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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Envisioning Italian Futurist Design in Dress of 1930's.

I was so excited to read essays describing 1930's clothing designs by Italian Futurists published in Against Fashion: Clothing as Art, 1850-1930 (Radu Stern, The MIT Press - 2004).

Essays included in Stern's book are:  Ernesto Thayaht's "The Aesthetics of Dress: Sunny Fashion, Futurist Fashion" (1930), Ernesto Thayaht's and Ruggero Michahelles' "Manifesto for the Transformation of Male Clothing" (1932), and Renato di Bosso's and Ignazio Scurto's "The Futurist Manifesto of the Italian Tie" (1933).

Reading the essays on dress, I wanted to see the clothing and ties visualized and described by the Italian Futurists - but unable to find their particular designs, I illustrated the garments - following the artistic direction and specifications in their words.

The 16 items in the Futurist series of dress were garments which they named themselves:  The Toraco, Camito, Corsante, Femorali, Conici, Ancali, Tubaria, Calzari and Calzali, Aeroscarpa, Scafa, Spiova, Asole, Paravista, Radiotelfo, Luca, and Trifermo.

Here's a brief description of the items, but you'll have to read the manifesto for the entire specifications - which include materials, shapes, number of buttons and pockets, closures, and sometimes color suggestions:
  • Toraco - a sleeveless, low-necked undershirt.
  • Camito - an "almost skintight" "antihinderance" shirt.
  • Corsante - half-sleeve chest cover.
  • Femorali - loose thigh cover.
  • Conici - conical foot cover...cool colors in summer, warm colors in winter.
  • Ancali - short hip cover for swim, training, or sport.
  • Tubaria - self-fastening foot cover, fitting close at ankle.
  • Calzari and Calzali - mesh foot covers.
  • Aeroscarpa - breathable elastic shoes.
  • Scafa - waterproof shoes.
  • Spiova - waterproof, warm headcover with shoulder protection.
  • Asole - summer cap with adjustable sun-shields.
  • Paravista - eyeshade to attach to the Asole.
  • Radiotelfo - "travel helmet" with radio and headphones.
  • Luca - waterproof, reversible coat-like garment.
  • Trifermo - overjacket with close fit at waist, convertible collar and inside pockets.

Recently, I wrote about Futurist Giacomo Balla's passionate color opinions.  Below, you'll see a color palette based on his writing.  When you read about the Futurist clothing and look at the sketches, try to visualize the garments in vividly saturated colors like these. Here's the link for my post with Balla's color descriptions.
Color palette based on Giacomo Balla's Futurist manifestos. Composed by Toile La La.

Italian Futurist Clothing and Accessory Designs - Interpreted by Toile La La.

Italian Futurist Clothing and Accessory Designs - Interpreted by Toile La La.
In contemplating the Conici, Tubaria, Calzari and Calzali, and the Aeroscarpa, I believe the Italian Futurists were addressing all the conditions feet encounter - and the concept of indoor versus outdoor footwear.  My versions depict the Conici as a washable cloth shoe to be worn at home; the Tubaria also as an indoor shoe, for the office perhaps - with built-in pockets for a key or coins; the Calzari and Calzali as mesh covers (with rubber soles) to slip over the Conici and Tubaria and keep the soles clean - or for extra durability; and the Aeroscarpa as a leather sock-type foot garment (elastic-backed) - that slips into a protective "shell" with rubber bottom and sides and leather strap closures. Strap closures would work like rollerblade or ski-boot latches. Latches would be composed of stainless steel, which would also tip the toe and heel with the gleam of metal.

Maybe the Aeroscarpa leather sock and shell could be worn separately too.

Italian Futurist Clothing and Accessory Designs - Interpreted by Toile La La.
Ernesto Thayaht's and Ruggero Michahelles' "Manifeso for the Transformation of Male Clothing" states:  "...we have to reduce to an indispensable minimum the number of items that are worn at the same time.  We have to reduce to an indispensable minimum the SPECIFIC WEIGHT OF EVERY PIECE OF CLOTHING, proportionally and in accordance with the climate.  We have to reduce to a strict minimum sewings, hems, and buttonholes (that is to say, the bill) of every item in the wardrobe in order to facilitate manufacturing, washing, ironing, folding; thereby diminishing the cost of production and increasing sales and the likelihood that every city dweller can change his clothes more often."

Thayaht's and Michahelles' clothing descriptions sound very much like sportswear and fitnesswear of today.  Their "Radiotelfo" sounds like a cap for transporting modern music devices.  And, Thayaht's  shoes ( "...two-tone shoes - fresh, youthful, and speedy...the unusual shape, which seems to emphasize the lightness of the advancing step...") seem like a description of today's Italian-manufactured trainers.
Renato di Bosso's and Ignazio Scurto's "The Futurist Manifesto of the Italian Tie" refers to ties as "slipknots" and "nooses", and urges men to dress "in a manly way", with a metal ornament (instead of a neck-encircling cloth tie) adorning the shirt.

They wrote:  "...a man's character should be expressed...through the brilliance and purity of metal", suggesting designs from aluminum, chrome, precious metals, brass, or copper - suspended on elastic cord. And they called this the ANTITIE.

Aluminum tie models, based on Italian Futurist designs of Renato di Bosso and Ignazio Scurto. Toile La La.
I cut small tie models from aluminum foil, but in thinking about larger versions of these - I wondered about the safety of larger versions in metal.  It seems metallicized leathers would have been suitable.  If Renato di Bosso and Ignazio Scurto ever produced any of their metal ties, wouldn't someone have kept a few - or were they just too avant garde for thirties sensibility?

Studying Early American history several years ago, I read about battles of the eighteenth century and discovered illustrations of military dress. Some officers wore metal plates at the breastbone called "gorgets", which might have been the type of ornament to please Renato di Bosso and Ignazio Scurto. Do you think they ever thought of this shape?  Most of the Futurist textiles utilized geometric shapes, so perhaps the crescent would have been viewed with disdain.
Gorget breastbone ornament. Model created by Toile La La.
Gorgets were crescent-shaped and inscribed with an officer's name or rank.
Note: You'll see in the above garment illustrations a small gorget-shaped Futurist tie placed with the "Corsante" (top row, third from left).

Loving the look of men in ties, I felt scolded after reading "The Futurist Manifesto of the Italian Tie" and thought men must have felt similar pangs of shame after learning of the corset's discomforts.   During my lifetime I've heard mens' tie complaints and didn't take them seriously, but take a moment to consider how long they've been protesting.

Nevertheless, I like the idea of men wearing gleaming metal antities.

Radu Stern's inclusion of these artists', designers', thinkers', and poets' essays in his book Against Fashion gives the reader a feeling of true conversation with the Italian Futurists.  This was a clothing design movement of which I was completely unaware, but Stern's book is informative and (for me) riveting.

If you have thoughts or information regarding clothing or textile designs of early twentieth century Italian Futurists, I would love to read your comments.