My interest in early 20th century clothing is ever-growing and recently whilst doing some light research on the structure of waistcoats and work vests (as you do!) for S.F.C. I came across the photo above. I was immediately struck by the graphic waistcoats that were being worn – after a little digging I revealed that these were Fortunato Depero’s Futurist waistcoats pictured on the man himself during the year of 1924. I had to find out more.
Italian Futurism was more than an artistic movement; it was a way of life.
A movement that wasn’t chained to an easel and painting palette but rather to the concept of the opera d’arte totale, (or for those of us that don’t speak Italian – the total work of art). It was the whole picture, which encompassed architecture, furniture, design, ceramics, art, textiles, and in this case clothing.
The story starts in the early 20’s where Depero’s interest in design and business led him to open a workshop in his hometown. From there, he designed and sold tapestries, pillows, posters, furniture, ‘toys’ and stained glass. He chose bright, forceful colours to create these objects. Over the years as he moved from one project to another he made a start on a set of waistcoats. These too in bright colours made of wool and with geometric designs representing snakes, fish, and wild plants.
Depero was closely linked with the ballet and arts theatres in and around major Italian cities. There he designed costumes and sets – working closely with these institutions, all the while cementing Futurist ideologies into the performance. It was here in Milan 1924 at the ballet entitled Anihccam del 3000 where this iconic photo of Marinetti (fellow Futurist) and Depero wear those very waistcoats.
WE MUST INVENT FUTURIST CLOTHES, hap-hap-hap-hap-happy clothes, daring clothes with brilliant colours and dynamic lines…. USE materials with forceful MUSCULAR colours – the reddest of reds, the most purple of purples, the greenest of greens, intense yellows, orange, vermilion — and SKELETON tones of white, grey and black. And we must invent dynamic designs to go with them and express them in equally dynamic shapes: triangles, cones, spirals, ellipses, circles, etc. The cut must incorporate dynamic and asymmetrical lines, with the left-hand sleeve and left side of a jacket in circles and the right in squares. And the same for waistcoats, stockings, topcoats, etc.
For now, these waistcoats are exhibited in various museums alongside a vast array of other Futurist works. I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next showing.