It was Federico Fellini’s 1960 landmark movie that advanced the term “la dolce vita” into popular usage. It pointed to important changes in Italian society, introducing the world not only to the Italian fashion, style and elegance, but also to the unlicensed celebrity photographer, the paparazzo, who emerged with the rise of celebrity culture. The book La Dolce Vita: The Golden Age of Italian Style & Celebrity is a beautiful photography recounter of that late 1950s – early 1960s Italian era that has become synonymous with effortless style and glamour. The Italian fashion was what first made an impression on the Hollywood movie industry, leading to many productions filmed on location in Italy, and to its actors and actresses (often dressed in Italian fashion – luxurious and comfortable, and mostly hand-made) embracing “la dolce vita” (usually under the candid lens of the paparazzi).
Obviously, it is the photos that do most of the talking in the book, so here are my conclusions:
Being stylish was a way of life. There are photos of Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Marcello Mastroianni and other legendary style figures, but the fact is that just about everybody else (actors and non-actors) filling the pages of this book looked stylish – to the beach, to the market, boarding a plane, to a film premiere, everywhere.
People have always been obsessed with celebrity. The difference is that back then people were fascinated with the famous, while now everybody wants to be famous.
Suits were like a second skin for men. They looked at ease and comfortable in them. You noticed the man. Today you notice (much too often) the suit (often too tight).
Italians always dressed up when leaving the house (they still do, I think), even if it was only for la passeggiata, the evening stroll that could very well be the social event of the day (see-and-be-seen).
Even the French actresses wore Italian designers.
A white shirt, capri pants and ballerinas remain one of the most chic looks to this day.
Okay, now this was the biggest revelation: the stars of the fifties also wore flip-flops! Yes, Anita Ekberg is shown in a pair of black flip-flops worn with an elegant all-black outfit cinched at the waist. I swore flip-flops off, even to the beach, a long time ago, but just for a split of a second, that photo got me considering the thought.
The stars loved to talk to the people in the streets.
And to pose for a photograph offscreen, too. The paparazzi may be unscrupulous by definition, but there often seemed to be a consensual invasion of privacy.
Oversized sunglasses and woven baskets were worn by many even before Audrey Hepburn and Jane Birkin, respectively, made them popular.
photos by me from the book La Dolce Vita: The Golden Age of Italian Style & Celebrity