Friday, December 19, 2014

MIA Italian Fashion

There are only a few days left of the MIA Italian Style exhibit, and it is a must see. The exhibition features postwar Italian fashion, displaying clothing that rarely travels beyond the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, as well as photographs and video from the archives of designers and museum collections. If you're looking for name drops, here they are: Pucci and Prada, Valentino and Miu Miu, along with other recognizable fashion-house names, illustrate the evolution of postwar fashion. Italian designer's attention to craftsmanship, quality textiles and innovative designs, while embracing prêt-à-porter style, enabled the "Made in Italy" label to wield so much influence over the fashion industry.

While postwar style, the exhibition begins in 1939, with two immaculately tailored women's' suits. To demonstrate the evolution of style from Italy, the former Fascist model must be represented. Here's what is shocking: the clothing is not behind glass. The ensembles are beautifully on display, viewable from every angle. Out in the open, you can see the little imperfections, the evidence that these pieces have been worn.

Moving through what feels like a prolonged runway show, you encounter evening gowns arrayed in delicate beading, gorgeous fabrics, and silhouettes that would still be worthy of red-carpet or runway fashion. Also featured are photographs and video of early runway shows. Remarkably intimate compared to today's mega-events like New York Fashion Week, the shows introduced the scheduled change of the fashion industry. It is not only desired, but necessary, for designers to introduce new, reinvent old, and test expectations with annual, and then biannual seasonal runway shows.

Of course, the clothes worn by everyday people are moving. They induce that bit of curiosity in us that wonders, who was the woman who wore this dress with navy gloves and a woolen hat? The runway footage and samples are breathtaking in the way the couture seems like an otherworldly creation of beauty and revolution. And then we encounter the celebrities.

Video of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday plays while the dress she wore in the movie and a replica vespa are displayed nearby. It is truly breathtaking to see the garment portrayed on screen and in person; the former separated by glass and decades and Hollywood mystique, the latter a tangible memento from the past in our presence.

That is the beauty of Italian Style. The transformation of fashion over the years does not make style or clothing irrelevant, but instead all the more exquisite.

Tickets are available through the MIA website or at the museum. The exhibition will be here through January 4. Photos via MIA Exhibit Preview.

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