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Fashion 101: Unmask Italia

Friday, July 16, 2010

I have just finished an amazing tour of Italy, full of great food, fun culture, and friendly people. Italy was so great in fact that I really didn't want to leave, but alas every trip sadly comes to a close, but now we get to recap the wonder! One of my favorite things I found was an amazing artisan's gallery for Venetian Masks. Many of the market vendors had plastic masks to buy for cheap but my friends and I stumbled into a gold mine of dreamlike wonderment.

Being raised as the Princess, I always dreamed of being swept away by a mysterious handsome prince at a masked ball, and I must I admit I do still dream of one day attending a masked ball of my own, even as rare as they do occur nowadays.

Allow me to introduce Alice Masks by Agostino Dessi. Arriving in Florence for his studies he fell in love with the artistic Florence and set up his shop by 1979 creating masks inspired by the "Comedia dell'Arte" and the Venetian paintings of the 18th century. Alice Masks is truly like falling down the rabbit hole as you find a whimsical creation at any place your eye might rest. Hanging from the ceiling, resting in vintage trunks, and sitting on stands in the process of being created this atelier is truly an experience in itself.

Since 1997 Dessi's daughter has been running Mask Making Workshops for all who are interested in the art. Venetian masks are more than a fantasy world but a rich history of Italian culture. Masks have been made from every imaginable material workable by hand from paper, feathers and leather, to even straw, reed, wood, and bone. Even in the advanced technologies of today's synthetic fibers most original techniques are still utilized today.

Masks have been worn for centuries and centuries whether for the scaring of prey, a facade of courage for soldiers, or to simply guard anonymity for a lax in social rules. The first record of Venetian masks as we know them today dates back to the beginning of the Venetian Carnivale which stems from the Latin words Carne & Vale meaning Farewell to Meat. This carnival is the origin of Mardi Gras where people would celebrate together in excess right before a fast for 40 days. It is believed that Carnivale began around the 12th century and the use of the Venetian Masks dates back to the 13th century. A mask can take a million different forms with unending options for shape and material. The Bauta is the name for the full faced mask, and the Columbine is the half mask that rest around the eyes only.

{thank you wikipedia, venetianmaskshop.com, and of course alicemasks.com for the history lesson}

I know my Venetian Mask was the best souvenir I've bought for myself, possibly anywhere. Now I will just have to find a reason to wear it, I'm thinking Halloween! You must check out Alicemasks.com for a view of Dessi's collection and prepare yourself to be swept away.

Have you ever attended a masked ball mes cheries?

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