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To dress à-la-plage: Designers and Resorts

As early as it became popular to travel to fashionable seaside resorts, fashion designers and couturiers found their way in dictating the trends by the sea, not without being moved by the different landscapes and lifestyles.

Since the Roman times, the coast and seaside have been regarded as places dedicated to leisure: Julius Caesar, Nero and Hadrian were hosted in the licentious Baiae by the Tyrrhenian Sea in Italy. more recently, from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century onwards, the European aristocracy populated the resorts towns across the old continent, spending their holidays in search for recreation and health, and making these places the stages where to perform an utterly fashionable way of life.

'Le soir à Deauville' print from 'Femina', 15th August 1903. Courtesy MoMu - Modemuseum Provincie Antwerpen, all rights reserved.

As a result, resorts became the places where the wealthy, international high class used to meet once away from the city centres. In these hubs, different families had the opportunity to confront their social costumes, traditions and, of course, fashions.

Model "Deauville", sketch for a summer day dress by Bernard et, 1914. Courtesy Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, CC-BY-NC-SA.

Unsurprisingly, firstly tailors and later couturiers and designers opened there their boutique and ateliers, attracted by the exclusive clienteles that frequented these beaches and the opportunities, both promotional and economical, they may provide. For instance, Jean Patou and, more remarkably, Coco Chanel, set off their boutiques in Deauville, Normandy, during the 1910s and 1920s. Later, in the early 1950s, Marquis Emilio Pucci opened his famous boutique in the prestigious resort ‘La Canzone del Mare’ in Capri, which was then the meeting point of the international jet set.

The designer Emilio Pucci in Capri, ca 1952/1953. Courtesy Emilio Pucci Archive, all rights reserved.

However, these places did not just offer a fashionable clientele to the designers that ventured to the resorts. Instead, they had been a profound source of inspiration for their designs and creations. If Emilio Pucci notoriously took his daringly bright colours from the vegetation and the waters of the isle of Capri, Coco Chanel owned to Normandy fishermans’ her striped knitted sweaters and sailor pants. Both fascinated by the sporty lifestyles of these resorts towns, so distant from the strictness of the city, designers took from these holiday places the influences that determined their modern styles.

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