Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fashion Forward in Florence

Artist Jenny Bush is in the foreground.
While I was still dazzled by the Karl Lagerfeld presentation in the Pitti Palace--the thirty-foot long photo penants of fashion models interspersed among the equally impressive chandeliers in The White Room fluttered in my memory--I decided to do a bit of shopping on my own.

The leather market, the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, a few blocks from the Ponte Vecchio features the brass boar whose nose you rub to ensure your return to Florence and dozens of stalls under the protection of an arched roof. Here you can find leather goods of all kinds as well as pashmina shawls, ties and gloves.
How could I resist that honest smile?
This man convinced me I could not live without a gorgeous leather handbag he offered at a "wonderful price." (I gave up smoking years ago, but my purse obsession is harder to conquer.) I've been assured that the goods sold here are indeed leather if they are marked as such, so I hope my new, sturdy bag of "cow leather" will last a lifetime.

Then, with plenty of time before class, I wandered over to the Ferragamo Museum. This family evidently supports the British Institute since we regularly meet in the Fiamma Ferragamo room of the Harold Acton Library for lectures, movies or, on Thursdays, for British tea, so I was curious to see their collections.

I loved seeing the shoe molds for Lauren Bacall, Marilyn (who needed only one name for identification), Rita Hayworth, and Royal Baby, but there were many collections of clothing from several eras which were fascinating as well.

Are the movie stars' feet larger or smaller than you expected?
The theme of this presentation tries to answer the question "Is Fashion Art?" and the tumultuous 1960s period is well represented. Knock-offs of some of those dresses used to hang in my closet!

Andy Warhol designed this one.

This beautiful gown was made of paper.

Bet you had a dress similar to this one!
One room consisted of a surround-sound-visual experience whose message still eludes me, but at least no one was writhing about in pain while occasionally pulling his pants down. You can tell that vision from the Lagerfeld exhibit still fluttered in my memory too.

This designer will be happy to create a gown expecially for you.
I left the museum with a new appreciation for textile arts, and, I think, an answer to the question. If you look at some of the ateliers in town where custom clothing is made, there is no doubt you are witnessing art.

Practicalities -

The museum is located on the fashionable via Tournabuoni in the Palazzo Spini Feroni just over the Ponte Santa Trinita (the bridge just west of Ponte Vecchio). That may sound confusing, but it is quite easy to find the place. Just look for the elegant Ferragamo store, and you'll find the museum on the side and down a flight of stairs.

If you hanker for hand-made shoes, go to the Oltrarno and take the first street on your right, Via del Bardadori, after crossing the Ponte Vecchio. The shoe shop will be on your left, halfway down the block, just before the post office.