Thursday, June 2, 2011

Evita's clothes

Bust of Eva Peron, The Eva Peron
Museum, Palermo, Buenos Aires

I knew almost nothing about Eva Peron - or her husband - before I went to BA. At the mention of her name, all that sprang to mind was that damn song, which would hang around my head for days.
I can't claim to know a whole lot more now, but what I do understand is how strongly Argentines feel about her, whether they believe she's a whore or a saint, a fascist or a democrat, a dedicated woman of the people or a relentless self-server. Princess Diana similarly divided public opinion, but not as passionately or persistently as Evita.
Born poor and illegitimate in 1919, she was First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death from cancer in 1952, aged 33. Both women, whatever motivations might be ascribed to them, made a point of acknowledging those whose life was a struggle. The Eva Peron Museum is housed in a mansion on a grand leafy street in one of BA's best suburbs. Evita bought it in 1948 and, ignoring neighbourly howls of outrage, turned it into a shelter for single mothers and their children. 

Also like Diana, Evita loved clothes, and, remarkably, the museum has a good number of them, many displayed alongside photographs of Evita wearing them. These dresses, suits, coats and shoes are so classically stylish, you could wear them today. 

Also like Diana, Evita died young and beautiful. Queues still form at her tomb in Recoleta Cemetary, although there's nothing here but dying flowers, a brass plaque and a padlocked gate. What you see is only what you bring with you. Her clothes at least still have about them the feel of a breathing woman.

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