Monday, March 8, 2010

Poor, but Pretty in Pucci

Pucci is one of the most iconic fashion looks of the mid to late 20th century. I remember one fashion expert saying that in the '60s, "If you weren't wearing Pucci, you didn't exist." To be in a Pucci dress was to be recognised as a member of the jet set, and those who were fashionable, modern, and had European sophistication. Pucci reached the height of popularity in the late '60s to early '70s when brilliance of colour and pattern could be seen on fashions for children, men, and women, as well as household products such as bedding, wallcoverings, upholstery and drapery fabrics. The most sophisticated patterns of this era were by Emilio Pucci of Florence. Women became weary of the brilliant looks in the mid '70s, and the immediately following trends played with Edwardian, Victorian, and romantic influences by Laura Ashley and Ralph Lauren. Within a decade, the futurism of Cardin, Gernreich, and Couregges was abandoned for high necked blouses, buttoned granny boots, and patchwork skirts that evoked the previous century. The most notable example of this was Lady Diana Spencer's 1981 neo-Victorian wedding dress, covered with lace, frills, and bows.
Diana Spencer's 1981 wedding dress in neo-Victorian style

The renaissance of Pucci started in the early '90s with women wearing vintage pieces. Around this time, books were published about Pucci, and this brought awareness and discovery to a new generation, who was smitten with Pucci's unique dolce vita modernism. Eventually the house itself increased advertising and production, and after an absence of two decades, Pucci was seen again in the most prestigious clothing stores

Iconic fashion like Pucci rarely goes on sale, and when it does, selections are very limited in terms of size, style, and colour. One will sees very expensive fashions on sale, but less frequently does one see fine classics like Chanel suits, Hermes handbags and scarves, Burburry trench coats, or classic Lacoste polo shirts, at reduced prices. That is why when they do go on sale, it is a good opportunity to buy, especially if you've always dreamed of one of these iconic pieces, but never been able to afford it.

Pucci blouses and dresses have been worn by the most fashionable women of the 20th century, including Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, the Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, Helen Gurley Brown, and Paloma Picasso. A Pucci print is very sophisticated, and recognisable in the way that a painting by a good modern artist is. Pucci prints are bright and colourful, but upon examination, many of the colours are not so brilliant as they seem. The colours are so well coordinated and contrasted that they sing and vibrate. If you look at some of the colours in these Pucci prints in isolation, you'll see that many of the colours aren't nearly as electrifying as when they play off the other very carefully selected tones. The mixing of these colours is much more difficult than one can imagine. This is why most vintage psychedelic prints of the 1970s are brash and vulgar when contrasted with a Lilly Pulitzer, Porthault, Paule Marrot, or Pucci. In Pucci prints, each area of colour is delineated by a very fine black line. The small and very discreet signature "Emilio" is scattered throughout the print, so that one can discern if the pattern is authentic.

Just this week, I was surprised to come upon this rack of Puccis on sale at a major Canadian clothing discounter. There were blouses, dresses, pants in cotton and silk. Prices were half suggested retail, so that $600.00 blouses were $300.00. Considering that most fashion loses 90% of it's value when it leaves the store, these sale pieces are an excellent investment compared to most clothes. The $300.00 blouse will likely get you $100.00 to $200.00 if resold, whereas virtually any other clothing in that price range will bring nothing if resold.

Puccis are very noticeable, and some people think they are difficult to wear. This is not correct. The best way to wear them is as separates, so that for example, a blouse would be worn with slacks, jeans, or a skirt in a solid colour of one of the tones used in the print. A cotton Pucci print blouse and a pair of simple white jeans will take you almost anywhere this summer.

Fashion is often fickle and unpredictable. Avoid expensive fashion errors by sticking to time tested looks, and fashion can be much friendlier. Pucci is a dear friend one first met in the 1960s, and who is always cheerful and bright. Pucci is the perfect antidote to economic gloom and the predictable black that so many of us seem unable to shake off. In these times calling for extraordinary fiscal measures, one can still be pretty in Pucci.

© 2010 Square With Flair™


  1. I love Pucci but I wore a vintage Pucci dress once and felt like a clown. I feel more comfortable with my palette of black, camel and white with the odd punch of colour.