10 September 2019

10 September

Elsa Schiaparelli - fashion designer

Clothes inspired by Surrealist art 

The designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who is regarded along with her rival Coco Chanel as one of the key figures in the fashion world between the two World Wars, was born on this day in 1890 in Rome.  Heavily influenced by the Surrealist cultural movement – the artists Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau were among her collaborators – she became a favourite of some of the world’s most recognisable women, including the American actresses Greta Garbo and Mae West, the German singer and actress Marlene Dietrich, and the socialite and heiress Daisy Fellowes.  Her style shaped the look of fashion in the 1920s and 1930s, often featuring elements of the trompe l’oeil artistic technique to create optical illusions, such as the dress she made with Dali’s collaboration that seemed to be full of rips and tears, or the evening coat she designed with Cocteau that featured two female profiles facing one another which, viewed another way, created the impression of a vase for the fabric roses adorning the shoulders and neck.  Other designs, such as the Lobster Dress and the Skeleton Dress, both influenced by Dali, satisfied her taste for the outrageous.  Read more…


Giovanni Gronchi – Italy’s third president

Opponent of Mussolini became head of state in 1955

Christian Democrat politician Giovanni Gronchi, who served as President of Italy from 1955 to 1962, was born on this day in 1887 at Pontedera in Tuscany.  He was elected to the Camera dei Deputati in 1919 and went on to become leader of a group of deputies opposed to Mussolini, but when the Fascist government suppressed this group he put his political career on hold.  Gronchi returned to politics towards the end of the Second World War and helped found the new Christian Democrat party. In 1955 he was chosen as the third President of the Republic of Italy, succeeding Luigi Einaudi.  His presidency was notable for his attempt to open a door into government for the Italian Socialist and Communist parties, which ultimately failed.  As a young man, Gronchi had obtained a degree in Literature and Philosophy at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and worked as a teacher of classics in Parma, Massa di Carrara, Bergamo and Monza.  He volunteered for military service during the First World War and afterwards became one of the founding members of the Catholic Italian Popular Party.  Read more…


Historic victory at Rome Olympics

Bikila's golden moment for African athletics

History was made on this day at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome when Ethiopia's Abebe Bikila won the marathon.  Not only did he run the whole 26 mile 385 yards (42.195km) barefoot, he also became the first athlete from sub-Saharan Africa to win an Olympic gold medal.  Bikila retained the marathon title at Tokyo in 1964.  Subsequently, the middle and long-distance running events have become increasingly dominated by sub-Saharan runners, particularly Kenyans and Ethiopians.  The British runner Mo Farah - born in Somalia - continued that domination by winning both the 5,000m and 10,000m gold medals at consecutive summer Olympics in London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro this year.  In total, more than 40 gold medals at distances from 800m to the marathon have been won by sub-Saharan runners since Bikila's breakthrough.  Bikila competed in Rome only after a late call-up to the Ethiopia squad to fill a place vacated when a colleague became ill.  He arrived with no running shoes but hoped to be supplied with some by adidas, one of the Games sponsors.  Read more…


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