ELEANOR STREHL | DATE 9/30/2009
Last week saw the arrival of a new title from the Italian publisher Damiani, Fashion at the Time of Fascism. This book has been much anticipated because of its provocative concept, aided by a catchy title. One is of course curious to see how the editors address the potentially controversial notion of putting fascism on display. The answer is: with impeccable neutrality.
The book is an exploration of the mutual influence of Mussolini’s fascist government and the producers of Italian culture and fashion between the years of 1922 and 1943, the results of which are uncomfortably yet undeniably pleasing to the eye. We see page after page of lovely brunettes in elegantly draped garments or smart suits with sculptural caps perched over their immaculate curls.
The book is organized thematically under very general subject headers that encompass the process of fashion from conception through production to display. The subject titles are more evocative than definitive: “Measurement,” “Model,” “Mark” and “Parade.” Within each general subject category every related association that occurred to the editors Mario Lupano and Alessandra Vaccari is documented with a two-page spread or two of period photographs and ephemera.
For example, the “Measurement” section which covers the nuts and bolts of clothing production contains spreads with titles like “Zip,” “Paper-Patterns,” “Fitting” and “Rationing.” The images predominate, largely speaking for themselves with assistance from exhaustive but unobtrusive captions. Essays expanding on the ideas raised by the images are kept to a minimum, taking up a column of space here and there. The informality of the presentation makes what could otherwise be an intimidatingly large and weighty tome (literally and figuratively—the book is the product of three years of research and clocks in at four pounds) a pleasure to pick up and flip through.
Hbk, 9.5 x 12 in. / 400 pgs / 700 color.