Italian Style, the Latest Offering at the Frist, Is Bellissima

Courtesy Roberto Capucci Foundation. Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This exquisitely volumimous1987-88 Roberto Capucci evening dress is a dramatic part of the Italian Style exhibition.

On Father’s Day this year, I allowed myself a wonderful treat: The Frist Center for the Visual Arts‘ sumptuous exhibit Italian Style: Fashion since 1945.

Head to downtown Nashville and see it. You will be mesmerized.

Curator Trinita Kennedy explains that the exhibit covers the evolution of the Italian fashion industry from the aftermath of World War II through the present. Including historic examples of women’s and men’s wear, textiles, designer drawings and swatches and more, the installation presents what is practically a mini-master class on how Italian designers made it work on a global scale and how historic and modern fashion houses still inspire and outfit the world with their wearable works of art.

From the Frist’s Italian Style gallery guide:

After the Second World War, Italy emerged as a fashion powerhouse by capitalizing on its traditions of bold design, exquisite textiles, fine craftsmanship, and dressing with sprezzatura—graceful nonchalance. This dazzling exhibition, assembled from more than 40 collections, celebrates all that Italian style embodies, and charts its major historical developments over the past 70 years. 

Of the more than 90 garments and accessories on display are items from labels including old masters Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Missoni, Valentino and Versace, through the next generation of fashion artisans, among them Giambattista Valli and Fausto Puglisi.

Audrey Hepburn in Gattinoni in the film War and Peace
The Frist Center exhibition includes this breathtaking gown, which Audrey Hepburn wore in the film War and Peace. Beside the dress, a video clip showing her moving around in the garment brings the gown to life before one’s eyes.

What touched me most was the realization of how deeply Italian fashion resonates within my USian experience: Of course, I am mad for Pucci, and there was much on display. Hollywood couture was represented with the actual garments worn on screen by Marcello Mastroianni (in La Dolce Vita) and on the red carpet by Ava Gardner an Gregory Peck. Heaven. Sprezzatura?  I was anything but graceful or nonchalant after stumbling upon the ethereally lovely and delicate Fernanda Gattinoni gown my fashion idol Audrey Hepburn wore in the film War and Peace. Molto, molto bellissima.  There were other thrills: A tuxedo worn by President John F. Kennedy stopped me in my tracks, as did a glamorous set of pajamas worn by Jackie Kennedy and a gorgeous ballgown worn by the former First Lady’s sister Lee Radziwill.

This smart Fendi bag commands attenzione at the Frist Center exhibit.
This smart Fendi bag commands attenzione at the Frist Center exhibit.

The exhibition offers more than ballgowns and tuxedos. You’ll see a host of accessories — boots, scarves, shoes, designer handbags (a particular Fendi bag was to die for, just to die for; I had not gasped aloud in quite some time) and more.

If modern-day fashion is your passion, you will not be disappointed. Garments and accessories by the post-Gianni Versace house, Tom Ford (during his stint with Gucci), Armani, and Miuccia Prada show that the Italian stamp on ready to wear and couture is not going anywhere.

Part of the Italian Style exhibition on display at the Frist Center in Nashville until Sept. 7.
Part of the Italian Style exhibition on display at the Frist Center in Nashville until Sept. 7.

This glorious exhibition, however, will not be around forever. Originally curated at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Italian Style: Fashion since 1945 was shown at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Portland Art Museum. The Frist Center will be the last stop on its US tour, which means you have until Sept. 7, 2015, to see it on these shores. If you live in or near Nashville, you have no excuse to avail yourself of this visual feast. If you have to travel to see it, believe me, it will be worth the trip. And if you have already seen it, go again. I will.

For more information, contact the Frist Center for the Visual Arts at 615-244-3340. Or just go: The museum is at 919 Broadway, in downtown Nashville.



Add Your Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.