Monday, February 13, 2012


I had not heard of Simonetta--Duchess Simonetta Colonna di Cesaró--when I came across this article about her in a 1956 issue of Women's Home Companion.  She wasn't as famous as contemporaries like Balenciaga or Pucci, but she was well known in the 1950s and 1960s as an innovative designer of cocktail dresses, ballgowns, daywear, sportswear, and coats with youthful appeal.  

The article shows Simonetta in her Roman atelier and villa, where she lived with then-husband, designer Alberto Fabiani.  Her story is a fascinating one.  An Italian aristocrat who was jailed for antifacist activities by the Mussolini government,  Simonetta started her couture business after the war using scraps of whatever material could be found--aprons, dishcloths, butler's uniforms.  She spent many years as a successful couturier, dressing women like Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  And then, in the early 1970s, she sold her business and moved to India, where she devoted herself to spirituality and working with lepers. 

The magazine showcases some lovely party dresses, coats, and Simonetta's "travel wardrobe for America."  There is also advice from Simonetta on how a woman should dress and present herself.

"The best way to conceal defects is to emphasize them.  If you have a big bust, drape it instead of trying to flatten it down, then no one knows which is you and which is dress.  If you have big hips, wear a wide skirt.  If you have a big mouth paint it to look bigger and it will be an arresting feature."

Simonetta says women should not be afraid of a dark wardrobe of gray and black that can be livened up with a jacket or accessories.  She says the scarlet coat above is "neutral because I can wear it over everything I have."

"You cannot be completely comfortable when you are chic--you need a good corset, well-fitting shoes with high heels, a neat hairdo."



  1. Great article - she sounds quite a character! x

  2. Simonetta sounds like a fascinating woman. I wonder if someone has written a biography--I'd like to read it! Isn't Women's Home Companion the best?

  3. Yes--a bio has been written! Here's a link; wonder if I can check it out from my library:

    The WHC is a little family/children/homemaker-focused for my own personal tastes, but it's still an interesting reflection on the time. I'm glad they usually include fashion spreads, and the ads and cheesy fiction artwork are usually pretty fun!

  4. Oh to be in a Rome in such pretty dresses!

    LOVE this article on Simonetta. She sounds like a fascinating women with some solid advice. I always shy from emphasising my full hips but she's completely right about wearing full skirts! And saying we shouldn't be afraid of dark wardrobes… she's a lady after my own heart! :)

  5. Thanks for introducing me to a new designer; I LOVE her fashion tips!


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