From 1951 to 1958, Ferdinando Sarmi designed made-to-order evening gowns for Elizabeth Arden. These creations were worn by women involved in the social whirl of "great balls, dinner parties, and theatre, opera and music openings throughout the country."1 When Sarmi began designing under his own name in 1959, evening wear continued to be his specialty. A critic reviewing his first eponymous collection wrote, "Sarmi's devotion to beauty is at its ultimate" when designing evening wear.2 The strapless silk gown pictured above bears several hallmarks of Sarmi's designs, including a floral patterned textile in a pale palette, and a coordinating wrap. It may be one of Sarmi's final designs for Elizabeth Arden, as one of his last collections for the company consisted primarily of Empire waist evening and ball gowns.
Fashion critics consistently described Sarmi's designs as feminine, romantic and "in good taste." These fashion descriptors began to go out of fashion in the middle years of the 1960s. Brightly colored, throwaway, emphatically youthful clothing in synthetic fabrics moved into the spotlight, edging out the quiet, softly feminine designs created by Sarmi and many of his colleagues. Though Sarmi's fashions might not have been on the very cutting edge of fashion, some of his mid 1960s designs demonstrate an interest in timeless silhouettes. This pink chiffon gown with swans-down sleeves and a draped bodice references a classical ideal that regularly moves in and out of the fashion spotlight. A similar chiffon and swans down Sarmi gown was pictured in the August 28, 1964 issue of Life magazine.
1 Donovan, Carrie. "Sarmi Prefers High Waistlines for Gala Fetes." New York Times 12 Sept. 1958: 22.
2 Nolan, Patricia. "I. Magnin Adds New Luminary, Sarmi, to Couture Gallery." Los Angeles Times 12 Oct. 1959: A1.