Valentino, Ara Pacis, and Lots of Glam Gowns

12 Sep

If you’ll be in Rome between now and the end of October, this is a great show to check out. If not, you can live vicariously through this post.

Let’s start with the Ara Pacis. I’d never seen it until its unveiling last year, because for the first five years I was here, it was undergoing a remodel. But incredibly enough, the remodel project was awarded way back in 1995 (!). I don’t know why the project dragged on for so long. Why don’t we just say it was due to the artistic genius of architect Richard Meier. Without getting into too many specifics, let me tell you that people were not all that pleased when the final product was unveiled after eleven long years of waiting. I’m not going to beat around the bush: most people I talked to said it was downright ugly, and doesn’t do justice to the beauty that is housed inside. Click on this link to judge for yourself.

Well, I don’t know a better way to beautify an eyesore than to drape it in 45 years of Valentino creations. FAHBULOUS, dahling! I’d been intrigued by the gowns on display in the windows every time we drove by on Lungotevere, and had been wanting to go and get a closer look. The other day I decided to plunk down my €6,50 (well worth it) and see what was going on inside. Behold:

OMG, can you tell that I got just a *wee* bit snap-happy in there? Hey, when they told me photos without flash were permitted (and with all that natural light, who needs a flash?) I took them up on their offer.

So, yes—gowns. Loads and loads and loads of them. Gorgeous, original, and probably from Valentino’s vast storehouses somewhere over at his big fashion headquarters. But, for all you non-glam junkies out there, let’s not forget the actual, ahem, monument that’s lurking around all those fancy dresses!

Look, there’s even toga-wear for toddlers!

See the genius in this exhibition, folks? It’s ancient fashion meets modern!

Oh, stop me now… but I can’t resist showing you some more stuff I found when we went underground.

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I found what seemed like an entire city block of sketch after sketch after glorious, original sketch, starting from the beginning of Valentino-dom and going up until now. This one from the mid-sixties I love, because it was one of the few with notes in English: “This dress—perhaps you should leave the hem unfinished—I can get it sewn here—as if you make it too short, it will show if I let it down…” Ah! The sheer curiosity! Who wrote the note? Where is “here”? The suspense! The price tag!! I took a ton of other shots of sketches like this; if you want to see them, click on the one above to go to my Flickr pool.

Celebrity trivia: who wore this vintage Valentino to the 2001 Oscars?


Here’s the Wiki on Valentino. Keeping to his dramatic style, he announced that he is bowing out of the fashion world next year. Did you see the photo in that article? What would he look like without that perpetual tan, I wonder? Well, call him what you will, but after seeing this show, there’s no denying that the man is a fashion genius.

Ara Pacis Museum, Lungotevere in Augusta
Valentino a Roma. 45 Years of Style, runs through October 28, 2007


18 Responses to “Valentino, Ara Pacis, and Lots of Glam Gowns”

  1. nyc/caribbean ragazza September 12, 2007 at 12:22 pm #

    augh! Why is this closing at the end of Ocotober? I wanted to see this exhibit in this space, esp. now that Valentino is retiring. His dresses are stunning and timeless, a true designer (not to be confused with all the celebs who have clothing lines these days).

    Thanks for the post Shelley.

  2. Giulia September 12, 2007 at 2:31 pm #

    Wow, I can’t believe I figured out who wore that dress on the first shot! I guess it’s because she looked so amazing in it, it was hard to forget! 😉

  3. Kathy September 12, 2007 at 5:11 pm #

    Those pics are stunning!!!! I studied fashion in college, and I’ve always been a huge Valentino fan.

  4. Rose in Cali September 13, 2007 at 3:50 am #

    I saw this while I was there! I took almost the same exact photos, too! It is a wonderful exhibit, both upstairs and downstairs! The Julia Roberts dress was my favorite. Thanks for bringing back memories of my fabulous Roman adventure.

  5. Rachael September 13, 2007 at 5:35 am #

    Stunning dresses. He’s definately a master of design.

  6. Michelle September 13, 2007 at 10:13 am #

    I just wrote an article on this show. I’d really love to get down to see it live in person before it closes…

  7. Gil September 13, 2007 at 10:25 am #

    The mannequins are as sickly skinny as some of the live models. This must be where kids like Lindsay Lohan get their ideas on what is beautiful.

  8. jessica in rome September 13, 2007 at 3:34 pm #

    I am planning to go this week. Thanks for the preview Shelley!

  9. Giulia September 13, 2007 at 4:20 pm #

    “The mannequins are as sickly skinny as some of the live models.”

    I must admit, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a mannequin so thin that you can see the definition of the collar bone!

  10. Elisa September 13, 2007 at 6:54 pm #

    Thanks for sharing! This looks beautiful!

  11. sandi @ the whistlestop cafe September 14, 2007 at 12:47 am #

    Thanks for sharing those beautiful dresses. It must have been an amazing event!

  12. Megan September 15, 2007 at 5:03 pm #

    Oh this is a great blog! I am gong to be in Rome this week and now I have something really fabulous & new to do and see – grazie!

  13. Sharon September 25, 2007 at 7:04 pm #

    Thanks for featuring this attraction – I made sure to see this exhibit last week and it was a highlight of my trip to Rome. Certainly the closest I’ll ever get to a Valentino dress, let alone 300 of them!

  14. Retro Fashion October 13, 2007 at 12:51 am #

    All the old stuff I wore as a child is coming back. Kinda scary and makes you feel old, but it looks great most of the time.

  15. Becca October 22, 2007 at 4:32 am #

    I thought that the display was absolutely stunning! As you walk up the ramp, all the old gowns are displayed and you hear a creepy whispered chant sound. Then you come onto the main stairs and theres all the mannequins posed like a choir…it gave me goose bumps.

  16. vintage dress January 3, 2008 at 11:48 pm #

    With the 70s and 80s back in style, I just loving vintage clothing from the thrift shops. You can find designers like Chanel and Armani for cheap there. Ebay is great too!

  17. retro fashion August 27, 2008 at 6:29 pm #

    I have noticed classic garments always stay in style. Fashion brings out whatever emotion you are feeling inside. Whatever you are feeling, have fun with it and remember not to take yourself so serious. Don’t let someone predict who you are!

  18. Megvn August 11, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    I have a vintage Valentino too! The quality is perfect and I am sure any women would feel like royalty in one of his gowns. Is there any more information on Valentino’s Night Collection for collectors? I would like to know a little more about my dress…
    check it out…

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