Marella Agnelli’s extraordinary 91 years of life were comprised of grand estates, elegant travel, an impressive contemporary art collection—think Jasper Johns and Frank Stella—and closets filled with memorable ensembles. Along with the prestige of high nobility, the Italian socialite inherited a certain sartorial sensibility reflective of her more conservative, aristocratic roots. She redefined 20th-century glamour through her carefully cultivated personal taste, in a way that still resonates with the modern woman looking to create subtle chic.
The real-life princess married the late Giovanni Agnelli, chairman of Fiat, in 1953. Famously a Balenciaga bride, Marella wore a silk gown with long sleeves and an even longer veil. This was only the beginning of her well-documented, uniquely fashion-forward style that earned Marella the status of tastemaker among her jet-set circuit of friends (among them, Truman Capote and Katherine Graham). A polished aesthetic remained consistent throughout Marella’s lifetime, whether she was attending a masquerade ball or boarding a yacht alongside Jacqueline Kennedy.
Marella became the embodiment of affluence and luxury and was soon dubbed a “Swan,” a term Capote used for his clan of charming and wealthy women. But Marella distinguished herself from the bevy, in part due to her playful relationship with prints, colour, and accessories that added a bit of drama to her almost-always modest, often custom-made garments. She was not one to shy away from a high neckline or a thick pair of tights, setting recognisable and unique trends that women still emulate today in the pursuit of sophisticated style. Despite her recent passing, Marella’s timeless beauty and fashion sense have been immortalised by the work of artists like Andy Warhol and Richard Avedon, and will continue to inspire the world of art and design forevermore.