No matter where I travel in Italy, I seem to stumble across something I learned about in my fashion classes. I guess it helps that almost every region in Italy is known for making some kind of contribution to the fashion industry… Nevertheless, this semester it’s been really fun to recognize important historical figures and brands when I’m off exploring, thinking I’m taking a break from learning.
I think I may be the only person studying abroad who can say I traveled to Prato three times in one week. It’s an industrial city: not exactly the kind of place you visit in order to buy a pretty postcard. Well, I visited lovely Prato twice on trips with some of the fashion design students and returned for the third time on my own (clearly my days were beginning to feel incomplete without spending time here). I ventured to Prato on a mission to visit its textile museum and learn more about the history of one of the most important textile centers in Italy. I was not disappointed: everything I learned about Prato in class was thoroughly displayed in the various exhibits. I saw sketches for the looms created by Mazzoni, got an in depth explanation about the process of creating regenerated wool (a typical product from Prato), and saw Missoni garments detailing how important this brand was for Prato’s knitwear industry. Everything I had in my notes was in the museum! The current exhibit on Renaissance fabrics even pulled in references to my History of Costume class: I was able to get an up-close look at the velvet, golden threadwork, and embossed fabrics that were so popular among members of elite society during medieval times.
When I traveled further from Florence, for example to Venice, I had similar experiences. Here, I wandered through the maze of streets and canals to the Mariano Fortuny museum where I saw two versions of Fortuny’s famous Delphos dress. I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of the dress I had written about in my mid-term exam! On my way back to the train station, I did a double take as I passed by a Borsalino hat store – I recognized their window advertisements from a power point presentation I had seen a few days before. We had been studying the history of accessories in Italy and my professor mentioned this brand: a symbol of ‘Made in Italy’ quality and style. In Italy I don’t have to seek out references to my classes; they somehow find me no matter where I am. I’m excited to see what other discoveries await as the semester continues!