Women in Menswear: Dalila Palumbo

Dalila Palumbo is a young Italian designer with a very peculiar style. We spotted her during our last visit at Pitti Uomo, and we couldn’t stop taking pictures of her menswear-inspired outfits.
We asked Dalila to talk about her relationship with menswear and the sartorial world, which inspire her both on a personal level and for her work with her brand Isabel Pabo.

Styleforum: Dalila, we’ve seen you at Pitti Uomo with many personalities of the menswear world; what does Pitti represent to you, as a young designer?

Dalila Palumbo: In the past few years, Pitti Uomo in Florence, besides being a spotlight for important brands and for the menswear fashion system as a whole, has been a place for people of the fashion industry to connect. Young designers, like myself, and artists from all over the world get together to share their ideas and experience, while promoting their own idea of fashion (either for males or females) through what is known as “streetstyle”. Two years ago I decided to join this experience, and I timidly made an appearance at Pitti wearing a menswear creation from my brand Isabel Pabo. I received a lot of compliments from photographers, bloggers, and fashion insiders, and I made new friends as well as work connections. After this first experience at Pitti – which I call “not-just-Uomo”- the trade show has become an important part of my job in preparation for both AW and SS collections, as an inexhaustible source of inspiration.

SF: What do you think of where menswear stands today – and in particular of the re-birth of sartorial and artisanal brands – compared to the evolution of women’s fashion?

DP: Despite being restricted by cultural standards and market demands for many years, menswear seems to be finally blossoming into something new, especially thanks to the re-discovery of sartorial and artisanal techniques blended with innovative projects and styles. Something similar is happening in women’s fashion, although on a much smaller scale due to the greater visibility that women’s clothes have received throughout the years. We owe this change to young designers who have been trying to offer unique options that would suit everyone.

SF: One of the biggest differences between menswear and womenswear is the attention paid to the cut and fit of the clothes – something that on a sartorial level is almost as important as the style of the garments. The concept of “su misura” is basically non-existent in womenswear. What is the reason why women apparently don’t care about this aspect?

DP: The realization of a sartorial garment for men requires following specific rules and a rigid pattern that can be easily manipulated and altered in the creation of a garment for women – as the style is more variegated. I agree that “su misura” is a relatively unknown concept in “everyday” fashion for women. However, if we talk about an important piece linked to a specific occasion, things are different. From my experience, women choose to have a unique piece for special occasions, since there is no other way to reach a certain degree of perfection and personalization when on a ready-to-wear piece. “It’s not the body that needs to adapt to the shape of the dress, but rather the dress must model itself around the body, and create an aesthetically pleasant result to delight those who can appreciate true elegance.” This has been my idea of Fashion, and it seems like many have been adapting it lately.

SF: How would you describe your personal style, and how much is it influenced by menswear?

DP: I’d call my style “new underground”, as it blends ancient arts and artisanal aspects with modern techniques – creating a peculiar and defined style. It’s hard to create fashion for women with this approach, but I keep studying and dedicating my time to this project, trying to bring the infamous precision of cut and fit that we find in sartorial menswear to products destined for women. That’s what I hope to accomplish one day.

SF: What are the brands and tailors that you appreciate the most, for both quality and style of their products?

DP: As for big names and haute couture, the answer is predictable: Valentino, Giorgio Armani, Dolce&Gabbana, and many others. However, my education has allowed me to appreciate the work of tailors in Italy and abroad. I would have to mention all the tailors of the Accademia Nazionale dei Sartori – its president Ilario Piscioneri, Franco Puppato, Sebastiano di Rienzo, Mario Napolitano, Mario Pastore, Daniel Robu… they truly are the feather in the cap of the sartorial tradition.

SF: Your work with Isabel Pabo allows you to travel the world; where have you seen the most elegant men?

DP: In Italy, for sure. Italian creativity and fashion are famous all over the world for a reason, just like the brand “Made in Italy”. However, I’ve met many elegant men during my travels, and I’ve got the chance to appreciate different kinds of styles influenced by cultures that are not as known as the Italian.

SF: The tailleur (the suit for women) is a garment that’s associated for the most part with an office environment, or with formal ceremonies at best. In the United States, it is a symbol of women empowerment in politics, recently exemplified when Hillary Clinton made it a trademark of her presidential campaign in 2016. In your pictures, you wear pantsuits and jackets in vibrant colors, infusing new life in a garment that seems to be popular mostly among mature women in a business environment. Is this a pondered choice you intend to pursue with your brand?

DP: I actually think my idea of fashion is best expressed with a tailleur – whether it is a jacket-pant or jacket-skirt combination. I find it can be adapted to many occasions as it allows for a broad choice of fabrics and colors. You can craft a style for any occasion with a tailleur: free time, business, evening, special occasion, all the while maintaining the elegant sobriety of a “modern woman.”

SF: Lastly, if you were a man, what do you think your style would be?

DP: I really wouldn’t know, although as a woman I’m naturally attracted to men that are elegant and have good manners – which one can be even wearing a pair of jeans. Anyway, I’m way too involved in the matter to provide an objective answer!

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Styleforum Editors

The Styleforum editors are a group of gnomes that actually do all of the work running Styleforum. Ari, and Jasper play air hockey, drink artisanal iced teas, and debate whether it's harder to get bolognese or bechamel out of grenadine ties, and whether either can be used to polish shoes.

2 thoughts on “Women in Menswear: Dalila Palumbo

  1. This is a good topic. When I look at the pics here of Pitti Uomo I was baffled by the general prominence of women in men’s suits, shirts and ties. On reflection, I think the reason for this is quite obvious. Thus, when you go outside Pitti, to those “runway shows” in Milan and Paris you see how amazing real women’s clothes can be.

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