Fashion meets Art: Elsa Schiaparelli

The Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli created wearable art with her cutting edge fashion. She entered the fashion scene with the encouragement of Paul Poiret and began by designing knitwear. She was the rival of Coco Chanel during the 1930s when they designed for women between the two world wars; but their styles allowed them to serve very different women--the risk taker versus the classicist.

Though an artist in her own right, Elsa Schiaparelli also collaborated with fine artists such as Salvador Dali. Through their collaborations, surrealist art qualities came alive as women wore shoe hats, skeleton dresses and much more.
Elsa Schiaparelli from LIFE magazine in 1937.

These two famous designs showcase the surrealist quality. Surrealist art included tricks of the eye and the unexpected. Never before had fashion seen prints that included a large lobster.

More of the unexpected: a three dimensional dress of a skeleton and shoe as a hat.

Dolce & Gabbana's Fall 2009 collection channelled the surrealist qualities of Elsa Schiaparelli. Elegant gloves suddenly become hats and and scarves. The key to it having the surrealist quality is the fact that the glove shape is completely obvious and unexpected.






The theme of time finds its way from the 1931 surrealist painting "The Persistence of Memory" by Dali, to the runway as worn by Karlie Kloss.



Elsa Schiaparelli introduced the concept of functional becoming beautiful. Rather than leave buttons plain, she began designing ornate buttons that resembled broaches.
Two designs of Elsa Schiaparelli with decorative buttons. Dolce & Gabbana took this idea to new levels for the Fall 2009 collections.
Think pink...
Barbie and Legally Blonde's Elle were not the first to strut in shades of neon pink. In addition to her advances in design, Elsa suprised everyone with her use of "shocking pink." The color was found with her clothing and was the name of her perfume.

Obviously inspired by the shocking Schiaparelli, Dolce & Gabbana had models step out on the runways in this amazing color.


A shocking pink striped Schiaparelli design.


A shockingly sweet beauty in pink with a glove hat, model Chanel Iman.

Sadly, after WWII Elsa Schiaparelli was unable to continue designing since the direction of the fashion world was changing so much. But her artistic spirit lives on with the help of modern designers like Dolce & Gabbana. So think pink when you get dressed tomorrow...

Runway photos: Style.com
Other: wikipedia

30 comments

  1. Great post! I am more of a Chanel girl, but I love the Schiaparelli shoulder. :)

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  2. Oh, I love that you've mentioned Schiaparelli in this post, Tawney! I had never heard of her before reading the book "The Gospel According to Coco Chanel" a few months back, but I've been intrigued ever since!! :)

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  3. i think i just may NEED those pink shoes!

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  4. What a gorgeous source of inspiration she was. I'm always in awe of functional art. And that striped number is just breathtaking!

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  5. she's awesome! go and do some research on her, it's really interesting. love the Dali designs.

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