1890-1973 Elsa Schiaparelli
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Join Date: Dec 2005
A feature on style.com:
The Italian Elsa Schiaparelli 1890-1973 had a love of rich fabrics and feminine fantasy clothes that frequently had a surreal twist. She mixed with the now famous cubist and surrealist artists Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia. Fabric and accessories were often designed for her by Dali, Jean Cocteau and Christian Berard. She began her early career with Trompe l'Oeil effects and a famous navy sweater with a contrast cream neckline and cream bow knitted into the design.
Despite the fact that Schiaparelli had a witty side she was just the fashion inspiration that women who preferred classic styles needed. Those that loathed the swathes of pastel chiffon produced by Vionnet were easily compensated by 'Scap's' couture short fitted suits or jackets teamed with black dresses. She used colours like turquoise or shocking pink or hyacinth blue.
Beyond the little black dress which she frequently designed, she would accessorise with humour and designed funky hats made to appear as mutton chops or ice cream cones. Her eccentricity was much loved and her clothes were revolutionary at the time.
She designed a wide shouldered masculine suit that Marlene Dietrich wore and which was copied throughout Hollywood. She launched shoulder pads in man tailored severe suits long before power dressing of the 80s. It was her late 1930s tailored suit designs which were thought the most suitable clothing to embrace in the war years rather than the wasp waist bouffant dresses that were shown just before the war started.
Schiaparelli and Chanel were great rivals who both vied for top designer fame and competed hotly against each other over their perfumes. Schiaparelli's Shocking perfume in an hour glass bottle designed on Mae West's figure was fiercely competitive against Chanel's perfume Chanel No 5.
Schiaparelli fled to the USA at outbreak of World War Two and never regained her designer dominance again. She continued to lecture on fashion throughout the war years in America. She held her final fashion show in 1954.
Schiaparelli liked new things as well as new ideas. In 1933 she promoted the fastener we call the zip or zipper. The metal zip had been invented in 1893 and by 1917 it was somewhat timidly used for shoes, tobacco pouches and U.S. Navy windcheater jackets. Her use of the new plastic coloured zip in fashion clothes was both decorative, functional and highly novel. They soon became universally used and are now a very reliable form of fastening.
Evening dress and headscarf in Tear design, Elsa Schiaparelli, Summer/Fall 1938. Philadelphia Museum of Art, museum no. 1969-232-45a, b
v&a museum's site
"Because of all sorts of cloth have their motions, as well as Bodies, it must needs that they differ in themselves."
Last edited by Whitelinen; 28-05-2007 at
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