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Twentieth-century women protagonists


To mark the thirtieth anniversary of the foundation of the Costume Gallery of the Pitti Palace, on 12 November an exhibition comprising the total rearrangement of the museum was opened, dedicated to “TWENTIETH-CENTURY WOMEN PROTAGONISTS”.

It is an itinerary through the fashion of the twentieth century, presenting garments and accessories belonging to women who came to prominence in the course of the twentieth century and continue to distinguish themselves in a range of different fields and disciplines through which they demonstrate their creativity. But they are also icons of the taste of their time, some distinguishing themselves for the creative fantasy with which they produce or decorate their works, others for the imaginative flair with which they wear them.

Each woman was (or is) the protagonist of a specific ambit, to the extent that distinctive and salient  traits of their personalities emerge precisely from their articles of clothing or from their creations. 


The display itinerary – with design layout and works management by the architect Mauro Linari – unwinds through the rooms of the gallery, starting with the precious garments made by Rosa Genoni, a socially-committed woman and promoter of Made in Italy fashion, followed by the splendid tunics made by Fortuny specially for Eleonora Duse and the legendary gowns of Donna Franca Florio. Less well-known to the greater public are Maria Cumani, the inspiring muse of her husband Salvadore Quasimodo, and Antonella Cannavò Florio who wore the romantic creations of Schuberth, “dressmaker to the stars”. Exuberance and eccentricity appear to bring together personalities as different as Anna Piaggi and Cecilia Matteucci Lavarini (an important selection of garments from the latter’s sumptuous collection having come to  the museum as a donation), both avid fashion collectors.

Susan Nevelson, designer for Ken Scott, and Lietta Cavalli are both creators of textile prints, physically close in two adjacent rooms but poles apart stylistically. Then there are the garments of the novelist Anna Rontani, who loved to flaunt her wardrobe of over a thousand items, some of which have been donated to the museum.

Another distinct attraction is the donation of some of the dresses worn by Patty Pravo during the 1984, 1987 and 2002 editions of the Festival of Sanremo, which are on display in the ballroom.

Jewellery made of non-precious  materials and costume jewellery respectively represent Flora Wiechmann Savioli and Angela Caputi. And then we have the brides (stars for a day) in the shape of nine wedding dresses. Finally we come to the fascinating weaving of the women of Rwanda transformed by the designers into jewellery. 


Ministero dei Beni Culturali


Caterina Chiarelli

Project design

Mauro Linari