Italian Style on the Silver Screen

Movies have always influenced fashion. From Joan Crawford in her Letty Lynton dress, through to Audrey Hepburn taking her Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Faye Dunaway as the beret wearing Bonnie Parker, to Diane Keaton as Annie Hall, fashion has taken its cues from the best of film styling.

And perhaps it is the magical world of Italian cinema that has had the greatest influence on fashion trends. From Lucia Bose clad in haute Couture in ‘Cronaca di un Amore'(1950) to the earthy sensuality of Silvano Mangano in Bitter Rice(1949), Italian cinema has made clothes an important part of the film story, able to highlight style, mood and personality through the swish of a skirt, or the doffing of a hat.

All of these factors are highlighted in a wonderful exhibition of film stills that is currently making its way around the country. The Peroni Collection is currently presenting the exhibition ‘Italian Style on the Silver Screen’, a collection of rare and little seen images from both Italian, and Italian Influenced movies. This has been curated by top photographer Rankin, and fashion writer Anna Battista. I caught up with the exhibition at the Artbox Gallery on Birmingham’s ‘The Mailbox’ on Friday.

The Artbox Gallery is the perfect venue for an exhibition of black and white images. The stark white walls and high ceilings make it a bright, airy gallery and an amazing display space. Quotes from Rankin and Anna Battista are displayed on the whitewashed walls, along with the beautifully framed photographs that show the story of Italian film fashion history.

The photographs show both the high Octane glamour and the  more earthy sensuality of Italian cinema. From the earliest shots Humphrey Bogart wearing a Borsalino hat in ‘Casablanca’, to shots of the newly disgraced Ingrid Bergman in Roberto Rossellini’s Stromboli and ‘No Greater Love’, there are representations of Hollywood and European stars. Ava Gardner is shown wearing costumes from the Fontana Sisters in ‘The Barefoot Contessa’, whilst Audrey Hepburn wears their clothes in the wonderful ‘Roman Holiday’.

Ingrid Bergman Europa 51

Roman Holiday

Ava Gardner The Barefoot Contessa

The major Sex Symbols of the 1950s and 1960s were represented at their peak of beauty. Both BB and CC were there, in the forms of Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale. Anita Ekberg was shown filming the iconic Trevi Fountain scene from ‘La Dolce Vita’ whilst there were images of Sophia Loren in The Millionairess and ‘Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today’.

The Millionairess

Monica Vitti in L'Eclisse

Brigitte Bardot

Claudia Cardinale

The most amazing image was the Space Age image of Silvano Mangano in costume design by Piero Tosi in ‘Una sera come le altre'(1967), clad in fetish like PVC and a spiky headdress. I also loved the bright coloured shot from ‘Juliet of the Spirits.'(1965)

My mom with the amazing image of Silvano Mangano

Shots of the gorgeous Daniel Craig and equally gorgeous Eva Green in Casino Royale brings the exhibition right up to the present, with designs from Roberto Cavilli showing that Italian style is still a major contributor to film fashion.

‘Italian Style on the Silver Screen’ is at the Artbox Gallery,  Mailbox, Birmingham until 21st March, when it moves to The No Walls Gallery in Brighton. Catch it while you can, and if you attend after 5.00pm you can enjoy a chilled beer, courtesy of Peroni!

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