Italian Widow Girl Summer

I hearby declare it Italian Widow Girl Summer. A sister to beach goth summer, the Italian Widow archetype lives in black lace dresses, smudgy red lipstick and piercingly dark sunglasses so black you can’t see the tears. All you need is a campy resin-covered rose, a lush green ivy-covered house and a dark red wine; you’re set.

Recently, I wondered aloud, why don’t more people live in long black lace dresses during summer? It’s kind of glamorous in an oddly subversive, incredibly chic way. The black lace dress has been a summer staple of mine for years.

The neorealism heroines of the Italian cinema will always ultimately serve as the inspiration for this. Both on and off-screen. For starters, a non-exhaustive list begins with Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and ends with Sophia Loren and Monica Bellucci, both of who represent the little black lace dress at any age. Anna Magnani, Monica Vitti, Claudia Cardinale; I may not be Italian, but these are the women who raised me and made me embrace the power of dressing to take up space in a very certain and highly specific way. It’s ultra feminine but not submissive. It’s powerfully divine and unique to a lost era and art of dressing. You can see it on some of the older women in Italy—or even some of the old school Italian women wandering around Brooklyn. I want to bring it back. I want everyone to wear long black lace dresses all summer long.

For the cause of the Italian widow, the longer the dress, the closer to heaven, and long sleeves makes everything especially dramatic. The sheerer the fabric, the better—you can create your desired effect by wearing whatever you want; just black underwear for the very brave, though being super modest adds a complex air of mystique. Or a long or short slip. The more intricate the fabric or print, the more expensive the look. Seek out contrasting overlaid stitching (I have one with white piping) or different panels of mesh.

Let’s dive a little bit more into the women of 1950s Italian cinema and what exactly made the way they dressed so revolutionary. So many of them wore the black lace dress. I like to look at Anna Magnani, for instance, who is a little bit more under the radar but no less influential. Magnani was different than the many Italian actresses emerging as fashion plates during the 1950s and 1960s; she had a new type of glamour. Her style was always more modern than her contemporaries; think of her as the originator of edgy sex appeal. In inky black slips, aprons, and button-down shirts with bursting seams, she brought to life a new kind of femininity, one that knew her best angles and she wasn’t eager to forsake them for somebody else’s. “She often dressed in black, clothes that narrowed her waist and exposed her neckline, both beautiful things of hers,” remembers her granddaughter, Olivia Magnani. “She interpreted the clothes she wore—she could be a queen or a common woman.” Sonnet Stanfill, acting senior curator of fashion at the V&A Museum, put it best: “Magnani dressed to please herself.” And in tumultuous 1950s Italy, what could be more revolutionary than that? (Maybe this: She allegedly admonished a retoucher for buffing out signs of aging, saying, “Please don’t retouch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them.”)

Consider that when you wear it; what else does a black lace dress in high summer say? So much with so little.

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