Elsa Schiapparelli

ELSA SCHIAPARELLI

(1890 – 1973; Italy) She is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in 1930’s fashion, thanks to the innovations she introduced in the fashion world.

She started her career in 1924 when she moved to Paris. There she knew Poiret, who encouraged her to start her own business in fashion. She launched a new collection of knitwear in early 1927 using a special double layered stitch created by Armenian refugee and featuring sweaters with surrealist trompe l’oeil  images,  patterns that gave the impression of a scarf wrapped around the wearer’s neck . Her creations captured America’s attention. Among her well known creations are tattoo or human skeleton  printed sweaters, African- inspired  dresses and cubist sporty dresses, her fabrics with a newspaper print textile based on press clippings related to her work or  huge animals  prints.

She was inspired from arts (Picasso, Cocteau, etc.), especially from Cubism and Surrealism. Her friendship with Salvador Dalì inspired her to create lobster printed evening dresses, extravagant hats (the nest shaped ones, for example) and bizarre  telephone shaped bags.

Elsa Schiaparelli is regarded the main antagonist of Coco Chanel in the French fashion world. They are two polar opposite styles: the first rigorous and sober and the second bizarre and imaginative.

They share just one point in common: their idea of woman, free and independent. They also had the same intuition about the importance of ready to wear fashion would have in the future.

Among her innovations are  the evening trench  coats, the glass dresses, the hot pink mantles with huge golden suns embroidered on the back and the dresses with Jean Cocteau’s aphorisms.

She  also introduced the use of zips (much more practical than buttons) .

Her collections had also very original names: “Fermati”, “Guarda e ascolta”, “Le farfalle”,” Gli strumenti musicali”, “L’astrologia”.  Her most famous collection, “Circus”, used jugglers, ice-creams, elephants, and trapezists , reminding the extravagance and dynamism typical of  a circus.

Her creations are sophisticated ant shocking at the same time.In Paris, the home of Haute Couture , she was the first designer who sold prêt-à-porter clothes in her boutique and she also introduced the use of tweed, synthetic fibers and embossed fabric for evening dresses. She also created original costume jewelry, in fact her jewel buttons became the symbol of the griffe. She introduced a lot of extravagancies such as the zip the same color as the fabric, necklaces reminding aspirin tablets but the real innovation until our days was the invention of the “shocking pink color “. She also launched  the Diana neckline, which leaves one shoulder and one arm bare and the large crinoline skirts. The beginning of war constrained Elsa to interrupt her business. She continued her activity in Paris where she worked with emergent designers such as Givenchy, Pierre Cardin  and  Philippe Venet.

Elsa Schiaparelli’s woman , with her square lines and pagoda shoulders, was the icon of her times until the rise of Dior’s “New Look” .

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