PORTRAIT OF A LADY

Without Countess Consuelo Crespi, the Italian fashion industry might not be the commercial and cultural force it is today. The irony, writes NICK FOULKES, is that Crespi was not even remotely Italian. She was a Henry James or Edith Wharton heroine updated for the jet age.

Pilar and Consuelo Crespi on the Costa Smeralda, 1968 (Photo via Getty)

‘Fashion Leader Favors A Lengthened Hemline’, read a headline in The New York Times on November 29, 1961, accompanying a picture of a svelte woman about to cross the road. This, the caption informed readers, was “Countess Crespi in green wool suit with longer hemline by Fabiani, Italian designer. Skirt is approximately four inches longer than popular length.

This was NEWS.

“Consuelo Crespi has given New Yorkers who frequent smart restaurants and parties a preview of the longer skirts that are expected to be shown by Paris designers in their spring collections in January.”

Prima facie: ‘Posh Italian woman wears skirt that covers the knee’ may not strike one as the most arresting of news. However, seen another way, the moment 60 years ago when Countess Crespi stepped off the pavement and into The New York Times was an event of immense significance: ground zero for the rise of Italian fashion on the international stage.

Published

February 2021

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