In Italy the boutiques are even more important than they are in Paris, and they are as varied and as full of local flavor as Italian wines.
The little shops of Rome's Via Condotti and Capri's Piazza Umberto produce such made-to-order-overnight items as sandals, pants and sweaters. Italy's fashion industry would be a commercial flop, in spite of its grandiose showings in Renaissance palaces, if it weren't for the excitement of the boutique collections that every designer brings out in advance of his haute couture collection. One buyer for an important group of American stores says he spends 80% of his money on sportswear items. "Italian sportswear," he says, ' "fits American women like a suntan."
Pink stockings and pagodas
Award-winning designer Emilio Pucci, who practically invented stretch fabric, is still the most inventive user of it. He even has contrived one of his one-piece capsulas in stretch velveteen with a V-necked beaded top and suggests that modern women will wear it to the opera. (Perhaps at La Scala, not yet at the Met.) Skier Pucci makes bulky pile-lined parkas of skipper-blue poplin that are meant to be worn over bulky turtle-neck sweaters with matching pompom knit hats. The parkas have diagonal zip closings and were shown a week before all the Paris houses went on a diagonal-closing kick. Pucci also has made gray-flannel travel suits of a stretchable wool that could be among the most prophetic developments on the European fashion scene this year.
Other after-ski clothes in the Italian boutique collections could costume a commedia dell' arte production of The Threepenny Opera. There are figure-hugging knitted skirts and cardigans that button to the knees, to be worn with pink stockings. Knitwear designer Laura Aponte showed little-boy suits of black-and-white checks with belted jackets over long tight pants. The ragazzo look was emphasized with flappy oversized caps.
Italy's high priestess of what to wear after skiing at Gstaad or when you're giving a dinner party and somebody else is doing the cooking is Princess Irene Galitzine. Among the major innovations at her showing in Florence were her flared tunic tops of pastel silk worn over flared pajama-leg bottoms, giving the silhouette of a Chinese pagoda, an image enhanced by huge bibs of beads. Galitzine also has solved what has been an uncomfortably perplexing problem: how to hide the instep strap that keeps stretch pants stretched. She uses fringe or loops or little scarves to obscure the objectionable strap. The work of this fine Italian hand permits the discarding of the clumpy boots that everybody else uses to hide the strappings and the use of Galitzine's little-heeled pumps instead.
Italian knits are world-famous and have become the most important single transatlantic fashion commodity. The current leader of the Italian knitwear business is the Marquesa de Gresy, whose sportswear firm of Mirsa is so busy that she shows a collection only out of deference to the Italian couture group; she can't handle any more customers. Russell Carpenter of I. Magnin in California leaves a $1 million order with Mirsa each season. And when the Mirsa sweaters and dresses arrive at Magnin's the customers already have left orders for everything that comes, sight unseen. At the showings in Florence, the Mirsa knits were paraded by three models, walking abreast, wearing the red, white and green of the Italian flag as a salute to the 100th anniversary of the republic and to the 10th anniversary of the Italian alta moda.