The Mysterious Vintage Italian Fashion Label
The vintage Italian fashion design label, Emilio Borghese continues to baffle me. Some dress labels in my collection read “Emilio Borghese” and some read “Emilio Borghese – Roma” as shown below.
The soft and silky polyester fabric, sometimes referred to, in vintage advertisements, as crease-resistant nylon jersey, caprolan nylon, banlon, and poly sura. The print designs are colorful with an array of geometric and floral motifs.
I have been searching for information about this label for some time now and all I have found so far is a lot of vintage department store advertisements that refer to Emilio Borghese as a “real person/designer” and a couple of articles that refer to the Emilio Borghese brand as “the manufacturer”, but no clues about who was really behind the Emilio Borghese label. There’s no Emilio Borghese biography anywhere, that I can find. I can’t figure out if Emilio Borghese was a person or just a label name.
I’ve read various blog posts and there seems to be a rumor going around that Emilio Pucci and Princess Marcella Borghese collaborated to create the Emilio Borghese fashion label. As a matter of fact, when I first started my research, I too had those thoughts because I kept coming up with articles that told of their close friendship. Afterall, the Princess was not only the creator of the Borghese cosmetic line where she created bright colored lipstick and nail polish to match Pucci’s colorful prints, but she was also a knit-wear fashion designer herself. And the fact that Pucci was a fashion designer, it made sense to me too. Several 1960’s articles reported event news where both Pucci’s and Borghese’s clothing lines were being shown at the same events. Some fashion news articles mention both of the them and show side-by-side images of models wearing their designs.
Then, I found these articles:
Says Pucci: Pucci Prints MUST Be The Real Thing
by Carolyn Bengston, Fashion Editor, 1966
See image of article below that quotes Pucci’s position about other labels using his name along with a photo of an Emilio Borghese dress (middle image) with the caption: "A colorful copy "In Pucci Manner" from the Emilio Borghese Collection".
There's another article titled
Design Pirates Copy Pucci Styles
New York City, 1966, where Pucci talks more about his thoughts about and action against those who use his name.
Italian designers see lost profits, not flattery in these imitations
By Kay Withers
(Article states that Florentine designer Emilio Pucci took out several lawsuits against imitators)
As you can read from the articles above, Emilio Pucci wasn’t too keen on the many manufacturers that were copying his designs or his name, including Emilio Borghese.
My point is that the rumor about Emilio Pucci and Princess Marcella Borghese collaborating in some way to form the label Emilio Borghese just doesn’t ring true with what I’ve read from past articles.
So, who was Emilio Borghese?
The research that I’ve done shows that the Borghese label was highly marketed and sold at department stores across the country with much focus targeting the traveling female consumer from about 1966 to 1974. Some of the department stores are listed below. I’m listing the names of these department stores just in case someone reads this and perhaps worked at one of them who knows anything about this label. If you are one of those people, it would be great if you could share your knowledge. From what I gather, there are others, like me, who have hit a brick wall when searching for concrete information about this mystery label. Your input would be greatly appreciated by commenting on this blog.
List of known department stores that sold Emilio Borghese dresses:
James Black Co.
Miller & Paine
M. Shwartz & Co.
In a 1973 advertisement for an Emilio Borghese Persian style paisley print dress, the department store Roos/Atkins describes the label like this:
“Shades of Scheherazade” – Emilio Borghese, the master printer, goes to Persia for inspiration. Only Emilio could dream up such a lush paisley patterned dress and interpret it in his own silk-like polyester. Easy-going. Soft. Fit for a maharani in delicate pink and coral.
A 1974 Harvey’s department store advertisement refers to Emilio Borghese as “world-renowned”. FYI…The h.e.v.d. stands for Harvey’s Extra Value Days.
In the early 1970’s, Bullock’s placed numerous advertisements boasting about the elegance of the Emilio Borghese fashions and emphasized that they were washable and packable for the traveler, party hoppers, and tea party goers.
The “charming yarn print”, as the 1972 Bullock’s ad below reads, was available in jade green or royal blue and promoted to be perfect for “party hopping”. I have in my collection two dresses with this print in a royal blue and a bright orange; see prints below. I have seen the dress in jade green, but I don’t have that color in my collection yet. At first glance, you can see how the print looks like real embroidery, but it is a faux design.
1972 Bullock’s Ad: “Opt for the Orient …..dress the part. Think of a tea house ceremony and you have the mood for this striking dress by Emilio Borghese styled in polyester, printed with delicate white cherry blossoms on navy or jade green grounds.”
1972 Bullock’s ad: “The terrific traveler…. dress the part. The smart traveler will pick a pretty stained-glass border print dress by Emilio Borghese in luscious shades of blue and lilac. It is elegantly styled in washable, packable polyester.”
Miller & Payne department store’s 1973 ad headline read: “Have a Roman Holiday in Italian Tile Prints by Emilio Borghese. Emilio Borghese takes his inspiration from the brilliant colorings of Roman tiles for the sophisticated prints and the bright bordered hemlines of these dresses. And he’s done them in Poly-Swa knit for a look and feel that’s soft and silky.”
In a 1966 article, with no noted author, titled
“Prints Taking on Bold Italian Accent”, mentions the Emilio Borghese label.
Note that the dress on the left in this article is the same Emilio Borghese dress image used in the article mentioned above titled
“Says Pucci: Pucci Prints MUST Be the Real Thing” by Carolyn Bengston, Fashion Editor, 1966.
Below are more advertisements from some of the department stores mentioned above.
The last advertisements that I could find were in 1974. So, it appears that the label was in existence from approximately 1966 through 1974.
After all of my research, Emilio Borghese remains a mystery. Who was and what happened to Emilio Borghese?
Can you solve the mystery?
Thank you so much for reading and commenting here at this post.
I’m so happy to learn more about the Emilio Borghese label from Jennifer. What a surprise! Thank you Jennifer for sharing some of the history about your talented, designer parents. I’m so happy you found this post.
It was great hearing from Lili and Gina too. I love hearing any stories about vintage clothing collecting and appreciation.
Hi , I wanted to contact you as my mom was the designer for this label. My father and Harry Oxenberg. ( he is father to actress , Catherine Oxenberg ) owned the company . I wish my parents were alive to see their legacy. She also designed Yves Jennet which was named after me. Also owned by my parents and she designed for Leslie Fay in the beginning. All production was in Boston and Pennsylvania
Thank you for your research. I’m fact years ago I was in contact with the vintage fashion archives to tell the story of how the lines came about! Especially the fabric print which was new and cutting edge for the times
Thanks for posting all this great research. Just found a small pile of vintage dresses at the curb in my neighborhood and one was a gorgeous floral polyester Emilio Borghese Roma gown-fits me perfectly. Wish there was more info!
Thank you for this article/post. I literally just purchased a vintage Emilio Borghese Roma dress yesterday at our local Goodwill store. It’s super cute, and I’m hoping it’ll fit me when I get the chance to try it on. I’m new to collecting vintage clothing, so every time I find something like this at a thrift store, I’m Googling and Google Lens searching like crazy to try and find out information on the pieces I buy.
It’s hard for me to tell since I’m unable to enlarge the copies of the ads in your post, but my dress closely resembles the one in your last photo collage, on the Hudson’s Woman Now add. Except my dress has a v-neck. Sure wish I could figure out exactly what era my dress came out of… I’m assuming the 70’s.
Well… thanks again! Your article really helped to enlighten me.