I think most fashion lovers are well acquainted with the prints of Emilio Pucci. Through the 1960s and into the 70s his psychedelic colorful prints were well loved by the Jet Set. But before his brightly colored geometric prints became a must-have item for an island getaway, Pucci was also making interesting novelty prints that he sold in his boutiques in Italy.
Emilio Pucci led an very interesting life long before he became a designer. He was born into an aristocratic Florentine family, and was a member of the Italian ski team in the 1932 Olympics. He made his way to the USA where he attended Reed College in Oregon on a skiing scholarship. While there he did his first designing – the uniforms for the college ski team.
During WWII Pucci was a pilot in the Italian Air Force. His participation in the war came to a halt in 1944 when he helped one of Mussolini’s daughters escape to Switzerland. Her husband had been the Italian foreign minister and had been executed for his part in a plan to remove Mussolini from power. Pucci escaped to Switzerland where he spent the rest of the war.
In 1947 some ski clothes Pucci designed for a woman friend were photographed by Harper’s Bazaar photographer Toni Frissell. The pants were made of a stretch fabric, and Bazaar asked Pucci to design skiwear to be featured in a fashion shoot. After the photos came out in 1948, Pucci was made offers by several big skiwear firms. He did do a line for American company White Stag. I’ve often wondered if the White Stag items had any special labeling.
By 1949 Pucci had opened a boutique on the Italian island of Capri. There he first sold swimsuits and scarves, and after consulting with Stanley Marcus of Neiman-Marcus, he was convinced to turn the scarves into blouses. He continued working with stretch fabrics, and the ski pants morphed into stretch slacks for casual wear. They were produced in solid colors that coordinated with the colors in the print blouses and scarves.
The earliest Pucci labels read “Emilio of Capri” or “Original Emilio Sportswear.” Pucci did not want to use the family name as it was considered to be unseemly for a noble family to be in trade. The second label was developed when Pucci opened up in Florence, but was still also in Capri. Both of the items I’m showing have this label. I’ve never read exactly when this label was first used, but it did not last but a few years because the entire operation was eventually moved to Florence.
By the early 1960s Pucci was famous, and rich, and the label became “Emilio Pucci” I guess money speaks louder than society’s expectations.
This wonderful blouse was posted on the Vintage Fashion Guild forums, and I just had to share it with you. It is from seller Jeana at Erawear Vintage, and it has the best ever ski motif.
The colors are exactly what you would expect from a Pucci print, but the charming print makes it so much more special.
Another VFG seller, Terri of Vintage Devotion, recently found this super Pucci print that has a golf motif. Pucci loved sports, and not just skiing.
See the “Emilio” signature in the print? This signature continues to this day in Pucci prints.
Blouse photos copyright Erawear Vintage
Dress photos copyright Vintage Devotion