Friday, September 4, 2009


Dear Elsa: What could be more witty than wearing the Shoe Hat, a hat shaped like a woman's high heeled shoe. Only Madame Schiaparelli, the friend of Salvadore Dali, Jacques Cocteau and other artists of the Surrealic and Dada movements could have created such a witty bit of fashion froth. Yet, even Daisy Fellowes, Franco-American editor of French Harper's Bazaar wore it and others followed your sensational advant-garde approach to fashion. You were the epitome of the art of "genius," which aptly describes your creative and innovative oeuvre. You brought a sense of playfulness to fashion, reacting as it did against the rational and formal real world and substituting instead fantasy and "je n'est ce pas." I am your admirer.
The Lobster Dress

What would the fashionistas in Maine say about the 1937 Lobster Dress? Well Schiaparelli, the most outlandish of the Parisian haute couture designers might have said, "If you can't eat your lobster you can wear it." Quite simply she created a white silk evening dress with a crimson waistband onto which the Salvador Dali painted a large red lobster on the skirt. And, dear readers of this blog, did anyone catch Wallis Simpson wearing the same dress at the Chateau de Cande, where photographer, Cecil Beaton took a series of photos of the temptress who caught the heart of a Edward VIII. Isn't this lobster dress quite symbolic as Wallis got her claws on the king apparent with a lobster grip?

The 1936 "Desk Suit"

Going to the office would never be the same wearing the "Desk Suit." Tailored and fit for even modern executive princesses, Schiaparelli designed the jacket with a series of pockets, real and false, fashioned and embroidered by the famous House of Lesage to look like desk drawers with buttons for knobs. Alas this may have been one way to carry your office to extremes, but it beats anything the "Devil Wears Prada" wore. The suit was based on two Surrealist drawings by Salvador Dali entitled, 'City of Drawers' and 'Venus de Milo of Drawers.' Surrealism in fashion thrived in the l930s, and

Scap's smart, sophisticated and witty clothes took the fashion world by storm. I predict that it's about time that fun was brought back into fashion. It was Scap who created sweaters with surrealist trompe l'oeil images. When Lili de Alvarez wore Scap's divided skirt

at the Wimbledon Championships in 1931 she shocked the tennis world but this paved the way for shorts which were soon to follow. Her sport collection were a sensation and Scap's business percipitated a moved from the Rue de La Paix to the Schiap Shop in the prestigious Place Vendome.

A Rival of Chanel

The Chanel empire may have been the most successful financially, Schiaparelli's legacy was that of an originator, she did not follow the rules, but was more originator in a class by herself, an artist who made fashion. Along with Coco Chanel, Schiaparelli is regarded as one of the most prominent designers in fashion between the two World Wars. Women coveted her crafty designs and trompe l'oeil sweaters. The rag business on 7th Avenue in New York City copied her original surreal ideas and coast to coast every little shop girl, secretary and model, who probably never even heard of Scap were wearing her fashions from coast to coast. Let's give credit where credit is due. Schiaparelli created wraparound dresses way before Diane von Furstenberg. Remember those l930s flicks with soignee ladies wear evening dresses with a chic little jacket? That was a first by Scap as well as fastenings on jackets with novelty buttons like vegetables or flowers. Details like this made fashion fun and exciting to wear. Even her perfume "Shocking" packaged in the brilliant hue of hot pink was notable for its torso bottle. It was inspired by Mae West's figure for Scap had created costumes for Mae West using a mannequin based on West's measurements.

Born into Royalty

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973), the Italian fashion designer, headquarters Paris, was born under of star of privilege at the Palazzo Corsini in Rome. Her famous lineage included Giovanni Schiaparelli, who discovered the canali of Mars, and she spent many hours with him studying the heavens and forming her own dreams of

fantasy. After a short stint at a convent, not doubt arranged by her family after the publication of a book of her sensuous poems, which shocked their conservative sensibilities. At 22 after a hunger strike Scap escaped the confines of the convent and went off to London to work as a Nanny, but you can be sure that was not on her mind. While attending alecture she met and later married on of her lecturers, Count William de Wendt de Kerlor a Franco-Swiss. theosophist. The no account Count took off as soon as the arrived in New York and left Scap with their child, Maria Luisa Yvonne Radha de Wendt de Kerlor, known as Gogo Schiaparelli, who in her day became a celebrated socialite. While in New York Scap met artist Marcel Duchamp, famed for his painting "Nude descending a Staircase" which was a sensation at the Armory Show in 1923. When another friend, Gaby Picabia, owner of a boutique selling French fashion in New York and DuChamp and Man Ray left for Paris, Schiaparelli joined them. The famed designer who freed women from corsets with his chemise dress encouraged Scap to start her own business which initially failed but by l927 her knitwear launch with the trompe l'oeil images took off and her success jumpstarted. During WWII she left Paris and unfortunately Schiaparelli never adapted to the changes in fashion and Dior's 'New Look' was all the rage. She closed her business in l954 and enjoyed her retirement years in comfort between her apartment in Paris and house in Tunisia. Adieu, Schiaparelli!! I can only think how much fun fashion would be if only your great surrealistic passion permeated fashion today.

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