Intricate pleats in countless colorful hues cascade from a wide ruffed collar down the back of a voluminous gown. The gown’s colorful silk ripples call to mind a pinwheel, yet the dress’s shape provokes images of a butterfly in flight.
Insects, flowers, rainbows, Asian fans, architecture, each of these elements can be seen in the designs of Roberto Capucci, an Italian couturier and sculptor who gained acclaim after World War II and continues to design elaborate works of art to this day. Roberto Capucci: Art into Fashion, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, showcases over 80 of his most impressive works and allows the viewer to take a close look at these masterpieces of fabric.
Capucci began his career at age 20 by opening an atelier in Rome’s Via Sistina. The small but theatrical collection he showed in Florence in 1951 sold out to buyers and the young designer’s career took off. In 1962 he established his couture salon in France but returned to Rome a few years later. In 1980, in response to the rise of ready-to-wear, he decided to forgo to the twice-yearly fashion shows in favor of a single show each year in a different city. The gowns he made were never reproduced. They were no longer simply wearable garments, but silk sculptures.
Art into Fashion showcases Capucci’s designs with garments from his first collections to pieces and sketches he created for the Venice Biennale in 1995 and for the Museo della Fondazione Roberto Capucci in 2007. Iconic dresses such as the Nove gonne (Nine Dresses) gown with its nine tiers of skits, and pioneering box-line frocks show his forward-thinking attention to silhouette and his fascination with nature and architecture. Later sculptures feature complex pleating and striking color combinations, painstakingly created by Italian artisans.
The evolution of Capucci’s aesthetic is clearly seen in this exhibition. The garments and sculptures are shown on simple dress forms that allow the viewer to truly appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the works and the intense creativity of the man who made them.
Dresses and Sculptures by Capucci via Expensiva.com
Roberto Capucci: Art into Fashion is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until June 5, 2011. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/411.html?page=4&ticket=1