My Casanova Shirt Proves Italians Do Do It Better

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Pirate blouse styling with black blazer and black pants. New Romantic inspired look. Fashion photography by Kent Johnson for White Caviar Life. Photoshoot on location in Venice.

My ‘Casanova shirt’, or as Kent calls it, my ‘pirate shirt’, a New Romantic blouse by Italian born French designer Renato Nucci. It was love at the first sight when I spotted this European court style creation in Taipei during the mid ’90s. For a twenty-something young woman, this garment was quite a financial stretch, or an ‘investment’ as I prefer to think of it. And for over two decades, I had dreamed and pictured myself swashbuckling in my pirate shirt somewhere fabulous in Europe. For surely in Europe it was meant to be… Only it took a very long time, finally ending up in my suitcase for this Northern Italy trip with Kent in 2018. Venice, home of that womanising scoundrel Casanova; being one of the major cities in which we were about to visit, my Casanova shirt seemed tailor-made for the occasion!

There are two other reasons that have inspired me to write and share this story. First of all, you don’t often read a travel related article about laundry, way too domestic (yawn). For those who travel, you’d know that the longer the trip is, the more important it is to find a good laundry. And secondly, I want to say that wrinkled garments make for a poor fashion statement. And an even worse one for fashion photography – as Kent is always ready to point out. Who knew, to clean and press my beautiful white blouse would become the focal point of a cross continent challenge; to do the shirt justice…

Pirate blouse styling with black blazer and black pants. New Romantic inspired look. Fashion photography by Kent Johnson for White Caviar Life. Photoshoot on location in Venice.

The main features of this top are its wrap around collar-scarf that fixes at the front with a fancy buttonholed brooch and those voluminous poet’s shirt sleeves. The scarf-collar and the sleeves are both in sheer, luxurious cotton voile fabric. However, since the blouse had become crushed and musty in my closet over the years, a good clean was essential.

Try, try, try again. ‘We don’t have the right chemical to dry clean your garment.’ I received the same answer three times from local dry cleaners. Each time, somewhat distressed I returned home without success. Doing some research online I learnt that most of the dry cleaners use a non-flammable perchloroethylene solvent; whereas my precious shirt required the flammable (hot stuff!) one. My local laundry lady offered to hand-wash it for me but as for a detailed ironing, she was not up to the task: ‘This material is very delicate.. I can’t guarantee…’ She shook her head. I accepted her hand-washing offer, well at last it would be clean.

Pirate blouse styling with black blazer and black pants. New Romantic inspired look. Fashion photography by Kent Johnson for White Caviar Life. Photoshoot on location in Venice.

Now my shirt had been hand-washed and given a basic iron. I again used Google to find the best laundry in town and found a 5-star (well almost) dry cleaning service quite nearby. Well when I explained to these ‘highly recommend’ cleaners that I need the billowy lantern sleeves as we call them in Chinese, to be properly steamed; asked if they could press the hem of the collar-scarf to enhance its pleated details, I received a cold stare. Even worse, though I offered to pay more, ‘It’s not possible.’ The woman answered while rolling her eyes. Like Casanova locked in a cell in the Doge’s Palace; it seemed fate was against this blouse making the trip at all.

Pirate blouse styling with black blazer and black pants. New Romantic inspired look. Fashion photography by Kent Johnson for White Caviar Life. Photoshoot on location in Venice.

I was pretty cross and remember phoning Kent on my way home sharing this shocking news. I was devastated! After that I tried a few other laundries and the answers were all the same – no, we can’t do it! Witnessing my pain, Kent kindly offered this solution: ‘Just take it to Italy anyway, I will iron it under a cloth, I don’t think it’s really such a big deal.’ Ha! Unfortunately once we arrived The Floating City, much to our surprise, there’s no iron nor ironing board in our Bed-and-Breakfast. We were informed that for safety reasons, especially fire prevention, it’s forbidden to use an iron in all travel accommodations in Venice. So now it’s Google search time again and Kent wasted no time hunting for a dry cleaner/laundry the morning after we arrived.

'My Casanova Shirt Proves Italians Do Do It Better' fashion story by White Caviar Life. Photoshoot on location in Venice by Australian fashion photographer Kent Johnson. New Romantic inspired pirate fashion look.

By using the results of Google translation for laundry with Google maps, Kent found a ‘wonderful’ (his actual word) professional laundry. Wonderful, because when Kent returned with his bagwash, all items were neatly folded, and his shirts immaculately so in a paper wrapper! Could this be the right place to restore my Casanova blouse to its former glory? Yes – we would give it a go. I will never forget the day we dropped this, my most treasured shirt into Lavanderia Gabriella… The English speaking daughter (Gabriella?) who runs the business was not there but her mother, an elegant elderly lady who spoke no English at all, remembered Kent and was there to help. I pulled my poor shirt from a bag and gestured with body language what I needed to be done.

'My Casanova Shirt Proves Italians Do Do It Better' fashion story by White Caviar Life. Photoshoot on location in Venice by Australian fashion photographer Kent Johnson. New Romantic inspired pirate fashion look.

First, I pulled at the sleeve gently and pointed at her steamer – ‘these wrinkles have to go!’ in intimated; then I folded the pleats where the collar-scarf ends in a ruffle below the brooch showing her that I wanted these pleats to be obvious. Having been rejected by so many dry cleaners so many times over this garment in Sydney, I was feeling like this would be my last chance and I noticed myself trying to explain in an apologetic manner. Just as I started thinking that maybe we’d better come back later when Gabriella returned; this Italian nonna seemed to read my mind, she smiled to me, saying: ‘tranquilla!’ She then gesturing with her hand too, pointing two fingers near her eyes then to the blouse assuring me through her body language… ‘I can see, I can see. Leave it with me.’

'My Casanova Shirt Proves Italians Do Do It Better' fashion story by White Caviar Life. Photoshoot on location in Venice by Australian fashion photographer Kent Johnson. New Romantic inspired pirate fashion look.

Well, the rest is history. If you care to take a good look at the scarf-collar’s pleats from the pictures, you will see that they are perfectly ironed, actually even better than when it was new! The once crinkled sleeves were back to gorgeous full lanterns. Everything crisp, precise as it should be. I still remember walking out from Lavanderia Gabriella with Kent that morning, feeling totally overwhelmed by how calm and helpful this lovely lady had been. Tranquil and worry free – isn’t it how it should be?! The day Kent and I went to pick up my pirate shirt, Gabriella and her mother were both busy, I carefully checked my precious outfit and I was extremely impressed. ‘Grazie mille!’ I thanked them both, and of course, the ladies didn’t seem to think it too much of a big deal, simply smiled and carried on with their work.

Fashion, Italy. That was the day I knew that Italians do do it better!

'My Casanova Shirt Proves Italians Do Do It Better' fashion story by White Caviar Life. Photoshoot on location in Venice by Australian fashion photographer Kent Johnson. New Romantic inspired pirate fashion look.

Photography / Kent Johnson
Styling / Vivienne She

Outfit Of The Day

Valmori Patrizia per Le Chapeau beret
Roberto Cavalli sunglasses
Renato Nucci shirt
CUE blazer
Fuji X-Pro1 camera
Just Gold ring (right hand)
Just Gold, Royal Jewellery rings (left hand)
Céline Trapèze leather handbag
Venice pop-up store trousers
Robert Robert heels

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Vivienne is a traveller, author; story teller and sometimes a muse. She seeks a balance between travelling in comfort and style with value; perhaps being the daughter of a hotelier helps there. Through White Caviar Life, you will share in her travel experiences, stories and tips that she hopes to help enhance your own travel.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Vivienne,
    Your white shirt is perfect for any outfit: it is a classic item of feminine wardrobe.
    It is good to associate with jeans, black pants and so on.
    Hugs

  2. What a wonderful story Vivienne! Must say the shirt looks a treat in these lovely pics of you by Kent.

  3. Those ladies were just amazing. And.. Laundry really is a part of travel, if it’s not you are not traveling long enough! Big hugs to Lavanderia Gabriella whom kept me looking good as well. 🙂

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