Nicoletta Caraceni on fitting Silvio Berlusconi

Friday, June 23rd 2023
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When we went to see Nicoletta Caraceni (above) in Milan recently, she had been approached several times by the Italian media to speak about the death of Silvio Berlusconi, who was a customer for much of his life. 

She didn’t want to talk on TV, but was happy to chat with us, and I thought it was an interesting window into the world of a politician and his tailor. 

“He was a kind man. I didn’t agree with his politics, and don’t even want to speak about his attitude to women, but he was always very considerate,” Nicoletta said.

“When we used to go and visit, my father and I, he would send a chauffeur and we'd take the fitting to him. It was usually during lunch and he was always so grateful for us coming, he never stopped saying so. 

“I’ve known a lot of people with less power and less money who are far ruder - who effectively say with their actions, ‘I have paid you so you have to do what I want, do it now’. He had a lot but he carried it very lightly with us.”

Nicoletta recalled one contact particularly vividly, because it was the day her father (Ferdinando Caraceni) died in 2004. 

“It was a terrible day in Italy. These two women had been abducted, it was all over the news, there were rumours the government was negotiating with them, arguments in parliament. He was under a lot of pressure.”

Nicoletta is referring to September 2004 when two Italian aid workers, Simona Torretta and Simona Pari, were kidnapped in Iraq. Berlusconi had supported the war in Iraq and was under pressure to pull Italian troops out. 

“I got this call from Marinella [Brambilla, his secretary] and she said the President wanted to speak to me. I said ‘ok sure’, and he came on. He said he wanted to personally say sorry about my father, because he was not just his tailor but his friend. We talked for a while about him; it meant something that he took the time.”

Using an Italian tailor was apparently a point of pride for Berlusconi. “He always used to say to my father how tailoring was the best of Italian craft, how that was central to Italy’s identity, and that we embodied that.

“I remember in that conversation he repeated the same sentiment. It’s nice coming from anyone, but particularly from the leader of your country.”

“Oh, and he always paid his bills! To the last euro.”

Later in his life Berlusconi wore Kiton as well, but always wore Marinella ties - the navy spot became something of a trade mark, and he wore it with formal daywear such as a morning coat. 

In his early years as a politician in the 1980s, he was also noted for adopting the serious dress of a businessman, always sober in his navy double-breasteds, white shirts and ties. Unlike some of the more dramatic dressing of the time. 

For anyone that isn’t familiar with Ferdinando Caraceni, the Milanese tailor cuts a jacket with a strong, padded shoulder and bellied lapels that are also wide on a double-breasted. The rest of the jacket has a very lightweight lining, however, and the finishing is very good - on a par with the best of Savile Row.

On Berlusconi, a shorter, larger man, the cut could be a little square sometimes. But on someone slimmer it's very flattering, even dramatic. That's me wearing my two double-breasted jackets below, and there is a piece looking looking in detail at the finishing here

I liked Nicoletta’s little anecdote and I hope you don’t mind me sharing. As ever, no comment is intended on Berlusconi’s politics, and I make no claim either on his style - it was ordinary and sometimes even plain bad (I particularly wish he’d cinch his tie knots).

But it’s nice to hear an inside view on someone in the news, particularly when so much commentary is from the outside. 

Ferdinando Caraceni was not a direct descendant of Domenico Caraceni, like the other Caraceni houses, but was more distantly related and most importantly was the head cutter for Domenico. More on that confusing little knot here. There is also a brand page with all Ferdinando Caraceni coverage here

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Offtopic but on photo 5/6 i think the girl on the background is giving you an attraction look.


Maybe, but it’s one of the reasons that is such a great shot!


Not the first time she’s tailed you at Pitti.

comment image


Simon I have tremendous respect for what you do and for the general no politics / irrelevant distractions ethos so well explained in your recent post on commenting. This article struck me as misguided. If you had focused eg on Berlusconi’s style I’d accept that it would be ok to declare something along the lines of “let’s not chat about politics or exploitation of women”. But the article was mainly talking about his kindness as a man and customer and thus essentially praising his personality and character. As such and respecting your normal balance and journalistic rigour I think the onus is on you to provide a necessary corrective and less positive viewpoint regarding his well documented less savoury characteristics. Or else keep discussions of Berlusconi’s character to other outlets and let’s keep it to style!


If anything it shows how meaningful showing appreciation or taking the time for someone can be. Politicians might know how to publicly exploit this at times, but nice to hear about instances in private where it was surely genuine.

Richard Emerson

Reza, I think I understand your point — and I certainly agree with your sentiment of not brushing Berlusconi’s horrors under the carpet — but the quote you mention was from Nicoletta Caraceni herself. Simon was conveying her choice not to speak about those things, and I think that choice has a strong negative connotation in her wording. So while this is in a way avoiding those subjects, it is also stating an opinion about them, and crucially it is the interviewee’s avoidance. I think Simon has portrayed that very well in this piece by letting Madame Caraceni’s words speak for themselves. That’s good journalism.

Personally I think this piece is absolutely fascinating in its portrayal of of a different side of Berlusconi. Or is it really different? Did he really mean these things, these gestures, or was he just saying what people wanted to hear — a key characteristic of ‘populists’ (and fascists). Perhaps the story about the condolence call tells us something there… or perhaps not.


I agree with Reza. I find it difficult watch a film with a actor accused of abuse, for instance, knowing that the person on screen might have done some terrible things. Since Berlusconi’s persona was very public and since this piece is centered around his demeanor, it’s hard for me to cut off one from the other.


Hi, Reza, I completely agree and would just add that personally I would have preferred to stay away from this subject altogether. I too share your respect for Simon and the huge amount of knowledge he has garnered and shared.


I feel the same. Berlusconi was early adopter of what The Economist described as political con-men, a rampant populist, a danger to democracy and a sexist. If one follows his career, there are stark parallels to Donald Trump. If he would have been incredibly well dressed, referring to him on Permanent Style would be somehow understandable (even though, where do you draw the line….. at Putin or some even worse dictator?).

But this article puts Berlusconi in a good light on a privat level. Even Donald Trump is said to be able to be quite charming, until he is not. Therefore, it reads like a defense of the man Berlusconi and his politics.


come now, let’s be fair. Berlusconi was involved in Operation Condor in Italy, organizing cells of far-right militants who perpetrated much of the violence during the Years of Lead. Donald Trump is a two-bit grifter who watched Goodfellas one too many times. hardly the same.


How can it read like a defense of his politics when the interviewer says literally “no comment is intended on his politics” and the interviewed person says that she doesn’t agree with said politics?


Say what you will about Putin, but he became the world’s best dressed leader after switching to Brioni in the 2000s. Never worked out quite so well for Trump.


I can honestly say that I hate Berlusconi with a passion. He was, in my opinion, the inventor of the 21st-century politician who uses lies, populism, and hate to get into power whilst bragging about abusing that power for his own gain. Much like Trump and Boris became many years later.
I also believe that journalists who duck away from difficult topics are cowards.
Even if I really try, I can’t see how Simon did a bad job here in any way. This is not a news site so I don’t expect political commentary. Simon gives the voice to the interviewee who chooses to mention right off the bat that she does not agree with the politics or his treatment of women. I think that is the most I expect from a men’s style blog and I think Simon did a good job.


Very interesting article!


Along with Anderson and Sheppard, I’d say F Caraceni is my favourite style on you. Both those jackets are just superb!


Berlusconi was always prideful about his Italy. The museums, churches, beautiful buildings, paintings and so forth. No wonder he used some of the very best bespoke tailoring Italy has. Indeed, Italy has many many things going for it in this broader aesthetical sense. I don’t think he looked particurarly stylish but I appreciate how he really cared for on a personal level for his tailor. Great article


Sorry to say the man was just simply exceptional and should be praised for saving the Italians from direct communism in a very difficult time. Agree with others better to keep politics out of this column but no harm in praising and mans character – we all have both positives and negatives….the article shows an enormous ignorance of Italian politics and history and lack of understanding the context and as if none else likes beautiful women etc….Whom did he harm? himself only by being the generous and unselfish man he was.


Well, that is one of the most superficial statements I have ever read ….and that’s saying something when 90% of comments by Berlusconi supporters are already amazing in their one-dimensional analysis of the huge damages reeked by Berlusconi on Italy and Europe: In the end he saved Italy from communism (not even Berlusconi believed that whopper) , loved beautiful women , that’s no crime (yeah, right ), evaded taxes and passed laws with the only scope being to save himself and his cronies …what’s there not to like ?


I would respectfully argue Marco’s riposte is no less substantive than the original poster’s commentary, but appreciate this is a can of worms that everybody would prefer not to open, even if the article can’t help but do so, so will leave it at that.


“Yeah right “ was a way of avoiding opening up a Pandora’s Box on that specific subject . I don’t think even the most ardent Berlusconi supporters have the courage (?) to defend the man vis-a-vis his attitude towards women.
Having said that , and obviously NOT being a berlusconian, I must say that I found the article interesting , and I am sure that on a personal level, in everyday interaction, Berlusconi was capable of very human feelings (above and beyond lust I mean,ndr) and was also very considerate to people he considered his friends .


Well done for getting this interview Simon , understand it may have been difficult to do, He was a controversial figure but what politician isn’t.

Regarding the cut , yeah Italian tailoring as you rightly said is diverse , from the strong shoulder pads of the north to the relaxed neapolitans , but one thing I have noticed is that a lot of them have no or very little drape and they sit very close to the body ,would you say is correct?

Also on a tangent here would you say the Drape cut is designed to be more functional as it was created for the dancer/actor Fred Astaire and that would not have been ideal for someone like Astaire as well as the structured English brands?


Hi Simon

I think you maybe right the Drape cut was designed for Edward VIII and then Astaire liked the look and feel of it and then he adopted it , but hey I could be wrong too.

Yeah sorry I think I may have missed something in my original comment, what I meant to say is that the drape cut would have been better for Fred Astaire than both contemporary Italian tailoring and the English structured?


Out of historical interest, if the drape cut was designed for the Duke of Windsor, and has since become A&S’s signature, does anyone know what they had as their house style prior to this?


I find it interesting that you recently published your editorial guidance on comments and shortly afterwards an article about such a controversial (I’m being polite here) figure. I was surprised and very disappointed, even given the alleged insight and for two main reasons:
Firstly, you balk at showing any interest in the style or indeed any acknowledgment of King Charles or the late Prince Philip. Both known for their style and elegance regardless of if one likes it and their approach to sustainability in their clothing and across the piece, even before it was fashionable to do so.
Secondly, we have previously agreed to disagree, on being able to separate a person’s behaviour and their style. I do however suggest there is a limit and for me this is definitely beyond that. There are examples and many of us know who they would include, that I could use but don’t want to cause offence.
I recognise and generally agree with the guidance on comments you published, however I think that by posting this piece some pushback that pushes a little against your guidance was to be expected.

Peter Hall

I think a piece on why the King is one of the best wearers of tailoring would be interesting ,not necessarily a discussion of what he wears more how he combines things to reach a specific look and his projection of power-much like this one does. Power dressing for men is a rather simplistic term but you have weaved it into other articles -Italian industrialists and East Coast Ivy as examples.


Hi Simon,
Apologies and I stand corrected on the point re the King. I do now recall something.
Yes agree on your point the discussion does help to delineate between the behaviour of someone and their style. It’s (IMO) a worthwhile discussion. Although I’d have to say easier in person.
Thanks again for your indulgence.


Perhaps a subject for one of your gatherings, with you moderating


Speaking of the King, since his mother’s passing, he seems to have migrated from DB to SB. Do you know if these suits are still being made by A&S?


I’m always unavailable Tuesday’s but other than that day, please count me in.


Hi Simon, further to our recent discussions (and above) and specifically the Duke of Windsor, I thought you may find this programme interesting – link below. Easier and quicker than the book and related diaries. Well researched and expert input. Much is sourced from government archived documents, rather than an opinion and an author’s confirmation bias. If there is a line then he is definitely on the wrong side of it – especially as for anyone else his actions may have been capital offences at the time.


Interesting insight into a tailor possibly not liking a customer. I imagine this must happen quite allot given the type who has both the means and inclination for bespoke tailoring includes many whom may be disagreeable for one reason or another. I often think this must be tricky for a tailor give the intimate relationship they have by necessity


Since there are a lot of strong reactions in the comments, I feel the need to also chime in and say that I found this pieces tone to be balanced, in fact I found it surprising you needed to put the disclaimer at the bottom at all. I do hope you don’t get discouraged by this Simon, people seem to forget that this isn’t the world of saints and demons we live in but a world of men and women.

I wonder if these exact reactions are the reason she avoided the press and opened up to you, hoping for a different approach to the subject from menswear community? If thats the case then it is kind of sad.


I completely agree!


I loved reading this! Regardless of politics one must admit that Berlusconi was always impeccably dressed.


He looked significantly better in Caraceni than he did in Kiton. Seems he migrated to Kiton after the old man passed away.


He never migrated to Kiton. He received some suits as a present ( it happened often in his life even with other brands ) and Kiton made a big marketing operation with press. He ordered suits with us till the end of his life. We delivered to him 2 new blazers just 3 months vefore his death


I didn’t follow Silvio closely but certainly knew who the man was and heard many of the stories about him. I would just comment that the people who are not happy about this post wouldn’t care one bit if a post about someone from the left side of the political spectrum who had done far worse than Berlusconi (e.g. Fidel Castro or Che Guevara) was made. They don’t have a problem with any of the things he supposedly did, just that he was on the right side of the political spectrum, and are using those things to trash a recently deceased man. As someone who is a political moderate who has voted for people all across the spectrum I’ve seen it time and time again. It’s petty and pathetic. As for the post itself I found it interesting.


I met Fidel Castro once. We shook hands and talked a few words. A very remarkable man. And a much better dresser than Berlusconi.


I totally despise both Berlusconis politics and his personal ethics and sexism.
But I have no objections to the article at all. The interviewed person says that he was nice and polite to her but that she disliked his politics and his sexism. I dont see why Simon needs to add to that. This is a menswear blog.
But I actually would appreciate a post about how powerful people can use clothing and style to impress. I would have no problems with examples from all places on the political scale.


Agreed. Some people cannot separate facets of a person. I disagree with nearly everything Berlusconi ever did and said but I can also admire his clothing style and his support of the Italian tailoring industry/culture.


Thank you for the article, Simon.
Not only was it a tender portrait of the relationship between a tailor and her customer, it also highlights one of the dangers of populists like Berlusconi: they can be incredibly charming (and in his case probably also genuinely warm) persons, but at the same time lead a thoroughly opportunistic and egocentric politics, maybe accepted by the people because of this likability.
I also find it somewhat satisfactory to remember the good sides of people who recently passed away, notwithstanding in this case his negative contribution to Italian public life. In the end he was punished, if only lightly, and died a sick and dissatisfied man, not receiving the presidency he wanted to crown his political career. May he rest in peace.

Luca Fiorito

I respect and admire Simon and I admit that, being a left wing italian (a relic), I am ostensibly biased in my judgment. Still, I find the choice of writing a post with a specific focus on Berlusconi somehow in dissonance with the philosophy of Permanent Style. There was nothing stylish in Berlusconi and, frankly, I hope there is going to be nothing permanent in his controversial legacy.


I agree with Reza. Of course I would always be happy to read more interviews with Ms. Caraceni, and if she mentioned Berlusconi in the course of that conversation I’d be interested to see what she said; there’s also no particular harm in a discussion of the man’s clothes, as dressing is a morally neutral act. The framing of the article around the particular man and his death, however, has the effect of contributing to a cleansing or hagiography specifically by NOT touching his history or politics.

Mark Hayes

This is post is great. I like the way it lets light and air into what can be a stuffy, self-referential topic of interest only to fanatical clothing-enthusiasts (some of us honestly just don’t care that much, although we care enough to think about it). The humanizing anecdotes add depth and color to the analytical themes covered here, and in an interesting way that cuts against the shallow inertia of caricature. There’s always Dante Alighieri if you need a good moralizer on the topic of Italian politics LOL.


Thanks, Simon, for a balanced and insightful post.
Unfortunately a majority of comments are quick to comment on how despicable Silvio Berlusconi was as a person and a politician (something which, by the way, is called virtue signaling). I think it says something about some of your readership and, more broadly, the kind of people who are interested in fine clothing nowadays — and have the means to be: people working in finance for the most part, who subscribe to a certain postmodern, ultraliberal ideology. Which is why they will deride Berlusconi and similar characters as “populists”, “dangers to democracy”, or other ridiculous epithets in the same vein, while failing to realize it’s actually their ideology that is a threat to democracy — but that’s a topic for another day.
If I take the liberty of bringing that up, and please forgive me for doing so, it is because it strikes me how contrary it seems to run to so many core values that style, especially “permanent” style, is supposed to embody, such as tradition, history, and cultural identity. Style, at least for me, is not only about clothes, but also manners, culture (which evidently those people lack), and a certain effortlessness that is antithetical to that sort of moral posturing.
I think it would deserve an article someday.


David, I would really recommend that you read back what you wrote here. You criticize readers of PS who disagree with your specific opinion on Berlusconi of working in finance, being postmodern & ultraliberal, lacking culture, and being a threat to democracy whilst then going on to try and make the case that only people of your opinion have a monopoly on finer clothes?
Maybe you were caught up in a bit of emotion, but you seem to be upset about people judging Berlusconi, just to then be incredibly judgemental of a huge group of people, that you know nothing about at all.


Keen to try F Caraceni some day… do you know its current rates for a suit or sportcoat, Simon?


Hi Simon,
Upon reading this post, I’ve really regretted for not having suggested a post dedicated to Charlie Watts. Certainly, many PS readers across the world would have enjoyed discovering the late great drummer of the Rolling Stone from a different perspective easily relatable to them.


Hello Simon. Watching Yusuf/Cat Stevens at Glastonbury. this evening. Silver grey hair and beard, pearl grey t shirt and tinted glasses. Lovely
and understated.

Peter Hall

As had Elton John.


Having people discuss their own opinions on politics is almost certainly something you might want to avoid but, I have to say, articles on the politics of style and tailoring would be hugely welcome. It’s surely a rich topic and well worth a deep dive. Clothes aren’t just aesthetic or pragmatic, after all; they are a kind of language.


This is an exceptional read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well researched and deeply personal. I urge the Team to write more like this. This is an intellectual gold mine. What a splendid Sunday afternoon read!


Great article. Thanks. Always good to hear another perspective especially from someone who knew him personally. There must have been reasons for his popularity and these insights provide glimpses.


Having never commented before, I wanted to comment to say that I though this was handled as sensitively as possible. The anecdotes are of historical interest (and what a shame not to have them recorded), you made clear it was not an endorsement, and Mrs Caraceni made clear that she didn’t agree with him. On the subject of 1990s Italian fashion, I imagine many PS readers would enjoy the Italian series “1992” which (with its sequels) covers the rise of Berlusconi both on its own merits and for the fashion. I can’t say I want to dress just like the character Leonardo Notte but it definitely well costumed.

Guy Gadbois

not sure that Silvio ever made president of the republic? pretty sure he only made prime minister but hey ho


You maybe remembered correctly. I thought it was a mistake too at first. But in Italy they call the prime minister “Presidente del Consiglio”. (This is of course still different from the President of the Republic.) So it makes sense for an Italian person to call Berlusconi “Presidente”, I think.


Simon, please dont jump on the King bandwagon. I never understood this king worshiping. Yes, he is always dressed good, which is not hard if you have all the tailors and consultants available. For me he never looks good because his uptight character and lack of any charisma. I would rather see you do Ron Carter or Bryan Ferry. This are guys who look great with no effort.

Yang ji won

Hello Mr.Crompton
I have a question..!
Between F. Caraceni and T&G Caraceni suits, I’d like to casually ask which one you intuitively find more attractive and detail-oriented. While from your text and pictures, it seems there isn’t a significant difference, I trust your deep insight, having seen them in person.


Good to know he paid his bills in full! Knowing Churchill steadfastly refused to pay Henry Poole what he owed the firm, that is quite a surprising fact.


Great work & great article!