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Two Americans in Rome: The Story of La Mendola Boutique

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This amazing boutique was founded in the early 1960’s by two Americans designers, who dressed the most beautiful women of the time such as Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth and Anita Ekberg.


Above and below the Spanish Steps in a picture from the 60s

La Mendola was an Italian fashion label founded by two Americans, Mike La Mendola and Jack Savage, both from Pennsylvania.  They inaugurated their boutique in Rome in 1961.

Furthermore, the boutique was located across from the Hassler Hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps. The shop immediatly attracted a celebrity clientele of beauties, as for example Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth.

Two silk jersey style gowns, presented in Rome by La Mendola in 1974, as part of his spring-summer high fashion collection. (AP Photo)

The duo started producing dramatic clothing in bright colors, and also designs that was very much in the Italian style of that time. 

They focused their production on cocktail and evening dresses, supplying the glamorous jet set with amazing ensembles.

La Mendola designed incredible prints that rival those of Emilio Pucci, and Bessi in the 1960’s and 70’s.

All of their pieces were made in bold prints featuring peacock feathers, giant palm leaves, and wild stylized florals. 

The boutique was specialized in silk jersey and chiffon-georgette dresses with prints that often recall the shapes and styles of imperial Rome.

Another feature that contributed to increasing the popularity of the brand in the world is that, unlike the average fashion design of that era, La Mendola created clothing for large sizes and difficult figures.

Furthermore, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Jack and Mike don’t mind doing clothes for the larger woman.

They make custom clothes to fit sizes as large as 18 or 20 for the same price as their smaller ready-to-wear styles in the same size”.

La Mendola’s clothing were also sold through some stores in the United States, Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Fratelli Hess, a Pennsylvania-based company that built a reputation on carrying luxury brands.

Back in 1968, fashion designer Michael La Mendola put on a show of “Clothing for the Emancipated Man” in collaboration with Hess department stores.

Some photos of the 1968 fashion show named “Clothing for the Emancipated Man” by La Mendola in collaboration with Hess.

As you can see from the photos, some of Mendola’s outfits could be said to predict British punk styles of the ’70s with big prints and kilts.


Multi-colored floral printed ‘Yacht Pajamas’ with matching floor length coat, part of La Mendola 1973-74 fall-winter high fashion collection, July 14, 1973. (AP Photo)

Unfortunately, the business closed its doors in 1988. Today, La Mendola dresses have become rare and highly sought after by fashion collectors all over the world.


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OPHERTYCIOCCI Team
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