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The best things in life aren’t free - they’re Italian! Top 5 stylish signoras

There are specific images that come to mind when the average foreigner thinks of Italians: spaghetti, the mafia, espressos, Super Mario, hand gestures, romance... fashion. Mamma mia! According to Donatella Versace, for Italians “the three biggest fashion mistakes are cheap suits, shoes and shirts.” The charity-shop chic look is off the menu, then? Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada. So, whether you’re walking your Pincher nano Chihuahua (mini Pincher Chihuahua) down Quadrilatero della moda, or walking the Tappeto Rosso (red carpet) - always dress to impress. The signoras don’t get cute, they get drop dead gorgeous. All the time. And if you can’t keep up, try relocating. But Italy has come to London as the Victoria & Albert Museum opens its doors to the new exhibition, The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014. When it comes to style these five stylish signoras are in a league of their own. All eyes on Italy...

Text Adam Fletcher
Photography Bryan Adams [The Older & Wiser Issue, No. 272, December/January 2007]

  • Material girl

    Leonardo da Vinci famously said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” But what did he know of rainbow bird of paradise Anna Piaggi? Piaggi’s style mantra is: more is more, less is bore. With blue finger-wave hair, a random assortment of technicolour ostrich feathers and a birdcage instead of a handbag, she becomes the antithesis of the stereotypical Italian look. Piaggi, ti amo.

  • Golden Girl

    From lightweight silk dresses to saddlebags, designers are currently embracing yellow. After all, it is the colour of spring chicks, happiness and optimism. But when you’re La Carlotta from The Phantom of The Opera, and you march to the beat of your own drum, only one colour matters: gold. And if you don’t agree, she might just slap you with her giant feathered fan, or burst your eardrums. Oh no, she didn’t.

  • Out Outfit You

    It is 87 years since Elsa Schiaparelli burst onto the fashion scene with her first collection, consisting of sweaters adorned with surrealist trompe l’oeil images. Since then, she has been recognised far and wide for her beautiful Frankenstein-esque concoctions. Behold - the lobster dress, shoe hat, bee cape and talon glove! Schiaparelli’s creations won't destroy you, they'll make you.  

  • Italian beautiful

    Italians have their own extremely rare class of beauty that seems to separate them from the rest. And they can be seen almost everywhere. Between them they have fronted campaigns for Dolce & Gabbana, Diesel, Gucci and Versace. It seems that no catwalk show, campaign or film is whole without a signora adding her own individual brio and bravura. With her eyes a-poppin’ and lips a-bustin’, our favourite is Monica Bellucci. Che bella!

  • O.P.U.L.E.N.C.E. You own everything

    For many of us, looming death and poverty would be enough to cause an existential crisis, or at least a wardrobe downgrade: trade in your Manolo's for a pair of plain pumps. Well, not for eccentric Italian heiress La Casati. For her, Cleopatra clearly had it right: accumulate as many riches the nearer you get to death. She even went into the afterlife looking elegant: buried not only in her black and leopard skin finery but also sporting a pair of false eyelashes and accompanied by her beloved stuffed Pekinese. Let them eat cake.