Several of my friends appear to have been having strange dreams since the great storm hit us last week. Yesterday night it was my turn to have a terrifying experience when I found myself being kidnapped by a strange group of people. I tried to tell friends, local shopkeepers, anyone I met, what was happening to me but, somehow, none seemed to understand what was going on and I was quickly taken away from them with a feeling of total helplessness. This sense of having my freedom taken away was suddenly interrupted when I heard the pawing of my favourite cat Napoleone in my back, presumably wondering when I would wake up and give him his breakfast. I realized it was just a bad dream and coming back into the reality of a new day I thanked Napoleone for saving me from the kidnappers.
I had also experienced another unreality for me that evening since I’m not a general frequenter of fashion shows even when they take place at Ponte a Serraglio’s casinò. However, celebrating women’s week it was a very special exhibition, divided into two parts
Ilaria, who lives in Benabbio, is a great designer of highly original jewelry much of which she makes out of recycled material.
Her very original creations were exhibited through the modeling of girls who looked like professionals but who were, in fact, all local. Indeed, I recognized some of them as shop assistants, office workers and waitresses who’d served me on previous occasions but here they looked utterly transformed into near goddesses.
It is a tribute to the grace of Italian woman but these girls seem to move naturally and with élan as if it were part of their primeval nature showing off Ilaria’s creations to the highest accomplishment.
The show‘s second part was a modelling, by the same girls, of 19th and 20th century nightgowns. If this at first sounded boring for me, it turned out quite the opposite. The nightgowns related to the ongoing exhibition of bedroom milieus in bygone times and were relics and hand-me downs from grandmothers of the local families. They fully showed how much richness of historical material there is in Bagni di Lucca hidden away in wardrobes and cupboards.
The lacework of several of these garments was quite exquisite and showed the care even the remotest village ladies, working in the dimmest candle-light, would put into making sure their nubile daughters would have the best trousseau possible for their future maternal life. Indeed, some of the gowns had been adapted at a later stage to form the most delightful summer dresses!
I was reminded of the sadly deceased wife of an old friend of mine who had an exquisite collection of Victorian and Edwardian women’s underwear and bed linen, some of which has happily been donated to a local museum in Swindon.
Bedclothes were not just used to keep warm in winter or cool in summer. They were also meant to seduce the husband and keep alive the initial flames of love. As Italian women succeeded supremely in this art in the nineteenth century so do they continue the tradition today, as the displays in the shops, charmingly named “intimissimi”, recall. No vulgarity or raw sex here – just elegance and pure seduction.
Historic clothes are not mean to be hung up on pegs or displayed in glass cases but should come alive, whenever possible in the figure of a modeler. Unfortunately, fabrics can be so fragile and perishable that this is not always possible. It was, therefore, a real delight to see these items so well introduced and modelled. We, the audience, were totally enchanted by the unusual evening.