where she walks at night with Marcello through the Roman side streets with a cat on her head, we see her all of a sudden captivated and mesmerized by the sight of the baroque Fontana di Trevi, her eyes opened to the sublime beauty that is Rome—but it is a beauty that was reproduced by Fellini in the studio (“Fellini’s” Trevi Fountain can still be seen today on a sound stage in Cinecittà). The power of Fellini’s fashion in his films derives from his clothes being presented in their most inventive, and spectacular forms. In La Dolce Vita, fashion, in all its nuances and layers, from its minimalism, in the character of Maddalena (played by Anouk Aime), to its excess, in Sylvia (the curvaceous superstar played by Anita Ekberg) is re-invented and made to participate in the world of masquerade and performance. This is a dialectical paradigm that is at work in many of his films. Through the process of drawing, Fellini “begins looking at his film in the face.” 39 In the Rome of the boom years, fashion and film found an ideal place to focus a “magnifying lens” on reality., In his comments on Fellini’s work, Rohdie describes a process of “deformation” that helps to emphasize not so much the object, but its representation. Images can be seen as “forms that, like grammar, are machines for the production of whatever utterances” (Rohdie, 115). In La Dolce Vita, clothes achieve iconic status; they have become “machines” for the production and reproduction of style. Piero Gherardi won an Oscar for the costume designs for La Dolce Vita, but, as we have seen, Fellini, himself, was greatly involved in designing the clothes for his films, and collaborated closely with his costume designers. As featured in his films, Fellini’s clothes both parallel and go beyond fashion. They express a rhythm and a temporality that transfigure the present and create a new vision materialized in the images of clothing. The black velvet dress that Anita wears at the Trevi fountain has been the inspiration for an infinite number of designs and advertisements, even for Peroni beer. It seems that the Gattinoni maison made Ekberg’s dress.40 Several characters in La Dolce Vita played themselves. One of these was the molleggiato, the singer Adriano Celentano, the Italian Elvis Presley: molleggiato— springy—being a reference to the way he rotated his hips. In the scene in the night club where Anita shows herself off with her provocative dance, we see a concert with Celentano, who offers an Italianized version of American rock and roll. Anita’s husband is played by Lex Barker, popular for his role in the Tarzan movies. In the course of one his sleepless nights on the Via Veneto, Marcello meets Christa Päffgen, in reality a well-known model. They encounter a group of other people, and go with them to a party at the Castle Orsini-Odescalchi in Bassano Sutri outside Rome, the stage for an ongoing masquerade in which a bored and decadent aristocracy perform their last rites.

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Marcello tells Christa: “Paparazzo is looking for you, he wanted to do a shoot for Jardin de Mode,” to which she answers: “I haven’t done fashion photos for more than a year.” At that time, Christa Päffgen’s work had been with Vogue and other fashion magazines, but after playing herself in Fellini’s film she left for New York and eventually joined Andy Warhol’s factory and Lou Reed’s “The Velvet Underground” under the name of Nico. The year 1960 was crucial for Rome and Italy: Italy celebrated the 100th anniversary of the nation’s unification, and it was in this year that the Olympic Games were held in Rome (another reason why the foreign press was attracted to The Eternal City). The Olympic Games contributed greatly to the projection of a modern and appealing image of Rome. As a global event they exported images of both Italy and Italian fashion to the American market. In the years of “La Dolce Vita,” the American photographer, William Klein, whose sensibility was very close to Fellini’s, was living in Rome, dispatched there by American Vogue. One of Klein’s photographs is of Fellini in New York City, with a model wearing a Capucci creation set against the backdrop of a gigantic poster advertising La Dolce Vita. Initially, it had been Fellini who had asked Klein to work with him. The 2010 edition of Klein’s book, Rome + Klein, as well as a series of photographs taken at that time in Rome, includes the photoshoot published in the October 1960 edition of Vogue, entitled, “Italy: Fashion Triumphs in a Gala Olympic Year.” The best names of Italian fashion were represented: Capucci, Simonetta, Fontana, Galitzine, all shown against the backdrop of impressive Roman architecture. 1960 was also the year in which Emilio Shuberth opened a new atelier that was inaugurated by the Roman actress Anna Magnani, documented by photographer Giuseppe Palmas. It was also at this time that Princess Irene Galitzine celebrated her collection of “Palazzo pyjamas,” also documented by Klein’s photographs. In his commentary accompanying the photographs, Klein notes the cachet of Roman aristocracy behind the launch of a sophisticated and seductive Italian look that went hand in hand with the city’s architecture, and its beautiful palazzo and gardens. The neologism pigiama palazzo, created to launch Galitizine’s alternative evening-wear, wittily evokes the glamorous parties that took place in palazzi. Americans fell in love with the Italian and Roman aristocracy, it seems; so did Klein, but his admiration took on a more ironic tone: Present are several authentic noblemen and women, among them on the left, la principessa herself […] But that was not enough, we needed at least a duke or two, a marquis, a viscount, and other patricians. Where to get them? Cinecittà was not far away so central casting could help out. Since this shoot was for American Vogue, and for me it was all a joke, we invented prestigious titles like the Marquis de Campari Soda and the Baron of Bollito Misto, among others. But, unfortunately, someone fact-checked and removed them. (Klein 46)

Much as Fellini in his filmmaking, Klein called attention to the very form of photography. Rome as a stage setting is no less real than the Rome of real life. Rome has multiple identities and forms, as do some of Fellini’s characters, those played by


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Mastroianni, for instance, whose plural personas intertwine in the films he made with Fellini. Fellini uses fashion and costume to get closer to the skin of film; and by extension to the heart of things. Being “blank in the face of reality” for Fellini means magnifying details, exaggerating and over-elaborating as a form of parody and mockery. As Rohdie notes: “Rather than seeking sincerity, Fellini denounces the false sincerity of representation in order that sincerity might be better preserved. To openly falsify to him is more honest than to create an illusion as if you are not falsifying” (Rohdie 95).41

La Dolce Vita and its discontents Antonio Pietrangeli had a far more bitter view of the Roman Dolce Vita. If for Fellini the world of fantasy could offer temporary relief and liberation from the constraints of “reality” and go beyond it, Pietrangeli does not envisage any way out of the tragedy of the present. Adriana (Stefania Sandrelli), the protagonist of his film Io la conoscevo bene (I Knew Her Well, 1965), is a young woman from the provinces who hopes that the magic of Rome can help her to fulfil her wish to become an actress. A tragic epilogue awaits Adriana in Pietrangeli’s film, which chronicles the process of the self-destruction of the female protagonist. Far from becoming an actress, Adriana is used as the toy of male fantasies and erotic pleasures. If Wanda, in Fellini’s film, The White Sheik, is an eager consumer of popular press literature, but still protected by petit-bourgeois provincial moralism and a husband, Adriana is the extreme opposite, with no protection from anywhere. Every single human being she encounters, male or female, takes advantage of her. She is possessed even by the camera. A very young Stefania Sandrelli plays Adriana, who represents the frivolous, airhead woman, easily manipulated, an avid reader of the fotoromanzi, falling for their spells. Adriana is framed in different Roman scenes and urban sites, central, peripheral, or working class neighborhoods like the Ostiense district. Her character is suspended between her peasant origins and her aspiration to find a place in what turns out to be the messy and tricky modernity epitomized in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. In crucial scenes, the urban space of the city plays a crucial role in layering and complicating Adriana’s relationship with the city and its inhabitants. The river Tiber, as in many films, acts as a divide between two different, non-communicating, worlds. Adriana, looking out from the window of her apartment building, sees—and we see with her—the juxtaposition of several Roman landscapes with sites where new construction is glimpsed against early industrial Rome, represented by the circular gas tower, the Gazometro, built in the early twentieth century to serve the city port in the Ostiense district. Adriana is presented recurrently, as part of a continuous masquerade in which she constantly changes wigs and outfits. It is only in her moments of masquerade that she appears completely at ease, as impeccable as a model in a fashion magazine. But when the mask slips, as it often does, we see her personal life is as grim, sordid and lonely as the urban landscape of the new, developing Rome depicted by Pietrangeli. If Fellini, in The White Sheik, seeks not to objectify Wanda but to make her the locus of

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fantasy and imagination, in Pietrangeli’s film, Adriana is made the victim of fantasy and imagination, both her own and that of the men she encounters. She is the negative and tragic outcome of the economic boom and “miracle.”42 There are no miracles in Io la conoscevo bene and certainly not for Italy; only the suicide of Adriana with which the film ends. In fact, Adriana is the embodiment of a dream of a glamorous life that goes wrong. Io la conoscevo bene shows the audience the stark contradictions between, on the one hand, the economic boom in Italy, and, on the other, a hierarchical class structure that excludes Adriana from ever fully participating in the glamorous promise of Rome as a place of opportunity, success and happiness. There is one scene in the film that says it all. Adriana is wearing one of her most elegant dresses, everything is perfect. She looks like a model on the cover of Vogue. She goes into the garage in her apartment building; a mechanic, who is attracted to her, sees she is driving a modest Fiat Cinquecento; he remarks on the contrast between the elegant way she is dressed and the tiny car she is driving. If her clothes are her masquerade, her car is her reality. The Cinquecento was the vehicle that was made specifically to be affordable for the working classes during the boom, and so enable them to join in the new dream of mobility and freedom. And, although Adriana’s appearance in high fashion clothes is deceptive, the car indicates how she does not and never can fit into the world of celebrities. Io la conoscevo bene once again features a fashion show, but one that responds to a different narrative, not only in the context of the show itself but also in the diegetic function of the film as a whole. Adriana parades on the catwalk in this fashion show, which has been organized to entertain people in a town outside Rome, but in a very unusual setting: a boxing tournament. In her white flowing long chiffon dress, she patrols the catwalk; she is sophisticated, the embodiment of elegant femininity in a very masculine environment. She looks beautiful, of course, and does her job impeccably, but she gives the appearance of being completely out of place, people are largely ignoring her. At odds with the environment, she is exposed in all her beauty and fragility. In this episode, as in the episode of party to which she drives in her Cinquecento, the glamorous life she desires, materialized by the beautiful dresses she wears, remains, in Pietrangeli’s treatment, a mere illusion, a source of disappointment and unhappiness that will end tragically.

Roma (Fellini 1972): space and time The image of a city is a moving one because it is also formed collectively as a product of cultural experience. It does not emerge or evolve as an individual act but rather depends on how the site is imagined and experienced by a collectivity, which is made up of real and virtual inhabitants. As Walter Benjamin said, “Streets are the dwelling place of the collective. The collective is an eternally unquiet, eternally agitated being that—in the space between the building fronts—experiences, learns, understands, and invents.” Giuliana Bruno43


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In tracing the relationship between the city and its mapping, the perception of people living there, and especially the perception of visitors, both La Dolce Vita and Roma are concerned with time and space. Rome is captured in the process of urban transformation: modernization, views of the center and the periphery, housing, living, people working or just passing time. Of course, these are characteristics of modernity that could be ascribed to many cities in the world in the throes of perpetual transformation. But what does Fellini tell us about Rome? More precisely what does Rome mean cinematically for Fellini? The work of film scholar, Angelo Restivo, can help us to understand critically the complex tapestry of a “narrative space that ‘speaks Italy.’ ” Restivo has stressed how in the dynamic between urban space and the natural landscape temporality is “concretized in spatial relations.” He has also observed that “when Freud made a casual analogy between Rome and the psychoanalytic model of the psychic entity, he was talking about precisely this spazialization of memory” (Restivo 19). In the final sequence of La Dolce Vita, after the orgiastic party and sleepless night, Marcello is wearing an impeccable white suit, black shirt and foulard, a style that continues to be copied by contemporary brands in men’s clothing. He walks toward the beach. Here he is caught between the apparition of a dead sea-monster and the sight of a young girl trying to attract his attention from a distance, waving hello to him. We see a close-up of her beautiful face. She is the “Umbrian angel” encountered by Marcello earlier in the film: he had had a brief conversation with her in a restaurant near a beach; we saw him sitting in front of a typewriter trying to write. Now, though, Marcello is unable to recognize her; he looks at her from afar as the camera focuses on his hands and face in a gesture that means both “I do not know you” and a suspension of action. He stays where he is, motionless except for his hands. In La Dolce Vita, the traces of the past are filtered through presentness, and, here, the “now” is couched in the gestural incertitude of Marcello on the beach, standing between the dead sea-monster and Paola, the girl with the face of an Umbrian angel. In Roma, however, Fellini takes us on a profound journey of exploration into the seams of the historical past. The present explodes in the intermittent lightness and darkness, pastness and presentness, of the dreamlike journey of history. Fascist Italy and the Second World War recur in each re-visiting of present Roman sites and contexts; in many scenes Fellini shows us flickering lights alternating with darkness, suggesting the co-presence of opposites, and a reality that can only be glimpsed through its traces and intermittent sparks. The very structure of Fellini’s Roma is fragmentary; a metaphor described by Freud identifying each spatio-temporal layer manifesting itself and unfolding in the film is here quite apposite. The film captures the very spectacle of Rome, the fabrication of each layer of history and memory, the juxtaposition of these layers, and in some cases their co-presence. This is materialized in particular through the variety of shots of monuments and the day-to-day lives of the Romans, and of the visitors, who seem to assimilate and mingle quite easily in and with the life of Rome. But who are the Romans? They are loud, they eat a lot, sing, swear. They are simply excessive. The exaggeration of their gestures, behavior, body types and sizes is what Fellini’s Rome and Fellini’s Roma are all about, both sublime and vulgar, sublime because

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vulgar and over the top. The many characters that appear on screen from different historical periods are Rome, as are the cardinals, the aristocrats who are spectators at the ecclesiastical fashion catwalk, and the prostitutes of the present, soliciting in the street, with those from the fascist past, closeted in brothels. There is a carnivalesque and a grotesque dimension to Fellini’s Romans. As Russian theorist Bakhtin noted, in Rabelais and his World (1965), carnival is a moment of liberation, a transgression of moral and class codes. In Fellini’s Roma, these grotesque moments are central; but they are absent from La Dolce Vita. The collective scenes, the feasts and the music hall are in Roma treated in all their excessiveness, and, for Fellini, in all their beauty.

The broken watch of history The street was full of people, elbows, summer shirts, heavy coats, shawls, handkerchief, hats, rags, military jackets from the allies, sandals, boots; curvaceous women rolling their hips and throwing out glimpses, attentive old women in the shop windows… (Carlo Levi, L’Orologio [The Watch])

In Roma, the central character, the young Fellini coming to The Eternal City from the provinces, like Marcello in the final sequence of La Dolce Vita wears a white suit, but it is different in style from the continental suit worn by Marcello. Here, the year is 1939; we know this because as we see him arriving at the Stazione Termini we also see in the background a huge poster advertising Mario Camerini’s film, Grandi Magazzini, which appeared in 1939. Now that the young man has come to Rome, we explore the city through his eyes. The film has a textual temporality similar to that described by the Turin-born writer and painter Carlo Levi (thus, another visitor) in his novel, L’Orologio. In the novel, Levi conjures up a picture of the crowded streets of newly liberated Rome. As a painter who also wrote, and had a painter’s sensibility; like a director with a camera in his hands he frames and captures Rome, and through his eyes we see by way of the clothing they wear the people swarming its streets coming to life—as they do in the description in the extract above. In his study on Levi, David Ward has noted how, with L’Orologio, Levi offers a model to interpret history in terms of a circular rather than a linear temporality. Through repetition and the cyclical, liberation from the linear—clock time—becomes a possibility. Death, in this context, leads not to an absolute end but to a temporary suspension, which, in turn, leads to a new beginning.44 Describing Rome in another passage from L’Orologio, Levi says: I thought that all things appear and show themselves, without shame: People, rags, beauty, misery, the energy of the eyes, the force of gestures: this or that thing lives, by chance, before us, this square, these puppets, that woman. Who approaches in the darkening air […] We feel that there are more infinite things that have not been said, that are hidden, vague feelings, and perhaps it is these that give the sky its rosy charm, the heart this solitary plenitude. (Levi: 141)


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It would seem that this comment could be applied to some of the scenes in Roma, in which the young Fellini explores the crowds of Rome, and its sites. He is curious, and welcomes the new world unfolding in front of his eyes. And, at the same time, Fellini is interrogating history and positioning the film in a structure that does not follow the linear, progressive time: watch time. In Roma, Fellini fabricates Rome as if he too, like Levi in L’Orologio, had first broken and then lost his watch. He wanders freely; liberated from linear time. Time in Roma moves in more than one direction, both deeply historical and deeply concerned with the present. The film seems to have been inspired by the Benjaminian “angel of history”, looking both backwards and forwards. In the many scenes of the film in which flashes of light and almost total darkness are juxtaposed, we glimpse strange apparitions, rather than the solid material of coherent stories. Giuseppe Rotunno, the cinematographer who worked with Fellini on Roma, has spoken of the challenges he had to face in order to achieve the lighting effects that Fellini wanted for this film. Episodes, set at various temporal moments in the film, are not connected to each other in a linear sequence; instead, the film follows a circular temporality; and it is by means of this concept of recurrent time that Roma gestures toward the possibility of liberation from the constraints of blind linearity.* At the end of the film we see packs of motor-cyclists turning in circles as they ride around a deserted Rome. Following them, we revisit its monuments and piazzas. And then suddenly darkness interrupts both promenade and film, but in the mode of a suspension, with the promise of another turn, another spectacle, another masquerade. This is the end of the film.

The ecclesiastical fashion show The ecclesiastical fashion show in Roma is the longest fashion parade on film. It extends for over fifteen minutes. On the circular catwalk, in this case, the models are not selling or promoting any particular design as they were in Blasetti’s Contessa di Parma or D’Errico’s Stramilano. It is pure performance. The ecclesiastical parade in Roma is the culmination of pastiche, bricolage; the most extreme moment in Fellini’s visual recreation of the real held under a magnifying lens. Already, in the various episodes, The Eternal City has been used as the backdrop for an extraordinary sequence of costume parades, where antiquity and the recent fascist past combine in a recurring historical citation with the present. The ghosts of the past, in particular those of fascist Italy, punctuate the story and animate the myths of the present. In Roma, in Rome, the past appears and reappears in intermittent mode, each time with a different tone and light, sometimes as a parody, at other times as the grotesque, or with the almost innocent eye of youth recovered in first sexual experiences in the brothel, and so on; and as La Dolce Vita, revisited after more than a decade. Fellini gave much attention and energy to the ecclesiastical show which is the apotheosis of Roma. Two of his illustrated notebooks were dedicated to the sequence, See Plate 5


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one entitled, “Defilé”, and the other, “Gli aristocratici e il defilé”. Danilo Donati, the costume designer who worked with Fellini on Roma, collaborated with two sartorie in Rome, Farani and Tirelli, on the costumes. This ecclesiastical fashion show, bizarrely taking place on the catwalk, comes in an episode tellingly situated between the whores’ fashion parade, held in the fascist brothel, and the festa de’ Noantri (the feast of us all), with its parade of food and drinks, held in Trastevere. Here, among the people sitting at the tables, the viewer encounters American iconoclast Gore Vidal, who is asked why foreigners—and especially Americans—are attracted to Rome. Vidal answers: “Rome is the city of illusions. The ideal place to see the end.” We find this referencing of death and decay present also in the fashion show, where parody and the grotesque are taken to disturbing extremes. The show is a tour de force, in which elements of theatricality, ritual, intricate dress, color, and texture, all typically associated with the elaborate rituals of the Catholic Church, are revisited in surrealist mode. At the same time, the fashion show conveys a haptic and optical experience of clothing as spectacle. On screen, we see silks, lace, luxury fabrics, light hats and veils; exquisite attention is given to details and workmanship, crystals and beading, sequins that cover the bodies of the unusual, ecclesiastical, models. Donati is the magician; Fellini the creator of illusions. In fact, no luxurious fabrics were used for these costumes. The spectacular vestments in which priests, nuns, cardinals and even the Pope appear on the catwalk were actually realized, despite their opulent appearance, with poor material. Donati was a very inventive designer, who could translate into costumes even the most extreme ideas of the filmmakers, as witness the incredible costumes we see in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final film Salò, le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975). Donati’s costumes for Roma tell the story more eloquently than dialogue could. His volumetric approach to texture and space is crucial for the catwalk in Fellini’s film.45 Instead of shiny fabrics, Donati used iridescent paper gift-wrap, and multiple lights and colorful decorations to embellish the miters of the prelates as if they were Christmas decorations; there were small bulbs scavenged from an amusement park, and the “lace” actually came from paper doilies.† To a chorus of “aahs” from the audience, the Pope himself appears on the catwalk toward the end of the show (in place of the bride of the conventional fashion show). The human forms of the models turn into machines, robotic bodies with clothes, that walk autonomously, with no body inside them. In his notes on the defilé to Danilo Donati, Fellini writes: “remember a cardinal like a flipper […] an (invisible?) cardinal alone electric-like” (Lo Vetro, 2015, 24). Costumes become independent forms; dressing up calls attention to the very process of illusion, distortion, and representation, all integral Fellinian parts of reality and its construction. The ecclesiastical fashion show, set in Rome and featuring Roman representatives of both Church and aristocracy, ultimately erodes the separation between audience and spectacle, corroding the borders of image and identity, self and otherness. Borrowing from Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte as interpreted by Walter Benjamin in his theory of history, we may say that “the spectres of history” Plate 4


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in Fellini’s Roma reappear like a return of the—in Freudian terms—emotionally repressed, all of them elaborately dressed. At the beginning of The Eighteenth Bruamaire, Marx refers to the concept of repetition in history: “Hegel says somewhere that, upon the stage of universal history, all great events and personalities reappear in one fashion or another. He forgot to add that, on the first occasion, they appear as tragedy; on the second, as farce” (Marx, 23, emphasis added). Fellini’s Roma represents, in cinema, the complex mechanism of this referencing of the past—a function also of fashion. Nothing in fashion is entirely new. Its ‘newness’ is an illusion generated by an unspoken pact: we either invent it, or give tacit consent to it, because fashion transforms and reshapes what was already there. In Roma (and in a later film, Amarcord), the tragedy of fascist Italy’s past reappears and is refashioned into a Fellinian grotesque farce. In The Arcades Project, Benjamin, writing in the late 1930s in the heart of the triumph of Nazi fascism in Europe, reflects on Marx’s notion of history, connecting his “theses on the philosophy of history” to his own commentary on fashion, with its “tiger’s leap”: “The French revolution […] evoked ancient Rome the way fashion evokes costumes of the past. Fashion has a flair for the topical, no matter where it stirs in the thickets of long ago; it is a tiger’s leap into the past” (Benjamin 263). In Fellini’s Roma we have, in grotesque and excessive mode, a conflation of these two theories: Rome is explosive, a dream, a spectacle, a trope; in the fashion shows in Fellini’s films, and in Roma in particular, we find the visual and conceptual precursors of shows by Alexander McQueen and John Galliano: their extreme designs, contradictions, sickness, and beauty, the clownesque and the excess. But these spectacles also hint at fragility, the ephemeral nature of the “now” time of fashion. As Rohdie notes: Fellinian images are at a border between desire and reality, the subjective and the objective. They seem to be reflected, the image of an image, or more precisely projected, as if they are what we wish them to be while the distance between the wish and a view that Fellini imposes of their “reality” is the source of their mystery, their grotesqueness, their self-parody. It creates a fascination because no image, no sight is ever stable. (Rohdie, 9–10)

The narratives surrounding the different tropes and images of a city like Rome are in constant flux, filtered and processed through experience. They, like Rome, are never stable. In Roma, Fellini announces the end of an era, with the self-parody of institutions, spaces of leisure and consumption; and iconic figures representing the city’s ‘identity’: the Pope appearing in a fashion show; Anna Magnani—playing herself— filmed going home and closing the door on Fellini’s camera; the semi-orgiastic feasts of food; people out in the street; and of course Fellini himself, a constant presence in the film both in person and as an off-screen voice. Fellini’s Roma and the crucial role that costume and fashion play within its narrative is part of the film’s blurring of the boundaries between the lived, real Rome, on the one hand, and the imagined, fantasized Rome on the other. Both cities, however, carry equal weight. With their magnifying lenses, fashion and cinema distort the representation of cities and places and in so doing reveal their most profound and hidden truths.

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Figure 31  Evening dress worn by Stefania Sandrelli, Io la conoscevo bene. Courtesy of Annamode Archive.

Figure 32  Stefania Sandrelli, Viareggio, August 1962. Photos by Giuseppe Palmas, Courtesy of Roberto Palmas, Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive.



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Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

15 16 17

18 19 20


I. Brin (2014), L’Italia esplode. Diario dell’anno 1952, ed., Palma Claudia with essays by Vittoria C. Caratazzolo and Ilaria Schiaffini, Rome: Viella, pp. 54–5. V. Caratazzolo (2014), “1952–1968: L’Italia esplode. Considerazioni sull’inedito di Irene Brin” in L’Italia esplode, ibid., pp. 191–208; Caratazzolo, (2006), Irene Brin. Italian Style in Fashion,Venice: Marsilio, Fondazione Pitti Discovery. Church-Gibson, 2006, p. 93. Casetti, pp. 7–8. Casetti, 2015, p. 5. Gordon, 2014, p. 129. Restivo, 2002, 46. See Kate Abnett, “Can Neuroscience Unlock the Luxury Mind?”, April 22, 2015 in the Business of Fashion: can-neuroscience-unlock-the-luxury-mind (accessed June 15, 2015). Barthes, 2005, p. 28. Casetti, p. 9. See Nick Rees-Roberts, “Single Men: Sixties Heritage and Vintage Style in Contemporary Cinema”, in (Paulicelli, Wallenberg, Stutesman eds) The 1960s Revisited: Fashion, Film, Modernities, forthcoming. See for instance the publication Rome in Cinema. Between Reality and Fiction, ed., Elisabetta Bruscolini (Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Rome: 2000). Gordon: 2008, 62. In her 2009 book, Fashioning the City: Paris, Fashion and the Media, which explores how different media supported the image of Paris as a fashion city, Agnès Rocamora has emphasized the importance of both the imaginary and the lived dimensions of the city (Rocamora 2009: 123; Breward 2004). Gilbert and Breward, p. 6. M. Fontana, (1991), Specchio a tre luci, ed., Fumagalli Dino, Turin: Nuova Eri, Edizioni Rai Radiotelevisione Italiana, p. 47. See Pamela Church Gibson’s work on the topic of celebrity culture and its relations with fashion and film: Fashion and Celebrity Culture, London and New York: Berg, 2012, and her essay “New Stars, New Fashions and the Female Audience: Cinema, Consumption and Cities 1953–1966”, in Fashion’s World Cities, eds, Christopher Breward and David Gilbert (London and New York: Berg, 2006). Capalbo, p. 142. Pescatore: 2010, 29. See Stefano Della Casa and Dario Viganò, eds, Hollywood sul Tevere. Anatomia di un fenomeno, Milan: Electa, 2010; Gian Piero Brunetta, Identità Italiana e Identità Europea nel cinema italiano dal 1945 al miracolo economico (Turin: Edizioni della Fondazione Giovanni Agnelli, 1996); Gian Piero Brunetta, Storia dl Cinema Mondiale. L’Europa, vol. 1, (Turin: Einaudi, 1999); David W. Ellwood and Gian Piero Brunetta, eds, Hollywood in Europa. Industria, Politica, pubblico del cinema 1945–1960 (Florence: La Casa Usher, 1991); Lorenzo Quaglietti, Ecco I nostri. L’invasione del cinema Americano in Italia (Rome: ERI, 1991); Giorgio Tinazzi, ed., Il cinema italiano degli anni ’50 (Venice: Marsilio, 1979). Pescatore: 2010, 29.

Rome, Fashion, Film


22 Although it is true that Italian fashion’s distinct style gained the nation international recognition during the postwar years, prior to this period there had been a long and complex history of Italian fashion, textile manufacturing, clothing and accessories that goes back to the Middle Ages. A comprehensive history of Italian fashion that connects the different domains of production with a parallel creation of a fashion culture and discourse has yet to be written. 23 C. Rossi (2015), Crafting Design in Italy. From Post-war to Postmodernism, Manchester: Manchester University Press. 24 N. White (2000), Reconstructing Italian Fashion, Oxford: Berg; C. Rossi (2013), “Craft and Made in Italy” in S. Stanfill, ed., The Glamour of Italian Fashion, London: V & A publications. 25 Brin Irene (2014), L’Italia esplode, ibid., pp. 132–5. 26 David Harvey, Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography, London and New York: Routledge, 2001. 27 It is interesting to consider in this context the Italian production of the so-called peplum genre that re-enacted the Greco-Roman past. See Frank Burke, “The Italian Sword-and-Sandal Film from Fabiola to Hercules and The Captive Women”, in Popular Italian Cinema. Culture and Politics in a Postwar Society, ed., Flavia Brizio-Skov, London and New York: I.B. Tauris & Co., 2011, pp. 17–51. 28 See Eugenia Paulicelli, “Cronaca di un amore: Fashion and Italian Cinema in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Films (1949–1955)”, in New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies, ed., Graziella Parati, Madison: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013, pp. 107–31. 29 S. Bruzzi (2013), “Italian Fashion Designers in Hollywood” in S. Stanfill, ed., The Glamour of Italian Fashion, London: V & A Publication. 30 G. Adamson (2013) “The Neapolitan Jacket makes a vivid contrast with a traditional Savile Row jacket”, in S. Stanfill The Glamour of Italian Fashion, London: V & A Publication. 31 In 2010, an exhibition Fashion + Film. The 1960s Revisited was held at the James Gallery at the CUNY Graduate Center. On view was a red velvet morning jacket (1952) by Brioni. 32 Capalbo, p. 139. 33 Guido Crainz, Storia del miracolo italiano. Culture, identità, trasformazioni fra anni cinquanta e sessanta (Donzelli: Rome, 2005). 34 See the documentary by Guido Torlonia, Handmade Cinema (2012). 35 P. Bondanella (2002), The Films of Federico Fellini, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 36 P. Ferraro (2013), La moda italiana nel cinema dal ventennio fascista alla dolce vita, Padua: Esedra Editrice; see also H. Koda (2011), ed., 100 Shoes, intro., Sarah Jessica Parker, New York: The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 37 G. Lo Vetro (2015), Fellini e la moda. Percorsi di Stile da Casanova a Lady Gaga, ibid., p. 92. 38 M. D’Avino and L. Rumori (2012), Roma si gira! Gli scorci ritrovati del cinema di ieri, Roma: Gremese; David Forgacs’s interview in the 2014 Criterion Collection of La Dolce Vita. 39 F. Fellini (1993), “Il disegno come pre-testo” in P. M. De Santi, I disegni di Federico Fellini, Rome and Bari: Laterza, pp. 13–17.


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40 Lo Vetro, Gianluca (2015), Fellini e la moda. Percorsi di stile da Casanova a Lady Gaga, Torino: Monaddori Pearson. 41 S. Rohdie (2002), Fellini Lexicon, London: BFI. 42 See S. Gundle (2007), Bellissima. Feminine Beauty and the Idea of Italy, New Haven, Yale University Press, pp. 170–90. 43 G. Bruno (2014), Surface, ibid., p. 191. 44 D. Ward (2002), Carlo Levi: Gli italiani e la paura della libertà, Milan: Rizzoli/ Nuova Italia; and (1995), Antifascisms: Cultural Politics in Italy, 1943–46, Madison NJ and London: Farleigh Dickinson Press; and D. Ward (2015), “Carlo Levi e la ‘Meaninglessness’ della storia,” Poetiche: Rivista di Letteratura, 17: 4: 173–98. 45 In 2014 an exhibition on Danilo Donati and the Farani sartoria was organized at the Villa Manin in Passariano, Udine. The catalog from the show is titled, Trame di Cinema. Danilo Donati e la sartorial Farani, Milan: Silvana.


After La Dolce Vita: La Grande Bellezza (2013) by Paolo Sorrentino Time and space, the cyclical and the linear, exert a reciprocal action: they measure themselves against one another; each one makes itself and is made a measuringmeasure; everything is cyclical repetition through linear repetitions. A dialectical relation (unity in opposition) thus acquires meaning and import, which is to say generality. One reaches, by this road as by others, the depths of the dialectic. In this way concepts that are indispensable for defining rhythms come together. (Henry Lefebre, Rhythmanalysis)1 Travel is useful, it exercises the imagination. All the rest is disappointment and fatigue. Our journey is entirely imaginary. That is its strength. It goes from life to death. People, animals, cities, things, all are imagined. It’s a novel, just a fictitious narrative. Littré, says so and he’s never wrong. And besides, in the first place, anyone can do as much. You just have to close your eyes. It’s on the other side of life. (Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night)2 As expected, among the three individuals that director Paolo Sorrentino thanked during the night of the Oscars in Los Angeles in 2014, when his La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) won the prize for Best Foreign Film, was Federico Fellini (the two others were the Argentinean football player Diego Maradona, who played for Napoli, Sorrentino’s home town team, and the rock band, Talking Heads). In fact, Sorrentino, has been considered by critics to be the Italian director whose visionary style has most continued the Fellinian legacy. In La Grande Bellezza there are obvious traces, and quotations, from several Fellini films, especially La Dolce Vita, Giulietta degli Spiriti, 8 1/2, and Roma. It seems, then, logical to conclude this book with La Grande Bellezza, especially after having studied La Dolce Vita. Although Sorrentino pays homage to the master in some scenes, in its content, aesthetics, rhythm, and pace, La Grande Bellezza presents a stark divergence from Fellini’s style. Sorrentino’s film offers from a new perspective a re-visiting of the trope of Rome, both in Fellinian and in non-Fellinian modes. La Grande Bellezza opens with a quotation from Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night. This experimental novel from 1932 sets the tone for the male protagonist of the film, Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), and his solitary walking and


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wandering at night and at dawn in The Eternal City. The film is about his journey through the night, the night of his existence. His slow walks traverse the body of the city of Rome and its beauty. The film, however, starts at midday on a stupendous sunny summer’s day. On the Gianicolo hill, a gunshot announces the time to the city: it is noon. This is a ritual to which Romans have been accustomed since January 24, 1904, but before that it was introduced by Pope Pius IX in 1847, with the gunshot coming from Castel Sant’Angelo. It was conceived of as a way to coordinate the sounds of the bells of all the many Roman churches. As the art historian Costantino D’Orazio notes: “A spectacular idea […] to give a sense of order to the lives of the Romans… Nowadays the cannon-shot reaches […] the inhabitants of Trastevere while it amuses bands of tourists who go to the Terrace on the Gianicolo.”3 By way of the cannon-shot, the first frame of the film establishes a sense of history, temporality and space. We know where we are—Rome—and we know that we will explore the city’s temporal unfolding, its daily and nightly rhythms. The cannon-shot marks the beginning of the film (its time); it is like saying “ciak, si gira!”, or, in English, “Action!” Time and space structure Sorrentino’s film, especially the relationship between the lived and the imaginary times and spaces of the protagonist. In these initial scenes, the camera pans to the statue of Garibaldi and to monuments of other important protagonists of the Italian unification, the Risorgimento. Then we hear the sound of sacred music. Moving to another site, the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, we see a group of Japanese tourists. From the terrace, one of the most spectacular views of Rome can be enjoyed. One of the tourists, a Japanese man mesmerized by the beauty, takes one photograph after another. In the frenetic act of capturing with his camera the city’s eternal beauty and landscape, he suddenly falls, dead, as if the attempt to force Rome into one single photographic image has been too much for him. After this incidental death, the film goes from day to night: to the party celebrating the film’s central character, Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo). Jep is turning sixty-five; his birthday is celebrated with a gigantic party with a heterogeneous crowd of guests—would-be actors, writers, intellectuals, a mix of socialites and performers. The atmosphere touches on the surreal: excessive gestures and poses on the part of the guests, their style of dancing, empty conversations, noise, and the high volume of the house music, whose frenetic rhythm is interrupted by the quasi silence and delicate music that accompany the close-up shots of a burlesque performance by a woman in a transparent, sound-proof Plexiglas cube. The performer, showing most of her naked and tattooed body, moves and dances at a slow pace, very much slower than that of the dancers at the party; she has a fan with black feathers in one hand; she caresses her face with it close to her very long eyelashes, which themselves look like feathers. She embodies fragility, almost a refuge in the loudness of the party; she is a spectacle of both presentness and nostalgia. When the camera pans to her performance, the music changes, the pace slows; it is if we are transported inside the cube, still at the party but at the same time distant from its brashness. This dual sensorial dimension of the party says it all. On the one hand, we are introduced to Jep’s crazy social world, while on the other we get our first intimation of what will become the film’s different temporalities.

After La Dolce Vita: La Grande Bellezza


The party introduces us to Jep, and his world. Close-ups bring us closer to him, and to his thoughts. He appears on the dance-party scene wearing an impeccable dark suit, a tie, and smoking a cigarette. The end of the party is surrounded again by silence and soft music; present on the scene is the short, marvelous Dadina (Giovanna Vignola), who is Jep’s boss at the magazine where he works as a journalist. She walks among the debris of the party left on the terrace after the wild night, but against a most beautiful and spectacular dawn in the Roman sky. Later scenes introduce us to Jep’s entourage of friends, and we soon become aware of the ferocity of the film’s depiction of the Roman intelligentsia. Sparing no-one, it is here that Sorrentino hits hardest, with his cruel representations of a series of characters, each more egotistical, spoiled, arrogant, and vulgar than the last. These are people he clearly does not like—pretentious and arrogant. All are, in one way or another, artistic failures: a mute poet, a dramatist whose works are never performed, a conceptual artist—Talia Concept—whose performances consist in head-butting walls. Later, we encounter a little girl who is obliged by her art dealer parents to produce works of art by throwing multi-colored paints on a huge canvas, all the time crying from the distress it causes her. Even Jep, present in almost every scene in the film, is not spared Sorrentino’s barbs. He, too, is a failure. Author of a successful novel, L’apparato umano, written forty years earlier when he was in his twenties, but now afflicted by an extreme case of writer’s block, he has been unable to write a second novel, and makes his living as a journalist. Later in the film, he will say that he had always preferred going out on the town all night to focusing on his writing. In other words, he had wasted his time in the social whirl of Rome. He can’t find, he tells us, the “great beauty” that inspired him once and might inspire him again to take up writing and thus inhabit a different, more intellectually stimulating environment than his current milieu—the Rome of frenetic parties, bored and depressed acquaintances. Yet, as it moves forward, the film tells the story of Jep’s eventual rebirth as a writer, after a journey into darkness. La Grande Bellezza is at its most innovative when it manages to define film form, and how form is central to the imagination and the elaboration of a new vision. In this film, Sorrentino experiments with narrative modes and styles: from the jump cuts accompanying the house music beat and rhythm of the awful parties and the “high life” scenes, to the swooping camera of the film’s very first images filmed on the Gianicolo, to Jep’s night-time walks around Rome’s splendid streets and along the banks of the river Tiber, which evolve to the almost pure cinema of the fantastic long take with which the film concludes. Filmed from a boat as it makes its way up the Tiber, Sorrentino’s camera dwells on the river, its flora and fauna, the buildings and bridges, panning left to right and back again, showing us a solitary diver, people on bridges going about their daily business, Rome as a melting pot of the people of many other cities and ethnicities, the symbol of a multi-dimensional, plural, and ancient story yet to be told, a story demanding a form that can tell it. To narrate the city, to narrate contemporary Rome—this is the great challenge that La Grande Bellezza sets itself. And in the film’s last few minutes, as the pristine long take unfolds in front of us, it is as if Sorrentino wants to let the city itself speak, give it the time and space to


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express itself in its own voice, tell its own story. It’s the city that speaks, that shows itself to us without the intrusive hand of writer or filmmaker telling us what it is saying. As film critic, Phillip Lopate, has argued, commenting on this final scene: “No longer seeing Jep or any of the film’s characters, the viewer has become just another spectator, another tourist, like those in the opening scene. The invitation seems to be to forget plot, to just keep looking – and there is much to look at in life, especially if you have a pair of sensitive eyes like Sorrentino’s to guide you.”4 Sorrentino’s film is an intense sensorial experience; it involves touch, sight, and hearing, a film that explores and challenges our own act of seeing and feeling the world. The experience of Rome in the film is given to the spectator in the form of a quest, a non-linear journey that holds within itself the assonances and contrasts of the film’s music, both sacred and profane. Moreover, the film has an eye for fashion: throughout the film Jep is clad in marvelous custom-made suits magisterially executed by a world famous sartoria, Cesare Attolini, of Naples. His is one of the oldest and finest sartorie in Naples, the city where both Toni Servillo and Sorrentino come from in fact and of Jep’s origin in the story: after his party, during his solitary walk near the retaining walls of the river Tiber, we learn that at the age of twenty-six Jep had come from Naples and settled in Rome. Jep has been compared to Marcello Rubini, the frustrated writer and tabloid journalist of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. But in Sorrentino’s film we are in a completely different universe; and not only from the historical point of view. Marcello, in La Dolce Vita, is always moving, always driving from one crowded Roman location to another. The crowd scenes in La Grande Bellezza and the conversations on his terrace with his friends are the occasions where Jep enjoys himself least and during which he expresses his most cynical views about people and life. The crowds of Romans in La Grande Bellezza are not the crowds in Fellini’s Roma. If in Roma the carnivalesque and the grotesque are presented as windows through which to perceive the underbelly of Rome, its heart, but also its sublimity, in Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza, the crowd scenes, the crazy parties and so on, are a distraction from Jep’s solitary wandering through the night. They interrupt his attempt to understand, and touch, the sublime beauty of Rome, its multi-layered architecture, the signs of its imperial past, of the Renaissance, of the Baroque, and even of the fascist past in the EUR. But Sorrentino’s camera not only shows us the architecture, the monuments, and the churches that every tourist or passerby can see in Rome, as if his film were a cinematic guided tour to historical sites, it takes us beyond them to palaces and sites that are not open to the public. In these scenes taking place inside Rome’s secret palaces, Jep experiences moments of liberation, of release, and the opportunity to touch on and explore the hidden alcoves of his memory and psyche. It is in these moments that we are able to sense the rhythms of his gait and thinking; and appreciate its slow and harmonious gestural performance. These are existential walks. The ten minutes-long take that transports us up the Tiber at the end of La Grande Bellezza is not paying homage to Fellini. In fact, the sequence echoes another director whose cinematic style has been characterized with slow pace, the passegiata, and the long take: Michelangelo Antonioni. At one point, Jep walks alone along the Via

After La Dolce Vita: La Grande Bellezza


Veneto, the street that was the epicenter of social life in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. The hub of cinema people, celebrities and paparazzi is now completely empty, almost desolate in its solitude. The only trace of stardom is the unexpected almost miraculous apparition of the French actress, Fanny Ardant, playing herself, whom Jep addresses, calling her by her real name. She turns, gracious and elegant, and says: “Oui!?”, then continues her own, equally solitary, walk. No paparazzi, no divas, only the night and Jep’s confused thoughts. Why Fanny Ardant should appear at this moment of the film is not clear; but maybe she represents the kind of cinema that Sorrentino is aspiring to emulate, and, for Jep, acts as an aid in his quest to rediscover his old creative self. It is during his wanderings in Via Veneto that Jep meets Ramona (Sabrina Ferilli), a forty-year-old stripper, who works in a club managed by her father, one of Jep’s oldest and greatest friends from when he arrived in Rome. Jep and Ramona strike up a friendship. He is drawn to her because she is different, ingenuous, a little simpler and more vulgar than his usual group of friends. Jep invites her to a high society party, where we see the little girl forced into the painting performance. The little girl is distressed, but so also is the very sensitive Ramona. Seeing this, Jep suggests to Ramona that they go for a walk with an acquaintance of his, a gentleman entrusted with the keys to several palaces once owned by the Roman aristocracy he keeps these keys in his briefcase. Their night-time journey through the palaces, illuminated by candle-light, starts with a glimpse through the keyhole of the outside door of the palace of the Cavalieri di Malta (the Knights of Malta) and the sight it gives of St. Peter’s; then, in a cinematic trick, Sorrentino does something no tourist is allowed to do, he opens that door so that the viewers and characters can enter the palace; it is here that the magic begins. The phrase “è tutto un trucco” (it’s only a trick) is recurrent in the film and is, in fact, the phrase that concludes the film, and a phrase we can understand as the founding metaphor of cinema. Once the door is opened, we are led on a visual tour of the amazing works of art contained in the palaces, that here appear in an elaborate montage sequence. The night of magic ends at dawn on a terrace on the Aventino before another spectacular view of Rome. The cloak that Ramona wears recalls one of the costumes worn by a signora in La Dolce Vita. But in La Grande Bellezza, the walk is very different from those we see in Fellini’s film, where aristocrats and American tourists walk in a garden at night and take part in a séance. Here, the three protagonists, Jep, Ramona, and the trustworthy gentleman, walk around Rome as if in a theater of wonders, as extraordinary works of art burst upon their eyes—and ours. Stupendous and unsettling statues are filmed in close-up (scenes that recall those from a scene in Rossellini’s Viaggio in Italia when Katherine/Ingrid Bergman visits the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples); and paintings, including La Fornarina by Raphael, are intermittently illuminated as the characters walk past them. Jep and Ramona, and we with them, savor the hidden beauties of the city. The walk through the night is one of the most beautiful sequences in Sorrentino’s film. Indeed, the film is all about beauty, and the power of the camera to disclose different visions and views. Yet, death, also, is a constant in the film. We learn that Ramona has a terminal illness that is taking her to her death; and the mentally ill son of one of Jep’s most snobbish friends, Viola (Pamela Villoresi), deliberately kills himself in a traffic


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accident. In preparation for the young man’s funeral, Jep accompanies Ramona to choose her dress for the occasion. While she is trying on dresses, Jep offers a monologue on the social ritual and hypocrisy surrounding a funeral. This scene is set in a stunning location, very different from the Baroque architecture of previous scenes. It is this location, in fact, that transforms into a special moment the apparent banality of the visit to a clothing boutique. The huge space of the store in which the scene takes place is not a real store at all: it is the Salone delle Fontane dell’Eur. Sorrentino transforms into a sophisticated boutique the space of a passage-way that was initially intended to lead to the ticket offices for the EUR (Acronym for Esposizione Universale Romana). The EUR was commissioned by Mussolini in 1936 to house a World Fair to celebrate the twentieth anniversary in 1942 of the March on Rome, but, because of the Second World War, the buildings were not completed. The EUR was to be almost fully completed in 1960, on the occasion of the Rome Olympics. We have seen how it appears in L’eclisse. However, in Sorrentino’s film, the location is not immediately recognizable and the viewer could be easily de-familiarized by the environment. In addition, dressed in a black minimalist and elegant dress, Ramona appears dressed at an opposite extreme from her usual extravagant style. The space, itself sparse and minimalist, with a very different quality of beauty from the other sites explored in the film, was designed in the fascist period by the architects Marcello Piacentini and Adalberto Libera, its austerity illustrated by the marble bench on which Jep now sits as he sifts his thoughts on how one should conduct oneself at a funeral. However, what the sites have in common is that they are almost completely empty spaces. The 1930s architecture, with its metaphysical flavor, is the perfect set for Jep’s reflections. Ramona is an ingenuous outsider, the more so when compared to Jep’s group of sad friends, with whom he lives the “high” life. With her inquiring gaze and her questions she seeks to understand, but not because she wants to be part of that world. She, too, travels; but she doesn’t know when her journey will be brought to a premature end by to her illness, the extent of which is only revealed towards the end of the film. As we saw above, death is a constant in the film, running through this film like a thread, from the very beginning, with the quotation from Celine on the subject of travel and death that opens the film: “Travelling is useful, it makes the imagination work […] It goes from life to death. Men, beasts, cities and things, it’s all invented. It’s a novel, nothing else but a fictional story […] and in any case, everyone can do the same. Just close your eyes.” Is this a warning or is it an invitation to the film? Toward the end of the film a new character enters the scene. She is a nun, known as La Santa, loosely based on Mother Teresa. La Santa acts as a symbol of the virtue of faith and poverty, as opposed to the wealth and luxury of Jep’s Roman scene. We learn that as a younger woman La Santa had studied in Rome, had read the novel that made Jep famous, and had liked it. On her visit to Rome she asks to meet Jep. In the course of a conversation she has with him, she asks: “But why didn’t you write another book?” Jep answers candidly and without mincing words, as he does throughout the film: “I was looking for the great beauty. But I didn’t find it.” This moment begins Jep’s journey in the film’s final sequences to the Isola del Giglio, where he contemplates the Costa Concordia, run aground, a dead, immobile ship; a “marine monster” of today,

After La Dolce Vita: La Grande Bellezza


as it is called, an intertextual reference to the marine monster of the final scene of La Dolce Vita. Slowly, other images flow in, and lead him to memories of his first sexual exerience to the wonder and innocence of his first love, Elisa—she, too, as we learned in an earlier scene, now dead. The music intensifies. Jep appears in close-up, and says: “It always finishes this way. With death. Before that, though, there was life….” At this point, Jep pronounces the most constructive words of the film, as if all his wandering has not after all been in vain: “May this novel begin….” The mix of the sublime and the vulgar is deliberately measured by the consciousness and eye of the film: those of Jep. Servillo is an actor in the best tradition of Italian male leads, but with this performance he goes beyond tradition to give us something new, hitherto unseen in Italian cinema. Jep watches, observes, registers, speaks slowly with a wonderful Neapolitan accent, and he walks. He walks on his way home at night and as dawn breaks. He walks through the streets of the center of Rome, passing by and through its monuments, squares, its historic fountains and ruins, the wonderful gardens. Have we ever seen on screen a man who walks as much and as far as Jep? As we saw in Chapter 5, Antonioni would show his women, in whom he saw the new and the experimental, as they took long walks—Lidia (Jeanne Moreau), for example, in La notte, married to a writer lost in the world of the high life. Antonioni’s female protagonists wander through the city streets dressed elegantly and with a sophisticated simplicity that hides their inner turmoil. Jep moves slowly, his bearing elegant, his body almost fluid, his movements sinuous, thanks to the stupendous tailor-made clothes that caress the body, without swathing it; they are his soft armor, his shield against the ugliness and vulgarity of the world. Like Jep, Sorrentino’s clothes speak with a Neapolitan accent. They were made by the Cesare Attolini Company, the tailors who, in the 1930s, revolutionized the construction of men’s jackets. Servillo himself chose the clothes he wore for the film, helped by the costume designer, Daniela Ciancio. In fact, if Jep has failed as a writer, he triumphs with a refined elegance, at once a most traditional and a most modern example of sprezzatura. The media have dedicated much space and publicity to Jep Gambardella’s sartorial elegance in La Grande Bellezza. In 2014, when the film won its Oscar, the sartoria Cesare Attolini published a beautifully illustrated booklet including an interview with Servillo. Here, images from the film are juxtaposed with photographs of the actor in the Neapolitan atelier being fitted with the jacket. The Attolini atelier has, in fact, been involved with two of Sorrentino’s films: in 2008, before La Grande Bellezza came Il Divo, also starring Servillo. It was during the shooting of Il Divo, that, playing the powerful politician and former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, Servillo first had occasion to work with the Attolinis. Giulio Andreotti and Jep Gambardella are, of course, two completely contrasting characters, Andreotti a hunchback, Jep a twenty-first century elegant dandy; Andreotti’s character defined by rigidity and stiffness of movement and deportment, Jep’s by the opposite, a softness, and an almost-feminine walk. Indeed, Servillo has commented: Andreotti’s feature was his hunchback, so I had to figure out a way to behave, walk and mirror that look – which was not easy! It was Massimiliano’s and Giuseppe’s


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father, Cesare, who took the lead: he came up with shirts with collars twice as high as normal ones, so that when I wore those shirts my neck would disappear. Then he cut the jacket to make it hunched on the collar.5

Clothing has a dual impact and effect: on the intimate self, and on the public self and visible behavior. This is characteristic of the relationship between fashion and costume in film, spheres that are becoming more than ever intertwined. The emphasis on the artisanal and luxury aspect of the “Made in Italy”, embodied in Attolini’s suits comes at a time when the fashion industry and the role of Italian style and identity are increasingly becoming global. The emphasis on the made by hand, “the fine Italian hand”, is a defining mark of Italian style, both for women’s and for men’s sartorial elegance. This is a challenge now looming in a very complex market and industry, characterized, on the one hand, by fast fashion products and low-paid workers, and, on the other, by the desire to maintain high levels of craft and design, responding to a different temporality of consumption and production. While this is a very complex story that cannot be detailed here, it nevertheless bears stressing that fashion and film can reveal the intricate stories of personal identity, nation and globalization, and carry with them indications of historical processes and transitions, whether in the form of hand-made or machine-made production, craftsmanship or impersonal industrial production. With this in mind, let me turn in conclusion to some of the latest developments in fashion and film in the context of Rome as a fashion and cinematic experience.

Fashion, film, and Rome today: national identity revisited The investment of the French luxury brand, Louis Vuitton, in Rome’s cultural and film industry is a tangible contemporary example of the three-way relationship of fashion, film and Rome. In 2012, Vuitton opened a new store in a building that had once hosted Rome’s first movie theater, opened in 1907, the Cinema Etoile, at that time closed for more than twenty years. The architect, Peter Marino, who redesigned the 1,200 square meter space, worked on maintaining and incorporating the idea of the movie theater into the concept of the store. In fact, inside the store there is a screening room where movies are now regularly shown.6 But the relationship between fashion and cinema goes well beyond the restoration of a cinema and the site of a store located in a square in Via del Corso, albeit a street that has become a fashion hub for global brands such as Burberry and Christian Louboutin. Vuitton’s project, in fact, is more far reaching and includes a three-year collaboration with the Rome-based CSG. The first production of this collaboration has been the documentary Handmade Cinema (2012), funded by Vuitton; it highlights the savoir faire of Rome-based Italian artisans, such as wigmakers, tailors, makeup artists, builders, costume, and set designers and so on: all those craftsmen and women who have made possible the magic of film and performance. This is a film that documents what goes on behind the screen. In celebrating the artisanal bravura of Italian craftsmanship, it touches on something that is crucial for any study concerned with fashion and film: the process

After La Dolce Vita: La Grande Bellezza


of making the performance happen. “Handmade cinema” runs in exact parallel with handmade luxury fashion, whose art and skills are at risk of disappearing in the fast-paced production methods of the global and mass-market fashion industry. The film, narrated by a figlia d’arte, Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Marcello and French actress Catherine Deneuve, was screened at the opening of Vuitton’s store in Rome. The French luxury brand has, then, capitalized on the cachet Rome possesses as both a city of film and a city of fashion. Vuitton’s official statement expresses the view that the shared cultural heritage, history and craftsmanship of the art of cinema and the art of fashion establish a parallel between them. It is in this parallel that we can find the “natural” link between the French brand and film, but also the link that joins fashion and film as crafts, whose end product reflects the varied skills and labor of all those people involved in the making of a film—or a dress, a pair of shoes, a bag. In the Viutton-CSG documentary, the craftsmanship of the artisans and artists working in Cinecittà is paralleled to the world of fashion in what could be seen as a romanticized image of labor, an image that tends to efface the “true cost” of glamor and the real conditions of labor.7 But what is above all interesting about Vuitton’s commercial operation is the way in which a quintessentially French brand communicates its message of chic and distinction by way of “Italianness.” Here, combined, are the seductiveness of the objects on display and the recreation of a store as if it were still a palace of spectacle and performance, where the history of film, fashion and the city of Rome collide. On the one hand, then, Vuitton has bought into tradition, from both Italy’s national history and the history of the city of Rome, its fashion and film heritage, and architecture; on the other, his project reveals how a contemporary and globally recognizable French fashion brand with all its Frenchness, chic and heritage is exploiting the local cultural capital of a non-French city, like Rome, with its cinematic flair.8 Indeed, Vuitton’s commercial and cultural enterprise translates this local cultural capital into global terms. At once commercial, cultural, and emotional, this complex operation is both an illustration and a confirmation of how fashion, film and screen media as objects of experience are more than ever intertwined—as they were at the beginning of cinema, but, now, in a revolutionized time and space relation. Even while in the midst of the digital revolution, the intersection of fashion, film and the city has come full circle.9

Notes 1 2 3 4 5

H. Lefebre (2014, latest edition), Henry Lefebre. Rhythmanalysis. Space, Time and Everyday Life, London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, p. 18. This is Celine’s quotation from Journey at the End of the Night, as it appears as an epigraph at the beginning of La Grande Bellezza. C. D’Orazio (2014), La Roma Segreta del film La Grande Bellezza, Milan: Sperling & Kupfer, p. 6. P. Lopate (2014), “Dancing Place” in the Criterion US Collection of the film. Cesare Attolini for La Grande Bellezza (2014). This publication was distributed



7 8


Italian Style during a show of Attolini’s designs at the Italian Trade Commission in NYC on the occasion of the celebration of the Italian Republic, June 2, 2014. The architect Peter Marino, who was responsible for the rebranding of Barney’s NY in the early 1990s, is an interesting and important case study for the reconceptualization of space in concept store and branding. See, for instance, the spring travel issue of the New York Times Magazine (March 24, 2013, pp. 38–9) that dedicated a profile to his accomplishments. One of his latest projects has been the restructuring of the Bulgari flagship store in Via Condotti in Rome to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the brand. The store was originally opened by Sotirio Bulgari in 1905. The True Cost (2015) is the title of a recent documentary directed by Andrew Morgan that looks at the exploitation of workers in the globalized fashion industry and the real cost of $8 jeans. “Experience” is one of the most frequently occurring words in fashion market strategies and discourse. The official Vuitton site references specifically that a consumer or visitor can share the Vuitton experience and join a larger community. See also this title in the digital edition of Vogue Italia, certainly one of the most influential among the different Vogue editions: “Dubai Hosts Middle East’s First Vogue Fashion Experience.” What is interesting to note is that fashion on screen, online shopping and store shopping are linked to a distinct gestural quality of individuality and taste. Thus, choices are materialized in the experience we establish with them. See Marketa Uhlhirova, “100 Years of the Fashion Film: Frameworks and Histories” in Fashion Theory 17:2 (2013): 137–58; “The Fashion Film Effect,” in Djurdja Bartlett, Shaun Cole, Agnès Rocamora, eds, Fashion Media. Past and Present (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academics, 2013), pp. 118–29; and Natalie Khan, “Cutting the Fashion Body: Why the Fashion Image is No Longer Still,” in Fashion Theory 16:2 (2012): 235–50.


The Photographic Archive by Giuseppe Palmas (1918–1977) My first encounter with Giuseppe Palmas’s work goes back to 2009 during the preparation of a multimedia exhibit “1960s Revisited: Fashion + Film” that I curated at the James Gallery at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in the spring of 2010. The exhibit was initially conceived to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Italian landmark films Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura, and Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and his Brothers, all of which came out in 1960. The show was the result of collaboration with the city of Cesena, Antonio Maraldi from Cesena’s Centro Cinema, and Roberto Palmas who introduced me to his father’s photographic archives. Some of his pictures were exhibited at the show.1 Giuseppe Palmas was born in Cesena, Italy on January 6, 1918 and died in 1977. He married Alda Amadori on March 16, 1946, and they moved to Milan. He became head reporter and subsequently special correspondent for the Corriere Lombardo, a leading Milan newspaper. In 1949, his first daughter, Daniela, was born. A few years later he opened a press photography agency in Milan. However, Rome was at that time the center of Italian social life and it was there that he moved, in 1953, and took over the office of Marcello Maggiori. In May 1956, his second child, Marco, was born and Roberto, their third child, was born in 1964. The photographs that Palmas took in the years of the postwar reconstruction and process of modernization tell the story of Rome and Italy. They capture Italian and foreign stars in the “Hollywood on the Tiber” period, and document the process of hybridization of Italian culture and lifestyle. Many foreign actresses and models came to Italy’s shores and took part in the sweet life of Rome, the Venice Film Festival, and the Nastri D’Argento awards. We see, too, actresses posing in designs by Schubert and Irene Galitzine in their ateliers; Micol Fontana welcoming her friend and customer Ava Gardner at the Ciampino Airport in Rome; paparazzi surrounding Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart with Lauren Bacall and the model Capucine at a Roman party; Ivy Nicholson posing during the Venice Film Festival; American ambassador Clare Booth Luce, and American journalist and writer Elsa Maxwell; and fashion icon Consuelo Crespi, former American model (Consuelo Pauline O’Brien O’Connor, born in Larchmont, New York, in 1928), who married the Roman count, Rodolfo (Rudy) Crespi, and then became one of the most passionate ambassadors for Italian fashion abroad. In addition, Palmas also took photographs on the film sets of foreign


Italian Style

directors such as Roger Vadim, and Italian directors such as Vittorio De Sica. He also put together photo stories of individual actresses such as Sophia Loren and Eleonora Rossi Drago. The latter was a former model, and in Palmas’s photographs taken at her home in 1954 we see her posing in several fur coats and stoles. One of these is particularly stunning because it is the luxurious chinchilla coat the actress wears as Clelia in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Le amiche, from 1955. Palmas’s archive has helped to tell the story of a period when Rome became the epicenter of the international cultural exchanges that contributed to the process of hybridization (Chapters 5 and 6); and, for the purposes of this study, Palmas’s photographs have been an invaluable resource, confirming the synergy of fashion and film and how together they contributed to the launch of Italy in the postwar years.

Figure 33  Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer, Rome, September 29, 1954, Grand Hotel. Courtesy of Roberto Palmas. Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive.

The Photographic Archive by Giuseppe Palmas (1918–1977)

Figure 34  Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, Rome, February 27, 1954. Courtesy of Roberto Palmas. Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive.



Italian Style

Figure 35  Valentina Cortese, star of Le amiche, at Emilio Schuberth atelier, Rome November 9, 1954. Courtesy of Roberto Palmas. Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive.

Note 1

1960, un anno in Italia tra cultura e spettacolo, (bilingual edition) edited by Antonio Maraldi and Eugenia Paulicelli (Cesena: Il Ponte Vecchio, 2010), see also the essay contained in the catalog by Roberto Palmas “Il mio papà-razzo” p. 15. For reasons of space I cannot show here all Palmas’s images. They are accessable in his online archive and many of them, along with commentary, can be viewed at: where the online exhibit accompanying this book is available.

Interview with Fernanda Gattinoni1 Rome, June 16, 2000

Figure 36  Fernanda Gattinoni in the late 1990s, author’s collection.


Italian Style

After her training in London and having worked at the Maison Molyneaux in the 1930s for the Ventura fashion house in Rome and Milan, Fernanda Miracca Gattinoni (Cocquio-Trevisago 1907–Rome 2002) opened her own atelier in Rome in 1946, in Via Marche 72. As she recalled in the interview, one of her first designs was a green velvet suit for the actress Clara Calamai (already a star in Italy, she had worked with Alessandro Blasetti, Ferdinando Maria Poggioli, and on Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione). In the 1950s, Clare Booth Luce, the American ambassador in Rome, became one of her customers. Gattinoni worked during the years of “Hollywood on the Tiber” for the costume designer Maria De Matteis, who worked for King Vidor’s film War and Peace (1956) shot in Rome, and designed and made the dresses worn by Audrey Hepburn. These dresses later inspired her “Natasha” collection with its “Empire Style.” Ingrid Bergman was one of her customers during her years in Rome. Gattinoni designed her wardrobe for the films she made with Roberto Rossellini: Stromboli (1950); Europa 51 (1952); Voyage to Italy (1954), and in Gene Saks’s film Cactus Flower (1969). Gattinoni also designed the costumes for Anna Magnani in one of the episodes of Luchino Visconti’s Siamo Donne (We are Women, 1953). In 1965, she moved to a new space in Via Toscana 1, where her atelier is located to this day. In the late 1950s, she launched a boutique line, but it was in the 1980s that the atelier grew considerably, thanks to her son, Raniero Gattinoni (1953–1993), who in addition brought into the firm Stefano Dominella, the current president. In 1994, Guillermo Mariotto was appointed as creative director. Until 2010, he was in charge of all the lines of off-the-peg fashions and accessories. He currently designs the high fashion collections. I met Fernanda Gattinoni in June, 2000 in her atelier in Via Toscana 1. We sat in a quite spacious room near a desk with big tall windows behind us. To my right there was a mannequin on a pedestal with a gorgeous dress, probably ready for a fitting. Q: Madame Gattinoni, I would like to show you a picture given to me by an American friend of mine who lived in Rome and from 1955 to 1956 and was secretary to the American Ambassador in Italy, Clare Booth Luce. I believe she became one of your most faithful clients. You are smiling, why? A: Please excuse me, but I was remembering my first encounter with the Ambassador. It was not a happy one. Let me explain the background first. It all started with a telephone call from the Embassy to my atelier. They asked if they could see my collection. So I went with my première (head seamstress) and one of my seamstresses. We took with us a few couture dresses including evening gowns, but I decided not to reveal my identity. While we were doing the fitting I could not help looking at the shoes the Ambassador was wearing. They were a real horror. They were squat with a high platform made of cork, similar in style to the shoes still worn today by some young women. The Ambassador immediately realized that I couldn’t help looking at her shoes and asked her secretary to find out why I was so taken by them. I spoke English and so I understood what she was saying, but she didn’t know that, and responded that I thought her shoes were really ugly. After hearing this, Clare Booth Luce answered back, with her usual firmness, that she liked her shoes very much and that she could

Interview with Fernanda Gattinoni, Rome, June 16, 2000


do whatever she wanted. Nevertheless, the fittings continued. When we got back to the atelier, my première was very disappointed that I had been so non-diplomatic in expressing my blunt opinion about the shoes such a potential prestigious customer was wearing. Indeed, she thought that I had compromised the possibility of counting her among our clients. Hard as it may be to believe, that morning at around 9 o’clock, I received a visit from the Ambassador’s secretary who asked me for advice on the “shoe problem.” Out of this episode came a nice and cordial friendship relation with Clare Booth Luce that continued even after the end of her mandate in Italy. She used to call me very often asking for advice about clothes and how to match the right accessories. Q: Perhaps this episode tells us how much attention must be paid to accessories and the personality of the client in the making of clothing, especially important ones. A: Yes, exactly. The advice I give to my clients is that they should never copy the dress of this or that actress or celebrity. Believe me, this is the result of seventy years of work in the field. And I have met so many women of a very high social standing! I like to build the dress to emphasize the precise personality that each one of us has. I must say that all women gladly accept my advice: from the hair-style, to the way they walk. All of this contributes to create the kind of relationship that I would like to call “respectful confidentiality.” See, for instance, this dress on the mannequin here. It is a dress for a debutante. Even if I try to modify it with some little adjustments it would not be appropriate for a career woman. I always try to create a human relationship with the client. Sometimes snobbish women come to the atelier. My collaborators, sad and discouraged, alert me when we have this kind of difficult client. So I step in and with my natural and simple way of arguing I manage to transform a cold business relationship into a friendly and trustworthy one. Do you know that the Arab princesses of the world call me “Mamy.” Let me say it again: it is the human relationship that really counts for me. Q: How did you start your career? A: It started almost as a game. First of all, can you imagine a young woman who was not even twenty years old, seventy years ago, who had been raised in a very rigid manner and under strict rules, and who decided to go to England on her own because she wanted to learn English? I can’t tell you how many battles I fought with my parents. While I was in London I frequented the Catholic church of St. Peter’s and played the harmonium during the services. This was the church attended by the Italian community that was very poor at the time. Now those Italians have reached very high positions in industry and commerce. Many young women used to sing in the choir and with them I put on some shows. Our repertoire was Nicodemi’s comedies. I used to take care of the costumes, the set design, sometimes the direction and even acting. During one of these shows a man approached me. He introduced himself as a tailor for some fashionable London boutiques. He complemented me on my costumes


Italian Style

and asked me how come I had not dedicated myself completely to the profession of costume designer. He insisted so much that he convinced me to work for him. I had to deal with the opposition of both my parents about this decision I had taken. But this was my beginning. Later, I got a job in one of the most important ateliers of the time: the Maison Molyneaux. We dressed British high society, the nobility, and also members of the Royal Family. I would often go to Buckingham Palace for fittings and it was there that I met the future Queen Elizabeth II, who was then twelve years old. In the meantime I was able to get even more experience by working six months in London and six months in Paris. I cannot help telling you this, an episode that recently moved me deeply. About three years ago I happened to be in London with my première for the fitting of some clothes for a Saudi princess. During my stay in London, I went back to St. Peter’s Church and took my première with me to show her where I used to play the harmonium. We went in and we sat in the first row of pews. A few minutes later, an elderly lady sat next to us. Little by little she slid along the pew ever closer to me almost forcing me to move. It turned out that this was “her” seat and she was annoyed that a stranger was occupying it. At some point I decided to start a conversation and asked her: “Are you Italian?” She answered that she was. And then I told her that many years earlier I used to play the harmonium and indicated a niche near the altar. The woman looked at me intensely and mesmerized and exclaimed loudly: “But you are Signorina Fernanda!” We embraced each other in tears, my première cried too. The priests came running and asked us what was happening. It was a very moving scene. Imagine that! After seventy years or so, she remembered me. The two of us were the only survivors of that generation of young people who attended St. Peter’s church. This woman’s name was Concetta and, differently from other Italians who had made money with their work and intelligence, she was still of modest condition. We call each other every now and again, and whenever I happen to go to London, I pay her a call. This episode is one of my fondest memories because it reminds me of my youth and my enthusiasm to do always something for those who are less fortunate. Q: You must have so many memories. Can you share some more with me? A: Of course. My only regret is that I never kept a diary. They often tell me off about that. Just imagine: things, situations, characters, the difficult times that we had to face, the war, postwar reconstruction. It’s a novel. However, another memory I have from London was when the British papers announced in big letters: “Italian troops enter Addis Ababa.” So, do you know what I did? I put on a placard and I walked from Piccadilly Circus to near to the British Museum—I lived nearby—showing that sign. Of course, the English were totally indifferent, but in my own way I was proud to be Italian. Finally, I thought, Italy too has a colony! But, of course, we know well how that adventure ended tragically and confirmed the idea that we Italians, unlike other peoples, are not true colonizers. By character, perhaps, we don’t have a sufficiently forceful hand. I don’t know if I’m making myself clear …

Interview with Fernanda Gattinoni, Rome, June 16, 2000


Q: How about the beginning of your career? A: Let’s see. A few years before the Second World War broke out I came back to Italy. The first thing I did was to find out which fashion house in Italy was the most prestigious. It was the atelier Ventura and had its main branch in Milan and two others in Genoa and Rome. Since I had worked for Molyneaux, I spoke English and French, and so the doors were opened to me. In those days, the Roman aristocracy and important people were dressed by Casa Ventura. Ventura was also tailor to Italian Royal family, the Savoys. And it was there that I made the wedding dress for Maria Josè. When I was at Ventura I used to work with an eighty-year-old lady. We created models together. I split my activity between Rome, where I used to live at the Hotel Inghilterra, and Milan, where, although I was not far from my parents who were in the Varese area, I stayed mainly in a hotel. Besides the creation of designs, I got very interested in textiles, embroidery material, print, accessories and everything that was necessary for the manufacturing of high fashion dresses. At Ventura, I remember a very significant episode that was emblematic of the tragedy that soon was going to strike Italy. Edda Ciano, Mussolini’s daughter and one of our customers, came for a fitting of a camel coat. She was very surprised to find the atelier deserted. The only two people present, were myself and my première. To her question why the other people were absent I answered her that everybody had gone to Piazza Venezia to listen to the Duce’s declaration of war on France. I still remember her dismayed expression, almost painful and in disbelief. She left the fitting immediately and with a breaking voice said: “My God what a tragedy! No, it is not possible.” Q: As well as Mussolini’s daughter, Edda Ciano, did you have any other contacts with the Duce’s family members? A: Yes, I made the wedding dress for Maria Scicolone, Sophia Loren’s sister, when she married Mussolini’s son Romano in 1962. I went to Predappio with my première for the dressing in Donna Rachele’s [Mussolini’s wife] house. I had the impression of a very modest house. They offered us coffee with odd cups. Q: Let’s go back to your beginning in Rome. A: Well, at the time in which Italy went through its most difficult and critical time, the Ventura atelier closed down. This was when I was in Rome and communication between Northern and Southern Italy was almost impossible. So, I was on my own, far from my family in the most tragic time for Italy, during the Second World War. I still do not know how I found the strength and the courage to start my own atelier in a small place near Piazza di Spagna and take on all the staff from Ventura. The first design that came out from my atelier was the green velvet suit I made for the actress Clara Calamai. In those days we used to work until late at night, on Saturdays and even on Sundays. Almost every single night I drove the première to her apartment. She used to live at the Garbatella. I also used my car to take work to the various external seamstresses who lived all over Rome.


Italian Style

Q: Why are you smiling? A: Because I was thinking of a strange episode, but funny of its kind, that happened to me very late one night. I was coming back home after having taken some of my workers and the première to their homes when I ran out of gas. I stopped near a gas station close to the Coliseum. Not having money with me—I never brought any with me, as a precaution—I told the man at the gas station that I would give him my driver’s license in exchange for some gas in order to get to Via Veneto and that later I would send him the money. He looked at me, almost scrutinizing me and said: “I am going to give you the gas, but you young woman change this kind of life!” The misunderstanding could be plausible: it was very late at night, a young woman driving a BMW. In his view, there was only one conclusion, don’t you think? Of course, later that morning I sent him the money through a delivery man. When the gas station owner was told who I was and above all what my job was, he was most confused. We were then in the early 1950s and I had moved towards the end of the war to a prestigious twenty-five room apartment in Via Marche very close to Via Veneto and the Hotel Excelsior where all the jet set—the movie people celebrities and socialites—stayed. This kind of move was necessary in order to prevent the Germans from claiming the space during the occupation of Rome. A fashion atelier was likely to be requisitioned. I was advised on this important move by the Duke of Laurino Ruffo di Calabria, a true friend and uncle of the Queen of Belgium, Paola from Liegi. I established a great friendship relationship with the Duke of Laurino. He was one of the most eminent personalities of the Roman aristocracy. Now that I think of it, I don’t recall ever having had a cup of coffee or tea with him. He was a perfect gentleman endowed with a natural charm. He was a very efficient chaperon for the emerging actresses. He taught them manners, breeding and how to behave in society. And yet, despite the fact that he was involved in high society, the Duke had a strict rule that he never broke: after 10pm he never took any appointments. He would bring all the important personalities visiting Rome to my atelier. Actresses such as Ava Gardner (her scenes of jealousy with Lucia Bosè over Walter Chiari were very famous); the sex bombs Anita Ekberg and Silvana Pampanini; and, of course, Anna Magnani, a real woman, completely honest, but very lonely; Ingrid Bergman, whose generosity, kindness and spontaneity really impressed me; Evita Peron, eccentric when she appeared in public; Audrey Hepburn who used to order fresh orange juice to be kept in a thermos at Cinecittà when she was filming War and Peace. For those costumes, I received an Oscar nomination. In fact, the Gattinoni empire style was born with the dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in War and Peace. I wanted to present the same dress in a recent collection in memory of my son Raniero, worn by the actress Romina Mondello. This dress is still in demand today and this is a proof that style never loses out to the whims of fashion. In the 1960s, Via Veneto was the salotto of the world; it was where the Dolce Vita exploded. I do not think that I can be accused of presumption if I say that the best names of international aristocracy, from the Queen of Afghanistan, to the Infante of Spain, King Juan Carlos and, as I mentioned earlier, princesses from the Arab world

Interview with Fernanda Gattinoni, Rome, June 16, 2000


all came to my atelier and to my villa at the Circeo. Prominent names from the world of culture, industry and finance were also my customers. The jet-set considered the Gattinoni atelier their home. The list, in fact, could even be longer. Q: You must be very happy about all these achievements. A: Yes, I cannot deny it. In particular I am proud that I could show my parents what I had done and built. However, I must say that I do have one regret that sometimes distresses me: the fact that because I was completely absorbed by my work I was not able to be closer or more present in my family. This kind of regret is mixed with pain, the more so after the premature death of my son Raniero. He was a poet, many of his works have been published and received public praise and recognition. His sensibility can be seen in his fashion creations. He considered fashion an art, Art with a capital A. When Guillermo Mariotto came to the atelier in 1988, he used to tell him: “Draw everything you like, provided that it is the best and not like others, but above all do not forget that what you do is art.” After the great loss of Raniero, I also lost my brother, a man of great culture. He was blind, an illness that struck him while he was at the peak of his career as a journalist and script-writer. Nevertheless, as you can see, despite these blows, I continue this work. And I do it for the people I have been working with, some of them for more than fifty years, and in memory of my son, of his creativity and of the historical memory of Alta Moda. I don’t think that modernity, the exaggerated kind I mean, need lead to the decline of style. We have to be modern, our times require it of us, but always retaining a certain style that defines good taste. Otherwise we fall into vulgarity. And, in my view, this often happens and women lose the most attractive of their weapons: their femininity. This work, believe me, is not easy, even if you are gratified by the success of your creations when they become objects of study, research, remakings and so forth. But this is the world of fashion, isn’t it? Yes, as Irene Brin once said, “the golden dust of fashion.”

Note 1

This interview was conducted in June 2000. At the time Fernanda Gattinoni was 93 years old, she died a couple of years later. I have never published it before and have kept it among my dearest memories. It seems to me that a book on Italian style and cinema is the right place for it.


Dressing the Dreams: Interview with Dino Trappetti—Tirelli Costumi Rome, December 2015 Vestire i sogni, il lavoro, la vita, i segreti di un sarto teatrale (Dressing the Dreams. The Work, Life and The Secrets of a Theatrical Tailor: 1981) is the title of Umberto Tirelli’s fascinating life and work.1 The book is the result of a collaboration between Umberto Tirelli and Guido Vergani, with whom over several days Tirelli held many tape-recorded conversations about his life. The book is beautifully written and gives a clear picture of Tirelli’s passions, vitality and inventiveness and details of the many people in the worlds of film and theater who worked with him. The book is not only the story and history of Umberto Tirelli, it is also a vivid account of one of the creative laboratories of the “Made in Italy,” and shows how closely the worlds of costume and fashion were inter-connected and how cinema launched Italian fashion and style to the world. In the short paragraph preceding Tirelli’s autobiography, Vergani writes: I tell the story of a craft and, through that craft, I tell the story of a life and its encounters. This book […][tells of] thirty years of work and the vicissitudes of [Tirelli’s] life, from errand boy in a Milan shop to theatrical tailor who worked with Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, Eduardo De Filippo […] I spent many days with him, I pushed him to tell his story, to explain the secrets of this singular profession, that of dressing not people, but their dreams, not the present but the past. And I wrote, I “edited” as if I were making a film, his memories. (Tirelli, Vergani: 7)

Opening like a mood-setting establishing shot in a film, the book uncovers why and how costume is so important for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the impact fabric and dress have on both actors and viewers. Costume in cinema creates the emotional impact viewers enjoy as they watch the film; it helps to produce what the philosopher, Jessie Prinz, calls the wonder of artistic production, that which defines the experience of not only art but also fashion. The book begins by recounting the episode in which Umberto Tirelli worked with Piero Tosi on the costumes for Maria Callas, who was playing Medea in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film of the same name. Pasolini did not want the usual Greek tunics or to reproduce the stereotype of Greek style. Tosi and Tirelli helped to translate this idea. Unable to reproduce Greek costumes from models (there weren’t any), they decided to go back to the very foundation of dress—fabric—and how it is manipulated and worked in the process of becoming dress. They opted for a very poor fabric, the


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so-called Cencio di nonna, something similar to the gauze used in hospitals or by upholsterers to finish the underneath of chairs or divans. No-one before them had even thought of making a dress with such poor material. Nevertheless, as we see in the book, the odd idea of using such an unusual fabric soon entered the fashion houses and the prêt-a-porter market (Tirelli, Vergani: 9). The fabric went through different stages of dying, using natural herbs like lemon zest mixed with chamomile to obtain a certain shade of yellow, or stinging nettles for a particular green hue . Instead of using an iron they created the pleats by hand, pulling the fabric, tightening it very firmly and then leaving it to dry in the sun. This is a method that still, to this day, is used in fashion. The next crucial moment was the fitting and the reaction of the legendary and capricious Maria Callas: We tried out the costume. I was fixing it with pins, making it tighter or shorter. Piero Tosi, the costume designer was trembling. There was a great silence. Maria Callas looked at herself in the mirror and said: ‘Now, I am Medea!’ Tosi was almost in disbelief. While in the workshop where we were working on the costume he had obsessively repeated: ‘Just imagine how Maria will react when she arrives and we put these rags on her! She will have imagined playing Medea wrapped in silk and satin and we are dressing her with cenci di nonna!’ (ibid., 10)

Umberto Tirelli recalls vividly how he felt when working with a figure like Maria Callas, a star he had adored while he was working at La Scala. He describes her as a most legendary and attitude-free diva. Of the episode with Callas in Medea, he writes: I think that for a woman, for an actress, there is no more delicate and vulnerable moment as the fitting of a dress, that intimate relationship with the tailor who sees perhaps her wide hips, her bust a bit relaxed, her shoulder going down like a willow tree. So, with the dress, he has to correct, hide and enhance. Maria, then and afterwards, when I had her in my hands and in my pins during the fittings, was adorable, and compliant. She worked through the fatigue and was always, respectful of other people’s work. Nevertheless, I was intimidated, paralyzed by the emotion.

Countless examples can be cited from this book, but I think that this one communicates best the passion that animates Umberto Tirelli’s work, his ability to recognize beauty among things, dresses and costumes. His huge collection of clothing is animated by the love he had in working with and for a community of friends, collaborators, and workers. Tirelli Costumi, now directed by Umberto’s lifelong friend Dino Trappetti, is a multi-faceted institution; its costumes have lived many mesmerizing lives. Tirelli Costumi is an archive of original clothing and costumes for cinema, theater, and opera. Its enormous cultural and historical patrimony and legacy comprises about 170,000 costumes and 5,000 original dresses. But Tirelli is also a sartoria where the tailoring, dying and sewing that make up the tailor’s craft are still part of the daily routine of the many people who work there. Many of them are skilled, master artisans who work side by side with apprentices. Visiting their archive in Fornello, just outside Rome, is like traveling through time and space, like Alice in Wonderland’s journey through the looking glass.

Dressing the Dreams

Figure 37  Antonia, Umberto Tirelli and Claudia Cardinale at fitting for film Il Gattopardo, dir. L. Visconti, costumes by P. Tosi. Courtesy of Fondazione Tirelli–Trappetti



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Q: What does preserving Italian traditions in the work of the sartoria mean today? When I think about Tirelli I cannot avoid thinking about its multiple functions. Tirelli is a sartoria, it is a costume and clothing archive, a foundation, and a creative laboratory of the “Made in Italy”. A: Let me start with an example. A famous Neapolitan tailor called Bonanno. She was an excellent seamstress who would always go to Paris to buy models by Dior, Balenciaga, and other great Parisian designers. She would also buy the fabrics and with them produced high fashion clothes. In Paris they would even give her the labels. And of course, she would sell the clothes for much less. We have a very rich collection of Bonanno’s clothing. With that in mind, let me add another interesting detail. Hubert de Givenchy was preparing an exhibition in Paris on Givenchy but was missing some of the clothes made in the 1960s. I mentioned our collection to him, but explaining that the clothes were not the originals. He agreed to take a look at them. I showed him some of Bonanno’s dresses. He was literally amazed. After carefully examining them he said to me: “These dresses are sewn and finished better than the originals. It is an incredible source ….” This anecdotal example reveals emblematically the knowhow of our artisans. In addition, Naples as a city has an ancient and great tradition in both male and female tailoring. I was recently in Naples to receive an award and on that occasion I organized a fashion show with the clothing from the Bonanno archive. Usually, the 1951 show organized by Giorgini in Florence is identified as the birth of Italian fashion. Starting with that show, our tailors and seamstresses became fashion designers and then stylists. Our work of fine sartorial quality is now known all over the world. Our archive comprises 170,000 pieces, including those from well-known Italian sartorie like Bonanno’s or Zecca’s, but we also have original clothing by Chanel of the 1920s and 1930s, and dresses by Balenciaga, Poiret, Vionnet, Lanvin and others. Umberto enjoyed taking off the labels from the dresses and so sometimes it is a bit difficult to identify the exact origin of the clothing. Many dresses came from donations as in the case of Princess Altieri, aunt of the Princess del Domietta Del Drago, whose clothes were Parisian. Other clothing has been acquired over time. Umberto loved to collect. We have dresses from the Monaci Gallenga Collection and also original clothing from the eighteenth century like a wonderful male embroidered waistcoat dated 1720, manufactured in France.* The Hermitage museum in Moscow has the same pieces that we have. We also hold several nineteenth century pieces by Worth, for example, clothing that belonged to the Royal House of Savoy with the Worth label. Q: From the photos and also during my visit to the archive, I noted the presence of foreign workers. I would like to know more about it and how they come to you. A: We consider our atelier a creative laboratory of the “Made in Italy” where tradition and innovation coexist. The best experts, the older generation, work side by side with See Plate 7 and Plate 8


Dressing the Dreams


the young ones. Signora Antonia, who is an exceptional cutter, is still working with us. She used to work at the SAFAS and Umberto [Tirelli] noted her qualities and so wanted her to work with him when he opened his own atelier. Antonia made the dress Claudia Cardinale wore in the famous ball scene in Luchino Visconti’s Il Gattopardo. We still have a photo of Antonia with pins and needles in her hands during the fitting with the actress. Antonia still works here, training the young seamstresses. Apropos, I would like to mention a very good seamstress from Cape Verde who came to our atelier when she was sixteen or eighteen years old. Rosana, this is her name, really wanted to learn to sew. At the beginning, she did not know even how to hold a needle in her fingers. Look at her now, and you’ll see she has become an expert and exceptional seamstress. A very good tailor is a former Nigerian, Kingsley, who came to Italy many years ago. He too was very eager to learn the trade and become a skilled tailor. Both Rosana and Kingsley are now Italian citizens. This is a story that tells of the great changes that have happened in Italy over the last few years. The Italian tradition, the sartorial one in our case, survives and maintains its excellence thanks to the work of migrants, thanks to their passion and professionalism and to the work they carry out side by side with the older generation of Italian artisans. One of the biggest problems we face in Italy is that young people and people in general do not want to be artisans any more. You hear a lot of talk about creativity, a word that to me seems a bit emptied of meaning. Everybody uses this word without really knowing what it means. The creation of a design is the result of a collective project. But in Italy we do not have real schools for training artisans. We at Tirelli make an effort to maintain our profile and to train new talents. Now think of this new exodus of immigration to Italy. It is a real tragedy and they are desperate. In Italy and Europe we must do something for them. For example, I am sure that among them there are so many people who want to work and succeed. I am going to see how I can give some work to some of them. As a consequence, Italian knowhow is reborn and develops thanks to the meeting of different cultures. Q: So we can talk about Italians with a new identity or a new Italian identity. This is a process that is similar to what happened and continues to happen in the US. A: Of course, it is important to accept this new reality and understand that the migratory waves towards Italy are phenomena from which we can grow and develop. We become better by encountering people from different cultures. Q: How did foreign directors and costume designers find it different to work in Italy compared to other countries? Is there something that distinguishes the Italian tradition for costume design for cinema in Italy from other traditions? A: Tirelli Costumi has an international reputation. We have a long experience of working with directors, costume designers and foreign productions, Hollywood above all. Costume designers such as Ann Roth, Ruth Carter, Sandy Powell, Coleen Atwood and many young ones. For instance, we are now collaborating with Woody Allen who


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is working on a film set in the 1930s. He asked us for 1930s evening gowns. Not to mention, of course Scorsese’s masterpiece The Age of Innocence, for which the costume designer Gabriella Pescucci won an Oscar. Our many resources and knowhow still attract many foreign productions who want to work with us. For example, “Western Union” from Los Angeles has recently closed. They used to have, like us, authentic costumes. In New York there was an excellent Italian seamstress, Barbara Matera, with whom Gabriella Pescucci worked, but now she is not working any more. I don’t think that in the US sartorial activity is flourishing. In Europe, there are still places that are very well known for theater costumes, such as the “Angels” based in London. It is the atelier that worked on television series such as “The Tudors.” Spain too has a very important center for costumes for the theater. However, our archive is the biggest in the world. Our collection can be used to either copy models or to re-use costumes, the ones that have been used for previous movie productions. The possibility of re-using the costumes is very important. For example, the costumes worn by Silvana Mangano in Morte a Venezia [Death in Venice, 1971, directed by Luchino Visconti] can be used again, thanks to the kind of fabrics—linen, flannel, very resistant fabrics—that were used to make the costumes.† Q: Talking about your impressive archive, I know that you have costumes that belonged to Lyda Borelli and even the shawl worn by Francesca Bertini in Assunta Spina [co-directed by Augusto Serena and Francesca Bertini, 1915]. Can we talk about that? A: One of Lyda Borelli’s nieces gave us a trunk full of clothing that belonged to the diva. The trunk did not contain many dresses and they were not in great condition, so they needed to be restored. I think that some of these dresses had a Worth label. As for Bertini, I must tell you how we met. A mutual friend of Umberto Tirelli and Francesca Bertini succeeded in organizing a dinner at Umberto’s home and invited Francesca Bertini. I must premise this by saying that Bertini said that she would come on one condition: there were to be only men at the gathering. She wanted to be the only woman to hold the scene. Gabriella Pescucci, who really wanted to be at the dinner, decided to dress as a man. So she put on a man’s shirt and tie, and put her hair up etc. When Bertini arrived, turning her attention to Pescucci, she told her that her look did not fool her. She understood immediately that she was a woman, but since she thought that her stunt was very funny, she allowed her to stay. So Bertini talked for the whole evening, in fact she did all the talking. Of course we asked about her clothes and she told us that she dressed in Chanel during the day and for the evening she preferred Caylloux Seours, one of the designers that our Queen Margherita was very fond of. Then we asked her if she still had the famous shawl she wore in Assunta Spina. And she answered that she still had it and that she would give it to us. She said that she had been wearing a modest black dress during the film, but the shawl represented her special effect. The day after, in fact, we received a package containing the shawl. See Plate 9

Dressing the Dreams


That evening she arrived at dinner dressed in green with a magnificent dress by Vionnet. And she said: “I am not going to give you this dress because I want to wear it when I die, and be buried in it.” Another interesting collection is the one belonging to Ingrid Bergman. She first came to Italy in 1949/50. At that time, we had a costume and set designer, Fiorella Marani, who was the daughter of Roberto Rossellini’s sister. Bergman stayed friends with Tirelli even after her separation from Rossellini. She came to Rome to see her children, who had stayed in Italy. Talking casually about her wardrobe she said that it was in her house at Santa Marinella near Rome. Her wardrobe included her Hollywood one (with dresses by Dior and others) and her Roman one with beautiful lace dresses made by the Maison Gattinoni. We also have clothes that belonged to Isa Miranda, a gorgeous 1930s bluette dress and silver embroideries. It is a dress from the Ventura atelier, a great fashion house active in the 1930s with branches in Rome and Milan. We also have the clothes of Silvana Mangano from a well-known Roman-based atelier called De Luca that was active until the 1960s. Q: One can understand that, with this enormous legacy of history and memorable clothes that belonged to stars and created by some of the most important fashion houses and designers, Tirelli Costumes must be a magnet for foreign directors and costume designers. In an interview I read about the exhibition, “Dressing the Dreams”, that was held at the Palazzo Braschi in Rome in spring of 2015, both you and Piero Tosi said that it is not possible today to think of costumes in cinema as completely separate from fashion. I would like to know why and what underlies the relationship between costume and fashion. A: Apart from Sensani’s experiment, Corona di ferro [The Iron Crown], a film directed by Alessandro Blasetti, one sees how the costume designer is influenced by the present and then in turn how the present undergoes the influence of cinema costumes. In the 1960s, Piero Tosi rediscovered the 1930s, think of a film such as La Caduta degli Dei [directed by Luchino Visconti, 1969] and all those dresses wrapping the actresses’ bodies and presenting a sublime femininity. But even when he worked on the nineteenth century costumes for Il Gattopardo, Tosi created them with a critical and modern eye. From this perspective one can talk about a costume designer who has not aged. Another interesting case is that of Gabriella Pescucci, who at the beginning of the 1990s worked on a vampire film and had designed corsets for the protagonist, beginning a fashion for corsets. And there could be many more examples. I mentioned to both Tosi and Pescucci that we should put together a collection, perhaps of twenty pieces (very well thought out) and that we launch them from our atelier. It’d be nice, wouldn’t it? Q: This is really tangible proof that fashion and costume can find interesting forms of dialogue and collaboration and even inspire a collection. I think this would be a great idea! How do you see the future of the Foundation, the atelier and the archive? A: We want to create a school to allow young talents to grow, develop and become the international costume designers of the future. We already have two who have been


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trained with us. One is Carlo Poggioli, who is now doing a television series with Paolo Sorrentino, The Young Pope, with Jude Law; the other is Massimo Cantini Parrini who worked on Matteo Garrone’s last film, Il Racconto dei Racconti; and Alessandro Lai, who alternates his work between cinema and opera. Then we want to spread the word about the tradition of Italian costume and the incredible work of the costume designers and the sartorie. And then design a small collection, as I mentioned earlier. Q: So, as well as dressing the dreams, following the title of Umberto Tirelli’s autobiography, the other projects you mention can become a reality. And I wish that this other dream comes true.

Note 1

All translations from Italian into English are by Eugenia Paulicelli.

Interview with Teresa Allegri, founder of Annamode1 Rome, Fondazione Annamode, June 6, 2013 About Annamode and Teresa Allegri Annamode was founded by two sisters, Anna and Teresa Allegri, and has been one of the most important sartorie providing costumes for cinema, theater, and television. In contrast to other clothing archives for the performing arts, Annamode was born from the very beginning with a dual scope: fashion and costume. Anna managed the sartoria, established in the 1950s when Italian fashion was launched to the world, while Teresa managed the costume business for cinema and theater. Annamode brings together in its origin moda (fashion) and costume (costume). Two worlds and two words that are not antithetical. Rather, in the history of Annamode they seem to be integral parts of porous domains. The proximity and location of the moda and costume operations of Annamode (one floor above the other) is indicative of the importance of understanding how closely the two disciplines are related, not only on the level of definitions of domains but also in the launch, development, and

Figure 38  The two sisters and founders of Annamode, Anna and Teresa Allegri. Courtesy of Fondazione Annamode.


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marketing of Italian fashion, and are the among the reasons for the cross-pollinating of design, style, inspiration. The sartoria Annamode is an example of this relationship. The two sisters, in fact, from the outset created both designs for Alta Moda and costumes for cinema and television, especially the first editions of the popular variety show “Canzonissima”, and TV fictions (sceneggiati), in addition to opera and theater. During the “economic miracle”, the sartoria worked on many productions, on several occasions collaborating with other important fashion houses in Rome such as Safas and Tirelli Costumi. Evening gowns for elegant Italian ladies were made side by side with costumes for cinema and theater productions in a process of intercommunication and contiguity of space. Costume designers for cinema who worked with, and frequented, Annamode include Gino Paolo Sensani, Maria de Matteis, Piero Tosi, Danilo Donati, Adriana Berselli, Lina Nerli Taviani, and the younger generation such as Daniela Ciancio, costume designer for Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza (2013). Q: Let’s talk about the beginning of Annamode. A: I have been managing the sartoria for fifty years. I have a wonderful nephew (Simone Bessi) who when he was still a child, an obedient one, and going to school, said to his mother (who was my niece, a very intelligent woman who was teaching pottery for very little money and wanted her son to get a university degree): “Can’t you see that grandma is too tired to keep on working (my sister was nine years older than me). Soon they’ll give the sartoria away. I want to keep it so please, please make sure that you keep the job for me.” In the morning, this boy used to come to the sartoria and, when he was done with his job there, he went home to study. When he got his degree, he showed it to his mother, framed it, hung it on the wall and then said: “Happy now?” So he came to work for the sartoria. After a little while I stopped working and Simone took over the sartoria hoping he’d get through the crisis. For several years now he’s been running at a loss. If the State doesn’t do something, with the taxes and the debts it’ll all be gone. I started to dedicate myself to designing thanks to my hobby (or vice): collecting old clothes. Now there is a market for these things, but not when I was young. If you had an old dress it was an old dress and nothing else. I bought them to copy the model; I must have bought dozens of them. Then when I found one that was in good condition I would rent it out. One day, I said to myself: “But I am destroying things”; and so then I started to choose the clothes that were in good condition, and put them aside. When my nephew took over, I found the time to work with these clothes, cataloguing them, identifying the period they came from and repairing them. Q: Did you look for the clothes or did you already have them in your collection? A: I already had the clothes. As I said, I had collected them to copy the style. I realized that to copy from an authentic dress was much better than renting them, given that the renters’ bodies were very different. So whenever I found an authentic dress I bought

Interview with Teresa Allegri


it and put it down among the others, but I realized that I had accumulated so many that I began to separate them from the costumes we were making in the sartoria. One day, Simone came to see me with our accountant, also a young man who has grown up among us. He said: “Signora, to make the most of all the work you are doing, let’s create a foundation. I would put the clothes aside with the idea of giving them away—I still have this idea—to a small city, a city with a history behind it. We have lots of those in Italy. Q: Were you born in Rome? A: No, I was born in Florence. But as well as Florence and Siena there are other cities, such as Arezzo, and many other small cities that have made history and that have wonderful works of art. One day I would like to give everything to one of these cities that have a suitable space for a museum. Of course, I do not mean to say an “Annamode Museum,” but a museum that will be called “Museo di Villa whatever” with an Annamode Donation and that it will stay that way for ever. When you give things to the Pitti, they are thrown away and they end up in a stairwell with Leonardo’s drawings. A small city would appreciate them more. I’m sure of that. Everyone was enthusiastic about the idea of the Foundation and so we are now working on it. I have been working for about seventeen years to put together all these clothes. But if you think about it these clothes are dead, they have a value only if they have a story behind them. And so I said: “Let’s give the Foundation two aims: the conservation of authentic clothes as long as the Ministry recognizes them.” Do you know the Ministry certifies them only up to a certain date, the 60s and the 70s? The old Florentine workshops were breeding grounds. Pedagogy is important because young people unfortunately don’t know anything. I think there is a history of the performing arts seen through the eyes of those who have worked in the world of costumes. By performing arts, I mean cinema, theater, television, opera, and variety etc. This is how I got started, little by little. Soon, I realized that it is much more difficult and complex than my other jobs. If you bring me a dress, I can construct it with my eyes closed, I look at it, I examine it and can tell the period in which it was made, I can tell you everything. I am pretty good at it; if I get it wrong, it’s not by much. That’s easy, but telling the history of a dress is hard. So, if this dress has its own data card with its history, it acquires a didactic purpose. For a young man or woman who is interested, we have to first talk about Mozart, then the opera, the director etc. This is the didactic aim. I understood this very late. It’s a very time-consuming job because not all the people who make the costumes do the archival work. Q: Perhaps this is one of the problems. In the last few years, though, this kind of work has been revalued and is much more appreciated now than before. A: I used to do the shows and then throw the costume sketches away. I saved a few of them, you can see them here hanging on the wall. I have big boxes full of them, but I threw away so many. And now I said to myself: “Stop, everybody! From now on, I


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am going to catalog the sketches I find” However, I am aware that the history of the performing arts (spettacolo), which that starts from the second half of the twentieth century—these are my years—up to the year 2000 is so enormous that I can’t keep up. From a dress that I find in the sartoria—thank God my memory has not failed me yet—I can recall something and then thanks to the computer (which I am learning to use) I can enter 1950 into the search engine and see what comes up. But there are many mistakes. Q: Let us talk about your relationship with the world of cinema. A: For me it was very important. I started to look at all the films for which we did the costumes and I was able to reconstruct the filmography with my assistant. She works full time and I have others who help from time to time. Q: How about the film by Luciano Emmer Le Ragazze di Piazza di Spagna you made the costumes for? A: The Fontana Sisters made their sartoria available for the film but they did not do the costumes. We did them. Q: In Emmer’s film there is everyday clothing worn by the three young women and then there is Lucia Bosè who in the film becomes a model and takes part in a fashion show. You also worked with Michelangelo Antonioni. A: Yes, almost with all of Antonioni’s films. Q: Did you work with the costume designer? A: Michelangelo, as we know, was an extraordinary person, he saw a character in a certain way. Q: Did he come personally to the sartoria? A: Yes, of course. He did not like to have costume designers. However, on a couple of occasions, he came with—I do not remember her name well—an Italo-French lady [Gitt Magrini], she was very good. In fact, we worked with her again on the film Last Tango in Paris with Marlon Brando. She was a very sophisticated lady, elegant and was Antonioni’s friend. As Antonioni made films set in the contemporary period, he asked her for certain things and she was able to make them happen with great taste. Q: Antonioni’s films are so meticulously elegant. A: Yes, [Gitt Magrini] came to the sartoria and explained to us what Antonioni wanted and we tried in every way to make her happy. Antonioni used to come and ask us to prepare the material, like Luchino Visconti did, although many of Visconti’s

Interview with Teresa Allegri


films were in costume. Antonioni’s films were all focused on the present, the moment, the truth and realism or on the character. He was not interested in what kind of coat it was, what he needed was that it expressed something in relation to the character that he had created. Sometimes he called or sent somebody to tell us: “Prepare some stuff for me!” Q: Did you also make the costumes for L’avventura? Adriana Berselli was the costume designer. A: Yes, yes. I worked a lot with her. Then she left for South America. She was a great costume designer. Q: Did you work on L’eclisse and La notte? A: Yes, we did. To dress an actress was something special, especially if she was playing a character that went into an atelier and chose a dress. The dress was supposed to mirror the character, but it was always Antonioni who chose, he’d choose from three or four outfits, the ones he liked best. He liked the stage atmosphere we had at our sartoria. He thought a normal sartoria, no matter how big and normal it was was, nothing compared to ours. In those days this was the way to work for film, today that doesn’t exist anymore because of lack of culture and lack of money. I made films like Matrimonio all’Italiana [Wedding, Italian Style] with costume designer Piero Tosi. He designed all the costumes for this film. He liked used clothes and remade them. Like Luchino [Visconti], he loved to use things that were already used. He would say that they gave him a sense of depth. Q: Yes, Tosi is known for this kind of sensibility… A: Yes. That’s what happened when we did Rocco and his brothers with Visconti. I still have Annie Girardot’s dress, brown lace embroidered … Q: The clothes worn by the four brothers are incredible … A: The men’s clothes were like a mountain of rags that people put on and Tosi chose what he needed. I found the checkered coat that Renato Salvatori [Simone] wore. It came from America. In those days people used to buy clothes from America. However the characters in Rocco were first sketched. And Piero got along with Luchino because he had a sensitivity in his fingertips and Luchino loved that. In the film The White Nights, the young woman played by Maria Schell was in love with—what was the name of Cocteau’s lover? Jean Marais, that’s it. She had been waiting for him all his life and then meets Marcello. They believe this is love, but it wasn’t true and he takes her dancing. We needed a dress for a young woman who goes dancing in postwar Italy, in 1946. This dress had to be a dress to dance in, but not really so. It needed to be a decent and clean dress that somebody who was poor could still manage to get hold of. In those days there was no money around and families struggled. Do


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you know what Piero did? I will never forget this, he went from Porta Portese to Via Sannio [well known open air markets]. He found curtains that the Americans had given away, the fabric was a sort of gauze and in a faded blue. He took a pair of these curtains and made the dress for the young woman in Le notti bianche. I also sent this dress to an exhibition. This is what I think: you look at this dress and you feel a lump in your throat, you feel tears in your eyes, because this dress touches you. We had then this kind of sensibility. Tosi drew the costume sketch and then translated this idea into reality, changing the original design a bit, according to the fabric, if he found something better. The sketches were an initial idea, they weren’t the ultimate result. In fact, the sketches were used to explain to us, mere mortals, what we were supposed to do. It wasn’t easy, but we had a lot of fun. Q: Because of course it was team work with the set designers, the director of photography etc. A: Of course. That was something that is very different from what directors do today; those guys were cultured people. Luchino came from the aristocracy, but he knew about scenography, he knew how to paint, he knew clothing. When he directed Morte a Venezia [Death in Venice] he had the clothes remade so they were exactly the same as those worn by his mother [Carla Erba]. These people had real culture and knowledge. Antonioni was the same, but in a modern setting. Antonioni was revolutionary, he started the new cinema, he opened the road that others followed. There was another culture then. Q: Is there anything in particular that you remember about Antonioni the way you remember Visconti? A: Nothing in particular. Antonioni was a very reserved person, a man of few words… what can I say? When you were with him he gave you the impression that he was almost unfriendly, but it wasn’t true. He was a very shy man, but more than shy he was protective of his feelings. That’s the impression I had… Q: This is often the picture that people give of him… A: I don’t know. My brother-in-law, who made many films with him, used to say the same. He was the makeup artist, Francesco Freda. Ettore Scola wanted him to work on A Special Day. Ettore called him and said: “Franco, we are making a film! What? We are old and we are still making films.” And they made the film. Now at Cinecittà, Studio 5, Freda is still active writing books and having speaking engagements. He is great! After A Special Day, Sophia Loren always wanted my brother-in-law as her makeup artist. Now Sophia is going to make a film with her son and she called my brother-in-law to ask him, “Will you do the makeup for me?” He has worked with everybody, with Antonioni, Pietrangeli, Scola, Germi, and others. Going back to my work, the Foundation has been set up since May 7th of last year (2012), although we had already been working for more than two decades. We had students in their last

Interview with Teresa Allegri


year of university working here for the last two years. For instance, for the last three years they have sent me Chinese students who are really interested in learning. These are students who come from a university where they study fashion, it is a school of fashion. And what did they do? The school sent them to a sartoria that is specialized in fashion and costume. Q: This double identity is important to study especially because it is the history of Annamode. A. We used to have two sartorie, one on one floor and the other on a different one. The Chinese students were sent to us because fashion is fashion, but is born from other things: it is always a consequence of something. As a result, beyond fashion they wanted to learn the history of fashion. This is the reason they sent them. They worked with other Italian students and an Italian university professor, Rossana Buono. The students designed dresses, we chose the ones we thought were the best. The students organized a fashion show including the ones I chose, but they also made the ones I said “no” to. It turned out to be really beautiful. They also invited my nephew Simone. Fashion and costume often go together. A couple of years ago, the director of Valentino called me and said: “Madam, can I go and rummage through your storehouse?” I said “yes” and they went with Simone to look at clothes and get some ideas… That’s the way it goes. Q: What can you tell us about Maurizio Chiari? A: He was a shy and reserved person, but very cultured. We worked on many films together, such as Jovanka e le altre [Jovanka and the others, 1960], Io la conoscevo bene [I Knew Her Well, 1965] and Operazione San Gennaro. In Jovanka e le altre, he worked with Maria de Matteis and Mario Chiari. Q: And Maria de Matteis? A: What a woman! She was assistant to Gino Sensani. She made Ossessione with Visconti … With Maria we also did the first Guerra e Pace [War and Peace]. Q: Did you make Anita Ekberg’s dress for War and Peace? A: Yes, and also those for Anna Maria Ferrero. I even found one dress worn by Anita Ekberg, and three worn by Ferrero. Q: Did you work with Chiari for Io la conoscevo bene? A: I worked very well with Maurizio. He used to make the costume sketches or drawings first and then …


Italian Style

Q: Did you save those sketches? A: No, I threw them all away. There is one that I have saved, though: A drawing that Tosi made of the Madonna for Sophia Loren’s dress. He said, “I want a Madonna like those that you see in a procession”. It is a sketch. But I loved it so much that I saved it. I even had it blessed … Isn’t it wonderful? Where did I send it? I sent it to Vietnam when there was a show of Italian things that included posters of the four most important Italian stars: Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Silvana Mangano and Claudia Cardinale. They had already planned the exhibit, but just as they were about to leave, the costume designer Enrica Barbano said to me: “Do you have any dresses of the four stars? Even one for each of them is fine.” I had them and so I gave them to her for the show; for Loren I gave her the Madonna dress; and for Silvana Mangano I gave her the wedding dress she wore in that film with Totò, Uccellacci, uccellini by Pasolini. When the exhibit opened, the director of the museum was bowing all the time and saying: “Thank you, thank you …” The foreign people are dazzled. That’s why Italian craftsmanship needs to be promoted: it is the only true and great value we have. Is that possible that people in power in Italy don’t understand this? We can live only on the money and tourism that comes from our tradition of craftsmanship. Q: It is necessary to have people who are interested in doing this work. A: Of course, but we also need to train them … Q: As a result of globalization production is often now delocalized. A: I have three young people who came here on their own initiative. This year we had three young people from the Accademia di Costume and Moda who did an internship for sixteen days. Tell me what you learn in fifteen days? One does not even learn to answer the telephone. You need at least a year and a half. Q: In the film I Knew Her Well, Stefania Sandrelli wore many hats and wigs … A: This was the time of the toupee [hairpiece]: I too used to wear them and then I took them off and I scratched my head. At that time we all had toupee… They were not too bad and, in I Knew Her Well, more than hats she wore many wigs. Anna, my sister, was very dedicated to fashion. We always produced fashion until we moved here. When we were based in Palazzo Torlonia, we always organized fashion shows because on the first floor there was a fashion house, on the last floor, the attic. I was up there with the sartoria for cinema. There were wonderful rooms with frescos; the fashion shows were beautiful. I have two volumes that document our costumes. I have all the dresses that are contained in these volumes. They are all from twenty years of Annamode collections that we took from the warehouse. We started with a 1946 painted skirt. It is a modest skirt, but is one of the first pieces we did. Actually, I don’t know if it was the first; it was, though, the first I found.

Interview with Teresa Allegri


Q: A painted skirt? A: In 1946, hand painted skirts or those embroidered with raffia were in vogue: we were so poor then. This volume goes up to the 1980s. I keep looking to see if there is something that I can recognize and catalog. I know everybody wants to talk about cinema, but I also would like to talk about theater. Theater is somehow more ephemeral. But I really would like to reconstruct the theater history of Annamode in the way I have been doing for the cinema. I worked a lot with the Teatro Eliseo here in Rome and I went there once to see what they had kept, only to discover that they hadn’t saved anything. Another theater that did extraordinary work in the preservation of costumes is the Theater in Genoa. I worked on several productions there at the time of Gianni Polidori, Luigi Squarzina and others. Searching for the costumes we made and cataloguing them is work for an historian. For me theater always held great fascination. I loved working on an opera, to start from the very beginning and follow it through to the end. For each opera I worked on, I have kept everything, character after character, in folders. For me the moment in which the curtains opened was a moment of great satisfaction and emotion, it was a way of participating, being part of it, whereas in cinema it seems to me that you lose something. Q: You also worked with the costume designer Milena Canonero. A: Yes, of course, Milena came here. Costume designers work now with a team of assistants who go and look for the material. They go and look at hundreds of dresses. Costume designers are people who have incredible taste, they are intelligent and they find material at our archive or at Tirelli; they have very skilled assistants who work hard. The costume designers who win the Oscars, really win them thanks to their intelligence and because they know how to choose, like Tosi, De Matteis and others. Q: Today the way one works has changed quite a bit. A: Everything has changed. First, a costume designer such as Canonero sent her assistant to make the first selection. In Italian sartorie like mine, or at Tirelli, we prepare a room where we put all the selections previously made by the costume designer’s assistant. The costume designer, in this case, Milena Canonero comes and makes a selection. This is what happens today. We made twenty dresses for Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoniette. These dresses were put on display at the Hotel Excelsior, in Via Veneto during the Roman Festa del Cinema. The pastel colors were fantastic! Q: And now? A: I am reordering the costumes of Sylvano Bussotti. He was a Renaissance man, a musician, painter, sculptor, director, scenographer, director, and costume designer. He did everything. And, in the course of the twenty years I have dedicated to show business, I had the pleasure and the honor to work with him. I collaborated on at least sixty of his productions. And there are some clothes that I call “Bussottinian” because


Italian Style

they have a special touch. I really hope that somebody has an interest in his work and puts on an exhibition. I would be happy to send them all his wonderful costumes. Q: Why is the Bussotti style so special? A: He has a very particular style. Just look at his costumes for an hour or so and you realize they are his. They are always the product of culture and invention. Look at the picture of this soldier [she points to a photograph in a book]. That’s the way he sees him. Q: Did you make all Bussotti’s costumes? A: Yes, everything even the shoes. Q: What about the materials? A: It depended on the drawing. There was a wonderful chemistry between the two of us. Sometimes he said to me that he’d had an idea and then we saw how we could make it happen. Whenever I catalog one of his costumes, on the card I should add: “Assistant to Costumes, Teresa Allegri”. But I don’t do that, I am too embarrassed to do so. There was a lot of affection between the two of us, he used to send me notes. Some time ago, when he came here after his eightieth birthday—they put on a big party for him—he sent notes. The one he sent to me was written in music. Bussotti is certainly somebody for whom Italy should do something. He is much more appreciated abroad than at home. In London, there is even a theater dedicated to him where they play his music. Q: By the way, you have organized a course, what is it about? A: The course lasts ten days and we talk about fashion, the architecture of fashion and the social history of fashion. For instance, we did a class on the 1950s with certain links with the 1850s, then we did a class on hairstyle by Sergio Valente who has worked with Valentino, Capucci, and also a class on hats. In fact, this year I would like somebody who is a specialist on hats in order to organize a lesson on the English designer, Stephen Jones. I have already found all the hats he drew inspiration from. I would like to organize a lesson on the hats of the British Royals or the headgear of the Venetian Doge to show where Jones got started. They are identical—even the Venetian Doge’s hat. So I will organize a class on hats and then I will send the students to Massimo Pieroni’s workshop where they can see his work. Last year, we also offered two classes of modern makeup with my brother-in-law Francesco Freda. He showed them modern makeup and also from the 1930s, 1940s. Then another day, he chose two young women and he did their makeup. It was wonderful. He also had a great time. These are exciting classes. I have a young woman working in the sartoria. She came because she wanted to learn how to sew historic costumes. I put her under the wing of the première. She is retired now but she comes here to give me a hand. She enjoys continuing to work and I asked her to teach this young woman. Then I said to her:

Interview with Teresa Allegri


“And now you have to learn how to do the prillino.” She looked at me amazed. The prillino is what you do on silk, it is a very fine trim that you refine by hand. The trim of natural silk is stiffened with this prillino. Today they use a nylon thread to keep it straight. With the prillino it stays stiff. It’s the famous one that they made in the 1930s when they made ruffles around the neckline. I hope that they keep sending young people to us. What is most important is that one speaks about fashion through history and culture. It is crucial that young people spend time here for a little while so they can touch and see … To young people I say: “Beyond what I say, you must steal with your eyes …”*

Note 1

The interview was conducted by Eugenia Paulicelli and Maria Natalina Trivisano in June 2013. Translation by Eugenia Paulicelli.

See Plate 10



Adriana Berselli Some notes on the set of L’avventura (1960) by Michelangelo Antonioni

Figure 39  Berselli, B/W sketch of three local people following the crew and described by Berselli as: “Bartolo, the one who is able to break up hurricanes”; Franco, “recalling an old Roman joyful type” and Giuseppe, “waiter at the restaurant.” Courtesy of Adriana Berselli.


Italian Style

My first contact with Adriana Berselli was on the telephone in December 2007. At that time I was completing an essay on Michelangelo Antonioni’s films and the impact clothing and fashion had on his cinematic language and on Italy’s process of modernization. The essay was to be published in the volume The Fabric of Culture. Fashion, Identity, Globalization that Hazel Clark and I co-edited (Routledge: 2009).1 Adriana had worked as costume designer on Antonioni’s L’avventura. As I had a number of questions about the film, I decided to call the Biblioteca “Luigi Chiarini” at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome. I was passed to Laura Ceccarelli, who, without even knowing who I was, was still gracious enough to give me Adriana’s phone number.2 As it happened, Laura had recently completed a book (co-edited with Marina Cipriani) on Adriana Berselli and her fondo at the Biblioteca Luigi Chiarini. I called Adriana and we had a long conversation on the phone during which I asked her my questions about costume design in L’avventura. I also arranged a meeting for the following January so that I could interview her in person, in her apartment in Rome. After that, we stayed in contact. She came to the conference on “Fashion + Film: The 1960s Revisited” held at The Graduate Center, in New York in Spring 2010 and gave a paper that is now included in the book that will come out of the conference. Some of her sketches for L’avventura, now reproduced in this book, were on view in the exhibition at the James Gallery at The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) during the conference and for three months thereafter. Adriana Berselli, like Antonioni, was born in Ferrara in 1937 to a family of musicians. She recalls the talent of her mother, a pianist who at the age of sixteen was invited to play in a “Futurist concert” presented by the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, at the Teatro Comunale in Ferrara. When the family moved to Rome, after she finished high school, Adriana attended the Accademia delle Belle Arti (an Arts college), before applying to and being accepted by the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (CSC) . Here she received a fellowship and spent a number of intense years at the school. She graduated in 1951 and started to work in the world of cinema with Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Alessandro Blasetti, Dino Risi, Luigi Comencini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and the other filmmakers and actors, including Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Peter Sellers—and so on. After working in Italy for some years, she moved to Venezuela where she abandoned cinema for a while to be close to her husband, and dedicated herself to costuming for theater, teaching costume design and writing about fashion for a South American magazine. She firmly believes that a costume designer needs a high quality education, not only to develop the practical skills necessary to execute a dress but also to acquire the knowledge and understanding of the culture and history of a specific period. She says, in fact, that without having the cultural foundations necessary to interpret a costume it is almost impossible to do a good job in costume design. In addition, she stresses that it is not only the style, the cut, and the colors that determine the feel of an epoch but also movement, the way one walks, puts on a veil, a hat, a glove, and so forth.3 She also thinks that drawing and sketching the character is a very important part of the process of designing costumes. Her own sketches are very detailed. While at the conference in New York, she spent a great deal of time drawing sketches, not only of the speakers

Adriana Berselli


(drawings that she gave us and that we now cherish) but also of the people she saw in the street. Observing street fashion in New York was a great pleasure for her, and instead of a camera she carried a sketch pad and a pencil. It is natural to think of Adriana and the work she did with Antonioni on one of his most groundbreaking films, one that is still making waves as a watershed in the invention of filmic language. Adriana recalls that Piero Poletto, the set designer for the film and her friend from the time they were both students at the CSC, invited her to work on L’avventura. He warned Adriana, though, that it would be a difficult film, with a complicated and demanding director. And he told her that, to make things even more difficult, the film had not received much funding. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity for Adriana. As she found out, Antonioni was the most meticulous of directors. He liked to control every single detail of costumes, fabric, color, and patterns. Most of the time, Antonioni liked solid colors, often simple blacks and whites. In contrast to other directors, he wanted to see quite a lot of fabric, touch it and then figure out the chromatic effect on screen. Antonioni was also a kind of director who used to explain exactly what he wanted, and he had long conversations with Adriana before she embarked on the costume sketches and designs for the film. She received precise and copious instructions and worked closely with the set designer and assistant directors Franco Indovina and Gianni Arduini, who were also former students at the CSC. She recalled a specific episode in L’avventura that amounted to a declaration of independence by Monica Vitti.4 In the sequence shot in the Sicilian town of Noto, with Gabriele Ferzetti playing Sandro, Vitti—as Claudia—wanted to wear a suit and a string of pearls. While Adriana was away, she bought the suit for herself in a boutique. Adriana did not agree with Vitti’s choice: she thought the suit and pearls a deviation from the bohemian characterization of Claudia at the beginning of the film, where she acts as the outsider even to her friend Anna (Lea Massari), the character who disappears on the Sicilian island and is never found. Who knows who was right? What we can say is that Vitti’s black and white suit with minuscule polka dots and her beautiful and distressed mane of blonde hair look stunning against the backdrop of Noto’s baroque cathedral. And although conventionally the suit with a string of pearls is typically the uniform of a bourgeois lady, on Monica Vitti, with her hair and the non-traditional kind of Italian beauty she conveyed in the scene, the suit assumes different meanings. On her body, and with her persona, it loses its uniformity to become part of the innovation that is Antonioni’s cinematic language. This episode points to what Barthes called the “obtuse,” a detail that is able to interrupt the expectations not only of viewers but even, in this case, of those working on the making of the film (such as Berselli), whose only concern was to do their job well.5 Even an apparent “philological” mistake, narrative deviations and neurotic characters become what Sam Rohdie has beautifully described as “opportunities for film.”6


Italian Style

L’ avventura. Some notes by Adriana Berselli.7 Figures Sunday: Departure from Stazione Termini in Rome at 8.10 am. (Ticket 10,700 lire [about four dollars]). Arrival in Milazzo scheduled at 8.20 pm. Journey: Sun, rain, wind, sun: Lucania, Calabria. They were splendid with black vertical reefs; on one side, the train runs along the coast, on the other, rocky and savage mountains, little towns laid out on the top of the mountains. 6.30 pm, arrival in Messina. Meeting with Renzo Ricci and Eva Magni (we had already met in Rome for Renzo’s costumes in the film); across the Strait of Messina. Arrival in Milazzo, 8.30 pm. Dinner and a very rainy night at the Hotel Diana. The wind cut through the very old scaffolding making a big hissing sound. Monday: Wake-up at 4.00 am, departure for Panarea with the steamer “Eolo.” The journey was very stormy with a lot of wind and rain in addition to the strange noises the boat made from the island of Lipari onwards. Eva Magni was sea sick, but wrapped in her raincoat, she did her best not to make a scene (as did, by the way, the majority of the passengers who asked to be tied down). Renzo Ricci was one of these. He was sitting at the center of the restaurant room, while metal containers were moving back and forth under the chairs. I saved myself from sea sickness by stretching out and eating dried bread. Arrival at Lipari at about 8.00 am instead of 7.00! Surprisingly the whole film crew came up. They had left from Panarea on Sunday to do some shopping, have some fun and … they couldn’t make it back in the evening because the sea was really bad! Arrival at 9.00 am in Panarea where several motor-boats took us to the wharf where Monica, Michelangelo and all the others were waiting for us (the steamer stopped offshore). Lodging: Little path up the hill bordered by caper cultivations and many almond trees until we reached the little houses that were divided into 3 or 4 rooms (with a little bath) that belonged to Dr. Cencotta, who asked to be paid with chicken, fruits etc. Ricci and Magni were in room A. Mine was room B; Colonel James Adams was in room C; and Lea Massari in room D. There was a big terrace outside our rooms (see Berselli’s drawing). At the center of the terrace, after a series of trees, you go down to the sea and a view of the island of Stromboli, Lisca Bianca (incredible but true). There was a little dry fountain: every morning a boy comes and leaves buckets of water so we can wash; and we find them

Adriana Berselli


again always clean when we come back from work. The light is very weak so we use candles. At 1.00 pm, I went down to the new church to have lunch with Antonioni and Vitti and we did the fitting for the clothes. Rosa, the seamstress, is sweet and a very hard worker. I like her a lot, her skin is full of wrinkles, the color of terracotta. She has short grey hair and must be around 50 years old. She sleeps in a room on the little beach that will also be our sartoria. In the evening I go back in the moonlight with Ricci and Magni. Tuesday: Wake-up at 5.00 am. Departure for Lisca Bianca, everything was so beautiful, rocks sticking out of the water like ghosts. Everybody speaks about mysteries and witches. For instance, I met an old woman who was limping. She had a long scar on her forehead: the saying in the town was that in the middle of the night she used to fly through the window and left a pan filled of olive oil on the windowsill while pronouncing incomprehensible, strange words (which were the talisman that allowed her to stay in the air and fly). Then suddenly, one night, her husband became aware of the odd situation and as he was tired of her air travels, took the pan away from the window. The poor woman immediately fell down and hurt her forehead on the ground leaving a scar. There are also other figures such as the “spezzatori” of the hurricanes who transfer their magic powers to one another during the nighttime Christmas Eve Mass. People are nice and open as are all the people who make a living from the sea. They are very different from the people who live in other parts of Sicily. We leave our doors open, the women come to clean our rooms, bring water, wash, do ironing and leave. Unfaithfulness in this island is tolerated a great deal. You sense a reciprocal independence between men and women. Often marriage is merely a contract accepted by both parties. We have dinner at Cincotta’s Trattoria, or at Lea’s nearby (Massari who plays Anna). She plays the guitar and the maracas, singing Brazilian songs she is crazy about. Saturday evening sometimes we stay there until 9.00 or 10.00pm (usually by 8.00 we are all in bed), with PP and FA and GA and LP. Sometimes on Sunday morning I sunbathe with Piero on Antonioni’s and Vitti’s terrace (and Piero strums his guitar). Something that I can never get used to is the night view of the sea from my room high up on my terrace, with Stromboli erupting in red and yellow lapis (sometimes the eruptions are very high and fiery, other times they are very few and low); on my left, the moon dimly illuminates Filicudi, Lisca Bianca and many more reefs spread out here and there. You can’t hear the church bell very well because the wind blows the sound to the opposite side. So silence, crickets, (sometimes) fireflies, and … mice. Luckily, I never met any, but I did meet a snake in the bathroom, yes!*

See Plate 11, Plate 12, Plate 13 and Plate 14



Italian Style

Notes 1


3 4 5 6 7

Eugenia Paulicelli, “Framing the Self, Staging Identity: Clothing and Italian Style in the Films of Michelangelo Antonioni (1950–1964),” in Paulicelli and Hazel Clark, eds, The Fabric of Cultures. Fashion, Identity, Globalization, London and New York: Routledge, 2009, pp. 53–72. The most detailed publications on Adriana Berselli are: Laura Ceccarelli and Marina Cipriani, eds, Carte, colori e tessuti. Ritratto di una costumista: Adriana Berselli, Quaderni della Biblioteca “Luigi Chiarini,” Rome: Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, 2005 (the book contains an interview, detailed information regarding her film and theater activities, as well as extensive information on the Fondo Berselli that the costume designer donated to CSC in 2005); and the interview with Adriana Berselli by Domenico Monetti that opens the book. See also parc&ChiaveRadice=351534&ChiaveAlbero=351534&Chiave=351623&RicSez=fond i&RicVM=indice&ApriNodo=0&RicTipoScheda=ca (accessed June 15, 2015). Domenico Monetti, “Conversazione con Adriana Berselli,” in Cipriani Ceccarelli, ed., 2005, p. 13. Interview with Adriana Berselli in 2011. Roland Barthes, “The Third Meaning: Research Notes on Several Eisenstein Stills,” in The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art and Representation, trans., Richard Howard, Berkley: University of California Press, 1970. Sam Rohdie, Antonioni, London: BFI, 1990. These are some notes taken from a journal written by Adriana Berselli while she was traveling to Lisca Bianca, the location of Antonioni’s L’avventura. Adriana gave these notes to me in the course of our conversation about Antonioni’s film. Translated by the author.

“Cesare Attolini” and La Grande Bellezza: Interview with Massimiliano Attolini, Son of Cesare and Grandson of Vincenzo, Founder of the Sartoria

Figure 40  Cesare Attolini in his atelier in Naples. Courtesy of Cesare Attolini, Naples.


Italian Style

Vincenzo Attolini started his suit company in the 1930s in Naples with a trademark silhouette featuring slim lines, high armholes, and soft-shouldered jackets. They are still made today and range in price from approximately $4,000 to $10,000. Though the store has a few ready-to-wear items, the Attolini hallmark is still bespoke suiting. The eight-week process that leads to the acquisition of an Attolini suit begins with an in-house tailor taking measurements in a private, elegantly furnished room. The customer picks the type of fabric, the lapel size, and the other details, all the way down to the number of buttons. The suit is then handcrafted in Italy. With a ten-foot-tall crystal chandelier cascading from the ceiling in the VIP room and Florence Knoll– designed furniture tastefully adorning the fitting room, the atmosphere reflects the brand’s absolute attention to detail. In the 1930s, Naples was one of the most elegant cities in Italy. The Neapolitan style of dressing was a mix of the English style with French and Spanish influences and was already well known all over Italy. For almost three decades, from the beginning of the twentieth century up until the 1930s, Neapolitan style was almost entirely the same as English style. Despite the difference in the much less cold climate than in Britain, not to mention the uncomfortable rigidity of the structure of the suit, the Neapolitans had to dress like perfect Britons to be considered well-dressed. This lasted until a young tailor, Vincenzo Attolini, our grandfather, drawing on his sharp intuitive skills and his fine hand and driven by the concrete need to improve his customers’ comfort, rewrote the book of stiff British elegance. Our father, Cesare, always told us that our grandfather used to repeat to his admirers that a good tailor is first and foremost an artisan who creates imperfect suits for imperfect bodies. These were not just speculations. In 1930, in fact, he designed, cut and sewed a jacket that was completely unstructured and designed in a style that had never been seen before and that had an unusual finish. It was a kind of jacket that even in the 1960s would still be considered avant-garde and that by the time the 1990s came around had been consecrated as the paradigm of elegance. The jacket was disarmingly simple, but at the same time it rewrote in one fell swoop all the strict codes of male elegance and made British clothing look like something out of the Stone Age. It was a revolution! In the previous fifty years, no tailor had ever been so daring. Thus the Neapolitan Style was invented, thanks to the garment that the entire world today calls almost unconsciously “La giacca.” Let me stress something: what our grandfather Vincenzo brought into being was not only a more practical dress style and a liberating lightness. But in addition, as many have said, he also brought about an image for men that was completely performed. The draping of the lapels and sleeves, the unusual form of the pockets—the innovative form of the “boat pocket” that his scissors allowed him to create—marked the transition from a man who dressed in the stiff but refined way that etiquette demanded to a man who had fun and enjoyed himself in his clothes. In this way, the new jacket gave him the freedom to dress tastefully and to enjoy his personal gestural spontaneity.

“Cesare Attolini” and La Grande Bellezza


Q: Male sartorial fashion, and the above all Neapolitan sartorial fashion, is enjoying great success at the international/global level. Do you think that this popularity has been triggered by your work for cinema? A: I would say that the notoriety and prestige of the Neapolitan sartorial school are by now and have been for some decades appreciated by an international and sophisticated public. Our tradition is very deeply rooted. The reasons for this success are due, firstly, to an elegance that blends flawlessness and harmony with rigor and comfort; and, secondly, to the real and very high quality that is the result of authentic craftsmanship that, thank God, is jealously guarded here in Naples. Without doubt, however, the recent international success of the film La Grande Bellezza and its protagonist, Jep Gambardella, so masterfully interpreted by Toni Servillo that he has become an iconic figure, has contributed to our international notoriety. This is thanks to a charming, subtly refined style that shows off his character, but without ever being over the top, and that has made a huge contribution to the expansion of Cesare Attolini and with it the entire Neapolitan sartorial school.* Q: Could you speak about the specifics of working with an actor like Toni Servillo, who played the central role in Il divo before starring in La Grande Bellezza, both directed by Paolo Sorrentino. How did Attolini work with the actor, the director and the costume designer? A: Everything started in 2008, during the preparation of Il Divo! from the immediate coupe de foudre between two worlds for both of which creative ability is not only their language, but also their expressive signature and their major boast. From that first meeting we understood the narrative needs for which our contribution had been requested. What we did was simply make our costume designers and all our knowhow available to Toni Servillo. Our only desire was to succeed in making a contribution to the construction of the character that Toni Servillo was to bring to the screen. This is one of those occasions when you have to say that clothes make the man, both on the set and off! Q: In Il Divo, Servillo interprets Giulio Andreotti, one of the most powerful protagonists of Italian postwar political history. In La Grande Bellezza, Jep Gambardella is an elegant dandy of our present age. How did the clothes created for these two very different bodies and personalities contribute to the success of the actor’s performance, the way he walks, moves, his gestural performance? A: On several occasions, Toni Servillo has said how deeply struck he was by the sartorial ability with which our father, Cesare, was able to help him —through his clothes—to enter into the personality of Giulio Andreotti and so make his replication of a gestural performance that recalled Andreotti’s in real life all the easier. As a matter of fact, abandoning our idea of soft and unstructured elegance, our father succeeded See Plate 15



Italian Style

in making a collar for the shirts that doubled its height in such a way that Toni’s neck would disappear. Then he cut the jackets in such a way that they would hunch on the neck; he created completely disproportionate shoulders to create a hunched figure and so oblige Servillo to assume unnatural and rigid postures and gestures. Some years later, on the occasion of the preparation of La Grande Bellezza, we worked to help Toni to interpret a character who was completely opposite to Andreotti. In this case, we worked in order to identify shapes, colors and fabrics and their combinations that would embody the verve, the daring refined taste and extrovert quality of what the character Jep Gambardella had to express on screen.† Q: Attolini before and after La Grande Bellezza. What has changed since then? A: It would be absurd not to admit that the fame of our sartoria and our brand did not grow and has been able to reach out to a much bigger audience than our habitual one, which is, by definition, a niche market. At the same time, however, we love to emphasize that we did not want any commercial gain from this kind of mediatic exposure. Let me explain this better. You can’t imagine how many requests we have had from all over the world in the last two years to supply made-to-measure versions of the film’s most iconic jackets. And yet with great regret for the “no” that we had to say to our passionate customers, we preferred that the film be considered a separate chapter, a purely artistic collaboration. Q: What are the challenges of the future? For instance, the formation of new artisans. Are they all Neapolitans or do they come from elsewhere? A: We have a huge challenge before us. To stay always and strongly anchored to our roots while also being able to fly very high and far. Let me say this better. The path that my brother Giuseppe and I have taken over the last few years has been to structure our company and to internationalize our brand. This is a path that must not in any way change our cultural DNA, which is made up of our priceless patrimony of knowledge and knowhow, our truly authentic craftsmanship and timeless elegance. It is not chance that as well as developing our mono-brand boutique on the international scene, in the last couple of years, we have planned and built a state of the art sartoria. We did this to better the quality of the work environment of our tailors, and built it, it goes without saying, in Casalnuovo, a town just outside Naples where for many centuries able tailors have lived and have passed on their skills from one generation to the other. Q: Have you worked on other cinematic projects or with other Italian or foreign actors and directors? A: After La Grande Bellezza, we once again had the pleasure of working with Paolo Sorrentino and the famous costume designer Carlo Poggioli for all the clothing worn See Plate 16

“Cesare Attolini” and La Grande Bellezza


by Fred Ballinger, played by the evergreen Michael Caine, the protagonist of the film Youth – La Giovinezza. We have also just finished work on a new film called Lasciati andare (Let Yourself Go) by the director Francesco Amato, which will come out in 2016. The protagonist is again played by the Toni Servillo to whom we are now tied not only by a profound sense of professional respect but also by a sincere tie of friendship.


Selected Bibliography Ada, S. (1939), “La moda ieri e oggi,” in Enciclopedia pratica della casa, vol. 1, Milan: Garzanti. Adamson, G. (2013), “The Neapolitan Jacket makes a vivid contrast with a traditional Savile Row jacket”, in S. Stanfill The Glamour of Italian Fashion, London: V & A Publication. Albrecht, D. and J. Falino, eds, Gilded New York. Design, Fashion, and Society, Museum of the City of New York: The Monacelli Press. Anderson, B. (1983), Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso. Andrew, D. (1984), Film in the Aura of Art, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Angelucci, G., R. Chiesi, C. Tosi Pamphili and R. Valeriani (2014), Trame di Cinema. Danilo Donati e la sartoria Farani, Milan: Silvana. Annunziata, L. (2010), “On Cinema. The Novelist Matilde Serao and the New Medium,” in S. Bull and A. Söderbergh Widding, eds, Not so silent. Women in Cinema before sound, Stockholm: Stockholm University. Anon (October 15, 1960), Vogue, “Rome Loves Ford, Ford Loves Rome”. Antonioni, M. (1939), “Per un film sul fiume Po”, in Cinema: quindicinale di divulgazione cinematografica, Milano: Hoepli, anno di pubblicazione 1936–56. Antonioni, M. [1942], “Suggerimenti di Hegel”, in Cinema: quindicinale di divulgazione cinematografica, Milano: Hoepli, anno di pubblicazione 1936–56. Antonioni, M. (1959), “Fare un film è per me vivere”, in Cinema nuovo, n. 138, marzoaprile 1959. Antonioni, M. (1996), “Preface to Six Films”, in C. Di Carlo and G. Tinazzi, The Architecture of Vision: Writing and Interviews on Cinema, New York: Marsilio. Antonioni, M. (2002) [1939], “Per un film sul fiume Po”, in O. Caldiron, ed., Cinema. 1936–1943, Prima del Neorealismo, Roma: Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Argentieri, M. (2001), “Un lungo viaggio verso il realismo e oltre ancora”, in A. Blasetti: 1900–2000, Comitato Alessandro Blasetti. Bakhtin, M. (1990), Art and Answerability, Austin: University of Texas Press. Barański, Z. and R. Lumley, eds, (1990), Culture and Conflict in Postwar Italy. London: St.Martin Press. Barthes, R. (1970, 1985), “The Third Meaning: Research Notes on Several Eisenstein Stills”, in The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art and Representation, trans., Richard Howard, Berkeley: University of California: 1985. Barthes, R. (1982) [1980], Camera Lucida, New York: Hill and Wang. Barthes, R. (1983) [1967], The Fashion System, New York: Hill and Wang. Barthes, R. (1988–1989), “Cher Antonioni”, in Cher Antonioni: 1988–1989, Rome, Ente Autonomo di Gestione per il Cinema. Barthes, R. (2005), The Neutral, Lecture Course at the College de France (1977–1978), New York: Columbia University Press.


Selected Bibliography

Barthes, R. (2006), The Language of Fashion, Oxford: Berg. Bassignana, P. L. (2011a), “L’esposizione internazionale del 1911”, in Torino 1861–2011. Storia di una città attraverso le esposizioni, Turin: Edizioni del Capricorno. Bassignana, P. L. (2011b), Torino 1861–2011. Storia di una città attraverso le esposizioni, Turin: Edizioni del Capricorno. Baudelaire, C. [1863] (2004), “Modernity” in L. D. Purdy, ed., The Rise of Fashion: A Reader, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Benci, J. (2011), “Identification of a city: Antonioni and Rome, 1940–62”, in L. Rascaroli and J. D. Rhodes, eds, Antonioni. Centenary Essays, London: British Film Institute. Ben-Ghiat, R. (2004), Fascist Modernities. Italy, 1922–1945, Berkley: University of California Press. Benjamin, W. [1955] (1973), Illuminations, trans., Harry Zohn, London: Fontana/Collins. Benjamin, W. (1999), The Arcade Project, trans., Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, Cambridge, MA Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Berghaus, G. (2014) “Futurist Serate and Gallery Performances”, in V. Greene, ed., Italian Futurism 1909–1944. Reconstructing the Universe, New York: Guggenheim. Bernardini, A. (1981), Cinema muto italiano, vol.2, Bari: Laterza. Berry, S. (2000), Screen Style: Fashion and Femininity in 1930s Hollywood, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Berselli A. (2001), “Vestendo i miei ricordi”, in A. Blasetti: 1900–2000, Comitato Alessandro Blasetti. Berselli A. (2007), Interview with the author, December. Bertellini, G. (2013), Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing Ltd. Bertini, F. (1918), “Sensazioni e ricordi. La prima posa,”, in In Penombra, June. Blom, I. (2006), Visconti and the Visual Arts, Milano: Olivares. Bondanella, P. (1983), Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present, New York: Continuum Press. Bondanella, P. (2002), The Films of Federico Fellini, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bontempelli, M. (1995), “Nostra Dea”, English trans., Anthony Oldcorn, “Dea by Dea,” in J. House and A. Attisani, eds, 20th Century Italian Drama. An Anthology. The First Fifty Years, New York: Columbia University Press. Bordwell, D. (1999), On the History of Film Style, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Braun, E. (1995), “Futurist Fashion: Three Manifestos”, in Art Journal, Spring, 54.1. Braun, E. (2002), “The visual arts: modernism and fascism”, in A. Lyttelton, ed., Liberal and fascist Italy, 1900–1945, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Braun, E. (2015), “Making waves: Giacomo Balla and Emilio Pucci” in Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 20:1. Braun, M. (1992), Picturing Time: The Work of Etienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904), Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Braun, M. (2014), “Diva Intermedial: Lyda Borelli between Art, Photography, Theater and Cinema”, in K. Askari, S. Curtis, F. Gray, L. Pelletier, T. Williams, J. Yumibe, eds, Performing New Media. 1890–1915, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing Ltd. Breward, C. (2003), Fashion, Oxford University Press. Breward, C. (2004), Fashioning London: Clothing and the Modern Metropolis, Oxford: Berg.

Selected Bibliography


Breward, C. and D. Gilbert, eds, (2006), Fashion’s World Cities, Oxford: Berg. Brin, I. (1981), Usi e costume. 1920–1940, Palermo: Sellerio. Brin, I. (2014), L’Italia esplode. Diario dell’anno 1952, C. Palma, ed., Rome: Viella. Brunetta, G. (1995), Cent’anni di cinema italiano. Vol. I Dalle origini alla seconda Guerra mondiale, Bari &Rome: Editori Laterza. Brunetta, G. (1996), Identità Italiana e Identità Europea nel cinema italiano dal 1945 al miracolo economico, Turin: Edizioni della Fondazione Giovanni Agnelli. Brunetta, G. (1999), Storia del Cinema Mondiale. L’Europa, vol. 1, Turin: Einaudi. Brunetta, G. (2009) “Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Cinematic Universe: The Futurist word”, in The History of Italian Cinema: a guide to Italian film from its origins to the twenty-first century, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Bruno, B. (1916), “Eterno Femminino”, Film, III, n. 32. Bruno, G. (1993), Streetwalking on a Ruined Map. Cultural Theory and the City Films of Elvira Notari, Princeton University Press. Bruno, G. (2002), Atlas of Emotions. Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film, New York and London: Verso. Bruno, G. (2010), “Pleats of Matter, Folds of the Soul”, in D. N. Rodowick, ed., Afterimages of Gilles Deleuze’s Philosophy, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Bruno, G. (2011), “Surface, Fabric, Weave: the Fashioned World of War Kar Wai”, in A. Munich, ed., Fashion in Film, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Bruno, G. (2014), Surface. Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media, Chicago: Chicago University Press. Bruscolini, E. (ed.), Roma nel cinema tra realtà e finzione, “Quaderni della Cineteca”, Fondazione Scuola Nazionale di Cinema, Comune di Roma, Assessorato alle Politiche Culturali, Roma, 2000. Bruzzi, S. (1997), Undressing Cinema. Clothing and Identity in the Movies, London and New York: Routledge. Bruzzi, S. (2002), “Desire and the Costume Film: Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Age of Innocence, The Piano”, in G. Turner, ed., The Film Cultures Reader, London: Routledge. Bruzzi, S. (2013), “Italian Fashion Designers in Hollywood”, in S. Stanfill, ed., The Glamour of Italian Fashion, London: V & A Publication. Bruzzi, S. and P. Church Gibson (2006), “Dressing the Part: Cinema and Clothing” in Between Stigma and Enigma, London: Fashion in Film Festival, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Buckley, R. (2013), “Dressing the Part: ‘Made in Italy’ Goes to the Movies with Lucia Bosé”, in Chronicle of a Love Affair, L. Bayman and S. Rigoletto, eds, Popular Italian Cinema, Palgrave Macmillan. Burke, F. (2011), “The Italian Sword-and-Sandal Film from Fabiola to Hercules and the Captive Women”, in F. Brizio-Skov, ed., Popular Italian Cinema. Culture and Politics in a Postwar Society, London and New York: I.B. Tauris & Co. Calefato, P., ed. (1999), Moda e cinema. Macchine di senso. Scritture del corpo. Genoa: Costa & Nolan. Canella, M., “Elisa Massai”, in M. L. Frisa, S. Tonchi and L. Mattirolo, eds, Bellissima. Italy and High Fashion 1945–1968, catalog of the exhibition Verona: Mondadori Electa. Cannistraro, P. V. and B. R. Sullivan (1993), Il Duce’s Other Woman, New York: William Morrow and Company.


Selected Bibliography

Canosa, M. (2014), “Lady with Ermine”, in the booklet accompanying the DVD edition of Sangue Bleu, issued by the Cineteca di Bologna. Capalbo, C., (2012) Storia della moda a Roma, Rome: Donzelli. Caratazzolo, V. (2006), Irene Brin. Italian Style in Fashion,Venice: Marsilio, Fondazione Pitti Discovery. Caratazzolo, V. (2014), “1952–1968: L’Italia esplode. Considerazioni sull’inedito di Irene Brin”, in C. Palma, ed., L’Italia esplode. Diario dell’anno 1952, Rome: Viella. Carli, M. (1915), Retroscena: Romanzo, Studio Editoriale Lombardo, n 2. Casetti, F. (2008), Eye of the Century: Film, Experience, Modernity, New York: Columbia University Press. Casetti, F. (2013), “Italy’s Early Film ‘Theories’: Borders and Crossings”, in G. Bertellini, ed., Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing Ltd. Casetti, F. (2015), The Lumière Galaxy. Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come, New York: Columbia University Press. Ceccarelli, L. and others, eds, (2005), Carte, Colori e tessuti. Ritratto di una costumista: Adriana Berselli. Un fondo della biblioteca “Luigi Chiarini.” Rome: Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Ceccarelli L. and L. Pompei, eds, (2009), Viaggio tra le stelle del cinema con la rivista Star. Rome: Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Chatman, S. (2004), Michelangelo Antonioni, in P. Duncan, ed., Cologne: Taschen. Chiarini, L. [1936] (2002), “Come si impara a fare il cinema,” in O. Caldiron, ed., “Cinema” 1936–1943. Prima del Neorealismo, Rome: Fondazione Scuola Nazionale del Cinema. Church Gibson, P. (2006), “New Starsm New Fashions and the Female Audience: Cinema. Consumptiom and Cities, 1953–1966”, in C. Breward and D. Gilbert, eds, Fashion’s World Cities, Oxford: Berg. Church Gibson, P. (2012), Fashion and Celebrity Culture, London and New York: Berg. Cimagalli, D. (1991), Micol Fontana. Specchio a Tre luci, Nova Eri Edizioni Rai: Turin. Clark, J. (2001), “Looking Forward. Historical Futurism”, in C. Wilcox, ed., Radical Fashion, London: Victoria & Albert Publications. Crainz, G. (2005a), Storia del miracolo italiano. Culture, identità, trasformazioni fra anni cinquanta e sessanta, Donzelli: Rome. Crainz, G. (2005b), Il paese mancato. Dal Miracolo economico agli anni ottanta, Donzelli: Rome. Crary, J. (1991), Techniques of the Observer. On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century, Cambridge: MIT Press. Crespi Morbio, V., ed., (2013) Caramba. Mago del Costume, Milan: Amici della Scala, 2013. Crispolti, E. (1986), Il Futurismo e la moda. Balla e gli altri, Venezia: Marsilio. Crispolti, E. (2014), “The Dynamics of Futurism’s Historiography”, in V. Greene, ed., Italian Futurism 1909–1944. Reconstructing the Universe, New York: Guggenheim. Cuccu, L. (1973), La visione come problema, Rome: Bulzoni. Damiani, L. and L. Dotti, eds, (2012), Audrey in Rome. New York: Harper and Collins Publishers. D’Avino, M. and L. Rumori (2012), Roma si gira! Gli scorci ritrovati del cinema di ieri, Roma: Gremese. Dalle Vacche, A. (2008), Diva. Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema, Austin: University Of Texas Press.

Selected Bibliography


De Feo, L. (1936), Cinema, I, 1, July 10th. De Osma, G. (1980), Mariano Fortuny: his Life and Work, London: Aurum Press. Della Casa, S. and D. Viganò, eds, (2010), Hollywood sul Tevere. Anatomia di un fenomeno, Milan: Electa. Della Casa, S. and D. Viganò, eds, (2005), “I circoli culturali torinesi negli anni trenta,” in F. Prono and S. Della Casa, eds, Alessandro Blasetti Contessa di Parma. La Modernità a Torino negli anni trenta, Turin. Devalle, R. (2006), “Torino anni Trenta: la moda italiana tra tentazioni parigine e volontà di primate”, in F. Prono and S. Della Casa, eds, Alessandro Blasetti Contessa di Parma. La Modernità a Torino negli anni trenta, Turin. Di Carlo, C. (2005) (1964), Michelangelo Antonioni, Roma: Bianco e Nero. Di Carlo, C. (2010), Michelangelo Antonioni, Documentalista, Barcellona: Daniela Aronica Editore. Di Castro, F. (1991), 1900–1960. L’Alta Moda Capitale. Torino e le sartorie torinesi, Milan: Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri. Doane, M. A. (1991a), “Veiling over Desire. Close-ups of the woman”, in Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory and Psychoanalysis, London: Routledge. Doane, M. A. (1991b), “Deadly women, epistemology and film theory”, in Femme Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory and Psychoanalysis, London: Routledge. D’Orazio, C. (2014), La Roma Segreta del film La Grande Bellezza, Milan: Sperling & Kupfer. Dyer, R. (1988), Stars, London: British Films Institute. Ellwood, D. W. and P. Brunetta, eds, (1991), Hollywood in Europa. Industria, Politica, pubblico del cinema 1945–1960, Florence: La Casa Usher. Elsaesser, T., and Hagener, M., (2010) Film Theory. An Introduction through the Senses, New York: Routledge. Entwistle, J. (2000), The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress and Modern Social Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press. Erbaggio, P. L. (2013), “Nazionale Luce: A National Company with an International Reach”, in G. Bertellini, ed., Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing Ltd. Elsaesser, T. and M. Hagener (2010), “Cinema as skin and touch”, in Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses, London: Routledge. Enstad, N. (1998), “Fashioning Political Identities: Cultural Studies and the Historical Construction of Political Subjects”, in American Quarterly, 50:4 (December). Enstad, N. (1999) Ladies of Labor. Girls of Adventure, New York: Columbia University Press. Evans, C. (2003), Fashion at the Edge, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Evans, C. (2011), “The Walkies: Early French Fashion Shows as a Cinema of Attraction”, in A. Munich, ed., Fashion in Film, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Evans, C. (2013), The Mechanical Smile. Modernism and the First Fashion Shows in France and America, 1900–1929. New Haven and London, Yale University Press. Fabbri, R. (2006), Ciak: si gira la moda. Cinema e moda, sistemi di senso e industrie di emozioni, Urbino: Quattroventi. Fallan, K. and G. Maffei (2014), “Introduction: The History of Italian Design”, in Made in Italy. Rethinking a Century of Italian Design, New York, London: Bloomsbury Academics.


Selected Bibliography

Ferraro, P. (2013), La moda italiana nel cinema dal ventennio fascista alla dolce vita, Padua: Esedra Editrice. Flexner, R. (1996), “Fabric-Made Body” in New Observations (‘Art in the Folds’), E. Berriolo and R. Flexner, eds, no. 110, Jan-Feb 1997. Fontana, M. (1991), Specchio a tre luci, in D. Fumagalli, ed., Turin: Nuova Eri, Edizioni Rai Radiotelevisione Italiana. Forgacs, D. (2002), “Sex in the Cinema. Regulations and Transgression in Italian Films, 1930–1943”, in J. Reich and P. Garofalo, eds, Re-viewing Fascism. Italian Cinema, 1922–1943, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Forgacs, D. (2011), “Face, Body, Voice, Movement: Antonioni and Actors”, in Antonioni Centenary essays, L. Frascaroli and J. D. Rhodes, eds, London: BFI. Fraser, I. (2013), “Born fully clothed: the significance of Costume for the silent cinema Vamp”, in M. Ulhirova, ed., Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle, London: Koning Books. Freda, F. (2014), L’artigiano della bellezza, Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone Franco Marasca. Frisa, M. L. (2005), ed., Italian Eyes. Italian Fashion Photographs from 1951 to today. Florence: Pitti Discovery Charta. Frisa, M. L. (2013), “Portrait/Self-portrait: The Image of Fashion”, in S. Stanfill, ed., The Glamour of Italian Fashion, London: V & A Publication. Frisa, M. L. and S. Tonchi, eds, (2014) Bellissima. Italy and High Fashion 1945–1968. Verona: Mondadori Electa. Frisa, M. L., J. Clark and V. Caratazzolo, eds, (2008), Simonetta. La prima donna della moda italiana, Venice: Marsilio. Gaines, J. and C. Herzog, eds, (1994), Fabrications. Costume and the Female Body, New York and London: Routledge. Gambacorti, I. (2003) Storie di cinema e letteratura. Verga, Gozzano, D’Annunzio, Firenze: Società Editrice Fiorentina. Gandin, M. (2004) [1950], “Parola di Antonioni. Intervista nel corso della programmazione”, in T. Kezich and A. Levantesi, eds, Cronaca di un amore. Un film di Michelangelo Antonioni: quando un’opera prima è già un capolavoro, Turin: Lindau. Garavaglia, L. F. (2009), Il futurismo e la moda, Milan: Excelsior. Garelick, R. (2007), Electric Salome: Loie Fuller’s Performance of Modernism. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. Garelick, R. (2014), Mademoiselle. Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, New York: Random House. Garofalo, P. (2002), “Seeing Red. The Soviet Influence on Italian Cinema”, in J. Reich and P. Garofalo, eds, Re-viewing Fascism. Italian Cinema, 1922–1943, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Genoni, R. (1908) “Arte e storia del costume. Rivendicazioni femminili nella moda”, in “Vita d’Arte. Rivista mensile illustrata d’arte antica e moderna”, vol. 2, fasc. 11. Genoni, R. (1910), Per una moda italiana, Milan: Ettore Balzaretti. Genoni, R. (1918), Storia del Costume Femminile. Brevi Cenni illustrativi della serie di diapositive, Rome: Istituto Minerva. Gentile, E. (2002), “Fascism in power: the totalitarian experiment”, in A. Lyttelton, ed., Liberal and Fascist Italy 1900–1945, New York: Oxford University Press. Gentile, E. (2006), Il fascismo in tre capitoli, Bari: Laterza. Gentile, E. (2014), Due Colpi di pistola, dieci milioni di morti, la fine di un mondo. Storia illustrata della Garnde Guerra. Bari, Roma: Laterza.

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Giacci, V. (2000), L’Avventura ovvero l’isola che non c’è, Lipari: Edizioni Centro Studi. Giacci, V. (2008), Michelangelo Antonioni. Lo sguardo estatico, Rome: Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Gibson, M. (1986), Prostitution and the State in Italy. 1860–1915, Columbus: Ohio State University Press. Gibson, M. (1998), “Women and the Left in the Shadow of Fascism in Interwar Italy”, in H. Gruber and P. Graves, eds, Women and Socialism. Socialism and Women. Europe between the Two World Wars, Oxford: Berghahn Books. Giddens, A. (1991), Modernity and Self Identity, Cambridge: Polity Press. Gilbert, D. (2006), “From Paris to Shanghai. The Changing Geographies of Fashion’s World Cities”, in C. Breward and D. Gilbert, eds, Fashion’s World Cities, Oxford: Berg. Giordani Aragno, B. (1998a), Moda Romana dal 1945–1965. Storie di Moda, Rome: De Luca. Giordani Aragno, B. (1998b), Costumi per narrare. L’officina di Piero Farani, Arte, Artigianato, Cinema, Milan: Electa. Giordani Aragno, B. (2002), Donne tra Brividi ed Emozioni, Rome: De Luca. Giordani Aragno, B. (2006), Irene Galitizine. La Principessa della Moda, Exhibition catalog. Azzano San Paolo: Bolis. Gnoli, S., (2014), The Origins of Italian Fashion. 1900–45, London: V & A Publications. Gordon, R. (2008), Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette), New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Gould, D. (2009), Moving Politics: Emotion and Act Up’s Fight against AIDS, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Gregg, M. and G. J. Seigworth, eds, (2010), The Affect Theory Reader, Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. Guglielmo, J. (2002), “Proletarian Feminism in the New York City Garment Trades”, in D. Gabaccia and F. Iacovetta, eds, Women, Gender, and Transnational Lives. Italian Workers of the World, Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Gundle, S. (2007), Bellissima: Feminine Beauty and the Idea of Italy, London and New Haven: Yale University Press. Gundle, S. (2013), Mussolini’s Dream Factory: Film Stardom in Fascist Italy, New York: Berghahn. Gunning, T. (2005), “Introduction: The Diva, the Tiger, and the Three-Legged Spider”, in L. Pirandello, Shoot! The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematographer, Operator. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Gunning, T. (2006), “The Cinema of Attraction(s), Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde”, in W. Strauven, ed., Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Harvey, D. (1999) [1989], The Condition of Postmodernity: An Inquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Harvey, D. (2001), Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography, London and New York: Routledge. Impenti, F. (2007), Operaie e socialismo. Milano, Le Leghe femminili, la Camera del lavoro (1881–1918), Milan: Franco Angeli. Jandelli, C. (2006), Le dive italiane del cinema muto, Palermo: L’ Epos. Kern, S. (2003), The Culture of Time and Space: 1880–1918, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Khan, N. (2012), “Cutting the Fashion Body: Why the Fashion Image is No Longer Still”, in Fashion Theory, 16:2.


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Klein, W. (2009), Rome + Klein, New York: Aperture. Koda, H. (2011), 100 Shoes, New York: The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kracauer, S. (1995), The Mass Ornament. Weimar Essays, in T. Y. Levin, ed., Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Kraus, K, (2004), “The Eroticism of Clothes” from Die Fackel (1906)”, in D. L. Purdy, ed., The Rise of Fashion. A Reader, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Landy, M.,(1986), Fascism in Film. The Italian Comercial Cinema 1931–1943, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Lant, A. (2004), “Haptical Cinema” October 74 (Autumn, 1995). Lant, A. and I. Periz, eds, (2006), Red Velvet Seat. Women’s Writings on the First Fifty Years of Cinema, New York: Verso. Laurenzi, L. (2004), “Firmato Count Sarmi”, in T. Kezich and A. Levantesi, eds, Cronaca di un amore : un film di Michelangelo Antonioni : quando un’opera prima è già un capolavoro, Turin: Lindau. Leach, W. (1993), Land of Desire. Merchants, Power and the Rise of New American Culture, New York: Vintage Books. Lefebre, H. (2014), Henry Lefebre. Rhythmanalysis. Space, Time and Everyday Life, London and New York: Bloomsbury Academics. Levantesi, A. (2004), “Sui sentieri della memoria. Alessandra Levantesi a colloquio con Francesco Maselli rivedendo con lui Cronaca di un amore.”, in T. Kezich and A. Levantesi, eds, Cronaca di un amore. Un film di Michelangelo Antonioni: quando un’opera prima è già un capolavoro, Turin: Lindau. Lista, G. (1997), “La Mode Futuriste”, Catalogue of Exhibition Europe. 1910–1939 quand l’art habillait le vetement, Paris: Musée de la Mode et du Costume. Lista, G. (2001), Cinema e fotografia futurista, Milan: Skira. Lista, G. (2010), Il Cinema futurista, Recco, Genova: Le Mani. Lista, G. (2013), “Futurist Cinema: Ideas and Novelties,” in G. Bertellini, ed., Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing Ltd. Lottini, I. (2013), “‘Il delirio del lungo metraggio’: Cinema and Mass Phenomenon in Early Twentieth-Century Italian Culture”, in L. Bayman and S. Rigoletto, eds, Popular Italian Cinema, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Lo Vetro, G. (2015), Fellini e la moda. Percorsi di Stile da Casanova a Lady Gaga, Torino: Monaddori Pearson. Luisetti, F. (2015) “A Futurist Art of the Past”, in Ameriquest, 12.1. Lupano, M. and A. Vaccari, eds, (2009), Fashion at the Time of Fascism. Italian Modernist Lifestyle 1922–1943, Bologna: Damiani. Lyttelton, A. (2002), “Introduction,” in A. Lyttelton, ed., Liberal and Fascist Italy. 1900–1945, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Magni, V. (1995), “American Influence on the Italian Economy (1948–58)” in C. Duggan, ed., Italy in the Cold War. Politics, Culture and Society 1948-58, Oxford: Berg. Maher, V. (1983), “Anna Kulishoff. Gli Scritti, arte e sartine Torinesi tra le due guerre”, in Memoria. Rivista di storia delle donne 8. Mancini, M. and G. Perrella, eds, (1999), Michelangelo Antonioni. Architettura della Visione. Architecture of Vision, Roma: Coneditor, 1986. Mannoni, L. and D. Presenti Campagnoni (2009a), “I film dipinti delle origini del cinema”, in La Lanterna Magica. 400 Anni di Cinema, Torino: Il Castoro, Museo Nazionale del cinema.

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Mannoni, L. and D. Presenti Campagnoni (2009b), “Film dipinti a pochoir”, in La Lanterna Magica. 400 Anni di Cinema, Torino: Il Castoro, Museo Nazionale del cinema. Marcus, M. (1987), Italian Film in the light of Neorealism, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Marcus, M. (1992). Filmmaking by the Book. Italian Cinema and Literary Adaptation, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Marcus, M. (1996), “Anton Giulio Bragaglia’s Thaïs, or, the Death of the Diva, the rise of Scenoplastica and the birth of Futurist cinema.”, in South Central Review 13, nos. 2–3 (Summer–Fall). Marcus, M. (2002). After Fellini: National Cinema and the Postmodern Age, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Marks, L. (2000), The Skin of film. Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses, Durham and London: Duke University Press. Marrone Puglia, G., ed., (2007), Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies, London and New York: Routledge. Marrone Puglia, G. and J. Welle, eds, (1999), New Landscape in Contemporary Italian Cinema, Annali d’Italianistica. Marx, K. (1926), Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. Masi, S. (1989), Costumisti e Scenografi del cinema italiano, vol. 1, L’Aquila. Mauss, M. (1995), “Techniques of the body”, in J. Crary and S. Kwinter, eds, Incorporations, New York: Zone. McMahan, A. (2004), “Beginnings”, in E. Ezra, ed., European Cinema, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Merjian, A. H. (2012), “A Future by Design: Giacomo Balla and the Domestication of Transcendence”, in Oxford Art Journal 35, no. 2. Midkiff DeBauche, L. (2005), “Fashion”, in R. Abel, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, New York: Routledge. Milbank, C. Rennolds (1989), New York Fashion, New York: Harry N. Abrams. Mitchell, W. J. T. (2002), Landscape and Power, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Morini, E. (2005), “Anni Cinquanta. Moda” in Anni Cinquanta. La nascita della creatività italiana, Exhibition Catalogue, Florence: Skira. Morini, E. (2010), Storia della moda.XVII–XXI secolo, Milan: Skira. Morris, J. (2003), “Le vetrine della moda” in C. M. Belfanti and F.Giusberti, eds, La Moda, Annali 19, Storia d’ Italia. Mosse, G. (1980), Masses and Man. Nationalist and Fascist Perceptions of Reality, New York. Mosse, G. (1996), The Image of Man. The Creation of Modern Masculinity, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mughini, G. (2004), Che Belle ragazze di Via Margutta, Milan: Mondadori. Musser, C. (1990), The Emergence of Cinema, vol. 1: The American Screen to 1907, New York: Scribner’s series. Musser, C. (2006), “Rethinking Early Cinema: Cinema of Attractions and Narrativity”, in W. Strauven, The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, Amsterdam University Press. Muzzarelli, F. (2013), Moderne Icone di Moda. La costruzione fotografica del mito, Turin: Einaudi. Muzzarelli, M. G. (2011), Breve Storia della Moda in Italia, Bologna: il Mulino.


Selected Bibliography

Nardelli, M. (2011), “Blow-up and the Plurality of Photography”, in L. Rascaroli and J. D. Rhodes, eds, Antonioni. Centenary Essays, London: British Film Institute. Negri, A. (1928), “Cinematografia”, in Corriere della sera, Milan, 27 November. Nessim, O. (1918), “In memoria di Nino Oxilia”, in In Penombra, n. 02, June. O’Neill, A. (2007), London – After a Fashion. London: Reaktion. Palmer, M. (1929a), “Esiste oggi una vera moda delle vesti?”, in L’industria della moda 11:1, January, 24:27. Palmer, M. (1929b), “I nostri modelli al Teatro della Moda di Milano”, in L’Industria della moda, 11:5, June. Passerini, L. (2007), “Becoming a Subject in the Time of the Death of the Subject”, in Memory and Utopia: The Primacy of Intersubjectivity, London and Oakville, CT: Equinox Publishing. Paulicelli, E. (2000), “Personal Interview with Micol Fontana” (July). Paulicelli, E. (2004a), Fashion under Fascism: beyond the Black Shirt, Oxford and New York: Berg. Paulicelli, E. (2004b), “Nationalizing the Fashion Industry?” in Fashion under Fascism. Beyond the Black Shirt, Oxford: Berg. Paulicelli, E. (2009a), “Framing the Self, Staging Identity: Clothing and Italian Style in the Films of Michelangelo Antonioni (1950–1964)”, in E. Paulicelli and C. Hazel, eds, The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, Globalization, London and New York: Routledge. Paulicelli, E. (2009b), “Fashion and Futurism: Performing Dress”, in L. Somigli and F. Luisetti, eds, Annali d’ Italianistica 27. A Century of Futurism: 1909–2009. Paulicelli, E. (2010), “Fashioning Rome: Cinema, Fashion and the Media in the Postwar Years”, in C. Mazzoni, ed., Capital City: Rome, 1870–2010, Annali di Italianistica 28. Paulicelli, E. (2011), “From the Sacred to the Secular: the Gendered Geography of Veils in Italian Cinquecento Fashion”, in Bella Mirabella, ed., Ornamentalism, University of Michigan Press. Paulicelli, E. (2013), “Cronaca di un amore: Fashion and Italian Cinema in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Films (1949–1955)”, in Graziella Parati, ed., New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies, Madison: Farleigh Dickinson University Press. Paulicelli, E. (2015), Rosa Genoni. La Moda è una cosa seria. Milano Expo 1906 e la Grande Guerra, Milano: Deleyva. Paulicelli, E. and C. Hazel, eds, (2009), The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, Globalization, London: Routledge. Paulicelli, E. and A. Maraldi (2010), 1960, un anno in Italia: Costume, cinema, moda e cultura, Cesena: Il Ponte Vecchio. Pecorari, M. (2014), “Consuelo Crespi,” in M. L. Frisa and S. Tonchi, eds, Bellissima. Italy and High Fashion 1945–1968, Verona: Mondadori Electa. Pellizzari, A. (2014), “Make-believe: Fashion and Cinelandia in Rizzoli’s Lei magazine (1933–38)”, in Journal of Modern Italian Studies. Pidduck, J. (2004), Contemporary Costume Film, London: British Film Institute. Pietrangeli, A. (1942), “Analisi spettrale del film realistico,” in O. Caldiron, ed., Rome: Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Pillitteri, P. (1986), Alle sarte di Corso Magenta. Socialismo e Femminismo in Anna Kulishoff. Gli Scritti, Milan: Franco Angeli Editore.

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Pirandello, L. (1990), Italian Stories: A Dual Language Book, R. Hall, ed., New York: Dover Publication Pirandello, L. (2005) [1915], Shoot! The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematographer Operator, in S. Moncrieff, ed., Chicago: Chicago University Press. Pistoia, M. (2004), “Gino Sensani”, in Enciclopedia del Cinema, Rome: Treccani. Prinz, J. (2007), The Emotional Constructions of Morals, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Purdy, D. L. (2004), ed., The Rise of Fashion. A Reader, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Quaglietti, L. (1991), Ecco I nostri. L’invasione del cinema Americano in Italia, Rome: ERI. Quaresima, L. (2013), “Stracittà: Cinema, Rationalism, Modernism, and Italy’s “Second Futurism”, in G. Bertellini, ed., Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing Ltd. Reich, J. (2000), “Consuming Ideologies: Fascism, Commodification, and Female Subjectivity in Mario Camerini’s Grandi Magazzini”, in R. Dombroski and D. Cervigni, eds, Annali d’Italianistica, 16: 208. Reich, J. (2004), Beyond the Latin Lover: Marcello Mastroianni, Masculinity, and Italian Cinema, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Reich, J. (2011), “Slave to Fashion: Masculinity, Suits, and the Maciste Films of Italian Silent Cinema”, in A. Munich, ed., Fashion in Film, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Reich, J. (2015), The Maciste Films of Italian Silent Cinema, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Reinach Segre, S. (2010), “La moda nella cultura italiana dai primi del Novecento ad oggi.”, in V. Volli and C. Petrini, eds, Cibo, gioco, festa, moda, vol. 6 of La cultura italiana, Turin: Utet. Renzo, R. (n.d.), Album Antonioni. Una biografia impossibile. Rome: Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Restivo, A. (2002), The Cinema of Economic Miracles: Visuality and Modernization in the Italian Art Film. Post-Contemporary Interventions, Duke University Press. Rhodes, J. D. (2011), “Antonioni and the Development of Style”, in L. Rascaroli and J. D. Rhodes, eds, Antonioni. Centenary Essays, London: British Film Institute. Ribiero, Helena C. (2009), “Made in America: Paris, New York and Postwar Fashion Photography”, in E. Paulicelli and C. Hazel, eds, The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, Globalization, London: Routledge. Robinson, D. and G. Méliès (1993), Father of Film Fantasy, London: British Film Institute. Rocamora, A. (2009), Fashioning the City: Paris, Fashion and Media, London: I.B. Tauris. Rohdie, S. (1990), Antonioni, London: British Film Institute. Rohdie, S. (2001), Promised Lands: Cinema, Geography, Modernism, London: British Film Institute. Rohdie, S. (2002), Fellini Lexicon, London: British Film Institute. Romano, F. (1916), “Le donne e la cinematografia”, in La Donna, n. 277, July 20 1916. Rose, C. (2014), Art Nouveau Fashion, London: V & A Publishing. Rosina, M. and C. Francina, eds, (2010), L’età dell’eleganza-le Filande e Tessiture Costa nella Como degli anni Cinquanta, Como: Modo Libri, Exhibition catalogue. Rosina, M. and C. Francina, eds, (2005) “Tessuti italiani anni cinquanta: tradizione e fantasia,” in Anni Cinquanta. La nascita della creatività italiana, Exhibition Catalogue, Florence: Skira. Rosina, M. and C. Francina, eds, (2014) “The Textile Industry and High fashion”, in M. L.


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Frisa, S. Tonchi and L. Mattirolo, eds, Bellissima. Italy and High Fashion 1945–1968, Catalogue of the Exhibition, Verona: Mondadori Electa. Rossi, C. (2013), “Craft and Made in Italy”, in S. Stanfill, ed., The Glamour of Italian Fashion, London: V & A publications. Rossi, C. (2015), Crafting Design in Italy. From Post-war to Postmodernism, Manchester: Manchester University Press. Ryersson, S. D. and M. Orlando Yaccarino (2009), The Marchesa Casati, New York: Abrams. Savio, F. (1975), Ma l’amore no. Realismo, formalismo, propaganda e telefoni bianchi nel cinema italiano di regime (1930–1943), Milan: Sonzogno. Savio, F. (1979), Cinecittà Anni Trenta. Parlano i protagonisti del secondo cinema italiano, 1930–43, 3 vol. Rome: Bulzoni. Schnapp, J. (1997), “The Fabric of Modern Times”, in Critical Inquiry 24, no.1, (Autumn 1997). Serao, M. (Gibus) (1906), “Cinematografeide!”, Il Giorno, March 30, 1906. Settis, S. (2004), Futuro del classico, Turin: Einaudi. Shinkle, E. (2009), Fashion as Photograph: Viewing and Reviewing Images of Fashion, London: I. B. Tauris. Sill, B. (2009), “Stardom and Fashion: On the Representation of Female Movie Stars and Their Fashion (able) Image in Magazines and Advertising Campaigns”, in E. Shinkle (2008), ed., Fashion as Photograph: Viewing and Reviewing Images of Fashion, London: I.B. Tauris. Sitney, P. A. (2005), “The Autobiography of a Metonomy”, in L. Pirandello Shoot! The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematographer, Operator, Chicago: Chicago University Press. Sloterdijk, P. (2002), L’ultima sfera. Breve storia della globalizzazione, Rome: Carocci. Spakman, B. (2002), “Shopping for Autarchy. Fascism and Reproductive Fantasy, in Mario Camerini’s Grandi Magazzini”, in J. Reich and P. Garofalo, eds, Re-viewing Fascism. Italian Cinema, 1922–1943, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Steele, V. (2003), Fashion, Italian Style, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Steimatsky, N. (2008), Italian Locations: Reinhabiting the Past in Post-war Cinema, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Tinazzi, G., ed. (1979), Il cinema italiano degli anni ’50, Venice: Marsilio. Tirelli U. and G. Vergani (1981), Vestire I sogni, Milan: Feltrinelli. Toffetti, S. (2011), “L’abito fa il Monaco: Percorsi tra moda e costume nel cinema italiano”, in Moda in Italia. 150 anni di eleganza 1861–2011, Edizioni Conde Nast. Trivisano, M. N., and M. Tosti Croce (2015), “Thematic Portals: Tools for Research and Making the archival heritage known,” Journal of Modern Italian Studies, Vol. 20:5, pp. 732–9. Trotter, D. (2007), Cinema and Modernism, Malden MA: Blackwell Publishing. Troy, Gardner V. (2015), “Stitching Modernity: the Textile Work of Fortunato Depero”, in Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 20:1. Turner, G. (2002), The Film Cultures Reader, London: Routledge. Uhlirova, M. (2013a), “100 Years of the Fashion Film: Frameworks and Histories”, in Fashion Theory, 17:2. Uhlirova, M. (2013b), “The Fashion Film Effect”, in D. Bartlett, S. Cole and A. Rocamora, eds, Fashion Media. Past and Present, London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Selected Bibliography


Uhlirova, M. ed., (2013c), Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle, London: Koening Books. Van Watson, W. (2002), “Luchino Visconti’s (Homosexual) Ossessione”, in J. Reich and P. Garofalo, eds, Re-viewing Fascism. Italian Cinema, 1922–1943, Bloomington, Indiana University Press. Vanzi, P. (1918), “Lungo metraggio”, La vita cinematografica, December. Ventavoli, L. (2005), “Conversazioni con Enrico Paulucci”, in L. Della Casa and F. Prono, eds, Alessandro Blasetti Contessa Di Parma. La Modernità a Torino negli anni trenta, Turin. Verdone, L.(1989), I Film di Alessandro Blasetti, Rome: Gremese. Verdone, M., ed. (1950), La moda e il costume nel cinema, Rome: Bianco e Nero. Verga, G. “In piazza della scala”, in Per le vie, in G. Verga Tutte le novelle, vol. 1. Visconti, L. (1943), “Il cinema antropomorfico,” in O. Calderon, ed., Cinema, nos. 173–4. Vitella, F. (2010), Michelangelo Antonioni L’Avventura, Turin: Lindau. Ward, D. (1995), Antifascisms: Cultural Politics in Italy, 1943–46, Madison NJ and London: Farleigh Dickinson Press. Ward, D. (2002), Carlo Levi: Gli italiani e la paura della libertà, Milan: Rizzoli/Nuova Italia. Welle, J. (2008), “The cinema arrives in Italy: city, region and nation in early film discourse”, in R. Abel, G. Bertellini and R. King, eds, Early Cinema and the “National”, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing. Welle, J. (2013), “Film on Paper: Early Italian Cinema Literature, 1907–1920”, in Bertellini G. ed., Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader, New Barnet, Herts: John Libbey Publishing Ltd. Welle, J. (2014), “The Beginning of Film Stardom and the Print Media of Divismo”, in P. Bondanella, ed., The Italian Cinema Book, London: BFI. Wharton, E. (2013), The House of Mirth, New York: Penguin Books. White, H. (1978), Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. White, N. (2000), Reconstructing Italian Fashion: America and the Development of the Italian Fashion Industry, Oxford and New York: Berg. Wilson, E. (2003), Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity. London: I.B. Tauris. Wissinger, E. (2007), “Modelling a Way of Life: Immaterial and Affective Labour in the Fashion Modelling Industry”, in Ephemera 7, no. 1. Wissinger, E. (2015), This Year’s Model. Fashion, Media, and the Making of Glamour, New York: New York University Press. Wollen, P. (1993a), Raiding the Icebox. Reflections on the Twentieth-Century Culture, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Wollen, P. (1993b), “Out of the Past: Fashion/Orientalism/The Body” in Raiding the Icebox. Reflections on The Twentieth-Century Culture, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Yaccarino, Orlando M. (1979), Cinecittà Anni Trenta. Parlano i protagonisti del secondo cinema italiano, 1930–43, vol. 3 Rome: Bulzoni Zola, E. (1995), The Ladies’ Paradise, Brian Nelson Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zukin, S. (1996), The Cultures of Cities, Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.


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Online Resources Abnett, Kate “Can Neuroscience Unlock the Luxury Mind?”, April 22nd, 2015 in the Business of Fashion can-neuroscience-unlock-the-luxury-mind (accessed June 15, 2015). Camasio S., N. Oxilia, Addio Giovinezza, The text of the Operetta can be downloaded at: (accessed August 15, 2015) Casetti F. “The Filmic Experience: An Introduction”, https://francescocasetti.files. (accessed April 14, 2014). Hatcher J., “Shirtwaists and the Price of Fashion.” in mediamosaic/thepriceoffashion/article.php?a=hatcher-jessamyn (accessed May 5, 2014). Pascoli G. (1906), “Gli eroi del Sempione,” in;jsession (accessed October 3, 2014). Pistoia M., “Gino Carlo Sensani” in Enciclopedia del Cinema, Enciclopedia Treccani, (accessed, September 1, 2015). Podreider F., “Guida alla raccolta di stoffe di Rosa Genoni Podreider e breve autobiografia,” in (accessed June 15, 2014). Tsilibaris C., “Marcel Fabre’s Amor Pedestre” in (accessed July 4, 2015). “I canarino del n. 15”, in (accessed June 25, 2014).

Websites consulted Archivio della Moda del Novecento: Archivio Luce: Sempre in penombra, excellent blog for early cinema: Museo del Cinema in Turin: Cineteca di Bologna: Archivio Giuseppe Palmas:

Catalogs Blum, E. B. (2010), Roberto Capucci. Art into Fashion. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Cantatore, L. and E. Sassi, eds (2011), Palma Bucarelli. Immagini di una vita. Rome: Palombi editore. D’Amico, M., S. D’Amico, C. D’Amico, D. Trappetti, eds (2014), Tirelli 50. Il Guardaroba dei sogni, Milan: Skira. Domini, C. and C. Ghergo, eds (2012), Arturo Ghergo. Fotografie 1930–1959, Milan: Silvana.

Selected Bibliography


Fashionset. Annamode: 60 anni di moda femminile sul set. (2006), Rome: Annamode. Gucci. The Making of. (2011), New York: Rizzoli International. Gucci by Gucci. (2006), Milan: Mondadori Electa. Païni, D. (2013), Lo sguardo di Michelangelo Antonioni e le arti, Catalogue of the Exhibition at Palazzo Diamante, Ferrara Arte. Sgubin, R., ed. (2009), L’atelier degli Oscar. I costumi della sartoria Tirelli per il grande cinema, Gorizia: Musei Provinciali di Gorizia. Tosi Pamphili, C., and M. Di Napoli Rampolla, eds (2007), La trama del Mito. Il filo che tesse la trama della cultura artigiana dall’archetipo artistico fino a diventare mito nell’abito da film, 64th Venice Biennale Film Festival.


Filmography (Titles in Alphabetical order) Acciaio (1933) Directed by Walter Ruttmann. Addio Giovinezza! (1913) Directed by Nino Oxilia. Addio Giovinezza! (1918) Directed by Augusto Genina. Addio Giovinezza! (1940) Directed by Ferdinando Maria Poggioli. Alfieri e Thaon di Revel visitano la mostra dedicata all’autarchia (1938) (Istituto Luce Archive). Amarcord (1973) Directed by Federico Fellini. Amor pedestre (1914) Directed by Marcel Fabre. Assunta Spina (1915) Directed by Francesca Bertini and Gustavo Serena. Ben-Hur (1959) Directed by William Wyler. Berlin. Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (1927) Directed by Walter Ruttmann. [restored edition edited 2007]. Blow-up (1966) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Cabiria (1914) Directed by Giovanni Pastrone [restored edition edited by Prestech, 2006]. Camicia Nera (1933) Directed by Gioacchino Forzano. Caravaggio. Il pittore maledetto (1941) Directed by Goffredo Alessandrini. Cleopatra (1963) Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz. Contessa di Parma (1937) Directed by Alessandro Blasetti. Cronaca di un Amore (Story of a Love Affair, 1950) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Era lui, sì, sì (1951) Directed by Mario Girolami, Marcello Marchesi, and Vittorio Metz. Ettore Fieramosca (1938) Directed by Alessandro Blasetti. Gente del Pò (documentary,1947) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Giulietta degli Spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits, 1965) Directed by Federico Fellini. Grandi Magazzini (1939) Directed by Mario Camerini. Handmade Cinema (documentary, 2012) Directed by Guido Torlonia. Il deserto rosso (Red Desert, 1964) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Il Divo (2008) Directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Il Fuoco (1915) Directed by Giovanni Pastrone. Il Gattopardo (The Leopard, 1963) Directed by Luchino Visconti. Il Mistero di Oberwald (1981) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Intolerance (1916) Directed by David Wark Griffith. Io la conoscevo bene (I Knew Her Well, 1965) Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli. Khumba Mela (Documentary, 1977) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. L’Alta Moda Italiana all’Esposizione Universale (1939, Istituto Luce). L’Amorosa menzogna (1949) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. L’avventura (L’Avventura, 1960) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. L’eclisse (Eclipse, 1962) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.

256 Filmography La casa di moda Tortonese (1938, Istituto Luce Documentary). La cena delle beffe (1942) Directed by Alessandro Blasetti. La Corona di Ferro (1941) Directed by Alessandro Blasetti. La Dolce Vita (1960) Directed by Federico Fellini. La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty, 2013) Directed by Paolo Sorrentino. La memoria dell’altro (1913) Directed by Alberto degli Abbati. La moda tra le nuvole (Istituto Luce, 1935). La notte (1961) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. La Principessa Maria di Savoia inaugura a Palazzo Vecchio la mostra “Mode d’altri tempi” (Istituto Luce, 1936). La signora di tutti (1934) Directed by Max Ophüls. La signora senza camelie (1953) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. La sfilata sul transatlantico Rex (Istituto Luce, 1938). Le amiche (The Girlfriends, 1955) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Le dernier Tornant (1939) Directed by Pierre Chenal. Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna (1952) Directed by Luciano Emmer. Les Visiteurs du soir (1942) Directed by Marcel Carné. Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheik, 1952) Directed by Federico Fellini. Ma l’ amore mio non muore! (Love Everlasting, 1913) Directed by Mario Caserini. [restored edition edited by Mariann Lewinsky, 2013, Video:DVD]. Malombra (1917) Directed by Carmine Gallone. Marie Antoinette (2006) Directed by Sofia Coppola. Metropolis (1927) Directed by Fritz Lang. [restored edition edited by Giorgio Moroder, 1984]. Milano nera (1961) Directed by Gian Rocco and Pino Serpi. Modern Times (1936) Directed by Charlie Chaplin. Nata di marzo (March’s Child, 1958) directed by Antonio Pietrangeli. Nettezza urbana (documentary, 1948) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. O’Mast (2011) Directed by Gianluca Migliarotti. Odette (1916) Directed by Giuseppe De Liguoro. Ossessione (1943) Directed by Luchino Visconti. Otto e mezzo (Eight and Half, 1963) Directed by Federico Fellini. Quo Vadis (1951) Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Rapsodia satanica (Satanic Rhapsody, 1917) Directed by Nino Oxilia. Rassegna della moda balneare italiana (Istituto Luce, 1935). Ritmi di una grande città (1933) Directed by Francesco Passinetti. Ritmi di stazione (1933) Directed by Corrado d’ Errico. Roberta (1934) Directed by William Seiter. Roma (1972) Directed by Federico Fellini. Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City, 1945) Directed by Roberto Rossellini. [restored edition edited “Progetto Rossellini” (formato dall’Istituto Luce Cinecittà, la Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna e la Cineteca Nazionale del Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia) 2014]. Roman Holiday (1953) Directed by William Wyler. Salò, le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975) Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Sangue Bleu (1914) Directed by Nino Oxilia. [restored edition edited by Bologna’s Cineteca, 2014, Video:DVD]. Sette canne, un vestito (documentary, 1949) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.



Sfilata di modelli autunnali a Como in occasione della Settimana della seta (Istituto Luce, 1934). Shanghai (Cina) Come si orienta la moda cinese per il 1934 (Istituto Luce, 1934). Souvenir d’Italie (It Happened in Rome 1957) Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli. Stolen Holidays (1937) Directed by Michael Curtiz. Stramilano (SuperMilan 1929) Directed by Corrado d’Errico. Thaïs (1917) Directed by Anton Giulio Bargaglia. The Barefoot Contessa (1954) Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The Conformist (1970) Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. The Great Gatsby (2013) Directed by Baz Luhrmann. The House of Mirth (2000) Directed by Terence Davies. The New York Hat (1912) Directed by David Wark Griffith. The Painted Lady (1912) Directed by David Wark Griffith. The Passenger (Profession Reporter, 1975) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) Directed by Tay Garnett. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) Directed by Bob Rafelson. Tigre Reale (1916) Directed by Giovanni Pastrone. Tragedia al cinematografo (1913) Directed by Enrico Guazzoni. Ultimo tango a Parigi (The Last Tango in Paris, 1972) Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Un originale sistema di presentazione della moda (Istituto Luce, 1933). Una città che vive (1934) Directed by Francesco Passinetti. Vecchia Guardia (1934) Directed by Alessandro Blasetti. Venezia numero due (1934) Directed by Francesco Passinetti. Viaggio in Italia (Journey to Italy, 1954) Directed by Roberto Rossellini. War and Peace (1956) Directed by King Vidor. Workers Leaving the Lumière factory (1895) Directed by Louis Lumière. Zabriskie Point (1969) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.


Index The letter f following an entry indicates a figure Entries preceded by Pl refer to Plates “1960s Revisited: Fashion + Film” (Paulicelli, Eugenia) 195 Abbati, Alberto degli: memoria dell’altro, La 51 accessories 45, 71–2 Acciaio (Steel) (Ruttman, Walter) 89 Adamson, Glenn 168 Addio Giovinezza (Farewell to Youth) (Camasio, Sandro/Oxilia, Nino) 29–30, 42, 55 Addio Giovinezza (Farewell to Youth) (Poggioli, Ferdinando Maria) 108 advertising 81–2 Age of Innocence, The (Scorsese, Martin) 212, Pl9 Albano, Elisa 90 alienation 6–7 “Alle sarte di Corso Magenta” (To the seamstresses of Corso Magenta) (Kulishoff, Anna) 28 Allegri, Anna 215f–16, 222 see also Annamode Allegri, Teresa 215f–25 see also Annamode Allen, Woody 211–12 Amato, Francesco: Lasciati andare (Let Yourself Go) 237 America collaboration with 83, 92, 163 costumes and 212 diplomacy and 117 fashion 13, 82, 99 hegemony of 163–4 Italian events and 118 links with 83, 92, 160, 163–9 Marshall Plan 117, 163

trade and 117 America/Italy film exchange 83, 92, 163 “Americanism and Fordism” (Gramsci, Antonio) 5–6 amiche, Le (The Girlfriends) (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 113, 118, 120, 121f, 123f, 129f, 130–3 Amor pedestre (Fabre, Marcel) 21–2 L’amorosa menzogna (The Amorous Lie) (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 118–19, 170 Angels Costumes 212 Annamode 12, 215–25, Pl10 Antonia, Signora (of Tirelli) 209f, 211 Antonioni, Michelangelo 114–15, 125, 188, 218–19, 220, 229 amiche, Le (The Girlfriends) 113, 118, 120, 121f, 123f, 129f, 130–3 L’Amorosa menzogna (The Amorous Lie) 118–19, 170 art and 143 L’Avventura see L’avventura Blow-up 113–14, 145 clothing and 127, 133, 136–7, 151–2 color and 147–8 Cronaca di un amore 113, 114, 119–28, 122f, 123f deserto rosso, Il 135f, 136, 147, 149, Pl1, Pl2 L’eclisse 142f, 143–4, 149, 219 fashion shows and 118 “Gente del Po” 114–15, 125 “intervista, Un’” 116 Khumba Mela 151 landscape and 115, 124, 143 Mistero di Oberwald, Il (The Oberwald Mystery) 113

260 Index notte, La 134f, 139–42, 141f, 149, 219 Passenger, The 138–9, 149, 150 photography and 145 political issues and 148–9 Sette canne, un vestito (Seven Reeds, One Dress) 113, 114, 115–16, 118–19 signora senza camelie, La 120, 128–32 suspension and 143–4 wandering and 137–8, 191 women, representation of 126 Zabriskie Point 149–50 Arcades Project, The (Benjamin, Walter) 180 Arden, Elizabeth 164, 166 Assunta Spina (Serena, Gustavo) 62f, 64, 68–9, 71–2, 212 Astaire, Fred 99 Attolini, Cesare 233f, 234–6 see also Cesare Attolini Company tailors Attolini, Massimiliano 233–7 Attolini, Vincenzo 233–4 L’avventura (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 133–6, 134f, 135f, 138–9, 142–3, 150 Berselli, Adriana and 14, 219, 227f–31, Pl11, Pl12, Pl13, Pl14 Bakhtin, Mikhail 177 Bakst, Leon 51 Balboni, Letizia 120 Balenciaga 13 Balla, Giacomo 20, 24, 25, 42 “Manifesto della cinematografia futurista” 22 “Manifesto futurista del vestito da uomo” 25 Ballets Russes 51 Barattolo, Giuseppe 64 Barefoot Contessa, The (Mankiewicz, Joseph) 168 Barker, Lex 172 Barthes, Roland 130, 133, 150, 151, 153 n.11 duration and 160–1 obtuse and 229 Barzini, Benedetta 146 basi, Le (Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso) 22

Battilocchi fashion house 128 Baudelaire, Charles 2–3 Bellezza (magazine) 162 Benjamin, Walter 3, 80 Arcades Project, The 180 Bergman, Ingrid 166f, 197f, 204, 213 Bergson, Henri 45 Berlin. Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Great City) (Ruttman, Walter) 89 Berselli, Adriana 155 n.40, 219, 227f–31, Pl11, Pl12, Pl13, Pl14 Bertellini, Giorgio 11 Bertini, Francesca 15, 42, 44, 63–9, 63f Assunta Spina and 62f, 64, 68–9, 71–2 costumes of 212–13 Fedora and 68 Odette and 68 patriotism and 48 Sange Bleu and 64–8 “Sensazioni e ricordi” 68–9 Bessi, Simone 216–17 Biki 139 Blasetti, Alessandro cena delle beffe, La (The Jester’s Banquet) 108 Contessa di Parma 14, 85, 91–100, 93f, 105f, 118 Corona di Ferro, La (The Iron Crown) 107, 213 Ettore Fieramosca 99 Vecchia Guardia 77 Blom, Ivo 10, 13 Blow-up (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 113–14, 145 Boccioni, Umberto 42 Bonanno tailor 210 Bontempelli, Massimo: Nostra Dea (Dea by Dea) 1–4 Borelli, Lyda 15, 42, 49f, 72 costumes of 212 Ma l’amore mio non muore and 48–54, 71 Malombra and 52 memoria dell’altro, La 51 patriotism and 48 Rapsodia Satanica and 50, 57, 60, 62f, 71

Index Salomè and 48, 50–1, 50f, 60 Tanagra Dress and 33, 34f, 35–6 style and 57 Bosè, Lucia 120, 121, 128 Bragaglia, Anton Giulio photodynamism and 23, 42, 86 Thaïs 23–4 branding 160 Brichetto, Bice 144 Brin, Irene 106, 164, 166, 167 L’Italia esplode, Diario dell’anno 1952 157 “moda del cinema, La” (Fashion in film) 116 “moda, e il cinema, La’ (Fashion and the cinema) 106 Brioni, tailor 168 Bruno, Biana: “L’eterno femminino” 68 Bruno, Corra 24 “Manifesto della cinematografia futurista” 22 budgets 120 Bussotti, Sylvano 223–4 Cabiria (Pastrone, Giovanni) 11, 56 Caduta, La (Sironi, Mario) 143 Caduta degli Dei, La (Visconti, Luchino) 213 Cain, James: Postman Always Rings Twice, The 109 Calamai, Clara 108 Callas, Maria 207–8 Camasio, Sandro : Addio Giovinezza (Farewell to Youth) 29–30, 42, 55 Camerini, Mario: Grandi Magazzini 101–5, 105f Camicia Nera (Man of Courage) (Forzano, Gioacchino) 77 Cannistraro, Philip 79 Canonero, Milena 223 Canosa, Michele 65, 66 Canudo, Riciotto 89 “naissance d’un sixième Art: Essay sur le Cinématographe, La” 89 Stramilano and 89 capitalism 140, 149 Caraceni fashion house 162 Cardinale, Claudia 209f, 211


Carli, Mario 57 carnival 177 Casati, Marchesa Luisa 51 Caserini, Mario: Ma l’amore mio non muore! (Love Everlasting) 41, 47–54 Casetti, Francesco 3, 158–9 Lumière Galaxy, The 159 Caylloux Seours 212 Ceccarelli, Laura 228 celebrity culture 36, 65, 162 Celentano, Adriano 172 Céline, Louise-Ferdinand: Journey to the End of Night 185–6 cena delle beffe, La (The Jester’s Banquet) (Blasetti, Alessandro) 108 Cencio di nonna 207–8 Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (CSC, State School of Cinematography) 14, 19, 78, 106, 228 Cesare Attolini Company tailors 188, 191, 233f–7 Chaplin, Charlie: Modern Times 5 Chenal, Pierre: dernier Tornant, Le (The Last Turning) 109 Chiari, Maurizio 221 Chiarini, Luigi: “Come si impara a far del cinema” (How to learn cinema) 78 China 85 Chiti, Remo: “Manifesto della cinematografia futurista” 22 Chomon, Segundo de 11, 72, 75 n.31 choreography 84 Christian, Linda 162 Ciano, Edda 203 Cinecittà studios 19, 78, 106, 169 cinema 6, 10 see also comedy films; silent cinema Cinema (journal) 78 Cinema and Modernism (Trotter, David) 6–7 “cinema antropomorfico, Il” (Visconti, Luchino) 108 cinema in frac (tux films) 65 cinema of attraction 24 cinematografeide! 43 cities 161

262 Index Florence 117, 161–2, 166–7 Harvey, David and 166 Milan 32, 89–91, 95, 140–2, 146 see also Milan World Fair Naples 234–5 Rome see Rome Turin 30, 87–8, 94–5, 118, 161–2 see also Turin World Fair urban life 29, 42–3, 89–91 urban settings 146 Città del cinema 78 Clark, Hazel: Fabric of Culture, Fashion, Identity, Globalization 228 class 104–5, 127, 148 close ups 68 clothing 4, 152, 159 Antonioni, Michelangelo and 127, 133, 136–7, 151–2 characterisation and 2 coats 53, 113, 121f, 131 color and 168 continental suit, the 168 eastern/western 152 hats 128, 224 jackets 234–5 men’s wear 54, 108, 168 Neapolitan suit, the 168 Palazzo pyjamas 173 Paparazzo shoe 171 self–perception and 8–9 shawls 68, 71–2, 212–13 shoes 21–2, 132, 171, 200–1 Tanagra Dress, the 33–5, 34f, 36, 57 tearing of 8–9, 97, 98, 104 transformative powers and 7–9 veils 55, 58–9, 61, 62 wearing 159 co-production agreements 163 coats 53, 113, 121f, 131 Colasanti, Veniero 107 “Come si impara a far del cinema” (How to learn cinema) (Chiarini, Luigi) 78 comedy films 100 commedia all’italiana 169 Committee on Fashion 163 consumption 101, 124 Contessa di Parma (Blasetti, Alessandro) 14, 85, 91–100, 93f, 105f, 118

continental suit, the 168 Coppola, Sophia: Marie Antoinette 13, 223 Corona di Ferro, La (The Iron Crown) (Blasetti, Alessandro) 107, 213 Cortese, Valentina 198f costume, renting 111 n.33 costume archives 11–12 Annamode 12, 215 Tirelli Costumi Company 12, 208, 210, 212, 213 costume design 116 historical 12 costume designers 12–13, 54, 106–7, 167, 213, 223 Angels Costumes 212 Annamode 12, 215–25, Pl10 Berselli, Adriana 155 n.40, 219, Pl11, Pl12, Pl13, Pl14 Brichetto, Bice 144 Canonero, Milena 223 Cesare Attolini Company tailors 188, 191, 233f–7 Colasanti, Veniero 107 De Matteis, Maria 14, 107, 167, 221 Donati, Danilo 179 Fontana Sisters 167 Fortuny, Mariano 61 Gattinoni, Fernanda 166f, 167, 199f–205 Gherardi, Piero 14, 172 Hollywood and 169 Magrini, Gitt 147 Marani, Fiorella 213 Martin, Catherine 13 Novarese, Vittorio Nino 107 Pescucci, Gabriella 212, 213 Poggioli, Carlo 214, 236–7 Sapelli, Luigi (Caramba) 54 Sarmi, Ferdinando 119–20, 121, 154 n.23, 164 Sensani, Gino Carlo 14, 99, 106, 116 Tirelli, Umberto 207–8, 209fI see also Tirelli Costumi Company Tosi, Piero 12–14, 207–9, 213, 219–20, 222 “Western Union’ 212 Cowles, Fleur 166

Index craftsmanship 87, 100, 164, 192–3 Crali, Tullio 25 Crespi, Consuelo 195 Cronaca di un amore (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 113, 114, 119–28, 122f, 123f culture 101 Dal Co’, Alberto 171 “Dalla ritirata di Albania alle trincee di Macedonia” (Oxilia, Nina) 73 D’Annunzio, Gabriele 56 De Luca fashion house 213 De Matteis, Maria 14, 107, 167, 221 Delpho gown 61 department stores 43, 102 Depero, Fortunato 20 dernier Tornant, Le (The Last Turning) (Chenal, Pierre) 109 D’Errico, Corrado Ritmi di stazione 89 Stramilano 14, 89–91, 119 deserto rosso, Il (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 135f, 136, 147, 149, Pl1, Pl2 Dior fashion house 171 display 105 diva films 42, 45–7, 51–4, 65 divas 41–8, 72 see also Borelli, Lyda; Bertini, Francesca Menichelli, Pina 42, 69–73, 70f divismo 15 Divo, Il (Sorrentino, Paolo) 191–2, 235–6 Dolce Vita, La (Fellini, Federico) 15, 144, 159, 160, 168, 170–5, 176 Donati, Danilo 179 donna, La (magazine) 124 “donna e la cinematografia, La” (Romano, F.) 44 doubleness 3, 51 doubleness of subjectivity 131 Drago, Eleonora Rossi 196 drape 152 Duff Gordon, Lady (Lucile) 46, 47 duration 45, 86, 160–1 L’eclisse (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 142f, 143–4, 149, 219 economy 163


Eighteenth Brumaire of Lois Bonaparte, The (Marx, Karl) 179–80 Ekberg, Anita 204, 221 Emmer, Luciano: ragazze di Piazza di Spagna, La (Three girls from Rome) 165f, 167, 218 emotion 47, 48, 152 Enstad, Nan 31, 44 Ente Nazionale della moda (ENM, National Fashion Body) 78, 87 Era lui, sì, sì (“It was him, yes, yes”) (Girolami, Mario/Marchesi, Marcello/Metz, Vittorio) 167 Erbaggio, Pierluigi 83 Ertè 3 “L’eterno femminino” (Bruno, Bianca) 68 Ettore Fieramosca (Blasetti, Alessandro) 99 EUR (Esposizione Universale Romana) 144, 190 Evans, Caroline 46, 47 experience 159 Fabre, Marcel: Amor pedestre 21–2 fabric Cencio di nonna 207–8 rayon 87, 114–16 Fabric of Culture, Fashion, Identity, Globalization (Paulicelli, Eugenia/ Clark, Hazel) 228 factories 5 Famiglia Rinascente-UPIM, La (magazine) 102, 104 fascism 19, 77–81, 89, 92, 100 slogans and 19, 87 women and 87 fashion 10 high cost of 97 “Fashion” (Simmel, Georg) 20 fashion designers 213 see also fashion houses Biki 139 Caylloux Seours 212 Galliano, John 180 Gattinoni, Fernanda 166f, 167, 199f–205 Genoni, Rosa 26 Jones, Stephen 224 McQueen, Alexander 180

264 Index Palmer, Marta 90–1 Thayaht (Michaelles, Ernesto) 20, 25 fashion exhibitions 87 fashion houses 88, 167 amiche, Le and 131–2 Annamode 12, 215–25 or Battilocchi 128 Bonanno 210 Caraceni 162 Cesare Attolini Company tailors 188, 191, 233f–7 Contessa di Parma and 94–5 De Luca 213 Dior 171 Fontana Sisters 132, 162–3, 164, 167–8, 170 Gattinoni 200, 203–5 Hollywood stars and 169 London House 168 Louis Vuitton 192–3 Lucile 46, 47 Maison Molyneaux 202 Mattè 14, 94, 118 Palmer, Marta 90–1 Poiret 46–7 ragazze di Piazza di Spagna, Le (Three Girls from Rome) (Emmer, Luciano) and 167 Shuberth 15, 167, 173 The Tortonese 88 Tirelli 208, 211–12, 213–14 Ventura 203, 213 Vionnet 25 fashion models 47, 81–2, 83–5, 95 Barzini, Benedetta 146 Cronaca di un amore and 127 Hollywood stars as 106 Lehndorff, Vera (Veruska) 145 fashion photography 114, 145–7 fashion shows 46–7, 82, 83, 85–7, 96–7, 98, 153 n.7, 167 see also runway fashion amiche, Le and 132 Annamode and 222 Antonioni, Michelangelo and 116, 118, 127–8, 132 Contessa di Parma and 98–9, 100 Cronaca di un amore and 127–8

diplomacy and 117 Dolce & Gabbana and 171–2 Dolce Vita, La and 171–2 Giorgini, Giovan Battista and 117 Io la conoscevo bene (I Knew Her Well) and 175 Marinotti, Franco and 116 men and 168 Roberta and 99 Roma and 178–9, 180 Sette canne, un vestito (Seven Reeds, One Dress) 116 Stramilano and 90–1 Fedora (Liguoro, Giuseppe de) 68 Fellini, Federico 169, 173 Dolce Vita, La 15, 144, 159, 160, 170–5, 176 Roma 176–7, 178–80, Pl5, Pl6 sceicco bianco, Lo (The White Sheik) 169–70 Sorrentino, Paolo and 185 femme fatales 59, 71 Ferrer, Mel 196f Ferrero, Anna Maria 221 Fiat Cinquecento 175 Film (journal) 65 film festivals 19 filmic experience 158–9 Finamore, Michelle Tolini 54 First National Conference on Fashion 163 Florence 117, 161–2, 166–7 Flügel, John Carl: Psychology of Clothes, The 21 Fontana Sisters fashion house 132, 162–3, 164, 167–8, 170 Fortuny, Mariano 61 Forza del nascere (Effort to be Born) 143 Forzano, Gioacchino: Camicia Nrea (Man of Courage) (Somaini, Francesco) 77 fotoromanzi (comic strip photographic novels) 118–19, 170 France 99 see also French couture Freda, Francesco 139, 148, 220, 224 Freddi, Luigi 92 French couture 46–7, 94–5, 97 see also Paris

Index Fuoco, Il (Pastrone, Giovanni) 71, 72 Futurism 20–6, 81 see also Second Wave Futurism Galitzine, Princess Irene 173 Gallenga, Maria Monaci 90, Pl7, Pl8 Galliano, John 180 Gallone, Carmine; Malombra 52 Gardner, Ava 15, 165f, 167–8, 170, 204 Gattinoni fashion house 200, 203–5 Gattinoni, Fernanda 166f, 167, 199f–205 Gattinoni, Raniero 205 Gattopardo, Il (Visconti, Luchino) 209f, 211, 213 Gavault, Paul: “Matrimonio di Giacomina” 33 Gay Science, The (Nietzsche, Friedrich) 58 gaze, the 68, 146 gender 94–6 see also men and women Genoni, Rosa 20, 26–36 Per una moda italiana 32–3, 35 “Gente del Po” (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 114–15, 125 or gestures 52, 54 Gherardi, Piero 14, 172 Gibus see Serao, Matilde Ginna, Arnaldo “Manifesto della cinematografia futurista” 22 Vita Futurista 22 Giorgini, Giovan Battista 117 Giovinezza, La (Youth) (Sorrentino, Paolo) 237 Giuseppe Palmas Photographic Archive 15, 195–6 Givenchy, Hubert de 210 “Gli eroi del Sempione” (The heroes of the Simplon tunnel) (Pascoli, Giovanni) 32 Gramsci, Antonio 101, 110 n.8 “Americanism and Fordism” 5–6 Grand Tour tradition 11, 31 Grande Bellezza, La (The Great Beauty) (Sorrentino, Paolo) 185–91, 235–6, Pl15, Pl16 Grandi Magazzini (Camerini, Mario) 101–5, 105f Great Gatsby, The (Luhrmann, Baz) 13


Griffith, D. W. Intolerance 11 New York Hat, The 30–1 Painted Lady, The 31 Guazzoni, Enrico: Tragedia al cinematografo 71 Guerra e Pace see War and Peace Gunning, Tom 6, 24 Handmade Cinema (Torlonia, Guido) 192–3 Harvey, David 166 hats 128, 224 Hearst, William Randolph 83 Hepburn, Audrey 167, 196f, 203 Herzog, Charlotte: “Powder Puff Promotion: The Fashion Show-inthe-film” 98 historical duration 160–1 history 180 Hollywood 72–3, 92, 99, 164 see also America actresses 106 “Hollywood on the Tiber” 13, 157–8, 160, 169 House of Mirth, The (Wharton, Edith) 51 identity 133, 151, 169, 211 immigration 211 intermediality 10–15 international politics 164 Intolerance (Griffith, D. W.) 11 Io la conoscevo bene (I Knew Her Well) (Pietrangeli, Antonio) 174–5, 181f, 221, 222 L’Italia esplode, Diario dell’anno 1952 (Brin, Irene) 157 Italian cities 82, 88 Italian Style 13, 48, 119 see also “Made in Italy” Dolce Vita, La and 171 Italian Workers’ Party 27 Italy 157–8 representations of 11 Italy at Work: Her Renaissance in Design show 118, 164 “Italy: Fashion Triumphs in a Gala Olympic Year” (Klein, William) 173

266 Index jackets 234–5 Jones, Stephen 224 Journey to the End of Night (Céline, Louise–Ferdinand) 185–6 Jovanka e le altre (Ritt, Martin) 221 Khumba Mela (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 151 Kingsley (of Tirelli) 211 Klein, William 173 “Italy: Fashion Triumphs in a Gala Olympic Year” 173 Rome + Klein 173 Kracauer, Siegfried: Mass Ornament, The 5 Kulishoff, Anna: “Alle sarte di Corso Magenta” (To the seamstresses of Corso Magenta) 28 La Dolce Vita 114, 171, 173 labor 193, 211 lace 100 Ladies’ Paradise, The (Zola, Emile) 101 Ladyhood 31 Lai, Alessandro 214 landscape 115, 124, 143, 146 Lang, Fritz: Metropolis 3, 5 Lant, Antonia 75 n.30 Lasciati andare (Let Yourself Go) (Amato, Francesco) 237 Laurino Ruffo di Calabria, Duke of 204 Law 958 163 Leach, William 46 Lega femminile 28 legislation 163 Lehndorff, Vera 145 Levi, Carlo: L’Orologio (The Watch) 177–8 liberation 149–50 lighting 61, 66 Rotunno, Giuseppe and 178 Chomon, Segundo de and 72 Liguoro, Giuseppe de: Fedora 68 Lisca Bianca 232 Lista, Giovanni 21 London 168 Angels Costumes 212 Gattinoni, Fernanda and 201–2 London House tailors 168 Loren, Sophia 167, 220

Lottini, Irene 43 Louis Vuitton 192–3 Luce, Clare Booth 200–1 LUCE (L’Unione Cinematografica Educativa) newsreels 81–8 Lucile (Lady Duff Gordon) fashion house 46, 47 Luhrmann, Baz: Great Gatsby, The 13 Lumière Galaxy, The (Casetti, Francesco) 159 “Lungo metraggio” (Feature film) (Vanzi, Pio) 43 Ma l’amore mio non muore! (Love Everlasting) (Caserini, Mario) 41, 47–54, 71 McQueen, Alexander 180 Macy’s, New York City 118 “Made in Italy” brand 12, 13, 20, 32, 117–18, 158 see also cinema in frac Fontana Sisters fashion house and 163 made by hand and 192 Tirelli Costumi Company and 210 Magnani, Anna 204 Magni, Eva 230 Magrini, Gitt 147, 218 Maison Molyneaux fashion house 202 Malombra (Gallone, Carmine) 52 Mangano, Silvan 213 “Manifesto della cinematografia futurista” (Balla, Giacomo/Chiti, Remo/ Corra, Bruno/Ginna, Arnaldo/ Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso/ Settimelli, Emilio) 22 “Manifesto futurista del vestito da uomo” (Balla, Giacomo) 25 mannequins 47, 83–4 see also models Marani, Fiorella 213 Marey, Étienne-Jules 23, 86 Marie Antoinette (Coppola, Sophia) 13, 223 Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso 20, 22, 24, 25 basi, Le 22 “Manifesto della cinematografia futurista” 22 Marino, Peter 192 Marinotti, Franco 116 Mariotto, Guillermo 200

Index Marshall Plan 117, 163 Martin, Catherine 13 Martini, Fausto Maria: Rapsodia Satanica: Poema cinema–musicale 56 Marx, Karl: Eighteenth Brumaire of Lois Bonaparte, The 179–80 Mascagni, Pietro 56 maschietta 95 masculinity 21, 25, 54, 94, 108, 168 see also men Mass Ornament, The (Kracauer, Siegfried) 5 Massari, Lea 231 Mastroianni, Chiara 193 Mastroianni, Marcello 174 Matera, Barbara 212 Matrimonio all’Italiana (Wedding, Italian Style) (De Sica, Vittorio) 219 “Matrimonio di Giacomina” (Gavault, Paul) 33 Mattè fashion house 14, 94, 118 Mauss, Marcel; “Techniques of the Body, The” 52–3 mechanization 5 Medea (Pasolini, Pier Paolo) 207–8 mediation 161 Méliès, Georges 46 memorable duration 160–1 memoria dell’altro, La (Abbati, Alberto degli) 51 men 21, 54, 168 see also masculinity diva films and 54 sexuality and 108–9 Menichelli, Pina 42, 69–73, 70f Metropolis (Lang, Fritz) 3, 5 Michaelles, Ernesto (Thayaht) 20, 25 Milan 32, 89–91, 95, 140–2, 146 Milan World Fair 1906 31. 32, 47 Milano nera (Pasolini, Pier Paolo) 141–2 Miranda, Isa 106, 213 mirrors 51–2, 85–6 Mistero di Oberwald, Il (The Oberwald Mystery) (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 113 “moda del cinema, La” (Fashion in film) (Brin, Irene) 116 “moda di ieri e di oggi, La” (Salvatore, Ada) 84–5


“moda, e il cinema, La’ (Fashion and the cinema) (Brin, Irene) 106 Moda e il costume nel film, La (Verdone, Mario) 116 models see fashion models Modern Times (Chaplin, Charles) 5 modernism 6–7 Antonioni, Michelangelo and 114, 115, 119 modernity 3–5, 42 Bertellini, Giorgio and 110 n.10 world fairs and 31–2 monopoly rent 166 montage 86 Montage (Rohdie, Sam) 86 Morte a Venezia (Death in Venice) (Visconti, Luchino) 212, 220 motion 45 movements 45–6 see also choreography gestures 52, 54 illusion of 86 Mauss, Marcel and 52 models and 84, 85, 86 movie theatres 81 Mulas, Ugo 145–7, Pl3, Pl4 Mussolini, Benito 83, 203 Mussolini, Romano 203 Mussolini, Vittorio 78, 92 Muybridge, Eadweard 23, 86 “naissance d’un sixième Art: Essay sur le Cinématographe, La” (Canudo, Riciotto) 89 naming gowns 47 Naples 234–5 national fashion 13, 82, 110 n.21 national identity 11 fashion and 13–14, 33, 48, 99 national popular culture 101 nationalism 11, 110 n.21 Neapolitan suit, the 168 neorealism 107, 113, 114, 125 neuromarket 160 neuroscience 160 Neutral, the 133, 151, 153 n.11 New York Hat, The (Griffith, D. W.) 30–1 Nietzsche, Friedrich: Gay Science, The 58

268 Index Nostra Dea (Dea by Dea) (Bontempelli, Massimo) 1–4 notte, La (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 134f, 139–42, 141f, 149, 219 notti bianche, Le (Visconti, Luchino) 220 Novarese, Vittorio Nino 107 Novella (magazine) 106 “Novella Film” 106 obtuse, the 229 Odette (de Liguoro, Giuseppe) 48, 68 Olympic Games 1960 173 O’Mast (Migliarotti, Gianluca) 168 ontological intermediality 10 opera 221 Operazione San Gennaro (Risi, Dino) 221 Ophüls, Max: Signora di tutti, La 106 orient, the 47, 51, 52 L’Orologio (The Watch) (Levi, Carlo) 177–8 Ossessione (Visconti, Luchino) 14, 107–9, 113, 115, 128, 221 ottanio 168 Oxilia, Nino 55, 73 Addio Giovinezza (Farewell to Youth) 29–30, 42, 55 “Dalla ritirata di Albania alle trincee di Macedonia” 73 Gassetta di Torino and 65 Rapsodia Satanica 50, 54–62, 62f, 71, 73 Sange Bleu (Blue Blood) 54, 55, 62f, 64–8 “Tu ed io” 42 L’uomo in Frack (The man in a tuxedo) 65 Päffgen, Christa 172–3 Painted Lady, The (Griffith, D. W.) 31 Palazzeschi, Aldo: “Passeggiata, La” 42–3 Palazzo pyjamas 173 Palmas, Giuseppe 15, 195–6 Palmer, Marta 90–1 Pampanini, Silvana 204 Panarea 230–1 Panzini, Alfredo: Penultimate Fashion, The 80 Paolucci, Enrico 92

paparazzi 171 Paparazzo shoe 171 Paris 19 see also French couture 46 Parrini, Massimo Cantini 214 Pascoli, Giovanni: “Gli eroi del Sempione” (The heroes of the Simplon tunnel) 32 Pasolini, Pier Paolo Medea 207 Milano nera 141–2 Uccellacci, uccellini 222 “Passeggiata, La” (Palazzeschi, Aldo) 42–3 Passenger, The (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 138–9, 149, 150 Passerini, Luisa 130–1 Passinetti, Francesco Ritmi di una grande città (Rhythms of a great city) 89 Una città che vive (A city that lives) 89 Venezia numero due (Venice number two) 89 Pastrone, Giovanni Cabiria 11, 56 Fuoco, Il 71, 72 Tigre Real 71 patriotism 48 Paulicelli, Eugenia “1960s Revisited: Fashion + Film” 195 Fabric of Culture, Fashion, Identity, Globalization 228 Peck, Gregory 167 Penultimate Fashion, The (Panzini, Alfredo) 80 peplum genre 183 n.27 Per una moda italiana (Genoni, Rosa) 32–3, 35 Perez, Marcel see Fabre, Marcel Peron, Evita 204 Pescucci, Gabriella 212, 213 Petrucci, Antonio 116–17 photodynamism and 23, 42, 86 photography 145, 150 Antonioni, Michelangelo and 145 Klein, William and 173 movement and 23 Mulas, Ugo 145–7 Pietrangeli, Antonio 107, 169, 174

Index Io la conoscevo bene (I Knew Her Well) 174–5, 181f, 221, 222 pigiama palazzo 173 Pirandello, Luigi 4 divas and 41 Shoot 4–7, 41, 45 “Tight Frock-Coat, The” 7–9 Pirelli skyscraper 146–7 pochoir 61 Poggioli, Carlo 214, 236–7 Poggioli, Ferdinando Maria: Addio Giovinezza (Farewell to Youth) 108 Poiret fashion house 46–7 Poiret, Paul 46–7, 51 Poletto, Piero 229, 231 politics 164 popular culture 101 poses 45–6, 47 Postman Always Rings Twice, The (Cain, James) 109 Postman Always Rings Twice, The (Garnett, Tay) 109 Postman Always Rings Twice, The (Rafaelson, Bob) 109 “Powder Puff Promotion: The Fashion Show-in-the-film” (Herzog, Charlotte) 98 Power, Tyrone 162 Prampolini, Enrico 20, 23 prillino 222 product placement 52, 94 propaganda 79–80, 81 films 77 LUCE newsreels 81–8 Stramilano 88–91 Psychology of Clothes, The (Flügel, John Carl) 21 public events 84 punctum 133, 150 Quadrivio (magazine) 89 Quaresima, Leonardo 124–5 ragazze di Piazza di Spagna, La (Three girls from Rome) (Emmer, Luciano) 165f, 167, 218 Rapsodia Satanica (Oxilia, Nino) 50, 54–62, 62f, 71, 73


Rapsodia Satanica: Poema cinema– musicale (Martini, Fausto Maria) 56 rayon 87, 114–16 repetition 180 reproduction 3, 6 Restivo, Angelo 176 rhapsody 56 Ricci, Renzo 230 Rinascente 102 Ritmi di stazione (d’Errico, Corrado) 89 Ritmi di una grande città (Rhythms of a great city) (Passinetti, Francesco) 89 Roberta (Seiter, William) 99 Rocco and his brothers (Visconti, Luchino) 219 Rogers, Ginger 99 Rohdie, Sam 172 Montage 86 Roma (Fellini, Federico) 176–7, 178–80, Pl5, Pl6 Roma, città aperta (Rome, open city) (Rossellini, Roberto) 103, 162 Roman Holiday (Wyler, William) 159, 160, 167 “Roman style” 168 Rome 143, 144, 157–61, 162–70 Brin, Irene and 157 cannon-shot and 186 Dolce Vita, La and 171 Gattinoni, Fernanda and 204 Grande Bellezza, La (The Great Beauty) and 185–90 “Hollywood on the Tiber” and 157–8, 160 Io la conoscevo bene (I Knew Her Well) and 174–5 Klein, William and 17H L’Orologio (The Watch) and 177–8 Louis Vuitton and 192–3 Olympic Games and 173 Palmas, Giuseppe and 195–6 Roma and 176–7, 178–80 Teatro Eliseo 223 time and 186 Vidal, Gore and 179 Rome + Klein (Klein, William) 173 Rosana (of Tirelli) 211

270 Index Rossellini, Roberto 197f Roma, città aperta (Rome, open city) 103, 162 Viaggio in Italia (Journey to Italy) 137–8, 189 Rossi, Catharine 164 Rossi Drago, Eleonora 121f Rosso, Medardo 42 Rotunno, Giuseppe 178 Rubinacci, tailor 168 runway fashion 12 see also fashion shows Ruttman, Walter Acciaio (Steel) 89 Berlin. Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Great City) 89 Salvatore, Ada: “moda di ieri e di oggi, La” 84–5 Salvori, Francesco: “Vestire alla fascista” 78–9 Sandrelli, Stefania 174, 181f Sange Bleu (Blue Blood) (Oxilia, Nino) 54, 55, 62f, 64–8 Sapelli, Luigi (Caramba) 54 Sarfatti, Margherita 80 Sarmi, Ferdinando 119–20, 121, 154 n.23, 164 sartine women 28–30, 31–2, 42, 103 sarto, Il (magazine) 28–9 Saville Row 168 sceicco bianco, Lo (The White Sheik) (Fellini, Federico) 169–70 Schiaparelli, Elsa 24 Sciolone, Maria 203 Scola, Ettore: Special Day, A 220 Scorsese, Martin: Age of Innocence, The 212, Pl9 screens 161 Second Wave Futurism 89 Seiter, William: Roberta 99 Sensani, Gino Carlo 14, 99, 106, 116 “Sensazopni e ricordi” (Bertini, Francesca) 68–9 Senso (Visconti, Luchino) 13 Serao, Matilde 43 Serena, Gustavo: Assunta Spina 62f, 64, 68–9, 71–2, 212

Servillo, Toni 191–2, 235–6, Pl15, Pl16 set design 61, 92 Sette canne, un vestito (Seven Reeds, One Dress) (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 113, 114, 115–16, 118–19 “settimana italiana del cinema”, New York 164–6 Settimelli, Emilio: “Manifesto della cinematografia futurista” 22 sexuality 108–9 shawls 68, 71–2, 148, 212–13 shoes 21–2, 132, 171, 200–1 Shoot (Pirandello, Luigi) 4–7, 41, 45 Shuberth, Emilio 167, 173 Shuberth fashion house 15, 167, 173 Signora di tutti, La (Ophüls, Max) 106 signora senza camelie, La (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 120, 128–32 silent cinema 11, 19 Simmel, Georg: “Fashion” 20 Simplon tunnel 32 Sironi, Mario: Caduta, La 143 Sitney, P. Adams 6 skiing 103–4 SNIA Viscosa 115 socialism 27 society 163 Somaini, Francesco: Forza del nascere (Effort to be Born) 143 Sorrentino, Paolo Divo, Il 191–2, 235–6 Fellini, Federico and 185 Grande Bellezza, La (The Great Beauty) 185–91, 235–6, Pl15, Pl16 Youth (La Giovinezza) 237 sound technology 83 Sovrana magazine) 106 space 124, 176, 186 Special Day, A (Scola, Ettore) 220 Stramilano (D’Errico, Corrado) 14, 89–91, 119 studium 133 subculture 141–2 subjectivity 131 symbolic capital 166 Tanagra Dress, the 33–5, 34f, 36, 57 Tango, the 67

Index Teatro Eliseo, Rome 223 “Techniques of the Body, The” (Mauss, Marcel) 52–3 technology 3–7, 161 see also wearable technology teddy boys 141–2 textile industry 89–90, 115, 183 n.22 Thaïs (Bragaglia, Anton Giulio) 23–4 Thayaht (Michaelles, Ernesto) 20, 25 The Tortonese fashion house 88 theatre 221 Three Girls from Rome (Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna) (Emmer, Luciano) 165f, 167 “Tight Frock-Coat, The” (Pirandello, Luigi) 7–9 Tigre Reale (Patrone, Giovanni) 71 Tiller Girls, the 5 time 57, 59, 62, 176, 177–8, 180, 186 see also duration Tirelli Costumi Company 208, 211–12, 213–14 Tirelli Costumi Company archive 11–12, 208, 210, 212–13 Tirelli, Umberto 207–8, 209f, 210 Vestire I sogni, il lavoro, la vita, i segreti di un sarto teatrale (Dressing the Dreams. The Work, Life and The Secrets of a Theatrical tailor) 207–8 Torviscosa 115 Tosi, Piero 12–13, 14, 167, 209f, 219–20, 222 Gattopardo, Il and 209f, 213 Medea and 207–8 totalitarianism 80 touch 59 tourism 32, 83, 157–8 Tragedia al cinematografo (Guazzoni, Enrico) 71 transportation 32 Trappetti, Dino 12, 208, 210–14 Triennale di Milano esposizione internazionale delle arti decorative e industriali moderne e dell’architettura moderna (Milan Triennal International Exposition of Modern Decorative


and Industrial Arts and Modern Architecture) 164 Trotter, David: Cinema and Modernism 6–7 “Tu ed io” (Oxilia, Nino) 42 Turin 30, 87–8, 94–5, 118, 161–2 Turin World Fair 1911 31–2, 47 tuta 25 Uccellacci, uccellini (Pasolini, Pier Paolo) 222 umorismo, theory of 6–7 “Un’intervista” (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 116 Una città che vive (A city that lives) (Passinetti, Francesco) 89 L’Unione Cinematografica Educativa (The Educational Film Union, LUCE) newsreels 81–8 United States see America Universal Exposition 1939 (New York) 88 L’uomo in Frack (The man in a tuxedo) (Oxilia, Nino) 65 urban life 29, 42–3, 89–91 see also cities urban settings 146 Valente, Sergio 224 Vanzi, Pio: “Lungo metraggio” (Feature film) 43 Vecchia Guardia (Blasetti, Alessandro) 77 veils 55, 58–9, 61, 62 Ventura fashion house 203, 213 Verga, Giovanni 29 Vergani, Guido 207 Veruska 145 “Vestire alla fascista” (Salvori, Francesco) 78–9 Vestire I sogni, il lavoro, la vita, i segreti di un sarto teatrale (Dressing the Dreams. The Work, Life and The Secrets of a Theatrical Tailor) (Tirelli, Umberto) 207–8 “vestiti dei sogni, I” (The Clothing of Our Dreams) exhibition 12 Viaggio in Italia (Journey to Italy) (Rossellini, Roberto) 137–8, 189 Vidal, Gore 179 Vionnet fashion house 25

272 Index Visconti, Luchino 219–20 Caduta degli Dei, La 213 “cinema antropomorfico, Il” 108 Gattopardo, Il 209f, 211, 213 Morte a Venezia (Death in Venice) 212, 220 notti bianche, Le 220 Ossessione 14, 107–9, 113, 115, 128, 221 Rocco and his brothers 219 Senso 13 White Nights, The 219–20 visual arts 42 Vita Futurista (Ginna, Arnaldo) 22 Vitti, Monica 229 walking 185–6, 188–9, 191 wandering 137–40, 148 War and Peace (Vidor, King) 15, 167, 200, 204, 221 wearable technology 24 Western Union costumes 212 Wharton, Edith: House of Mirth, The 51 White Nights, The (Visconti, Luchino) 219–20

will-to automatism 6–7 Wollen, Peter 3, 5 women 28–32, 72 see also divas Antonioni, Michelangelo and 126 cinema and 30 Contessa di Parma and 94–6 fascism and 87 femme fatales 59 Grandi Magazzini and 103 sartine women 28–30, 31–2, 42 subjectivity and 130–1 Tanagra dress and 35, 36 veils and 58–9, 61 women’s movements 28–9 world fairs 31–2, 47, 88 Wyler, William: Roman Holiday 159, 160, 167 Youth (La Giovinezza) (Sorrentino. Paolo) 237 youth, myth of 92 Zabriskie Point (Antonioni, Michelangelo) 149–50 Zola, Emile: Ladies’ Paradise, The 101

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