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The trendsetters of the early Sanremo festivals

From Loredana Bertè to Paola and Chiara

The trendsetters of the early Sanremo festivals From Loredana Bertè to Paola and Chiara

In over 70 years, the Sanremo Festival has always tried to confine women to a marginal role. They have been called "vallette", allowing a dozen to host it and just over thirty to win it. But it is they who have made the real history of Italy's most popular event. On and off the Ariston stage. Nilla Pizzi launched it and Mina brought us around the world with Le mille bolle blu. Loredana Bertè shocked us with a fake baby bump, while Anna Oxa showed us the meaning of the word "chameleon-like". Carmen Consoli made us sing "Confusa e Felice" every time we feel blue, Paola and Chiara reminded us that having a sister is having a real partner in crime and Elisa that every sunset (not even in the North East) always brings light.


The first ladies: Mia Martini and Romina Power

Few performers are able to communicate emotions and bewitch the audience with their voice like Mia Martini. She took part in the festival several times, with different songs and outfits, from the dress with flowers of La nevicata del '56 to the black and white power suit chosen for Gli uomini non cambiano. The unforgettable moment? Mia at the centre of the stage singing Almeno tu nell'universo in an Armani polka-dot evening dress with a pair of long black gloves... a real old-school diva! Another singer who, between the 80s and the 90s, walked the stage of the Ariston many times is certainly Romina Power. She always did it with her husband Al Bano, singing popular national hits such as Felicità or Nostalgia canaglia and giving the competition a boho twist. Her little miracle? She still looked beautiful, even when hidden under kilos of ruffles, pop colors, gypsy skirts and a cascade of brown hair. Our favorite outfit, however, is the white slip dress from 1984.


The chameleon girls: Patty Pravo, Loredana Bertè and Anna Oxa

There are stars who are always the same, recognisable and immune to fashions and time. There are others who are chameleon-like, able to change their skin with each project and return to the scene completely renewed, both artistically and in terms of image. Even on the rigid and traditionalist Ariston stage. In 1986, for her debut at the Festival, Loredana Bertè chose a mini dress in black leather and studs by Gianni Versace, which highlighted a fake baby bump. The entire audience sitting in the stalls squinted at that little rock thing made to support the right to abortion and, at the same time, to underline that "a pregnant woman can dance, sing and be herself". From that moment on, Loredana proudly showed off her beautiful legs, flaunting miniskirts of all kinds, in denim, velvet, tulle and full of ruffles. Anna Oxa's presence at the festival was equally powerful. At her debut, she was a rebellious teenager with pixie cuts and punk outfits and, over time, she became a refined singer with an algid, almost ethereal image, in cut-out dresses, jumpsuits that look like they came out of Saint Laurent's SS22, minimal chic creations and sparkling Versace models. Then, at the end of the millennium, she returned to the stage completely different and with a Gucci by Tom Ford outfit that entered history: a black top and vaguely country-style trousers, studded with crystals and small fringes, from which sprouted a black thong. She chose to amplify the wow effect with bronze, extra-glow make-up and to light up her semi-collected brown hair with very light highlights. Oxa in the wild version remains at least as iconic as Patty Pravo in the 1984 edition. The Venetian singer, competing with Per una bambola, walked down the theatre steps like a modern geisha: an intricate hairstyle created by Marcello Casoni, a silver Oroton tunic by Gianni Versace and a pendant fan in her hands. Her other great Sanremo style choices include the minimal look of 1970, the suits worn on bare skin of 1997, the pseudo-Hamish outfit of 2011 and the fake dreadlocks of 2019.


The 90s girls: Carmen, Giorgia, Laura, Irene and Marina

The 90s hit Sanremo. While the rest of the world was going crazy with grunge, brit-pop, boy and girl bands, on the Ligurian Riviera five women appeared, each with their own sound, destined to influence contemporary Italian music. The first was called Carmen Consoli. She had a brunette bob, red lipstick, a shirt and latex trousers. She was a riot girl made in the South with a proud look, a guitar in her arms and a hit song, Confusa e Felice. The second one had blond curls, an open smile and plenty of grit. She came from Tuscany and her name was Irene Grandi, she loved soft mini-dresses, amphibious boots, and sleeves and, despite her tattoo in the shape of a mosquito repellent, she will rule the radio airplay for many years. Marina Rei arrived barefoot, wearing a sheer shirt, pants and a jeweled belt. She immediately impressed the audience with her talent as a multi-instrumentalist, but became better known a couple of years later with looks that Gen Z, Y2K addicts, should still copy today: cropped top, wide-leg trousers, fluffy frisée hair, ice eye shadow and metallic purple lipstick. Finally, there was Giorgia and Laura (Pausini). They had powerful voices, hits that would make throngs of teenagers in love sing, but on their TV debut they had not developed their style potential. They preferred tomboy cuts, little makeup, military-inspired jackets and outfits that did not enhance them at all.  However, over the years they will learn to play with not only their voice and sound, but also their clothes and make-up.


Y2K fever: Elisa, Syria, Paola and Chiara, Alexia

"I designed the clothes I wore on stage, all of them always and only white, because it was the colour of mourning in Chinese culture, which I was studying a lot at the time, and it represented for me the end of the love story I was talking about in the song."

Elisa has often said this, remembering, the gauzy top and white trousers she wore to perform her first hit in Italian, Luce (sunsets to the north east). She arrived smiling, shy, barefoot and, although the announced winner was Giorgia, surprised everyone and took home the first prize. The new millennium also marked the triumph of another outsider, Alexia. The singer brought to the Ariston a wave of dance with funky vibes, which, in terms of look, she translated into different trousers and micro tops: zebra print (do you remember Missoni's SS22 collection?), scarf, glitter, striped... A combination not too different from that sported by two very young Paola and Chiara who won the section in black latex trousers and pastel shirts.  Impossible not to remember them dressed the same, sitting on stools, looking each other in the eyes and singing Amici come prima in unison. The Iezzi sisters were not yet the it-girls we remember from the video of Vamos a bailar, while Syria had a great style even in the late 90s.  Her first outfit? A white minidress in a 1960s mood, while for her 2001 performance she opted for a one-shoulder top and an ultra-mini red studded dress with a train.