On this particular day I decided to venture to Italy. Well, not quite, but a trip to Italy via Portland Art Museum in downtown Portland for the Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945 exhibition that is. At this new exhibition, many of the very best in Italian fashion was on display while telling the story of Italy from the post-World War II / Benito Mussolini days to the present. With no passport required but only a $20 admission fee and an open mind to explore and learn, I was off on another exploration (and cultured) adventure.
At this exhibition, no photography was allowed in the exhibition (very understandable), but the Portland Art Museum did post a video to their YouTube online featuring V&A curator Sonnet Stanfill giving a good overview of the exhibition and some of the fashion I saw today.
From a personal experience, the only time I had ever been exposed to Italian fashion was through classic Italian films from film directors Federico Fellini and Vittorio de Sica among others. In fact, by far my favorite part of the exhibition was the “Hollywood’s Influence on Italian Style”. Here, many of the fashion pieces designed for classic Hollywood included Audrey Hepburn’s dress for Roman Holiday were on display in their elegant glory. Also on display was the sequined evening dress and silk coat Princess Stanislaus Radziwill wore to writer Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball in 1966 – and the infamous Bulgari brooch that played a part in actress Elizabeth Taylor’s affair with actor Richard Burton. They also had a small area where Italian men’s suit were on display including one made for John F. Kennedy and Italian film director Vittorio De Sica (The Bicycle Thieves). One fascinating fact I did learn from this part of the exhibition was it was Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni (who starred in a number of films with my favorite Italian actress Sophia Loren) who started the trend – and demand – for Italian pressed suits.
Despite having very little knowledge of the fashion world, I (surprisingly) ended up thoroughly enjoying the experience. People often tend to think of high-end fashion as either elegant, wacky or over-the-top-weird clothing fashion designers dream up for the runways of Paris, Milan and New York. But the way the Italian Style exhibition told the historical story of Italy and tied it to the fashion designs on display really gave me a better appreciation for the craftmanship, designs and ideas many of these designers, who worked hard towards showcasing the very best Italy had to offer. If you’re in downtown Portland, Oregon before May 3rd (when the exhibition closes), I highly recommend visiting this exhibition.