Galleria Del Costume , Florence – Part Two.

Hey and welcome back to part two of my review of the Galleria Del Costume in Florence Italy. You can read part on here.  We left off with the dresses of Donna Franca Florio and move onto my favourite pieces in the exhibition- dresses owned and worn by Antonella Cannavo Florio. Antonella was a talented pianist and wife to the Italian Consul of Thailand in Rome, Count Emilio Florio.

The dresses in this section of the exhibition were designed by or attributed to the atelier of the famous Roman couturier Emilio Schuberth. Schuberth was clearly influenced by 19th century romanticism in his 1950s take on mid to late 19th century costume. Schuberth used drapery, embellishment and hand painted floral decorative motifs the dresses he made. Most notably, Schuberth was influenced by the wardrobe of Empress Eugenie of France, as can be seen in the pictures below.

























Crinolline evening dress of ivory silk satin with floral Leaver lace bodice. Fitted and boned bodice with sweetheart neckline and back zipper closure. Attributed to Emilio Schuberth, 1950-1952. 


Full-length evening dress with circle skirt of ivory silk satin with appliqued flowers, embroidery, rhinestones and fitted and boned bodice. Attributed to Emilio Schuberth, c.1950-1952.


Detail of appliqued roses, with painted acrylic vines with embroidered bugle beads and rhinestones.  

Empress Eugénie *oil on canvas *142 x 111 cm                                                                                                                                                                       

Empress Eugenie of France, c.1860s. There is a clear influence in Emilio Schuberth’s work from the wardrobe and dresses of Empress Eugenie.

Two of my favorite pieces in the Anna Piaggi section of the exhibition that just screamed ‘1920s Flapper’ at me, namely two opera capes or evening coats. Anna Piaggi was a fashion journalist and author, who amassed a large amount of vintage and contemporaneous fashion pieces in her private collection.  In 2009, the Italian government stopped an export of her collection to Christine’s auction house in London as some pieces in Piaggi’s collection were deemed of great national importance to the history of Italian fashion. Thus this meant that eight pieces of he collection were bought for the Galleria Del Costume and saved for future prosperity.


 Half-circle black silk velvet with repeating pattern of swirling vine leaves, pinecones and tulips. Maria Monaci Gallenga, circa 1920.


Detail of of a silk velvet Art Deco cape with a motif of roses in shades of pink, fuchsia and claret. With a trim of Leaver’s lace in a plant motif. Attributed to Paul Poiret, circa 1920.

The ebb and flow of this exhibition went from one historical era to another e.g. the 1920s flowed seamlessly into the 1930s and so on and so forth. The exhibition text was concise and to the point, without leaving anything out and translated excellently into English. Additionally, where appropriate there was photographs, drawings and paintings of the designers and the woman who wore their dresses to give the dresses some socio-historical context.

Towards the end of the exhibition, there was a display of wedding dresses that spanned represented dresses from the early 20th century to the 1980s. Pictures below display how the varying styles of wedding dress changed with each historical or fashion era. Most notably the flapper style wedding dress of the 1920s and the full skirted dress representative of the 1950s silhouette. The labels in this section of the exhibition also gave some historical context to the wedding dresses; such as the 1940s dress pictured below was made in a certain way to comply with Italy’s clothes rationing during WW2.


Wedding dress of artificial and real silk with a gathered bust line tied at centre bust, sharp knife pleats fall from the centre waistband accompanied with tucks and pleats to left & right. Worn by Giuseppina Rosanova on her wedding day 27th April 1942, made by the Sartoria Di Sciullo in Rome.


Ivory ‘mermaid tail’ wedding dress of  silk taffeta with bias cuts on train of dress. Surface is hand embroidered in stylized feathers made from glass beads, rhinestones, pearls and bugle beads. Possibly worn by Edith Liddell, 1937, dress designed by Norman Hartnell.


Detail of above feathered beadwork.

If I ever decided to get married I would absolutely wear the amazing Norman Hartnell dress at my wedding, though I may need to grow a few inches to make the dress for me! After the display of wedding dresses in an aptly white room (as seen in the YouTube video below-though all the fashion pieces were displayed in amazing rooms!) the interpretation took a different turn and included paintings alongside fashion pieces. These dresses were worn by the sitter’s in the paintings; in fact some of the paintings even featured dresses that were in the exhibition as in the case of Donna Franca Florio and her black dress featured in my last blog post.


Blue silk or taffeta bustle dress of c.1880s with mauve underskirt and ruffled back. Rounded neck with sharp knife pleats running from right to left; design repeats itself on front of skirt. Unknown maker.


Purple velvet dress with blue beaded trim to bottom, puffed sleeves with embroidered princess sleeve detail. Sleeves forming into a point above wrist; trimmed with cream muslin. Bodice of rounded open front with muslin centrepiece, purple and gold sequinned and glass bead floral motif to either side of bodice. Floral and branch motif of same sequins/beads to front of dress. C. 1890s, unknown maker.


Taupe coloured calico or stiffened cotton overcoat, c.1860s. Hood with pleated detail and trim of red lines. Bodice of draped cloak over top half and matching sleeves; both trimmed with faded red fringing. Skirt of cloak fastened to centre front with large circular buttons. Red five striped pattern with border of looped stitching running throughout dress. Unknown maker.


Detail of above cloak. Red machine stitched edging with border of rounded looped stitching. Edged with faded red stitching. 

Overall, the exhibition Women in the Spotlight (or to give it it’s Italian name;  Donne Protagoniste) was an excellent exhibition centred on the theme of the female contribution to the development and history of Italian fashion. I went to this exhibition knowing little or nothing of Italian fashion, besides Italian fashion designers such as the houses of Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada etc. After viewing this exhibition my knowledge was enhanced and amplified; I came away with a good generic knowledge of Italian fashion from the 20th century to the modern day.

The display of the pieces on clear glass pieces with the exhibition labels separate from the pieces themselves let the viewer get a sense of these wonderful dresses without labels being in the way of their view. Furthermore, the setting of the magnificent rooms of the Pitti Palace really added to the sumptuousness of the fabrics used in the various dresses. If you’re in Florence I’d definitely recommend visiting this exhibition as it might relieve your mind of all the classical and Renaissance art you see in Florence! Check out my video below of the exhibition (still learning how to edit!)

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Image captions abbreviated from Women in the Spotlight Exhibition Catalogue, Published by Firenze Museums, costs 30.00 Euros. All photographs (c) Rachel Sayers 2016.

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