Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

Fashion and Futurism: Performing Dress

Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

Fashion and Futurism: Performing Dress

Article excerpt

"Si pensa e si agisce come si veste."

(Balla 1914: 90)

"Rinnovare la moda italiana nel vestiario maschile significa anteporre all'esterofilia cafona ed alle importazioni galliche anglosassoni antitaliane l'orgoglio novatore della nostra razza piu geniale, piu intuitiva, piu veloce di tutt'i popoli passati presenti e futuri. [... ] Italiani, abolite i nodi, le farfalle, le spille, i fermagli, cianfrusaglie antiveloci antiigieniche antiottimistiche! Regalatele ai vostri bambini perche le attacchino alle code dei gatti o dei cani, unico posto dove non siano ridicole! [...]. Il carattere di un uomo si rivela attraverso la cravatta che porta. Oggi, divina epoca motoristica dinamica simultaneista, il carattere di un uomo non deve apparire da un nodo e un pezzetto di stoffa, ma dalla lucentezza e dalla purezza del metallo. Percio invitiamo tutti gli italiani maschi a boicottare le cravatte d'uso comune e ad usare la cravatta futurista lanciata da noi il 27 Marzo 1933 in Verona."

(Di Bosso and Scurto 147)

Futurism and Fashion

From the second half of the nineteenth century and until the years immediately following WWII, England (especially for male tailoring) and France were the two European nations that held the power of fashion, thus acquiring the cachet of being perceived as nations that were both modern and elegant. London, and especially Paris, became desirable tourist destinations where, among other things, wealthy customers could dress the part and refashion themselves. These are some of the reasons why in the first decades of the twentieth century, before Italy and the United States were able to send a convincing message of elegance and sophistication to their customers, some of the local Italian fashion houses used French sounding labels on their clothing to legitimize their production, casting onto it an aura of sophistication for the demanding customers who craved Parisian couture. Meanwhile a ready-to-wear industry was gradually taking form and expanding, and began to define the codes of a well suited and dressed bourgeois class of men and women living, working and appearing in an urban space. Cities were, in fact, growing and took center stage in literary production, film and art. Therefore, we cannot accurately assess Futurism's contribution to fashion and dress if we divorce it from urbanity and urban space.

Annali d'Italianistica 27 (2009). A Century of Futurism 1909-2009

It is not by chance, then, that one of the most well known philosophers of the time, Georg Simmel, who wrote on cities, also wrote one of the most seminal essays on fashion, first published in 1895 and republished in 1905: "Fashion". Simmel, in fact, established a very intimate link among fashion, modernity, the city/urban space and the mass society that was gradually emerging from the industrial revolution. Against the backdrop of capitalism in full bloom and the project of restructuring urban spaces, city neighborhoods, the creation of new spaces of consumption, and the birth of the department store, Simmel identified and connected the contradictory sides of fashion. On the one hand, as he saw it, fashion is characterized by uniformity, while, on the other, it is characterized by an opposite drive towards differentiation and change, the engines that drive its cycles of production and consumption. These are also the mechanisms that, according to Simmel, are at work within the individual and the construction of identity. More importantly for the topic of this article, the ideas of newness, change and speed characterizing fashion were elements that fascinated Futurist artists such as Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero, Tullio Crali, Ernesto Michaelles (Thayaht) and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who all gave special emphasis to fashion and dress in their project of "reconstructing the universe" and, as in the case of Depero and Prampolini, put them on display in their costume and stage design. …

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