Monday, February 21, 2011

Roberto Capucci: Art into Fashion

I've always been enchanted by the story of John Fowler spending hours holed up in the Victoria & Albert museum studying its collection of women's costume and dress. Certainly not a bad way to spend an afternoon, and an endeavor that proved fruitful during his career. After all, he was and still is the undisputed master of curtain making and design. So many of his curtains resemble elaborate ballgowns, don't they?

If I lived in Philadelphia, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'd too hole myself up and seek design inspiration at the
Roberto Capucci: Art into Fashion exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibit celebrates the forward-thinking Italian fashion designer and artist noted for his inventive construction and use of fabric. Worn by the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Gloria Swanson, Capucci's creations have also influenced younger designers including Ralph Rucci, one who is also noted for his architectural approach to fashion. Speaking of architecture, one of Capucci's most famous designs is his Colonna dorica dress, a silk satin creation based upon, yes, a Doric column.

So what's to glean from this exhibit? Well, an obvious answer would be the construction of the clothing. Look at the pleating of one dress or the voluminous skirt of another. Could that be translated into curtains? A lamp shade? Even an elaborate table skirt? Think about the weird but wonderful details he used like plastic cubes and pebbles. And of course, there are those riotous color combinations.

Unfortunately, I don't think my travels will be taking me to Philadelphia this spring, but if you happen to be in the city from March 16 through June 5, I urge you to visit the museum. That way, you can tell me all about it. In the meantime, I plan to purchase the exhibit's corresponding book pronto, as Roberto Capucci might say.

Bocciolo (Bud) Dress, a 2009 reproduction of a 1956 original, made of silk taffeta.

Colonna dorica (Doric Column) Sculpture Dress, 1978, silk satin.

A dress made of cotton lame and plastic with plastic cubes, 1967

Silk shantung taffeta and silk georgette dress with pebbles, 1972.

Sculpture Dress, silk taffeta and silk georgette, 1980.

Sculpture Dress, silk crepe and silk gazar, 1984.

Sculpture Dress, silk velvet and pleated silk taffeta, 1987.

Sculpture Dress, silk taffeta, 1987.

Sculpture Dress, pleated silk taffeta, 1992.

Sculpture Dress, silk satin, 1992.

Sculpture Dress, silk taffeta, 1992.

All images courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art


  1. Anonymous8:00 AM

    Wonderful post and the glowing colors of these gowns are magnificent. Roberto Capucci has a rose named for him from the Italian hybridizer, Rosa Barni. It is a beautiful peach color with wonder fragrance. This post is a lovely tribute to both designers.

  2. Beautiful Post - love the art of clothing.
    I wrote a related post on the beauty of vintage dresses: that you might find of interest. Cheers!

  3. What a lovely post! wonderful content.

  4. LOVE this - I may just have to hop on a train for this one!! Especially after having just done the rounds at fashion week!!

  5. Kathleen Luckard12:11 PM

    The colors are fabulous - so clear and elegant.

  6. Great coverage of the show! I am very much looking forward to attending the gala and exhibition when it opens. xo style, she wrote

  7. We're heading to the show today and I'm excited to see the exhibits. His beautiful use of color and form are extraordinary!

  8. Margaret Maugenest11:06 PM

    I JUST saw the show. Had never heard of Capucci until this morning when I looked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art website and saw a picture of one his creations. I was on the bus to Philly within the hour (I live in Brooklyn, NY). It is sheer pleasure and joy, this exquisite exhibit. I spent almost 3 hours in quiet rapture. Colors, line, shape elegance. For one piece he had made 1200 sketches (that's right, 1200) and it took 40 people to execute. One gown was made up of 25 shades of red to resemble the flames in a fire. The gown next to it was all grays looking like smoke. One gown was inspired by the beating of hummingbirds' wings. Another by sections of an orange. Another reminded me of the Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre. Then there were these stunning, elegant short dresses - with curls, and shelves, and boxes. Can't explain - trust me, they're amazing constructions.
    And what a beautiful man Capucci is - his eyes, his gentle demeanor.
    The only question I have is - how are these sculptural pieces ironed/pressed/steamed? They are all immaculate complex forms!

  9. Margaret- Sounds like it is an amazing exhibit, and I'm so glad that you got to go! I wish that I lived a little closer to Philadelphia; I think that I'll have to settle for the book! His creativity is just astounding!

  10. Wow! I bet this would be fantastic to see. He is a great Italian designer and it's so nice to see his clothes in this way. It looks very, very elegant indeed - if only we lived anywhere near! Ciao.

  11. Margaret M. described Capucci and the show perfectly....I saw it today, May 17, 2011 and I'll add bellissimo!

  12. Anonymous5:05 PM

    Just took a busload of women from Baltimore to the show yesterday. We were all blown away! These dresses are really sculptural works of art!
    Loved the show!

  13. Anon- So glad you loved it! I so wish that I could see it. This is the kind of exhibit that I enjoy attending.