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Tedious hedonism

August 19, 2009

Lounging poolside with all the other beauties at Mr Goldfinger’s Palm Springs mansion could get a bit monotonous. There were, after all, only so many peeled grapes a girl could consume. Luckily the odd handsome English secret agent would occasionally infiltrate the premises. There was nothing like a little gunfire and a fast car chase or two to liven up the tedious hedonism

Harem/MC Hammer style trousers seem to be everywhere for fall/winter 2009. But Emilio Pucci got there first in this 1960s Vogue Couturier pattern! Listing another Pucci pattern in my store made me realise how little I actually know about this designer. I guess we could all spot a psychedelic Pucci fabric (or Pucci inspired fabric) in a kaleidoscope of colours a mile away, but what else should we know about this designer who has become a household name?

Well, Emilio Pucci, Marchese di Barsento (1914-1992), seems to have been one of those annoying individuals who could do it all. In 1935 he won a skiing scholarship to Reed College in Oregon, received an MA in social science from Reed in 1937, and was awarded his doctorate in political science from the University of Florence the same year. In 1938 he joined the Italian Air Force, and served as a bomber pilot during WWII, rising to the rank of captain and decorated for valour by the time he left to pursue his fashion career. Whew.

But what catapulted Pucci into fashion was apparently his interest in skiing. (At the age of 17 he apparently travelled to Lake Placid as part of the Italian team at the 1932 Winter Olympics, but did not compete.) The very first clothes designed by Pucci were for the Reed College skiing team. Then in 1947 skiwear that he had designed for a friend was photographed by a photographer working for Harper’s Bazaar.  Pucci was then asked to design skiwear for a story on European Winter Fashion, which ran in the winter 1948 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. What was revolutionary was the fabric- there had been some experiments with stretch fabrics in Europe before the war, but Pucci’s sleek designs caused a sensation. (He received several offers from American manufacturers to produce them.) He left the Air Force and set up a haute couture house on the Isle of Capri.

By the early 50’s, the international jetset were mad about Pucci. Marilyn Monroe was buried with one of his dresses, and his designs were worn by everyone from Sophia Loren to Jackie Kennedy. Then, in 1965, Braniff International Airways decided to update their image, and  Pucci was asked to design new clothes for their air hostesses. His radical uniforms included turtlenecks, t-shirts, crop jackets and culottes and a “bubble helmet” — a clear plastic hood worn by flight attendants between terminal building and aircraft to protect their hair from rain and the blast of jet engines.

The company he created is still going strong as “Emilio Pucci” – proof that great design never dates.

Did I mention that a bevy of new patterns as well as the Pucci one have been listed in my Etsy store? I didn’t? Click on the pics for more pattern stories and listings:

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 19, 2009 11:15 am

    Thanks for this info: Reed College in Oregon is not at all the place I’d’ve imagined Pucci starting/being/or even knowing about. A tidbit that brightened a hot and humid morning–even though I’ll pass on the pattern!

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