In the third episode of Dolce & Gabbana’s new podcast, MoltoItaliano, Isabella Rossellini dives into the history of another D&G staple: the tank top. In this podcast series, she shares her memories and insights from industry experts into the success of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s luxury fashion brand.
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1. Dolce & Gabbana Inspired by Cinema
The Dolce &Gabbana brand is heavily influenced by Italian cinema, specifically the neo-realism movement founded by Isabella Rossellini’s father, Roberto Rossellini, an Italian film director, producer, and screenwriter.
Italian neo-realism focused on the struggles of the working class, which had been prohibited under Mussolini’s rule. One way the filmmakers could differentiate this new focus of their films from the carefully censored ones under the dictatorship was through the wardrobe.
2. Cinema Shocks the World
The use of the white tank top on men in cinema marked a significant change in national and international culture. When actor Massimo Girottiiconically work a white tank top in the film “Obsessione” (1942), it revolutionized the world of film by making the male protagonist an object of sensual desire.
Traditionally, working-class Italian men in the south of Italy, specifically in Palermo, were known to wear white tank tops. This undergarment, not unlike a woman’s brassiere, was worn under a shirt and not meant to be seen. Yet, you often could see it, and where this had once been a social faux pas that separated the classes, the use of the tank top as a symbol of masculinity in cinema soon caused it to become the epitome of men’s fashion.
3. Foundations and Identity
After Massimo Girotti’s tank top debut, other films also began to feature the garment. Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Sylvester Stallone in several of his films, including the “Rocky” series, and Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” all played stereotypically masculine roles where the tank top showed off their muscles, symbols of both desire and danger.
Dolce & Gabbana took the iconic white tank top and made it the foundation of its men’s clothing line. But, as the visionary designers they are, they didn’t stop there. The pair also began showing tank tops for women, not as an undergarment but as a shirt.
The tank top for women began in cinema, too. It symbolized a woman who had to take on a warrior status and hide her femininity. Linda Hamilton in “The Terminator” and Sigourney Weaver in “Alien” had scenes where the tank top was used to show off their warrior physique. This rendered the tank top both masculine and feminine, strong and sensual. Dichotomy like this is foundational to Dolce & Gabbana’s approach to fashion.
4. Dolce & Gabbana Create Beauty from Contrast
The skill of blending contrasting ideas is what drew Domenico and Stefano to the tank top. When describing the social impact of the tank top as a garment, Isabella Rossellini concludes this episode by saying, “Therefore, the tank top, and how you use it, is a calling card that says who you are. The choice of transforming a popular garment into a fashion fetish also reveals the division of the world.”
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