Editor’s Note: This year marks the tenth anniversary of Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda, which will be celebrated with a show in Sicily. Ahead of that event, we’re revisiting some of the label’s 1990s shows. The spring 1992 collection was presented in October 1991 in Milan.
In 1991, when Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana presented their spring 1992 collection, which featured lots of black lingerie—already a brand signature—they were still considered “new kids” on the scene. But not only were they new, they were determined to be different. In fact, the AP observed, they had “made a point of keeping their distance from the staid Milanese style, which brought the made-in-Italy label to the top of the international fashion parade in the ’80s.”
They did so by playing up Dolce’s Southern heritage (he is from Palermo), and playing a wink-wink game with national stereotypes. “Dolce e Gabbana’s clothes take their cue from old-fashioned Italian ‘classics,’ wrote Vogue when introducing the brand to readers in 1985. “Their inspiration: specifically, Sicilian women.” Or, more accurately, a fanciful and cinematic version of sirens and nonnas, sunshine and clothing lines. (The “Catholic Imagination,” curator Andrew Bolton’s phrase, is always alive and well in Dolce & Gabbana’s work and sets up a “good” versus “bad girl” dichotomy, that was also present in Gianni Versace’s work).
Dolce and Gabbana literally spelled out some of their inspirations near the end of their show, when red sequins on black separates listed the first names of screen divas Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, and Ava Gardner. To the starry Cinecittà references, the duo added a more populist touch: looks made out of printed potato sacks, that communicated sentiments about love and s-e-x. (Madonna’s book on the subject would be published the following year.) Some contemporary reviewers balked at the idea of seeing the boudoir looks on the street, others embraced it. As one newspaper headline announced: “The Lingerie Look: Not Just for Madonna.” The pop star and these nascent designers were operating on the same pop cultural wavelength, bending iconic imagery and tropes to their own ends to speak to the moment while evoking storied heritages (national, fashionable, cinematic, etc.).
Forty years on this sexy collection might feel tamer than it did at the time, yet it unmistakably remains a strong and pure expression of the Dolce & Gabbana ethos.