Saturday, May 26, 2012


The recent Met Gala celebrated the opening of a new fashion exhibition at the Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York called Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations about the similarities and synchronicity in the work of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada. Modern technology means that while all the way over in the Southern Hemisphere I can't get an invitation to the party, I can at least watch the entire red-carpet arrivals live. And it was interesting to hear how many of the celebs in attendance didn't know that much about Schiaparelli, which isn't surprising really. Her fashion house closed in the 1950s so the name doesn't have modern currency like, say, Christian Dior and she hasn't had multiple films adaptations made about her life like Gabrielle Chanel. The reality is, though, that Elsa Schiaparelli was even more of a rule-breaking trend-setter than her contemporary Chanel.
Sure, she is best known for her daring use of prints and her collaborations with surrealist artists like Man Ray, Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali, but did you know that she was also responsible for inventing skorts, culottes, graphic print knitwear, coloured zippers, shocking pink, wraparound dresses, wacky buttons and matching jackets and gowns for evening wear? She also experimented heavily with fabric AND treated her designs as an art form, not just a function. Like a pre-war version of Lee McQueen is it any wonder Chanel called Schiaparelli 'that Italian artist who makes clothes.'

Elsa Schiaparelli also led a fascinating life. Born into a wealthy and distinguished Italian family she very quickly rejected the life of luxury and ease on offer to her, seeking out a more creative and real life in New York and then Paris, where she befriended great artists, started her innovative design house and even got her foot in the door in Hollywood designing costumes for a number of films. The bottle for Schiaparelli's perfume 'Shocking' (a great name for a scent) was modelled on the figure of Mae West.

I only found out the other day that Schiaparelli was also the grandmother of beautiful 60's and 70's top model Marisa Berenson (who is still beautiful and chic and often seen at the fashion shows in Paris and Milan) and the fashion photographer Berry Berenson who sadly passed away in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. What a talented family.


Penny Dreadful Vintage said...

It is my dream to one day own something by Schiaparelli. I wish I could visit this exhibition.

pulse vintage said...

lovely dresses, I like the grey dress with the detailed draping.