Friday, April 3, 2009

Elsa Schiaparelli: Empress of Fashion by Palmer White

Just in, is an out of print 1986 Elsa Schiaparelli book published by Rizzoli. The book is by Palmer White. Palmer White is a long-standing friend of Elsa Schiaparelli's only daughter, Gogo, la Marquise Cacciapuoti and so has had access to all the private family material. Foreward by Yves Saint Laurent.

The book is available at Paper Pursuits:

Starting with knitwear, Schiaparelli's designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dalí and Alberto Giacometti. Below are some of her well known work.

Artist collaborations
Schiaparelli's relationship with the Dada and Surrealist movements continued in collaboration with Salvador Dalí, Leonor Fini, Jean Cocteau, and Alberto Giacometti. Chanel referred to her as 'that Italian artist who makes clothes'. Her collaborations with various artists contributed to the vast range and variety of her work.

In 1937 Schiaparelli collaborated with the artist Jean Cocteau to design a jacket and an evening coat for that year's Autumn collection.. The jacket was embroidered with a female figure with one hand caressing the waist of the wearer, and long blonde hair cascading down one sleeve. The coat featured two profiles facing each other, creating the optical illusion of a vase of roses. The embroidering of both garments was executed by the couture embroidery house of Lesage.

The designs Schiaparelli produced in collaboration with Dali are among her best known. While Schiaparelli did not name her designs, the four iconic Dali collaborations are popularly known as follows:

Lobster Dress
The 1937 Lobster Dress was a simple white silk evening dress with a crimson waistband featuring a large lobster painted (by Dali) onto the skirt. From 1934, Dali had started incorporating lobsters into his work, including New York Dream-Man Finds Lobster in Place of Phone shown in the magazine American Weekly in 1935, and the mixed-media Lobster Telephone (1936). His design for Schiaparelli was interpreted into a fabric print by the leading silk designer Sache. It was famously worn by Wallis Simpson in a series of photographs by Cecil Beaton taken at the Château de Candé shortly before her marriage to Edward VIII. The illustration here, from Vogue July 1937, shows the ready-to-wear version: a crisp white linen beach dress with a big hat ‘that is no more than a lobster-basket.’

Tears Dress
The Tears Dress was part of the February 1938 Circus Collection. It was a slender white evening gown printed with a Dali design of trompe l'oeil rips and tears, worn with a thigh-length veil with "real" tears, carefully cut out and lined in pink and magenta. Figures in ripped, skin-tight clothing suggesting flayed flesh appeared in some of Dali's paintings, including one owned by Schiaparelli.

Skeleton Dress
Dali also helped Schiaparelli design the Skeleton Dress for the Circus Collection.It was a stark black crepe dress which used trapunto quilting to create padded ribs, spine, and leg bones.

Shoe Hat
Schiaparelli's Fall-Winter 1937-38 collection featured a hat shaped like a woman's high heeled shoe, with the heel standing straight up and the toe tilted over the wearer's forehead.This was worn by Gala Dali, Schiaparelli herself, and by the Franco-American editor of the French Harper's Bazaar, heiress Daisy Fellowes, who was one of Schiaparelli's best clients.

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