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How to dress elegantly for Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este

Words by Lauren Cochrane

In the history of our modern world, the year 1929 doesn’t have the most joyous of reputations – this is, after all, the date of the first Wall Street Crash. It’s not all bad, though – 1929 was also the year that Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este was founded.

The car rally celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. It’s now known for classic cars built between the 1920s and 1980s driving in all their glory around Lake Como, along with state-of-the-art concept vehicles. What has that got to do with fashion? It provides the perfect excuse to dress up and honour an environment in which elegant design is appreciated.

Fashion has always been a concern here. When the car is glamorous, your outfit should be too. The connection was made explicit in the 1930s. From 1934, a woman’s fashion show with mannequins took place at the yearly event, with Milan houses showing off their wares to a crowd who had the budget – and style – to buy into their brands. Fashion insiders have consistently attended the event too – Louis Vuitton collaborator Marc Newson and Ralph Lauren are regulars. Newson even won the Early Motor Racing-Inspired Class category in 2018 with a 1934 Bugatti.

In recent years, fashion at Concorso d’Eleganza could be described as a halfway house between a day-at-the-races and a highbrow festival. What to wear in 2019? Aim to honour the classic heritage, without going too retro.

Fortuitously, fashion’s mood has shifted away from a streetwear moment, where tracksuit trousers and sneakers were everything, and dressing down was the new dressing up. Brands like Valentino, Dries Van Noten, Erdem and Simone Rocha possess a strand of glamour that’s in keeping with the lines of Newson’s Bugatti. Decadent volume and pops of colour are a playful way to dress up. And remember to ditch the sneakers in place of the so-called Naked Sandal – nothing X-rated, this refers to spaghetti straps across your feet. Hotly tipped as the shoe of the summer, they can be found at Prada and Stella McCartney.

While Concorso d’Eleganza takes place in Italy in the late spring, the weather is still unreliable. Some element of practicality is advisable – luckily, silk scarfs are fashionable this season (see Burberry, Gucci and, of course, Hermès). They can be tied Grace Kelly-style around the head, or turned into a makeshift throw, should the wind pick up.

Men, meanwhile, could look to The Rake. The site and magazine sponsor Concorso d’Eleganza and champion the kind of timeless Italian elegance that other nations have attempted to recreate over the years. Items to invest in that work without looking too ‘Talented Mr. Ripley at a costume party’? A knitted polo shirt from John Smedley or Stenströms. A soft linen jacket. Some minimal sneakers – think Common Projects, not Nike or Adidas. And, of course, a pair of sunglasses of your choice. That goes without saying. Summertime jet-set glamour is nothing without shades, after all.

From Friday 24th May to Sunday 26th May 2019, the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este and Villa Erba will be the exclusive settings for this prestigious event.

If you’d like more information on how to experience Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, please contact our team of travel specialists.

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