This weekend I stumbled upon a picture taken by Arthur Elgort in 1994 of Claudia Schiffer in the Valentino atelier, and was immediately struck by it. In the image, Claudia (we’re definitely on a first-name basis, right?) sits on a table in one of the most famous fashion houses in the world, surrounded by workers clad in uniforms of white. She wears a sweetheart necklined strapless dress of black, with geometric cut-outs revealing a white fabric beneath, she’s putting on elbow-length black gloves, and she’s just beaming.
I found this image while spending some time looking around the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum. [Okay, a lot of time. Whatever time you think you’ll spend browsing through old advertisements and swooning over the amazing detail of some of his pieces, well, multiply that by three. While it’s not the most couture of pictures, the most stunning of pictures, or the most famous of pictures, it sort of looks to me like it represents everything the Valentino brand meant—and has meant—to so many people. There’s the celebrity factor, the luxurious and stylish clothes, the element of sophistication, workmanship, and awe. It is, in a sense, pure Valentino. He was once quoted as saying, “I know what women want. They want to be beautiful.” Over the decades, the brand has certainly presented women with that opportunity.
Valentino Garavani was born in 1932, and named for Rudolph Valentino, that swarthy and handsome actor that stole many a woman’s heart in the early part of the twentieth century. When he was 27, Valentino opened his first atelier in Rome, and was soon experiencing the success and fame associated with a brand that had truly made it. His designs were sought after by some of the most looked-at and sophisticated women of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s—women like Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jacqueline Kennedy (who not only asked Valentino to design her a number of dresses for the time she was in mourning for JFK, but also wore a dress from Valentino’s all-white spring 1968 collection for her marriage to Aristotle Onassis). Those “Val’s Gals” helped solidify the image and the brand.
It is a bit unfair to speak of anything Valentino without turning to the subject of shoes, because ohhhh the shoes. Lace and studs and bows and frilly bits—what could be more feminine? Here at Rice and Beans Vintage, we have a pair of these sassy Valentino black patent peep-toed pumps with bows—they would be perfect paired with one of those infamous “Valentino red” dresses. Trust me, if they were my size, I would be wearing them right now—and while vacuuming, running to the post office, going to an important work meeting…
Written by Heather Cox for Rice and Beans Vintage