The clothes that Italian women wore between 1900-1999 varied greatly according to fads and trends, and women's fashions were influenced by events like the two world wars and by the rise of haute couture in France and its spread to Italy. Furthermore, the type of clothing a woman wore during this period, as with any period in history, was highly dependant on the amount of money she had to spend on clothing.
One way of looking at the development of Italian fashion is to divide the twentieth century into two parts, one where Italian women simply followed trends set by foreign influences, and a second part where Italy was a major contributor to the world of fashion.
Italian women's fashion pre-1950
Before World War Two, Italian women's fashion was very much based on the popular trends of the world's fashion capitals of the time: Paris and London. Wealthy Italian women would buy their dresses in Paris, whilst middle class women would employ dress-makers or tailors to imitate these dresses.
Women's fashion after World War Two
Following the end of the Second World War, the Italian government actively sought to encourage Italian industry and there was something of a revival in traditional artisan craftsmanship in creating leather goods like shoes, handbags and other accessories. In addition, Italy was producing dresses based on the French-style that was so popular at the time, but at a considerably reduced cost.
This 'rebirth' of Italian fashion didn't go unnoticed in the United States (the only country that emerged from World War Two with a market that had significant purchasing power) and this led to Italian trends like capri-pants, low cut blouses and big hoop earrings becoming trendy around the world.
Italy also began to see the emergence of high-fashion during the 1950s. Amongst these Italian pioneers, the concept of stylish, elegant glamour was born, with the advent of cocktail dresses designed by Contessa Visconti and the elegant haute cotoure designs of Roberto Capucci.
Italian influence on women's fashion - 1970s and 80s
Although, the post-war years saw Italian women's fashion making great strides, it wasn't until the 1970s that Italy began emerging as a power house of fashion. The previous emphasis was on styles coming out of Rome and Florence, but Milan took over as the new Italian fashion capital during this period and gave the Italian explosion onto the fashion scene a new lease of life with its development of the ready-to-wear market . Gianfranco Ferre, Missoni and Emilio Pucci were a few of the houses that emerged during this period. The 80s saw the rise of women's business attire in Italy and the emergence of new, innovative designers cemented the Italians as a global superpower where brands like Valentino and Armani became synonymous with high fashion.