The term ‘fashion’ refers to a current fad or craze. Fashion has a way of defining our identity and our origins. Fashion is an instantaneous communication; it is how one shows oneself to the outside world. Fashion and culture go hand in hand because what people wear often reveals who they are and what they value. There are always fresh fashion trends to follow and be inspired by, making fashion a significant cultural phenomenon. Aside from the fact that it has been there for a while, Italian fashion has developed into a major player in the world’s fashion industry.
Style versus fashion is a matter of quality, remarked Giorgio Armani. When it comes to everyday living, fashion has always been an essential part. It has shaped whole civilizations and influenced the way people live their lives now. Clothing is a way for us to express ourselves in ways that words cannot. However, split and conquered, it stayed committed to one idea: excellence in the material is generated, regardless of where it came from. While it was challenging to identify and build a distinct style for Italy, something larger arose. The country became the fashion capital of the world today. A product labeled “Made in Italy” is synonymous with quality.
Clothing expresses one’s own sense of style and provides insight into one’s self-identity and career aspirations. This concept has had a significant influence on the work of today’s best-known designers. Because of its consistently high quality, Italy created a brand that others sought out and aspired to copy. The people of the newly formed republic were eager to seize control of a market they could easily dominate, Having just been liberated from foreign occupation. Outside influences made it challenging to precisely nail down the Italian style and what it evolved into over time. Since then, Italian designers have taken back control of the fashion industry.
France, which ruled almost the whole continent at the time, had a significant impact throughout the 1500s and 1560s. This was the beginning of fashion’s dos and don’ts. A literary effort was made to promote these principles as well. When others see what one is wearing, they cannot help but have an opinion about who this person is. Dressing to impress should be a priority for someone who has a high social position or is otherwise well-off. They should avoid going too far beyond the limits. One had to follow a set of norms to blend in with the highest echelons of society.
In Florence, during the Renaissance, an era in European history between the 14th and 17th centuries, fashion started to take shape in Italy. Since the bulk of Renaissance art, architecture, and masterpieces can be found in Florence, Italy, it is no wonder that the city is so popular and dynamic. Men’s and women’s fashion had distinct trajectories throughout the Renaissance. A short cloak, a cap with feathers, and a trunk hose were fashionable men’s accessories. In contrast, women wore dresses tailored to their specific body shapes and sizes. The sleeves on these gowns were especially long and adorned with lace and other embellishments. After the Renaissance, Paris, France, became the world’s fashion capital. While Italy continued to develop its own styles, it was often accused of just copying the looks seen on Parisian catwalks. It was not until the 1950s that Italy began to gain a reputation as a fashion capital, competing with Paris for the attention of the rest of the world. Looks and ideas for fashion in Italy came from the great artistry, expensive leather goods, and high-quality tailoring seen in Italy.
Italy was now at par with Paris and New York as one of the most dominating actors in fashion. Although this had been the case throughout history, it was not always the case. Before World War II, Italy was a mostly agrarian nation with a rich cultural heritage (Steele & Gillion 1). Italian fashion designers created nothing original or significant because of a lack of industrial manufacturing of stylish garments (Steele & Gillion 1). Because of the devastation of World War II and the country’s subsequent economic collapse, a revival of fashion was impossible. Italian fashion’s progress since 1945 is nothing short of astounding (Steele & Gillion 1). Italian fashion has always been linked with a sense of opulence and sophistication. The definition of glamour has evolved throughout time. However, for this research, it will be defined as the attribute of being interesting, seductive, and enticing (Dyhouse viii). This study intends to evaluate the level of glamour in Italian fashion from the post-war period up to the end of the twentieth century and, more specifically, the characteristics that compose glamour by definition previously provided. Glamour in Italian fashion will be examined and evaluated by focusing on each decade’s crucial and distinguishing element, such as the groundbreaking ‘Made in Italy’ label in the 1970s and 1980s.
After World War II, the cards in the worldwide game of fashion were shuffled. After the German occupation of France from 1940 to 1944, the French fashion industry had to reestablish its image and economic links, while other nations, particularly Italy, were given fresh possibilities to enter the spotlight. After World War II, there was no longer an American market for Italian products. However, the United States played an important part in the rise of Italy’s fashion sector in the 1950s. The United States contributed significantly to Italian fashion’s rise to worldwide prominence, primarily via Marshall Aid. Following World War II, several Italian manufacturers used the newly acquired funds to develop an export-oriented fashion sector that would play an important part in Italy’s long-term economic recovery.
The American fashion industry, which prioritizes mass manufacturing, was always looking for fresh ideas and potential business partners and suppliers. On each voyage, Paris acted as a portal to the rest of Europe, even though that was its major purpose. After World War II, a new worldwide fashion scene emerged. Italy was one of the first countries to contribute to it. As early as the 1950s, several Italian businesses aimed to enter the American market. The original concentration of export products was on pre-war fabrics, shoes, and purses, but this quickly extended to include apparel trends. As a result, many people in the United States first viewed Italian fashion as attractive or enticing.
Then, in the early 1950s, when Rosa Genoni invented the term ‘Made in Italy,’ people began to appreciate Italy’s particular contributions to fashion and allure (Steele & Gillion 16). As we will see later, the ‘Made in Italy’ label and its connotation of excellent quality were introduced in the years after World War II, but their global effect was felt most strongly in the 1970s and 1980s.
A fashion show was the major method of promoting the value of Italian items to a larger audience in the 1950s. To an American audience, Giovan Battista Giorni was well-known for producing and presenting various fashion shows at Florence’s Villa Torrigiani. He presented things created in Italy by a small number of companies (Steele & Gillion 19). These fashion exhibitions grew in prominence and often concluded with a magnificent ball when distinguished visitors from all over the globe were requested to wear attire inspired only by Italian design (Steele & Gillion 19). The organizers of these fashion show utilized these events as a marketing strategy to identify Italian fashion with elegance and make it more appealing to export markets. Exhibitions in Villa Torrigiani and, subsequently, in Florence’s famed Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti drew visitors from all over the globe. At this point, Italian glamor was a global phenomenon.
According to Steele and Gillion’s explanation in Italian Fashion Style, it was easy for the general public to fall prey to the allure of Italian fashion because of the country’s abundance of sights to see and foods to eat, as well as its inhabitants’ politeness and openness. In order to further promote Italian fashion, organizers made use of the fact that Italy is a popular tourist destination in other nations and capitalized on this. Additionally, the lavish social gatherings at which fashion buyers, journalists, and editors interacted with the Italian nobility fueled popular interest in Italian fashion (Steele & Gillion 20). In two senses, this is intriguing. It is first suggested that all models and journalists were used as strategic instruments to promote Italian fashion in their native countries and improve its splendor. Another theory says that the presence of Italian nobles, a well-known and wealthy group of people in Italy who had much power in the world, made the already strong connection between Italian fashion and glitz even stronger.
The ‘Italian Look’ played an essential role in shaping American perceptions of Italian fashion: American women believed that they were sexy and elegant. The look was promoted through a veil of stereotypes, such as that of an aristocratic Italian woman dressed in the most current fashions. ‘Italian Look’ (Steele & Gillion 16). Italy’s ‘Italian Look’ is not a clearly defined notion, but a vast spectrum of styles and designs, from Armani’s austere look to the southern sex bomb look of Dolce & Gabbana and Versace, which even includes international labels like United Colors of Benetton and Diesel (Paulicelli 3). As a result, at the end of the 1950s, substantial amounts of Italian fashion were shipped to the American market owing to two ‘glamorous’ traits, notably the ‘Italian Look,’ which included exquisite artistry in textile manufacturing, luxury leather products, and high-quality tailoring (Steele & Gillion 2).
The early 1960s were also Rome’s golden period, with this Hollywood on the Tiber as the decade progressed. To relocate the center of Italian manufacturing from Florence to Rome, the international Elysium of Rome began to play an important role in the marketing of local ateliers. As Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor served as style icons for Italian fashion in the 1960s, thanks to their roles in several Hollywood films produced in Italy, a fervent worldwide demand for Italian-made luxury apparel arose. That the celebrities have a significant impact on how the public views Italian fashion as attractive is obvious from this film, celebrities captivated the public’s attention. They served as a source of motivation for many. When well-known individuals wear a certain fashion item, it elevates its glitz and glamor, inspiring others to follow suit or elevate the item itself to a status symbol. This suggests that Italian fashion was attractive to some measure due to the acceptance of what celebrities wore. In other words, Italian fashion’s 1960s link with glitz and glamor may have had more to do with public perception than true design.
In Italian tailoring, this is clearly shown. During the ’60s, Italian tailoring was admired for its lightness, unstructured silhouettes, and sleekness. However, its global recognition and importance were made possible by pictures of Italian performers in fashionable attire. With ‘La Dolce Vita,’ Marcello Mastroianni’s streamlined outfits helped promote the Italian suit throughout the globe in 1960. This century’s well-known faces have done much to raise the profile of Italian fashion, making it more appealing to an increasingly global audience. Not only did celebrities play a major part, but fashion shows that first became prominent in the 1950s continued to grow in popularity and stature. Italian ready-to-wear manufacturing would be shown in Milan and Turin for the next fifteen years. MITAM in Milan and SAMIA in Turin, two of Italy’s best-known fashion schools, played a big role.
As ‘Made in Italy’ became more and more important, the 1970s were an exciting time for Italian fashion and splendor. Rosa Genoni developed the ‘Made in Italy’ label in the postwar years, but it took off in the 1970s and 1980s when Milan became the new fashion center of the world, making it a household name around the globe. It is stated in Paulicelli (158). In the 1980s, official government and commercial entities began marketing the ‘Made in Italy’ label, often known as the ‘national trade brand,’ abroad. It embodies the charm and refined design that distinguishes Italian goods (Paulicelli 2). One of the primary reasons why the label ‘Made in Italy’ is so well-known and sought after is that it has come to represent all that is good about a whole way of life and an assurance of superiority for goods carrying the mark (Paris 525). The importance of the slogan ‘Made in Italy’ was further elevated in the 1970s by designers like Cappucci, Armani, Pucci, and Missoni. It was common practice in the 1970s for designers of ready-to-wear clothes to include pre-war style touches in their designs to make them more unique and appealing. Rosita Missoni is an excellent illustration of this. Luisa, Mattirolo, and Tonchi (160) remark, “She spotted an opening, and she took it well.”
As of 20th Century Fashion writers Valerie Mendes and Amy De La Haye claim, the Italian fashion business thrived by the mid-1970s. ‘After competing with Rome and Turin, Milan became Italy’s new fashion center in the 1970s, making it a notable decade. Due to its expansive commercial spaces, fashion press, advertising, and textile industry (Mendes & De La Haye 201). In 1975, Milan’s National Chamber of Commerce of Italian Fashion hosted the city’s first big ready-to-wear shows a decade into the twenty-first century. Milan Fashion Week was born (Mendes & De La Haye 201). As a result of hosting several high-profile fashion shows from across the globe, New York quickly became known as the fashion capital of the world and the hub of glitz and glamour (Merlo & Polese 417). In reality, the legacy of the 1970s is still alive and well during Milan’s annual Fashion Week, where antique goods from the 1970s are still present. The fashion accessories come from the Gucci collection, a globally recognized high-end and pricey brand. The men’s attire consists of several sought-after and sought-after fashion items, including these. It is fascinating to see how Italian fashion’s relationship with glitz and glamor changed from the 1950s to the 1970s. As discussed earlier, fashion shows held around Italy in the 1950s made Italian fashion glitzier. However, in the 1970s, Milan was the place to go for anybody interested in keeping up with the most recent Italian trends.
Some looked back on the 1970s as an economic downturn, political unrest, and societal disintegration and saw an opportunity (Mendes & De La Haye 221). There was a movement toward more costly, flashy styles due to the rise in the standard of living for most people. The wearing of expensive designer clothing and accessories to display one’s riches has become the norm (Mendes & De La Haye 223). During this time, the fashion industry in Italy flourished at all levels. Many of Italy’s leading manufacturers were contracted to produce ready-to-wear for designers in Paris, London, and Europe (Mendes & De La Haye 243). Italian fashion’s glamorous image soared to new heights because of its close connection with Paris’s most renowned fashion companies. Its worldwide reach and impact grew even more as a consequence. Some of the world’s best-known fashion brands, like Basile, Complice, and MaxMara, were asked to produce beautiful designs.
Gianni Versace and Giorgio Armani, who became multimillionaires in the mid-1980s via their work in the alta moda industry, deserve special notice. Armani and Versace have represented Italian fashion. They stood for modest, traditional styles, while Versace experimented with glamorous, body-conscious designs (Mendes & De La Haye 243). The 1980s were also great for many well-known and well-loved fashion brands, like Valentino, Trussardi, Moschino, and Fendi. This is what people say:
As we turn our attention to the 1990s, we can draw an intriguing comparison with the 1970s regarding the inspiration and rebirth of past fashion designs. As Fashion Since 1900 points out, the fashions of the late 1960s and early 1970s were inspiring in the final decade of the twentieth century [early 1990s], while pre-war styles were especially attractive in the 1970s (Mendes & De La Haye 269). Similarly, the book claims that during the mid-1990s, several 1980s trends were making a reappearance, such as exaggerated shoulders that were updated when matched with modest, pared-down tailoring. To sum up, Italian designers drew on past styles. They incorporated them into their own creations, as seen by the statements above. As previously noted, this is a reoccurring pattern that has been seen throughout history. A closer look reveals that Italian designers used earlier fashion elements as the raw material for new fashion items to boost the beauty and splendor of their designs. Although trends change frequently, fashion also draws inspiration from the past for new designs and developing ‘new’ styles.
Having done significant research and reading extensively on the topic, I can infer that Italian fashion in the post-war period of the twentieth century was associated with glamour. Italy’s fashion appealed to local and international audiences throughout the twentieth century. Exactly what piqued people’s interest throughout the years has changed dramatically. Italy’s worldwide fashion recognition and subsequent glitz rose in the 1950s thanks partly to the Italian look and style, popularized through globally famous runway shows. While Hollywood stars and celebrities had a major impact on Italian fashion’s glitz in the 1960s, it was the advent of Milan as a new fashion city and a worldwide hub of glamour that contributed to the birth of ‘Made in Italy’ labels and Milan’s position as Italy’s new fashion capital. The 1990s re-creation of 60s–80s fashion in new designer products was seen as highly appealing and interesting by the fashion industry in the 1990s. Italy’s glitzy elegance, however, had some rough times to contend with in the 1990s, when Asian products became more affordable. The debate over a ‘Made in Italy’ badge in the fashion business became more heated. Despite this, it is projected to remain one of the world’s most recognizable and glitzy fashion fairs.
Dyhouse, Carol. Glamour: Women, history, feminism. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010.
Merlo, Elisabetta, and Francesca Polese. “Turning fashion into business: The emergence of Milan as an international fashion hub.” Business History Review 80.3 (2006): 415-447.
Mendes, Valerie D., and Amy De La Haye. 20th century fashion. Vol. 14. London: Thames & Hudson, 1999.
Paris, Ivan. “Fashion as a System: Changes in Demand as the Basis for the Establishment of the Italian Fashion System (1960–1970).” Enterprise & Society 11.3 (2010): 524-559.
Paulicelli, Eugenia. “Fashion: the cultural economy of Made in Italy.” Fashion Practice 6.2 (2014): 155-174.
Paulicelli, Eugenia. Fashion under fascism: beyond the black shirt. Oxford: Berg, 2004.
Steele, Valerie, and Gillion Carrara. “Italian Fashion.” (2003).