The no-mystery ‘mystery date’

italianstyle1Earlier this month, I popped the question to Lori: “Would you be interested in going out on a mystery date?

“It depends,” she said. “What’s the mystery?”

“If I tell you, it won’t be a mystery.”

It doesn’t involve sports, I assured her. It doesn’t mean going out for burgers or pizza, I added. Plus, don’t you remember how much you enjoyed yourself when I surprised you with tickets to Jerry Seinfeld?

“No, I want to know,” she insisted.

What could I say? My wife had all the leverage. Of course, she prevailed.

I took solace in knowing she liked the idea and I marked the date on the calendar. Finally, Sunday arrived and we went on our no-mystery mystery date.

***

italian style 3

Elegance on display.

We went to the Portland Art Museum, drawn to a special exhibit called “Italian Style.” The focus was on fashion’s role in rebuilding Italy’s economy after World War II. We were treated to a dazzling display of evening gowns, dresses, coats, shoes, accessories of all kinds, and lot of other memorabilia attesting to Italy’s place in the world of fashion.

Now, anyone who’s seen me in my usual worn jeans and T-shirt knows I’m no fashionista.

But this exhibit was painlessly educational — heavy on the visuals, light on the text — and a feast for the eyes. I came away with a better grasp of the designers, materials and industry trends, from couture to ready-to-wear clothing, that have combined to make “Made in Italy” an appealing and enduring brand.

All these names that meant little or nothing to me before — Armani, Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbani — finally had a context.

Likewise, I could see how cities all over the country — Rome, Florence and Milan, plus Como, Turin and lesser-known places — are connected in producing both men’s and women’s clothing known worldwide for their imaginative design and use of superior materials.

Bikini, tunic, pantsuit and a vintage Vespa.

Bikini, tunic, pantsuit and a vintage Vespa.

Over and over, I found myself describing this piece or that piece as “elegant” or “classy.”

The exhibit runs through May 3. You can see all of it in about two hours. I highly recommend it.

***

As for the second part of the date…I had envisioned an Italian cafe. A sidewalk table, perhaps.

Instead we went to Shigezo, a Japanese restaurant and bar just a couple blocks away from the museum.

A colorful wall mural at Shigezo.

A colorful wall mural at Shigezo.

Nothing like a steaming bowl of ramen and a cold beer in the middle of the day. Lori went for a variety of appetizers and hot sake.

No mystery who chose the restaurant. (Good call, Lori.)

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