European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Designers

Real Fashion History Sisterhood: Sorelle Fontana

1930s1940s1950sItalian fashion

Three ‘simple seamstresses’ that dressed international jet-set.

It was the 1936 when Fontana sisters – Zoe, Micol and Giovanna – decided to move from the little town of Traversetolo, near Parma in the North of Italy, to the city, looking for opportunities to work in fashion. They chose Rome instead of Milan, they used to say, because of the magical air of inspiration of the Eternal City.

At the beginning, they made little works as seamstresses at home or in ateliers, earning money for fabrics and working hard to gain the trust in their work environment. In 1943 they inaugurated their first atelier “Casa di moda sorelle Fontana” in Palazzo Orsini and started their career, soon becoming a recognized brand. Gioia Marconi, daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, has been their first important client.

In 1957 the success arrived for the three sisters by the commission of a wedding dress for Linda Christian, in occasion of her marriage with Tyrone Power. Then, an undeniable talent made the atelier Fontana famous by word of mouth in international aristocracy and jet-sets. In 1958, Fontana sisters were even called to represent the Italian style in a conference at the White House.

Among the others, the most loyal customer was Ava Gardner. She used Fontana’s dresses in many films, as “The barefoot contessa” in 1954, “The sun also rises” in 1957 and “On the beach” in 1959. Also Fontana’s sister realized for the actress the “Pretino” dress, that inspired Fellini so much as he wanted Anita Ekberg wearing it in “La Dolce Vita”.

Fontana sisters’ style was inspired by an almost renaissance line characterised by tight bodices and soft and very wide skirts, created with an abundance of high quality fabric. They contributed to the international establishment of Made in Italy.

In 1994 Micol Fontana created a Foundation with her name to preserve the Atelier Fontana patrimony, composed of dresses, drawings, embroideries, fashion accessories and photographs as a memory from the past making available for future generations of fashion designers.