By  on September 23, 2010

Italian fashion first hit these pages on April 19, 1926. The catalyst: None other than Benito Mussolini, who had just launched his Pride-in-Appearance and Pride-in-Industry movements in Italy. “The consumer press nearly always has considered it humorous to ridicule the clothes idea,” WWD wrote, “not so Mussolini, for it has been evident…how much weight this dynamic personality places on the power of appearance, of space, beauty, toward enthusing and uplifting the people of the nation.” The new regulations covered the uniforms for army, navy and public service organizations — “even taxi drivers of Rome have been ordered to observe certain standards.”

Later that year, on Aug. 10, another report appeared on the subject, this time surveying the Parisian reaction, which was, actually, a nonreaction. “There was little interest in the couture today regarding Mussolini’s latest announcement commanding Italian fashions for Italy,” noted WWD. “Couturiers predicted briefly that, while Italian patriotism may stimulate good original design in that country, smart Italian women will accept only the styles sponsored by Paris, because smart society is cosmopolitan.” As for what exactly qualified as Italian style, there was to be a contest, judged by Queen Helen of Montenegro, among Italian designers to determine a standard. The Brits, meanwhile, weighed in six days later. “While admiration is expressed at the effort,” our London correspondent wrote, “it is believed that, unless the Italian woman differs entirely from every other woman in the world, Mussolini may at last meet defeat.”

And by the time those winning designs made their debut, he certainly did — at least in the fashion critics’ eyes. “Mussolini Style Models Resemble Medieval Priest’s Robe” blasted the page one headline on Aug. 19.

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