Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda’s Operatic Homecoming

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Photo credit: Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana.

Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda show this past weekend was a homecoming. The brand—that most Italian of Italian houses—almost always shows in Italy, of course, and its clothes always explore the culture and history of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s home country. Its Alta Moda line is perhaps its most Italianate expression, baroque in creation and operatic in execution, and has taken attendees to some of Italy’s most picturesque locations.

But this year’s show marked the tenth anniversary of Alta Moda, which, in its richness and TK, is sort of like the house’s answer to couture and then some, and a special something was in order. The designers brought the show to Sicily, to an ancient Greek theatre, and staged a reenactment of composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, a 19th-century one act opera that tells the tale of a tawdry Sicilian romance. After the young Turridu returns to his village from war, he finds his fiancee, Lola, has married another man. He vengefully seduces another woman, and Lola, unable to contain herself, begins an affair with her former fiance. When their betrayal is revealed, Lola’s husband challenges Turridu to a dual and, well, if you know anything about Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s affection for the lacy black uniform of the Sicilian widow, you can guess where it all ends.

Operas and other cinematic narratives have become a more common feature of fashion shows, especially since the pandemic, as fashion houses think creatively to make shows even more narrative. A storyline often resonates with customers who love for their clothes to have a sense of history—for their beautifully-made jacket to be a true conversation piece—and the Alta Moda clients, who number nearly 1000, are the type of fashion fanatics who might fancy themselves the star of an opera that is their lives. But the story gave a moving, in-depth gloss to the 108-look production, creating mythology around the clothes and around the house itself. There was a dramatic white minidress with enormous putti shoulders that recalled one of the opera’s opening songs, when Turrido sings that Lola’s “blouse is as white as milk,” and voluminously gowns of soft sculpted taffeta with coordinating opera capes, the model’s heads draped in fine black mourning veils. And there were also, of course, the rich, deeply black gowns encrusted with crosses and topped veils—that Sicilian widow uniform that Dolce and Gabbana made the foundation of their brand in the 1990s.

Amid the mania for runway fashion from that period, the house’s emotionally-charged sexiness, with its lingerie dressing and leopard print intensity, have found an enormous fanbase. When the brand hosted Kourtney Kardashian’s wedding to Travis Barker earlier this summer, the Kardashian family made their way around Portofino in archival looks from the brand, much to the delight of Kardashian-philes and vintage heads alike. By reviving their signatures in their most intense show of craftsmanship, the designers are able to express the power of their work without appearing to lean too heavily into the retro craze. Instead of merely looking back, the scale of the production, the clothes, and the emotion ensure they have much to celebrate.

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