Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945

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70 Years of Italian Couture and Glamour on View at MIA
October 26, 2014 to January 4, 2015

June 12, Minneapolis, MN–On view at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) this fall, “Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945” is the first major exhibition to examine Italy’s rich contribution to fashion from the end of the Second World War to the present. “Italian Style,” organized by the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, London, highlights the defining factors unique to the Italian fashion industry: its use of luxurious materials; expert textile production; specialist, regional manufacturing; and strength as a source of both dynamic menswear and glamorous womenswear.

Comprising approximately 100 ensembles and accessories from the renowned holdings of the V&A, as well as international lenders, the exhibition features work from major fashion houses—Gucci, Prada, Versace, Valentino, Armani, Fendi, Pucci, Missoni, Dolce & Gabbana—and the new generation of fashion talent including couture by Giambattista Valli, bold ready-to-wear from Fausto Puglisi, and work from Valentino’s new design duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. Film and fashion photography will complement the costumes on view.

“The Minneapolis Institute of Art is delighted to be the first American venue to present this groundbreaking
fashion exhibition,” said Kaywin Feldman, MIA director and president. “The exhibition is a visual feast with an important historical focus—from how the U.S. consumer market influenced the recovery of the Italian fashion industry in the postwar years to the adjustments the industry has undergone as manufacturing has been exported to Asia. What’s more, it’s a great tie to the MIA’s own impressive textile collection, which ranges from European tapestries to Modernist work and contemporary fiber art.”

“Italian Style” pays particular attention to the impact of the many Hollywood films shot on location in
Italy during the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Lee Radziwill, and Maria Callas became style ambassadors for Italian fashion, fueling a keen international appetite for luxurious clothing and jewelry made in Italy.

The exhibition examines the mechanisms and social context crucial to the Italian fashion industry’s initial success, and showcases how the country continued to establish itself as a source of both high design and high fashion. For instance, it demonstrates how the proximity of craft specialists near Italy’s manufacturing centers helped forge the collaborative links that would become the hallmark of Italian production. It also considers how Italy’s designers, manufacturers, and related industries are navigating the current shift towards overseas production, “fast fashion,” Internet retail, and digital communication.

“One of the innovations of this exhibition is its focus on the synergy between fashion, film, and media,” said Nicole LaBouff, PhD, assistant curator of textiles at the MIA. “I find this exciting as it provides a remarkable range of dresses, textiles, accessories, works on paper, and film that I truly feel our public will enjoy.”

The exhibition is organized into five sections. The first, “Return to Luxury,” charts the shifting international perception of Italian style that started with the landmark “Sala Bianca” catwalk shows held in Florence in the early 1950s, launching Italian fashion onto a global stage. “Tailoring” follows the growth of fashion as a big business that fed the success of Italian sartorial skills. “Made in Italy” chronicles how Italian ready-to-wear designers ensured that “Made in Italy” become the mark of style. “Cult of the Fashion Designer” charts the designs created from the 1980s into the 1990s, a period when Italian designers became household names. The last section, “Italian Fashion’s Future,” addresses the question of how Italy’s new fashion designers are navigating the quickly shifting landscape of global fashion.

The exhibition is organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, where it is on view through July 27, 2014. It will then travel to three U.S. venues: the MIA (October 26, 2014–January 4, 2015); the Portland Art Museum, Oregon (February 7–May 3, 2015); and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville (June 5–September 7, 2015).


The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design with collections unrivaled in their scope and diversity. It was established to make works of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, the V&A’s collections, which span over 2000 years of human creativity in virtually every medium and from many parts of the world, continue to intrigue, inspire and inform.