Who wears haute couture and why?
It is Friday evening and I’m walking through the center of Rome as I find myself climbing the stairs of an old, but perfectly preserved beautiful building at via Toscana 1. I arrive at Maison Gattinoni where I find some of my colleagues from university and our professor. We are welcomed inside the main room where we heard some interesting facts about the history of the fashion house.
While listening to the story of Fernanda Gattinoni, who established the Maison Gattinoni, I was looking around the room at the spectacular gowns that are part of both─ Gattinoni and the cinema history. As Madame Fernanda opened her first atelier in via Marche, her first client was the actress Clara Calamai and so the very first garment to have the Fernanda Gattinoni Haute Couture label was a green velvet suit.
After a few years, Fernanda Gattinoni moved the atelier to via Toscana, where I was standing now. This convenient location (near the American Embassy and the Hotel Excelsior) allowed regular visitors, from foreign powerful women to famous actresses, to come at the spot for fittings. She has designed for many great women in history and cinema like Clare Boothe Luce, Jackie Kennedy, Anna Magnani, Lana Turner, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Ingrid Bergman, Gina Lollobrigida, Lucia Bosè, Monica Vitti, Ava Gardner, Kim Novak, Elizabeth Taylor, Uma Thurman, Penelope Cruz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Asia Argento.
You can see the fine embroidery work in every piece of Gattinoni. Like in the other gowns around the room, most of which were from the SS2018 collection. On the left of the door, there is Gattinoni Couture mannequin dressed with a black velvet dress with tulle parts. The skirt part has an embroidery shaping an arc in between two Corinthian columns under which you can see the handwritten-like ‘G’ standing for Gattinoni. The upper part is a bustier with a halter shaped neckline with a white collar on top.
Across the door is positioned a gown worn by Virginia Raggi (current mayor of Rome) on the red carpet attending the inaugural event of the season of the Opera (2017) and a cape made once for the famous Italian actress Anna Magnani complimented her look. You can see the details on the dress created by bleaching the velvet parts and embroidering them with little paillettes.
In the center of the room is displayed the ivory organza and satin dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in “War and Peace” in 1956. “Audrey was the belle of the ball when she appeared in this beautiful ivory gown. Aside from her own beauty, she stood out due to its beautiful, shimmery organza fabric and the glittery rhinestones, which adorn it. I usually stray from empire waists but it suited Audrey, and in general, it looks flattering in this case since the dress falls close to the body and still highlights curves.
Satin ribbon trim is featured throughout the dress on the sleeves, neckline, the top of the waist, and again at the bottom of the dress for further embellishment. The slightly puffed short sleeves and the low scoop neck accentuate the bust—something which Audrey didn’t try to highlight very often—but it’s a regal and feminine look and flattered her. Her matching opera gloves elevated the dress wonderfully as did the rhinestone-adorned wide V-neck back. The gorgeous tiara and earrings topped the whole look perfectly.
Fun fact: The costume designer for War and Peace, Maria De Matteis, asked Fernanda Gattinoni to make Audrey’s costumes, which were displayed at an exhibit for Gattinoni’s designs a few years ago.” 1
This leads me to my main question: ‘Who wears haute couture?’ I think we already answered that (Beyoncé ❤, for example), if you are a celebrity the pressure is enormous. Everyone is following you, how you look, and the expectations of you not changing body-wise (if not intentional) are unreal. Now, if you are not a celebrity, you can relax. Hopefully, there isn’t such a big pressure put on your appearance, if you are not creating it yourself.
Guillermo Mariotto, Creative Director of Maison Gattinoni, told us a story that recently happened to him and how he is dazzled with women’s ability to forget everything else when it comes to the ‘perfect dress’. “The drama, the big drama of the couture, the dress, the dress, the dress. Amazing. Sometimes I think I’m in a nightmare… it’s a dream sometimes, but it’s a nightmare. Ladies going nuts for a dress. Amazing…”
What is more interesting is ‘Why?’ Why haute couture? When does it make sense for the non-celebrity to get such art pieces? Is it not a crime to hang all this beauty and hard work in your wardrobe when it actually belongs to the museum?
Guillermo answered this for me. He took a little break from work and came to talk to us for around 15 minutes. From our conversation, if not a celebrity, the ultimate excuse (if she needs one) a woman has for spending around 30 000 € (more or less) would be for her wedding or some similar important events.
What is the haute couture about?
Some would say about art, expression, fantasy, the finest work or all of these together.
Here is the most important lesson from Guillermo ─ ‘It’s about the body first. The difference between us is the richness that we have. We are all different ─ somebody has beautiful eyes, somebody has great hair, and somebody has a big butt.’
Yes, he said it (he is very spirited). He told us how the Kardashians has made some difference since some clients started wanting to show off their bottoms and in a way copying Kim, for example, which before would be something they would hide. Guillermo was telling us about how everything starts with the desired body shape.
“What can you do to make me look like a guitar?”
In other words, his first work is on what is inside the dress and making his client wish come true. The designer’s first job is to carve the body that the client wants. Whether they want to be thinner, hide some things, push up others… Only then, he starts working on the actual dress, as he said, “you need the furniture, then you put the vase and then you put the flowers.”
I believe that the take out for us ladies is that by taking care of ourselves we can save a couple of thousand euros. On a serious note though, as Vecellio wrote: “If then the clothes were making the man, now the man is making (giving value to) the clothes.”
Not every day is a fashion show day, your wedding or gala night, but you can still feel special every day and that will show! We often forget that the flowers are most beautiful in the nature, not in the vase.
Take care of yourself and love yourself!
P. S. If you want to learn more about Fernanda Gattinoni and Gattinoni Couture, I would recommend these reads:
Something about Beyoncé’s dress: http://madamenoire.com/722103/the-blackstory-behind-beyonces-tidal-x-1015-dress/