Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945
opens today at the Portland Art Museum. I can't tell you how many times longtime Portlanders have expressed surprise at this show... Portland and fashion? Yet it is no secret that Portland has changed. Now there is a tight knit and respected clothing design scene here and design of all types is one of the major new economic drivers of this hip yet not following anybody else city. The subject appeals to Portland on numerous levels. There's the obvious design connection, but it is also the way fashion is a way to express optimism on a personal meets community level. Portland gets that. Then there is the strong Italian influence you can find in our cafe culture, espresso anyone? Lastly, there is the museum itself with its Belluschi designed wing where the exhibition begins. The travertine marble floors and palazzo style arcade of the Schnitzer Atrium didn't need any Italianification. The show itself is exquisite. My personal favorite being Mila Schon's gown for Jaqueline Kennedy for Truman Capote's Black and White Ball. It is all here, Marucelli, Gucci, Versace, Dolce and Gabana, Prada... there is even a kitty sweater. A room of Portland designers with Italian influence rounds out the exhibition.
There is some menswear including a suit for JFK and as local designer Elizabeth Dye mentioned at the preview fashion is really for everyone. Sure, some of this is ultra bespoke couture but a lot of it is an expression of handmade values and an expression of community pride.
A large portion of it is about comfort and style and the Ferrari in the lobby shows just how Italian Style as a mode caught on in the USA with much broader appeal than French fashion. The Ferrari induces constant Ferris Beuller references and references to Audrey Hepburn's old Hollywood glamour are everywhere. About the only thing missing is Bjorn Borg's icon 70's Fila sportswear (Nike and Adidas wouldn't be half of what they are today without Bjorn's immense appeal, Nike snagged McEnroe quickly), it is something Victoria and Albert Museum curator Sonnet Stanfill admitted, though she points it was added to the book for that reason. Still, the exhibition is stunning and a must see as an expression of community pride in design, craft and style. Portland might be relentlessly casual but it is a studied relentlessness that makes this contrasting approach so interesting to us.
Italian Style | February 7 - May 3
Curators's Talk: February 8, 2-3PM
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park
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