By David Stuchbury
Dolce & Gabbana – Modern History
The Italian Look
The creators and purveyors of a look that is Italian in all its wonder and complexities. Founded in 1985 by Dominico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, their first collection was a direct and potent enhancement of unashamedly Mediterranean femininity, with a dose of Catholic reverence in the mix too. Think Sophia Lauren, mid-nineties Madonna or the ultimate Dolce&Gabbana inspiration, actress Claudia Cardinale for a sense of how the brand can be described as traditional/transgressive: risk-taking sensibilities with daring cuts and an arch sexuality, but also adhering to a stricter scheme in concordance with the ordinances of Italian society and religion.
Of course, to a certain extent, this is what Gucci do. But that brand plays a little heavier and more severely on its own iconography, and is a little political too. Dolce&Gabbana tends to be more playful - colour and silhouette conforming or freeing the female form in order to celebrate it.
D&G’s founders have certainly courted plenty of controversy over the last few years – sparking furore when an add made fun of a model’s attempt to eat Italian food with chopsticks, the incident virtually shut the company out of its biggest market in 2020. A more sensibly pitched and creative advertisement could have highlighted the fact that spaghetti was originally brought from China by Marco Polo, but that’s another story.
Calling Selena Gomez ‘ugly’ on social media won’t win any millennial friends either (not to mention their ‘racist’ earrings). Cancel culture (or simply the brands own marketing idiocy) has brought it unwanted attention in an era when fashion brands are being monitored ever more closely by the mainstream press and social media.
Thankfully it’s all come back to the clothes, and here D&G continue to shine. Expect – for women – sweeping and statuesque dresses; cinched waists creating the famous hourglass figure, and an illumination of the classic/realist Italian facets – bust, waist and calves. There’s something ‘rurale’ here too that venerates Mediterranean/Sicilian rustic life and the role of the woman as matriarch within society, whilst also alluding to the coasts wilder heritage.
The Dolce&Gabbana Mino Leo dress immediately introduces us to that slightly wilder side courtesy of all-over animal printing. The colour and design does not draw attention to itself in the same way Moschino accentuates with lightness with bare skin, and neither does the design strike wild animal poses.
The look here is all about decadence with a slightly moodier tone. The ‘Sicilian Jungle’ was the theme for Spring 2020 and – past the obligatory khakis - there was exoticism in abundance; all in subtropical colours and prints that would be equally at home sipping cocktails by some up market but abandoned hotel pool. Hence the dress can be at home wherever you want to make a statement (again unlike other more ostentatious brands). Notice also the hourglass figure effect: long and strong legs and an almost thrusting forward of the bust area. This is all about formalizing the female appearance whilst also creating provocation.
The Dolce&Gabbana Longuette dress gets its name from its length. Forever in a battle with the mini skirt, the Longuette seems an appropriate form for wearing sensible clothes and yet still forwarding a sensuous allure. How is that possible in a dress that extends below the knee, is black and has no ornamentation or patterning? Well, it’s mastered here courtesy of one unbroken and only slightly cinched silhouette than creates a tube and confining effect (almost as if the model rolled into the dress). Simplicity is also the key that draws attention to the exposed leg below the knee and the exposed arm area. Hair worn up and later down, a small leather shoulder bag and a pair of calfskin sling-backs and you’ll be genuinely dangerous to behold.
The Dolce&Gabbana Patchwork Print Dress adheres to themes picked up in Spring 2021 when all of lockdown seriousness had to be harnessed or – in this case – banished. Patchwork prints was the method, and it’s not hard to see where the Sicilian allusions lay: a move away from the religious strictures of some seasons for a free and easy (but still highly complex and upscale) ride through the Mediterranean. Obviously, as much as the look nods to past crafts, modern technology and thinking make the convergence of colours and ideas a swift and exciting possibility. It still features the slightly more restrained focus on an hour glass silhouette, this time with ample volume below the waist that lowers the formality too. What does it actually contain? Mainly flower patterns (and some plain stripes and animal prints) that are partly a recreation of 70s Italian home ideals. But the look transcends lifestyle to turn the wearer into an embodiment of the era in all its natural beauty.
The One Shoulder Jersey Dress featured in the Fall 2020 collection – a heavier, darker (and elsewhere more knitted!) collection that revealed a different side to D&G. Joined via a single central bow that wraps the wearer in a blanket-like embrace and falls elegantly over one shoulder, the dress is both simple in its consolidation of upper and lower halves, yet also features subtle complexities: the left sleeve for example, or the way the central crease is exposed when walking to transition from urbane elegance to streetwise sophistication. Fall 2020 celebrated craftsmanship and Italian artisans who helped craft the clothes. You’ll be adding to that tradition as both muse and artist in this dress.
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