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150 Years of Elegance

A historic look at Italy's fashion industry curated by two of its most prominent visionaries

by Paolo Ferrarini in Style on 16 September 2011

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In celebration of Italy's 150th anniversary as a unified country, the marvelous Reggia di Venaria is hosting the exhibition "Fashion in Italy: 150 Years of Elegance" in the recently restored and equally ornate "Italian Versailles," a few miles outside of Turin.

The long journey through the history of Italian fashion is divided in two parts. The first is curated by Academy Award winning customer designer Gabriella Pescucci and covers the years 1861-1970. The second section was conceived by Vogue Italia's editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani, which illustrates the birth of Italian prêt-a-porter and the contemporary fashion industry.

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The exhibition not only covers the recent history of Italy's transformation in taste, but it also analyzes the constant change in the social condition of women. The 200 garments on display span Risorgimento to the years of Italian Reign, as well as the Fascist era and World War II, continuing to the birth of a truly national style in the '50s and the rise of contemporary designers such like Capucci, Albini, Valentino, Armani, Versace, Prada, Dolce&Gabbana.

Most of the historic clothes come from the foundation for the celebrated costume atelier Tirelli Trappetti. Some are original items, meant for daily use or special occasions, while others are famous costumes from classics films like Luchino Viscont's Il Gattopardo.

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Architect Michele De Lucchi handled the overall display and settings, which are based entirely on mirrors. A symbol of vanity, mirrors also allow patrons to enjoy the clothes from every point of view and feel immersed in the the evolution of style.

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To further enhance the experience, Laura Tonatto custom designed four different fragrances to underline the spirit of the different eras, used in the different room throughout the exhibit.

"Fashion in Italy: 150 Years of Elegance" runs through 8 January 2012 at Le Venaria Reale. See more images in the gallery.

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