Italian cinema has never lacked for style, especially with directors like Federico Fellini and the mastery of costume design savants like Piero Gherardi. If you had to whittle down the contenders for the most stylish Italian films to a top 10 list, you would surely deliberate. We did — and polled a few passionate experts. Here are the movies that will forever wow.
“Romeo and Juliet,” Renato Castellani, 1954
Gino Moliterno, author of “Italian Cinema: A to Z,” calls the authenticity of this film dubious but praises the clothes. “The stunning costumes, designed by Argentinian artist Leonor Fini, were copied from Quattro and Cinquecento paintings,” he says. A highlight are the gowns and masks, in a palette of red and black, in the Venetian ball scene.
“8 1/2,” Federico Fellini, 1963
“It’s impossibly stylish,” says the founder of London’s Italian Film Society, Vogue Turkey photo editor Ashley Lumb. “Marcello Mastroianni’s 1960s-cut black suit with skinny tie and large black frame glasses was the epitome of cool.”
“The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” Vittorio De Sica, 1970
Fashion designer Marc Jacobs and the sisters behind couture label Rodarte have both named this sumptuous film as inspiration for collections. The tennis scenes, a study in impeccable white togs, stand out for a bow to a long-forgotten formality.
“The Leopard,” Luchino Visconti, 1963
Lace frocks and fans, velvet top hats and a black Great Dane. There’s no shortage of style and splendor in this film or in Claudia Cardinale’s clothes, with costumes designed by Piero Tosi.
“Story of a Love Affair,” Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975
The director’s debut film stars Lucia Bose, wearing hats the size of punch bowls and a leopard-print muff. “My favorite scene is where she arrives at the race track in the most brilliant white fur coat,” says Lumb. “I’ve been searching for a white fur coat every since.”
“Suspiria,” Dario Argento, 1977
If only all nightmares were so well attired and elegant. Sure, the satin robes and chic dancewear worn by the young cast playing ballerinas eventually get splattered with blood. But somehow, the onslaught of red seems to heighten the glamour of this giallo.
“Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” Vittorio De Sica, 1964
Sophia Loren plays three different women alongside Marcello Mastroianni, and she’s chic in each portrayal — even as a pregnant peasant. “Her wardrobe consists of large white hats, sunglasses, gloves, furs and fitted suits — all accented by a Rolls-Royce and a fiery Italian attitude,” says Lumb of the second act.
“Donatella,” Mario Monicelli, 1953
Variety‘s film critic in Rome, Jay Weissberg, marvels at the scenery and the finery in this romance, especially a moment in which Elsa Martinelli dances in front of the Parthenon at night. “She’s in a spectacular blue dress with a flared skirt that’s absolutely right for her coloring, and the setting is magical,” he says of costume designer Roberto Capucci’s handiwork.
“Blood and Black Lace,” Mario Brava, 1964
Moliterno recommends this thriller set in a Milan fashion house that has scantily clad models being brutally murdered. Even their dapper assassin wears an exquisitely cut trench and fedora, thanks to costume designer Tina Grani.
“Juliet of the Spirits,” Federico Fellini, 1965
The director’s first foray into Technicolor still satisfies as a smorgasbord of surrealist style with wigs, white peacocks and fake eyelashes. Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis name checks it as a favorite for the over-the-top looks by Gherardi.