The buckle: between fashion, costume and jewelleryThe private collection of Pennasilico, one of the most important worldwide, gives rise to the book published by Skira editore, “The History of the Buckle between Fashion and Jewellery (1700-1950)”, which traces the historical timeline of this striking little object, which, since time immemorial, has always been much more than just a simple and functional element used in clothing.

May 08, 2019
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Buckle with serpents. In gold-plated high brass, William B. Kerr & Co. Newark (New Jersey), America, beginning of the 20th century, below: gold and gold-plated silver, turquoise and garnet cabochon, end of the 19th century
Buckle with serpents. In gold-plated high brass, William B. Kerr & Co. Newark (New Jersey), America, beginning of the 20th century, below: gold and gold-plated silver, turquoise and garnet cabochon, end of the 19th century

Over the centuries, the buckle has been an essential indicator of social status, representing an expression of ever-changing tastes and an element in harmony with aesthetic, technological, and material innovations (from the use of steel to the use of plastics). Naturally, it is also a striking and functional piece of ornamentation, essential in completing the look of every elegant outfit. This was especially true starting in 1700 when, during the era of the Sun King, women in the courts of France began to show their feet and, with them, also their splendid shining buckles. It was at the end of 1700 that buckles started to become so big and invasive as to even cause injury to the feet! Without considering that before the debut of the zip, the buckle was also quite prominent in clothing, including even men’s apparel, and was used to close the culotte (the forerunner to pants) or to fix a tie in place. During the French Revolution, instead, patriotic-themed buckles arose, while those that were finer and more opulent began to disappear during a historic period where it became dangerous to flaunt one’s wealth and nobility. There were then all the ‘Great sets’ of renowned jewellers like Fabergé that included not only necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, but also buttons and buckles. Even the leading Maisons of the last century reserved a special attention for buckles, interpreting them with skill and style. One prime example of this is ‘fashion visionary’ and leading stylist Elsa Schiaparelli, who in 1939, created a ‘musical’ buckle meant to accessorize a musical-themed outfit of hers.
Other stories include that of Farinelli, who in 1700 flaunted buckles adorned with diamonds and exquisite embroideries, while Casanova unmasked a fraud pretending to be a nobleman thanks to the buckles of his shoes, which were not fine enough for a nobleman…
storia-fibbiaNow as in the past, the buckle has been an object of fascination, while inciting curiosity and interest, so it’s no surprise that Skira Editore decided to dedicate a striking and newly minted novel to it, “The History of the Buckle between Fashion and Jewellery (1700-1950)”, edited by Bianca Cappello, historian and jewellery critic, and Samuele Magri, art and fashion historian. This careful study is filled with splendid images that trace the unusual visual and historic timeline of buckles (for shoes, belts, pants, cloaks, hats, etc.), starting from the private collection of the lawyer Pennasilico, which is one of the most important in the world with over 2,000 buckles.

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