Italian Fashion & Women’s Empowerment

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Italian fashion is known for its elegant designs and timeless aesthetics. Although fashion houses run by men such as Valentino, Armani and Gucci are big names in women’s fashion, female designers have had a strong influence on style, and the message fashion expresses for women.

Women’s empowerment is not about career advancement or earning more money; it’s about leadership, taking risks and succeeding against the odds.

Fashion is often seen as superficial, only focusing on appearance, false facades, and therefore lacking value to society. Upon deeper assessment, fashion is a visual art medium and creates hundreds of thousands of jobs from design to manufacturing, transport and retail. Not to mention the many businesses and professions that benefit from fashion, such as commercial property development, the media and tourism.

Women’s empowerment is not about career advancement or earning more money; it’s about leadership, taking risks and succeeding against the odds.

Italian women who made a statement through fashion

Fashion allows us to express ourselves, our creativity, and our beliefs. Historically clothing has inspired change and has been a significant catalyst for women’s empowerment.     

Caterina Sforza’s Armor /

In Italy, we can see the first signs of this as far back as the fifteenth century when Caterina Sforza donned battle armor and led her soldiers into war. In 1484, to ensure the election of a new pope who could end the violence raging in the city, she took control of the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. She was considered a force not to be reckoned with and was highly respected. At times, she was even feared by her soldiers for the strength and discipline she imbued.

Imagine if Caterina had worn a silk gown. Would she have been able to command with dignity and force in the same way?  Although metal armor is not a fashion statement we can identify with today, it is a prime example of what we wear expresses what we stand for and feel.

Looking at contemporary fashion, some Italian designers and brands have made empowering statements with key items of clothing, accessories, or messages through their collections. Here are some selected designers and a little bit of Italian fashion history. 


Krizia Hot Pants 1970 / Corriere Fashion Archive

Mariuccia Mandelli founded Krizia, an Italian ready-to-wear fashion house, in 1954. Mandelli, born and raised in Bergamo, made a name for herself selling to Milan boutiques. Initially a one-woman operation, she regularly drove her Fiat 500 full of suitcases of samples to the city, presenting her new fashions to shop owners who ordered her pieces. A talented seamstress, she debuted her first collection at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence in 1964, which earned her a Critica della Moda award.

A free woman can wear anything she feels comfortable in.

Mariuccia Mandelli

Following the introduction of the miniskirt in 1966 at London fashion week, in 1970, Krizia introduced a new item of clothing. She called them “very short shorts,” which later became known as “Hot Pants.” The trend reflected sexual freedom and expression voiced by the women’s liberation movement.

Mariuccia Mandelli passed away in 2015 at the age of 90 and is remembered for saying, “I like sophisticated, free women. A free woman can wear anything she feels comfortable in.”

Krizia collections can be found at Antologia Boutique at Scalo Milano Outlet & More

A. Testoni

The shoe with a sensible heel / Amedeo Testoni historical archive

Amedeo Testoni founded the A. Testoni shoe brand in 1929 when he opened a small workshop in Bologna. His shoes became famous for their exclusive handmade braided chain stitch. In 1949, his daughter Marisa Testoni took over the family business. Marisa brought a fresh and innovative vision to the company as Creative Director, spanning from the 1950s to the mid-2000s.

Women worldwide are grateful to Marisa Testoni’s insight and innovation for introducing shoes with “a sensible heel.” She wanted a women’s shoe that was functional and flattering and could be worn for hours. This shoe (above) is one of the first women’s work shoes to hit the market during a surge of women joining the workforce in the mid-1960s.

Amedeo Testoni shoes and accessories can be found at
Scalo Milano Outlet & More

Today the A. Testoni brand is a well-known Made in Italy brand and continues to make quality handmade shoes and leather accessories.

Elena Mirò

Since 2005 Elena Mirò has represented all body types on the catwalk/ Elena Mirò FW2021

Elena Mirò is a Made in Italy label and part of the Miroglio Fashion Group. Founded initially as Vestebene, it was a family-run textile business established in 1947 and became the first Italian mail-order fashion company. In 1984 the Elena Mirò brand was launched and recruited the talents of stylists like Moschino and Krizia. In September 2005, the Elena Mirò brand made headlines for presenting models sized 48 (UK 16, US 12) and over on the catwalks of Milan Fashion Week. The industry standard was size 40-42 (UK 8-10, US 4-6), but the new director, Elena Miroglio, wanted the brand to represent real women.

Elena Mirò can be found at Antologia Boutique at Scalo Milano Outlet & More

In 2007, Elena Miroglio was awarded the prestigious title of Knight of the Republic for the contribution made by the Elena Mirò brand for “freeing women from a constricting aesthetic concept.” 


Amelie strives to make fashion that suits all women

Although the Amelie brand is not accredited to one woman, it has sparked a new approach to fashion which other brands are trying to imitate.  Established in 2015 in La Spezia, Amelie began with an ambitious idea: make fashion that would suit any woman of any age and body type. Their slogan defines their mission, “No size, no age, no season.”

“No size” because style and quality clothing take precedence over your dress size. “No age” because age doesn’t make a difference; what matters is how you feel and, more importantly, how you would like to feel. “No season” because fashion should be an expression of every month. Amelie is sensitive to climate change and seeks to create collections that can be worn all year long.

Amelie can be found at Scalo Milano Outlet & More

Amelie encompasses the idea that women can be comfortable, stylish and feel beautiful without following mainstream ideas. All Amelie garments are designed, created and produced in Italy, with selected fabrics.

In conclusion, we can see that fashion is a powerful visual medium, that has played an important role in expressing and responding to social change. There are many other designers and Italian fashion brands that have made a statement and given women a form of expression, confidence and inner strength and hopefully, new ones will continue to emerge.

Where to shop

All the above-mentioned brands can be found at their flagship stores or conveniently located at Scalo Milano Outlet & More, the shopping outlet village located just outside the city center.  

Scalo Milano Outlet & More, outlet village in Milan

Scalo Milano Outlet & More

Via Milano 5,
Locate Triulzi (MI)

Opening hours

Monday – Sunday
Fashion & Design: 10 am -9 pm
Food: 10 am – 11 pm

Scalo Milano Outlet & More

Shopping at Scalo Milano Outlet & More, Milan Italy – Save up to 70% on fashion and design brands. Scalo Milano Outlet & More is the closest outlet village to Milan and is accessible by a free shuttle bus service.

Getting to Scalo Milano Outlet is easy; there’s a free shuttle bus from P.zza della Repubblica (in front of the newsstand) which takes about 25 minutes, or take the S13 train which stops in front of the outlet at the Locate di Triulzi station.  By car or taxi, it’s only a 15-20 minute drive from the center of Milan. There is ample parking and a recharging station for electric cars. 

Article by Celia Abernethy,

This guide is brought to you by Scalo Milano Outlet & More
All images courtesy Scalo Milano Outlet & More Press
For more info:

Featured image: Empowerment is about leadership, taking risks and succeeding against the odds /
A. Testoni shoes and accessories @ScaloMilanoOutlet

About Author /

Celia is the founder and managing editor of Originally from New York, she now lives in Italy. She believes in living 'la dolce vita' to the fullest and helps travelers discover the best of Milan and Lake Como with custom itineraries and experiences. Email.

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