Woman's Velveteen Top by Pucci
The top overall hem circumference is 43”, (109.2 cm) with two 11.5” (29.2 cm) front panels and one 20” (50.8 cm) back panel.
The top’s length is 28” (71.1 cm) from the collar to the hem in the center of the garment.
The sleeves' circumference is 12” (30.4 cm) and are 19” (22.8 cm) from the shoulder to the cuff.
There is a slit on either side of the garment that reaches 7” (17.75 cm) up from the hem.
Emilio Pucci’s (1914-1992) journey to becoming a fashion designer did not follow the same trajectory as other mid-twentieth century designers. Born into an Italian aristocratic family, with no expectations of having the necessity to work, Pucci’s early life included participation in Italy’s 1932 Olympics ski team, studying at several American universities, earning a MA degree as well as a Ph.D., and joining the Italian air force in 1938.
It wasn’t until a skiing trip in Switzerland that Pucci become noticed by the fashion industry. His design for a ski outfit – and here Time magazine states it was an outfit Pucci wore, while other sources are not as specific – caught the attention of a photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. His fitted, practical ski clothes were photographed and published in Harper’s Bazaar in 1948, resulting in orders for Lord & Taylor’s New York store (Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, 2018). This first retail success catapulted Pucci into becoming one of the most influential and prominent designers of his time. His design style evolved into a brand image of colorful and radical prints, producing another title to add to his name: The Prince of Prints, the name given to him by Time in 1969.
Donated to the University of Rhode Island Historic Textile and Costume Collection by Dorothy ‘Dorie’ Small, the cotton-velvet top, complete with the “Emilio” signature and printed in a bold pattern of pinks and purples, blues, black and white, dates to the late 1960s. Other Pucci garments in the 1995 donation include cotton dresses, silk jersey dresses and pants, and a similar cotton-velvet top, which would also have been worn with a pair of Pucci pants. Curatorial records indicate that Ms. Small’s main residence was an affluent Manhattan apartment in New York City. Although there is little information about Dorothy Small, the garments she donated speak volumes about her shopping and lifestyle. A majority of the donated garments were bought in New York City department stores including Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue.
This Pucci top is one of his popular engineered prints done in velveteen. This pure cotton fabric consists of a plain weave made with a short close weft pile that gives it the soft feel imitating velvet. The printed top is synonymous with Emilio Pucci’s trademark look: hand-crafted in vibrant, bold, and contrasting colors containing his first name, signed minutely throughout the pattern. Pucci’s designs contain a kaleidoscope of colors that were transferred into graphic and abstract prints, with organic forms inspired by his travels to Cuba, Bali, India, Hong Kong, and Tanzania. It is also clear that other 1960s influences, such as pop art, op art, and psychedelia, inspired some of his brightest swirling patterned creations (Lovell 2020; The Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion 2018). According to Introspective Magazine (Watson 2019), most of Pucci’s work began with a new printed scarf design that would later translate into garments and home furnishings.
The garment is constructed with a center front closure with the buttons hidden beneath a placket, a turn-down collar, and long sleeves. The engineered print creates a border along the front edges and hem. The sleeves’ piecing also creates a border in lieu of a cuff. The semi-fitted style is achieved with a single dart running from each side seam to the bust. Couture details in construction include hand sewn buttonholes, a lining of white fabric installed entirely with hand stitching, the placket front connected with handmade thread brides, and the creative use of an engineered print. The label found in the Emilio Pucci top is unique to this time, as it has care instructions listed in the label before it was required. Labeled care instructions were not regulated until the introduction of the “Care Labeling of Textile Wearing Apparel Rule” in 1972. The wording of the Pucci label, “To be dry cleaned,” does not match the specified language of the 1972 ordinance. This indicates that Pucci had care instructions put into his garments on his own, before it was mandated.
Becoming easily recognizable, Emilio Pucci’s contribution to the fashion industry was conveyed in a joyful way through his bright and energetic clothing, perfectly capturing the zeitgeist of the times. The effortless color combinations with his signature prints exuded liveliness and were bold all on their own, allowing the silhouettes of the designs to remain relatively simple (Pucci n.d.). As the Pucci top in the URI Collection was probably part of a pantsuit ensemble, we can speculate on what this might have looked like based on other looks he produced at this time. The velveteen cotton tops that Pucci designed were almost always seen together in an ensemble, whether they contained pants or not.
The enthusiasm for Emilio Pucci’s vibrant clothes reached its peak in 1967, dubbed as “Puccimania” (Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion 2018). As the 1960s was the height of the sexual revolution, this was carried over and conveyed through Pucci’s designs. The author and former editor of Cosmopolitan summarized the influence of Pucci on the time period by stating, “The dresses were spare, sexy and liberating!” (Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion 2018). Style Icons of the time were all known for also wearing Pucci designs, including Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Gloria Steinem, and Barbara Walters (Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion 2018). As the “Prince of Prints,” he was the go-to designer of the time who effectively communicated luxury, timelessness, and ease. His brand became synonymous with air travel once he designed outfits for Braniff Airlines in the 1960s (Watson 2019). Jet-setting became fashionable, with Pucci designing creations of sleek silhouettes that allowed free movement in fabrics that were easily packed without wrinkles.
This distinctive lifestyle brand was not just solely exclusive to society’s upper-class. As described on the Pucci website (n.d.), he had a vision that expanded access to high-end designer goods for the first time. Inserting the name “Emilio” in hand-written style on all of his prints marked the debut of a designer’s name used as an external logo – the creation of brand preference and identification that is so popular today. His skill in crossing class and product lines led to his sustaining reign of partnerships within New York City department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, and Neiman Marcus.
Not only did Emilio Pucci focus on traditional fashion design, he became a pioneer in blending textiles with non-fashion related projects as well. Also regarded as an expert on creative diversification, Pucci branched out and had a hand in designing the logo for Apollo 15 space mission, porcelain tableware, and home furnishings (Pucci n.d.). He was not only a creative expert, but he also learned the art of diversifying one’s business in order to stay relevant in evolving times. The Italian House of Pucci was simultaneously groundbreaking and simple in its intentions and stylized designs. Although Emilio Pucci gained the title “Prince of Prints,” there are numerous other defining factors of this iconic brand that transcend the boundaries of time.
The phenomenon of Emilio Pucci’s designs may have started in the 1950s, but we are still hearing the echoes of his influence today. Pucci was the driving force behind recognizing Italy as a major contender in couture and ready-to-wear fashion, originating the “Made in Italy” style that is so revered today. He was one of the first Italians to show his collections to international buyers. Pucci’s artistry of understanding color and transforming it into eye-catching patterns was elevated by his keen awareness for what the modern woman wanted going forward into a revolutionary era. He boldly moved forward in pioneering a new look, capturing international interest and reverence. Pucci learned how to brand himself, which is what dominates the current fashion industry today – making him a visionary ahead of his time. Love for Pucci’s prints and designs may go in and out of revivals, however, the iconic trademarks of the brand will never fade out of style.
Emilio Pucci. n.d. "A Fashion Revolution." Emilio Pucci. Accessed March 28, 2021. https://www.emiliopucci.com/en-us/about.
Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. 2018. "Pucci, Emilio." Encyclopedia.com. August 18. https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/fashion-biographies/emilio-pucci.
Lovell, Suzanne. 2020. "The story behind Pucci's prints." Suzanne Lovell Inc. January 30. https://suzannelovellinc.com/blog/the-story-behind-puccis-prints/.
Patel, Tanvi. 2018. "When the Beatles Wore the Nehru Jacket & Spread the Fashion 'Across the Universe'!" The Better India. November 1. https://www.thebetterindia.com/163533/modi-vest-nehru-jacket-beatles-fashion-india-news/.
Time Magazine, October 10, 1969.
Watson, Claire. 2019. "How Fashion Icon Emilio Pucci Became the Prince of Psychedelic Prints." 1st Dibs Introspective Magazine. October 6. https://www.1stdibs.com/introspective-magazine/emilio-pucci/.
Susan J. Jerome, MS '06
"To be dry cleaned / Lavare a secco"
labels at center back of neck