May 11, 2009

Monday Muses {May 11th}

Much as their respective cuisines have long vied to come out as the best in Europe – if not the world – so too have the fashions and lifestyles of France and Italy been friendly rivals. I adore both, be it pasta or patisserie, Gaultier or Gucci. Yet I married an Italian man, hailing straight from the heart of Italia, and as such this fascinating, at times dauntingly beautiful culture permeates my life.

{Charming Barilla pasta advertisement from 1952, discovered through Design o’Blog’s artfully inspiring post 22 Beautiful Vintage Italian Posters.}

This week’s Muse is the Italy of the past. The sort of picturesque, crumbling brick building laden, wildly sophisticated, sometimes dirt poor sometimes dizzyingly rich world that was Italy pre, during, and post World War Two. When Sophia Loren and Gina Lollabrigida captivated silver screen audiences, it was de rigeur for widowed ladies to don head to toe black, Ferragamo’s creations were on the feet of many Italian fashion lovers, and over in America songsters with Italian surnames like Sinatra were ruling the charts.

{Gina Lollabrigida appears so sweetly girl next door while she posses in a beautiful summer dress. Photo via The Florentine.}

For Italian vintage pieces head right to the source – or if a trip abroad isn’t in the cards – to the website of an Italian vintage clothier such as Pitti Vintage in Florence whose site is in English. Who knows what sort treasures could be unearthed while riffling through a second hand or vintage shop in Italy. Maybe something incredible created by the likes of Sorelle Fontana, Fendi, Fernanda Gattinoni, Valentino, or Missoni. Though amazing as couture designers can be, I think I’d be very happy to find authentic Italian pieces hailing from the forties and fifties, the sort of that your everyday sort of woman wore.

While there are many wonderful Italian movies that were made in the mid-twentieth century, spanning from the heart wretchingly touching to the quirkily odd, without a doubt my all time favourite is Fellini’s 1960 classic, La Dolce Vita, which stared an impeccably well dressed and handsomely dashing Marcello Mastroianni as a journalist in the 1950s. More than the film’s plot itself (pure Fellini all the way), it is the culture – presented in black and white – of Italy during this time period, from upper class night clubs and a castle to the back streets of Rome that hold my attention rapt. It’s easy and more than a little romantic to image oneself in the sort of dreamy, devil may care world La Dolce Vita embodied (even if it did not reflect that Italy that most post WW2 Italians knew).

{Looking ravishingly beautiful as she played a character with striking similarities to Maryiln Monroe, Anita Ekberg exudes flirtatious beauty as she takes a dip in a Roman fountain. Movie still from the Wiki page on La Dolce Vita.}

To me vintage Italian style is about clean lines and subtle but feminine pieces. Full or pencil skirts, sweaters belted to reveal a woman’s curves, elegant heels, sultry swimwear. It is less flashy than modern Italian fashion, but no less desirable. The same of which could be said for life in Italy itself.

{Viva vintage Italia!}

1. Red Suede Platforms, 2. sophia 1961, 3. vintage poster - Olio Radino, 4. Coffee machine old italian style {Click on a link to see a larger version of a particular image and/or for photographer information}

Ciao until the next post, my bellissima vintage dears.


  1. oh i love la dolce vita! and the way it was used in Under the Tuscan Sun! did you ever see that?

  2. those coffee makers are the best thing EVER!

  3. Exactly my thoughts...La Dolce Vita scene reminded me "first" of Under the Tuscan Sun. That's because I saw it, again, last month -smile-.

  4. Hi Jessica!

    how did you and your italian hubby meet?! my parents are italian but i was born in america. so tell it as hard being married to an italian man as they say it is?! JK!

    Go Italia!


    love, love, love this post

  5. I want that scooter, the red shoes, the green cardi and the skirt please. Oh and those cute little gloves!

  6. Italian designers of the 1950's produced some gorgeous stuff. I'd love to go on a vintage road trip in Italy.

  7. Hi there, I love the vintage italian fashion. My great grandparents came from Sicily and i've been dying to visit there. Not to mention how much i'd kill to ride around town on a scooter, vespa or stella, I'm trying to save for one. Take care!

  8. Hi everyone, thank you each very much for your lovely comments!

    @elana-lu and Thistle Cove, I read the book a few years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit, yet my mind is drawing a total blank about the reference in it to Dolce Vita. Now I'll have a perfect excuse to see that movie. Thank you, ladies! :)

    @MissMatilda, aren't they just amazing? We don't even had an electric coffee maker, just one of those babies :D

    @MissRedLips, thank you, honey, for your sweet comment. Hubby and I met online in 2004 and married (in person!) later that same year. I like to say that it was love at first email :) On the whole I don't find it difficult to be married to an Italian native son at all. He's a picky eater, but other than that he's a real sweet heart of a fella, and I feel really fortunate that we found one another.

    @Moonspinner, so do I! I wish I could nab everything in that photo. She looks so ravishingly chic!

    @Couture Allure Vintage, yes, absolutely! A vintage hunting road trip to Italy sounds almost too good to be true.

    @Stumbleine, thank you for your comment, Autumn dear. I've heard that Sicily is positively beautiful, I really hope that you get to visit there one day. Personally I'm itching to see Rome in particular. If you're a fan of pink, you might really dig the pink Vespa (, it would be my dream Italian scooter :)

    Thank you all again ever so much for your fantastic comments! I love hearing from you and sharing in our love of vintage together. I had so much fun writing this Italian themed post that I've already got another one planned for down the road (lol, I might even consult hubby for "insider" info next time around ;D).

    Big hugs & wishes for a fantastic day to you all!

    ♥ Jessica

  9. Jessica, I love pink! I'd be more tempted to get a black scooter, only because black goes with everything.

  10. I'm a huge fan of La Dolce Vita. I love Italy of like the 50's and 60's. There was something so magical about it in films, etc. Sophia is a goddess to me.

  11. @ Stumbleine, that's a good point :) Wouldn't it be awesome if scooters were less expensive and you could colour coordinate them to your wardrobe? You could have a LBS (little black scooter) as you're "never fail, goes with anything" ride :D

    @ Keith, absolutely, she had (has!) that innate, incredible grace, style and je ne sais quoi which few actresses ever come close to possessing. What is your favourite Sophia film?