Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella, cultured art critic and one-time novelist
Rome, Summer 2012
Film: The Great Beauty
(Italian title: La grande bellezza)
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Costume Designer: Daniela Ciancio
Tailor: Cesare Attolini
Valentine’s Day is this Sunday, and whether you’re celebrating with a great beauty in your life or observing Singles Appreciation Day, you may want to have some eye-catching red ready to wear in the spirit of the season.
Unfortunately, our natty hero Jep Gambardella finds himself alone for yet another evening among friends on his terrace, his most recent romantic conquest—the “real beauty” Orietta—notably absent. Jep spars again with his combative and pompous friend Stefania about his perceived laziness and her lack of authenticity, calling her out to the point that she storms out of the party.
Jep takes to the romantic Roman streets, his aimless perambulations leading to a swanky club owned by his old friend, the self-described “loser” and drug addict Egidio (Massimo De Francovich) who has hired his own daughter Ramona (Sabrina Ferilli) as an exotic dancer.
Egidio: She’s 42, and she wants to be a sophisticated stripper. But the world’s no longer sophisticated, right Jep?
Jep: I know. Only you and I are.
What’d He Wear?
The titular “great beauty” of Paolo Sorrentino’s 2013 visually stunning tribute to Rome may be the Eternal City itself, but the description would also be apt for its central character’s colorful wardrobe, a stunning achievement in costume design by Daniela Ciancio that earned her a second David di Donatello for Best Costumes.
For an evening hosting his usual coterie on his terrace, Jep Gambardella dresses for celebrating in his most colorfully offbeat tailoring seen yet in the movie: a single-breasted sports coat made from a lush dark red soft woolen twill.
This outfit particularly underscores how any color can be elegant based on how it is worn. Contrast this red sports coat with the raw silk jacket of the same color, albeit a somewhat brighter shade, worn by Robert De Niro in Casino. Sported with midnight-hued underpinnings, De Niro’s red jacket as casino impresario “Ace” Rothstein is undeniably eye-catching, certainly interesting, and arguably well-tailored and coordinated, though it lacks the je nais se quoi that would merit any nods from top tastemakers.
The color of Jep’s jacket is only slightly more muted than Ace’s, but he wears it over an open-necked white shirt and chinos in a manner that doesn’t demand attention and should thus satisfy all but the most color-averse sartorial gatekeepers.
The details echo the even flashier yellow jacket that Jep would wear several scenes later, both cut by Cesare Attolini and thus resplendent with the Neapolitan tailoring that had been revolutionized by Cesare’s prolific father Vincenzo Attolini in the 1930s. Neapolitan jackets have soft, unpadded shoulders with larger sleeves that naturally shir against the smaller armhole which, depending upon how it’s constructed, can take the final form of the smooth “spalla camicia” shoulder or the bumped “con rollino“. The sleeves are finished with four dark brown horn buttons “kissing” on each cuff.
Even the pockets are Neapolitan, from the wide “tasca a pignata” patch pockets to the widely welted “barchetta” breast pocket, so named for its boat-like shape, which Jep dresses with a plain white pocket square folded to point skyward. The notch lapels are welted with “swelled edges”, rolling to a 3/2-roll button front that remains consistent with Neapolitan tradition, though the single vent is a departure from the typically ventless jackets of classic Italian tailoring.
Jep wears one of his usual plain white cotton shirts with the top two buttons of the plain “French placket” undone to contain the open-necked spread collar within the opening of his jacket. The dramatically rounded cuffs each close with a single button.
Jep’s off-white cotton flat front chinos continue the clean looks of his white shirt, breaking the effect only with a dark brown leather belt and the fact that the trousers are a softer eggshell shade than the plain white shirt.
Michael J. Agovino’s Esquire article “The Most Stylish Movie You’ve Never Heard Of” features an interview with Ciancio, who confirms that she sourced Jep’s fashionable footwear from Italian shoemakers Hogan and Tod’s, both brands under the Tod’s Group umbrella.
With this outfit, Jep wears a pair of two-tone spectator oxfords with brown leather wingtip toes, lace panels, and heel counters against warm beige vamps. Though his trousers generally cover the distance, a pair of ivory socks cover his legs for an elegant continuance of the trouser fabric into his shoes.
Fans have identified Jep’s silver-toned watch as a Rolex, strapped to his left wrist on an Oyster-style link bracelet, though the exact model varies between the Jake’s Rolex World entry suggestion of a silver-dialed Air-King and the BAMF Style reader who commented on Instagram that it looks like a platinum Day-Date with an ice blue dial.
Jep wears Ray-Ban glasses with dark tortoise acetate square frames.
What to Imbibe
A half-consumed bottle of Disaronno Originale on Jep’s terrace table suggests that this may be his spirit of choice, enjoyed on the rocks.
The company significantly rebranded in 2001 “Amaretto di Saronno”, a more literal translation referring to the legend of when amaretto was first produced by a woman in the small town of Saronno in Lombardy. As the legend goes, according to Disaronno, a widowed innkeeper created the first amaretto in 1525 when she steeped apricot kernels in brandy as a gift for the artist Bernardino Luini. The innkeeper’s secret recipe was passed down through the generations to a descendant, Domenico Reina, who began bottling and marketing the family’s favorite amaretto in the early 20th century.
In 1942, the Reina family began packaging their “Amaretto di Saronno” in a unique square bottle, though it would be another three decades until a Venetian glass-blower would design the now-recognizable sparkling glass bottle that continues to be used through today. By then, the company was already finding international success exporting its product around the world.
While it’s not clear if it’s meant to be Disaronno in Jep’s crystal rocks glass, we can be quite sure he isn’t drinking vodka, not only due to the color but also after Egidio’s lesson that Jep shares with Ramona that “vodka is uncouth.”
How to Get the Look
- Dark red twill Neapolitan-tailored single-breasted 3/2-roll sport jacket with double back-stitched notch lapels, wide-welted “barchetta” breast pocket, rounded patch hip pockets, 4-button “kissing” cuffs, and long double vents
- White cotton shirt with semi-spread collar, plain front, and button cuffs
- Eggshell-white chino cloth flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark brown leather belt with silver rectangular single-prong buckle
- Brown-and-beige leather 5-eyelet wingtip spectator oxfords
- Tortoise acetate rectangular-framed Ray-Ban eyeglasses
- Rolex Air-King with stainless steel 34mm case, silver dial with non-numeric markers, and steel Oyster-style link bracelet
- White pocket square
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
You can read more about the style of The Great Beauty in Michael J. Agovino’s December 2013 article “The Most Stylish Movie You’ve Never Heard Of” for Esquire here and about Neapolitan tailoring in Sonya Glyn Nicholson’s piece for Parisian Gentleman here. I also recommend this thoughtful tribute to the film’s style from The Tweed Pig.
I’m a writer, not a pimp.