Monday, May 17, 2010


Advertisement from Mademoiselle September 1946

The work of Elsa Schiaparelli has fascinated me since I was barely out of my teens. Long before I entered the world of vintage fashion I studied art. During a slide show presentation on Surrealism my instructor included a clip of her famous"ShoeHat". That was it... I was captivated.

Schiaparelli's ability to blend art and wearable fashion was pure genius...elegant silk evening gowns were painted with whimsical images like lobsters or musical scales. Circus animals were beaded and embroidered onto tailored jackets. Sunbursts, astrology signs...moons and stars and more. The clothing was cut to flatter and the workmanship exquisite which was why she was able to venture so far from the boundaries of the day. But it wasn't just the imagery, Schiaparelli was obsessed with color. She turned to unusual methods and dyes to produce shades and hues for her fabrics that were as startling as the embellishments she employed. Vibrant yellows, blues and purples. Unusual shades of green, brown and grey. The colors were unique and her combinations dazzling. In 1936 she experimented with the creation of her most famous color of all, Shocking Pink. After a number of less exciting tries by her designer Jean Clément he presented her with an astounding shade that blended magenta with pink. The effect was electric and Schiaparelli's signature color was born. Shocking pink was an immediate success and remained a fashion favorite for years to come. In 1937 she introduced her first perfume and named it Shocking. Sales of her new scent surpassed some of the most popular fragrances of the day.

Left, Schiaparelli Jacket from Candida Matinelli's Italophile Site

Above right, Schiaparelli's Shocking Pink was emulated by other designers up intil the 1950s, Mid 40s jacket from my website
..............................................................Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the greatest fashion pioneers of all time. She used plastic zippers decades before anyone else, she pushed past the limits of fabric and material and she treated color the way a fine artist would. Most of all I believe she delighted in creating a stir, causing a sensation. Shocking became her trade mark word and that just says it all.

'Till next time best wishes to all