Monday, 16 December 2013

Elsa Schiaparelli, the glamorous surealist!

Elsa Schiaparelli was a fashion pioneer from the 1920's throughout her career to the 1950's. She was arguably one of the most important designers of her era along with Coco Chanel, although she couldn't have been more different than her understated counterpart!
She began designing basic sweaters and sporting clothes but in the early 1930's expanded her collections to include everything up to couture.
Schiaparelli was an artist and a designer, her pieces drew heavily on surrealism and whimsy. She collaborated with many famous artists on her collections which had themes such as circus life, Greek mythology and the zodiac.
She loved to stray away from what was currently in vogue and constantly liked to shock the fashion world.
Personally, I love Elsa's designs. She was a true innovator and when I look at her early pieces I can see many of today's designers paying homage to her. Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Lulu Guinness  and Alexander McQueen echo elements of Schiaparelli's collections.

The many signature Schiaparelli elements:

  • High Waistlines
  • Shoulder pads and broad shoulders
  • Exaggerated Silhouettes
  • Bright colours such as royal blue and shocking pink
  • Trompe L'oeil knits
  • Zippers and decorative elements
  • Long-line, bias-cut dresses
  • Backless evening gowns
  • Geometric prints
  • Whimsical designs
As you can see from the collection below, Schiaparelli's customers needed to have a degree of confidence and attitude to wear her pieces!

1930s evening gown with typically exaggerating structure, this one focusing on the bust

The Tears Dress, fabric designed by Salvador Dali courtesy of the V&A 

As pictured in Vanity Fair

Typical high waisted mermaid dress with pink embroidered bolero which highlighted the shoulders

The Apollo of Versailles Cape, 1938

Backless pale silk gown from the Circus Collection

This beautiful pink and ivory silk gown was designed to accentuate the female form and represent whats underneath the corset,

This was an idea that Elsa first showcased with her controversial "Skelleton Dress" in 1938.
While on honeymoon last year Caroline went to see this dress in the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna. It must have been incredibly radical looking in 1938!

1940's dress with whimsical butterfly print

Loud geometric silk print coat from the late 1930's

Droooool...... I love this 1940's cape with the giant bee! 

Schiaparelli's more wearable evening jacket ensembles. When she was young, Elsa was often told that she was short and unattractive so it was her desire to create pieces which elongated and enhanced the female form.

Pale green evening suit with gold buttons

Humorous hand clasp belt

Bias Cut gold silk evening gown

Moorish inspired belt

Elsa's 'shocking pink' and black 1950s ballgown

Beautiful salmon pink and embroidered 1940s blouse

1940's purple, floral garland decorated evening gown

Beautiful contrasting blue and coral crepe gown with fish buttons

Blouse from the Zodiac collection with sequins bursting out to represent sun rays

Above images courtesy of  The Met Museum

Shocking pink 1930's gown as featured in Vogue to celebrate The Mets exhibition  “Impossible Conversations,” 
Which explored the striking parallels between Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada 

1940's Mirror print suit also from Vogue

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