We met our guide Sarah of Context Travel for the 3 hour private look at Milan Fashion, the Alta Moda walk. Our meeting point was – logically – in front of the Armani Cafe, in Milan’s fashion district, the Quadrilatero D’Oro.
Milan fashion history: Palazzo Morando
Our tour started with a visit to nearby Palazzo Morando, a fashion museum housed in an antique palace which displays centuries-old clothing and paintings, showing life in Milan as it was between the 17th and 19th centuries. Our guide pointed out how the women’s fashions, which came from France during these years, were extremely uncomfortable: tight corsets, large skirts with stiff and wide crinolines, and clothing head to toe which must have been uncomfortable in the hot summers. For men, pants ended at the knee, making socks an important fashion statement.
The woman’s dress in the painting above represents the change post-Napoleon: the woman is not wearing a corset, giant petticoat or crinoline, and with short sleeves and a plunging neckline, she is showing a lot of skin compared to what was previously acceptable. It’s important to note that this clothing was worn by the elite, not by everyday Milanesi, who are depicted in paintings displayed on the walls of the Palazzo, hard at work in their very basic clothing.
Milan fashion: modern history
After the museum, we walked through the fashion streets of the Quadrilatero D’Oro neighborhood (Via della Spiga, Via Montenapoleone, Via Gesu’, Via Santo Spirito, and Via Sant’Andrea) while Sarah explained how Milan became an international fashion capital. She explained:
The modern Milan fashion industry as we know it began in the 20th century with the three G’s: Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, and Gianfranco Ferre’.
Italian fashion spread to America thanks to Hollywood: movie stars wore the Italian designers’ dresses at weddings and on the red carpet, and producers included Italian fashions in their movies. The area around Milan produces wonderful textiles, and soon, other Italian designers started emerging.
Next, we stopped for a coffee break at the famous Pasticceria Marchesi, which was recently acquired by Prada. The fashion industry seems to be pulling pastry shops into their brands; across the street from the Pasticceria Marchesi is the prestigious Pasticceria Cova, which was purchased by fashion house LVMH in 2013.
Milan fashion: current trends
We were interested in where actual fashion-conscious shoppers with regular budgets were shopping in Milan these days, so Sarah took us to the new four-story store, Excelsior, next to Milan’s Cathedral. Sarah told us:
If you want to know what the most trendy current fashions are, trust Antonia.
Antonia is not a designer, but a buyer and although she has her own store, she’s also the main buyer for Excelsior. I was not expecting to buy anything, because it usually takes me at least a season or two to digest the new fashions before I’ll even consider trying anything on.
What an interesting tour! We said thank you to Sarah, but first I snapped a photo of her with Claudia, who works at Italy Beyond the Obvious in Milan:
Claudia and I were invited to this tour courtesy of Context Travel but all opinions are my own.
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