It’s been said that Cristobal Balenciaga’s 1957 sack dress supposedly inspired the premise for Federico Fellini’s 1960 morality tale, La Dolce Vita. The sack dress, “rendered a woman gorgeous who could be a skeleton of squalor and solitude inside” not unlike the flip side of the “sweet life” the film portrays. The sack dress is a more voluminous version of our Lawson trapeze dress, whose roots are closer to YSL's trapeze dress from 1958 which was obviously a derivative of the Balenciaga as is the case in all of fashion. The film's premise is just as relevant in today’s celebrity obsessed world as it was at its release. The costumes are equally timeless.
The movie introduced the world to Italian style, which is synonymous with luxury fashion that’s equally elegant and sexy. This timeless film is also an ode to the ultimate fashion staple — the little black dress.
The costumes in La Dolce Vita are the epitome of 1950s femininity and early 1960s chic. What’s striking is their simplicity. The styles were chosen clearly to compliment the actresses shape. Anouk Aimée plays wealthy playgirl Maddalena, wears only three different costumes, — two little black sheath dresses and a simple V-neck sweater. Similar to Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, who only wears three costumes. Anika Ekberg’s wardrobe is equally elegant, and obviously created to compliment her curves.
Every woman in the film wears some form of a little black dress, or a classic black and white dress. The color of the costumes tells the story as much as the dialogue.
Of all wardrobe staples, the little black dress is the one iconic item nearly every designer can agree on no matter what their aesthetic or origin. It isn’t French, Italian or American. It’s the global sartorial symbol of classic, elegant style.