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Elegance and charm, sure. But personality before all else. The dresses on display at Palazzo Pitti’s Costume Gallery, celebrating its first 30 years, have all this and more. They belong to women who left their mark on the art world at large and indirectly tell the history of fashion in Italy. As the title says, these were women in the spotlight in the twentieth century. The exhibition snakes through the halls of the Gallery and was curated by the architect Mauro Linari.

The pieces on display, which were all donated, include the magnificent dresses of Rosa Geroni, who was considered the godmother of Italian fashion in the early twentieth century; there are the tunics that Fortuny made especially for Eleonora Duse and the legendary gowns of the noblewoman Donna Franca Florio.

Manto da corte Pisanello, Rosa Genoni, 1906; Sopravveste di Eleonora Duse, Manifattura veneziana, Mariano Fortuny (attr.), circa 1915; Tunica di Eleonora Duse, Manifattura veneziana, Mariano Fortuny (attr.), circa 1910-1920

Some very rare pieces were donated by Cecilia Matteucci Lavarini, a collector and regular presence on catwalks and backstage, and others were donated by the fashion designers Susan Nevelson and Lietta Cavalli. Along the winding staircase in the ballroom you can admire evening dresses designed by Gucci, Versace and Cavalli, which the divine Patty Pravo donated to the museum. These are the costumes worn by the Pravo, a Venetian singer, during her three appearances at the Sanremo Festival.

Abito da sera di Patty Pravo, Gucci, 1987; Abito da sera di Patty Pravo, Gianni Versace, 1984

Jewelry made of non-precious materials and costume jewelry are on display, given by Flora Wiechmann Savioli and Angela Caputi, respectively. Nine wedding gowns represent brides. Also of interest are weavings by women from Rwanda that designers made into jewelry. These pieces and accessories overflow with inspiration, embodying the strong spirits of very different women, each of whom made her mark on the twentieth century in their own unique way.

Exhibition’s page