The Fashion of the Prophets

Posted by Laura
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The siren style dress signed Schubert, 1953.



As vintage fashion collectors and aficionados we primarily look to source materials from the period of manufacturer to gain information about how clothes would have been worn (just look to my many articles on this blog to see a multitude of vintage editorials to inspire you). But what of the many years that passed between their creation and their place in our wardrobes now? While many pieces were stuffed away in closets, there was always a quiet marketplace for selling on vintage clothes, which contributed to the revival of many historical styles in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The trendsetters picking up antique pieces were often fashion designers and their friends, allowing the inspiration to slowly sink into the couture and pret-a-porter collections. As the revival styles became more mainstream it led to a greater interest in the original fashions; and to articles like this one—published by an Italian magazine in 1975 it provides an interesting glimpse of how vintage from the 1930s-1950s was styled and accessorized at the later date. The first five years of 1970s were really devoted to revival styles from those decades and all of the included designs (by Lanvin, Chanel, Poiret) look like they could have walked straight off the catwalk at Karl Lagerfeld's Chloe and Sonia Rykiel. It is lucky that these designs were appreciated and collected—now not only do we still have the originals to admire (primarily in museum collections) but we also have the designs they inspired. After translating the captions from the original Italian, it is also intriguing to see what (in the pre-internet days) were considered the most important facts about these great designers and then how their legacies have slightly shifted in the forty years since this story was published.



Photos by Roberto Rocchi for Libera (Italy), May 1975.

This service is intended to be neither a fashion proposal, nor a cultural rumination of revivals, but a tribute to the great masters of fashion of the last fifty years that the collections, even in the most recent shows of pret-a-porter of Florence, Milan, Rome and Paris, literally plundered. The leitmotif standing out on the most current trends are the masculine suit with very tight, narrow skirt and jacket with back slit covered knee. This sudden revival of the narrow look has panicked the administrations of boutiques which have already bought all or most of the clothes for the summer, based on the taste of the wide skirt and fluctuating that has characterized the last winter season and now must somehow "confront" the customer all committed to finding something "very close" to a Schubert dress worn twenty years ago by the prosperous of the Roman dolce vita. Here is an imaginary parade outside of time, where the great masters of Italian couture reproduce their models, older perhaps than forty years, but more than ever copied.

Cassina chairs, Via del Babbbuino, Roma / Jewelry Helietta Caracciolo / Bags Fendi / Makeup Helena Rubinstein / hairstyles Sergio and Marcello, Rome / Shoes Satato-Raphael 



Emilio Ferico Schubert. He walked always surrounded by a dozen gorgeous models, and in his car there was always a basket of fresh orchids that he gave to everyone he met. He had a studio in the center of Rome. In the period of its success, 40-50 years, the line of the day dress was snug, simple, classic. For the evening, however, was the triumph of kitsch: rich clothes, very often embroidered decidedly naff. It was the tailor of the crowned heads (the wedding dress of the bride Soraya) and stars (Anita Ekberg, Wanda Osiris). Hill-House architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh chair, designed in 1902.



Christian Dior. French tailor, popped in '48 to the firmament of the great due to economic needs. Dior became famous when the great Parisian industrialist Boussac had warehouses full of unsold wool fabrics and demanded that Dior launch a new line that required the use of large amounts of cloth. Thus was born the famous collection that launched the new look: sharp bustier and very wide full skirt. His color was red. Dior was the favorite tailor the world of high finance (Rothschild). Hill-House Chair.



Paul Poiret. His first dated 1910 models are inspired by the Orient and are redundant with embroidery; his last from 1930 instead are simple and slinky clothes. He made great use of velvet and fur; famous for his wide mysterious cloaks. It was the favorite of the great enchantresses and international femme fatales (Sarah Bernhardt - Mata Hari). He lived his whole life in the environment of the most famous artists and French and British intellectuals of the century. Argyle, designed chair from architect Mackintosh in 1897.



Coco Chanel. Her fortune was born in 1920 and not most abandoned until the early 60s. It was she who invented and first put on in Biarritz—where she was in great company with Cocteau—the trouser suit, provoking a scandal. And she that "invented" the many strands of pearls and wearable clothes at any time of day or night. Her style, which can be defined "discreet charm of the bourgeoisie," has survived a long time. Muse of all French intellectuals, she was in a way a courageous feminist.



Elsa Schiaparelli. The characteristics of her style were contrasting colors and printed flowers, and she the creator of shocking pink. Her’s was a sophisticated style, all linear cutting and completed with a few draperies. Although Italian, the atelier in Paris and its environment was for the rich bourgeoisie, snobs, and illuminated. And she was the model grandmother for the current rage in the jet-set: Marisa Berenson. Willow 1 seat designed by Mackintosh in 1904.



Jeanne Lanvin. The dressmaker of great cruises. Well-known in the years 40-50 for her marine sets. Her line was schematic, clean, colors particularly-glossy. For all the years of the 30s they were imposed and printed with geometric designs that were inspired by the Bauhaus. Lanvin’s environment has always been that of international aristocracy and French cinema.



Cristóbal Balenciaga. Spanish, but with the atelier in Paris, and was the master of Givenchy, Courreges, Cardin. After a baroque debut in the 40s: jewels, lace, and in the aftermath was the first to make lines geometric. In 50 at the height of success he became the tailor of and the powerful, as he created the wedding dress of Fabiola’s bride and that of Franco's daughter. He loved to be surrounded by beautiful boys and did not go out unless he had at least five in tow.



Jacques Fath. Specializing in evening wear, he was the one who more than any other that made use of satin, tulle, artificial flowers, instarsia and embroidery. Even he said that he always designed the same dress: very tight bodice supported by whalebone and extremely wide skirt; many layers, possibly in tulle; the variants were in color and decoration. He was the dressmaker for the major parties and the international jet set of the years 40-50.

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