Coming to Italy is a veritable fashion pilgrimage. While most people think of Milan as the fashion capitol of Italy, there are many important fashion houses that got their start right here in Florence. Guccio Gucci opened his fashion house in Florence in 1921, Salvatore Ferragamo in 1927, Roberto Cavalli was also a Florentine, as was Emilio Pucci. Understandably, we often have students who come to study fashion and textile design and we are always happy to oblige with various fashion-oriented activities. Clearly there is no shortage. Here are just a few that would satisfy any student of the art of moda and anyone looking for a slightly different angle in which to appreciate Florence as well as this countrywide passion.
Galleria del Costume, Pitti Palace
One of my first fashion stops is always the Galleria del Costume in the Pitti Palace. As it is one of six museums housed in this single building, the costume gallery often gets overlooked, but it is well worth a visit. It boasts being the only museum dedicated to the history of fashion in Italy and has the collection to prove it. Along with a variety of dresses and outfits dating from the 18th – 20th centuries, the collection also includes 16th century garments that once belonged to Duke Cosimo I and his wife, Eleonora da Toledo. Not that excited by Renaissance pantaloons? Well these were the clothes that the duke and duchess were buried in! Too creepy? Not to worry, there’s plenty more to see. The entire collection consists of roughly six thousand items, a selection of which is always on view and rotated every 2-3 years.
Galleria del Costume
Address: Palazzo Pitti, Piazza Pitti 1, 50125 Firenze
Hours: 8:15am – 4:30pm (November February)
8:15am – 5:30pm (March)
8:15am – 6:30pm (April, May, September and October)
8:15am – 5:30pm (in the month of October when Daylight Saving Time ends)
8:15am – 6:50pm (June August)
Tickets: 7 Euro
Located right on Piazza Signoria, in the heart of Florence, is a rather recent addition to the fashion museum scene in Florence, the gorgeous Gucci Museum. Along with bags, shoes, and dresses, expect to see housewares, sports equipment, and even a car, all designed by the founder, Guccio Gucci. However, instead of confronting these objects behind glass cases, the space is designed to open up the visitors’ eyes (with partially open displays) as well as their ears with videos that enhance the visitor experience. In a room full of Gucci’s classic leather bags, for example, you can watch and listen to the sound of a Gucci bag being made. In the room featuring some exceptionally gorgeous red carpet dresses you can see images of these very dresses being worn by celebrities like Blake Lively, Jessica Chastain, and Evan Rachel Wood, as well as watch a video of each dress in motion, seeing how it moves and even listening to the sound the materials make, bringing the dresses to life in a whole new way. Read more about the museum’s opening in this New York Times article.
Address: Piazza della Signoria, 10, 50122 Florence, Italy
Hours: Museum 10:00am – 8:00pm
Bookstore and Gift Shop 10:00am – 11:00pm
Caffè and Restaurant 10:00am – 11:00pm
Tickets: 6 Euro
Salvatore Ferragamo Museum
Another must-see fashion establishment is the Ferragamo Museum in Piazza Trinita, right off Via Tornabuoni, the main fashion drag in Florence. The museum is located right below Ferragamo headquarters and their flagship store, which awards you views of some of their more recent artwork. The collection is rotated around various themes. For example, last summer they exhibited a wonderful collection of items worn by Marilyn Monroe, complete with photos and, in some cases, videos with the blond bombshell rocking Salvatore’s creations. Other famous Ferragamo muses included Greta Garbo and Audrey Hepburn, for whom many pairs of shoes were made based on exact models of their feet that Ferragamo had in his studio in Florence. Currently on exhibition is the “The Amazing Shoemaker,” which focuses on the “magical role of shoes in fairy tales, myths and legends from ancient times to the present day” (for more information see this press release).
Address: Palazzo Spini Feroni, Piazza Santa Trinita 5/R, 50123 Florence.
Hours: 10:00am – 7:30pm; closed 1 January, 1 May, 15 August and 25 December
Tickets: 6 euro. Free for the under 10s and over 65s.
Museo Fondazione Roberto Capucci
Still haven’t had enough? Well then head over to the Bardini Villa for another Florentine fashion spectacle, the Roberto Capucci Foundation museum. This little museum on the top floor of the upper villa of the Bardini museum houses a rotating collection of works by the talented Capucci. Pulling from a a collection of original dresses, signed illustrations, and original drawings, the space is filled with Capucci’s creative process, from start to finish. His works, like wearable sculptures, are dramatic and bright and organized around the concept of teaching and training future generations of designers.
Address: Villa Bardini 2, Costa San Giorgio 50125 Florence, Italy
Hours: Wednesday to Friday 10:00am – 4:00pm; Saturday & Sunday 10:00am – 6:00pm
Tickets: 5 Euro; reduced ticket: € 4.00 people under 18 and over 65 of age
(includes entrance to the Bardini Museum and Gardens)
Once you’ve exhausted all these museum options keep your eyes open for other exciting Florence Fashion events:
Vogue Fashion Night Out
Around early September Florence becomes a hub of fashionisti for an evening of shopping, fashion, and entertainment in museums, stores and piazze throughout the city. See art shows, watch performances, enjoy free goodies and even free manicures into the wee hours of the night.
A series of fashion fairs are held at the Fortezza da Basso throughout the year highlighting men’s and women’s fashion, proving a platform for clothing and accessory collections, innovative, experimental projects, and technological advances in materials. Some of the best known include Pitti Uomo, Pitti W (aka Woman), Pitti Bimbo (aka baby), and Pitti Filati (aka yarn). See the Pitti Immagine site for a full listing and upcoming dates. The city is a veritable fashion frenzy during these events.
Pitti Immagine Vintage Expo
Twice a year, along with the above-mentioned fashion events, Pitti Immagine puts on a vintage expo in the Stazione Leopolda, the city’s first train station turned conference center. Here vintage retailers from all over Italy bring some of their best products to sell for a 4 -5 day vintage extravaganza. There is an entrance fee but it is always fun, even if you don’t end up buying that fur stole you were eyeing. For more information here is last summer’s announcement.
So as you can see, Florence is not just a living museum of art, but also a living museum of fashion. So get out there and educate your eyes, but maybe leave your credit card at home!