Hat with Morning Glories, c.1948 - c.1952, Elsa Schiaparelli, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Mark

Elsa Schiaparelli was an Italian fashion designer. She is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars. She started with small collections of knitwear developed together with an Armenian knitter, but soon moved to high fashion. Schiaparelli was a close friend of artists, art dealers, writers - all her personal relationships influenced her approach to fashion design.

Embroidered dark red ensemble, 1937, Elsa Schiaparelli, MUDE Museo do Design e da Moda, In Copyright
Embroidered dark red ensemble, 1937, Elsa Schiaparelli, MUDE Museo do Design e da Moda, In Copyright

In her witty creations, humour and fantasy came together in sophisticated and very conceptual kind of couture. Collaboration between artists and designers have been frequent since the early days of Paris Couture, when avant-garde movements started to establish themselves. One of the most consolidate relationship between art and fashion is surely the liaison Schiaparelli established with Surrealism. The couturier not only took inspiration from the movement to create some of her most remarkable pieces, like the shoe-hat; she also invited surrealist artists to contribute to the creation of her fashion objects, like for the famous lobster-print and the torn trompe-l’oeil dresses, both made with fabric designed by Salvador Dalì.

Printed dress, ca. 1946, Elsa Schiaparelli, Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti, In Copyright
Printed dress, ca. 1946, Elsa Schiaparelli, Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti, In Copyright

Schiaparelli was quite a pioneer, especially because she used to challenge the limits of traditional couture, pushing the boundaries of was was acceptable for the couture standards, and playing with the very definitions of 'high' and low': for instance, she made use of visible zips in couture, something confined to underwear or cheaper productions. In 1954, due to the post-war austerity, Schiaparelli closed her Parisian fashion house.

Cape embroidered by Lesage, 1938, Elsa Schiaparelli, Les Arts Décoratifs, In Copyright
Cape embroidered by Lesage, 1938, Elsa Schiaparelli, Les Arts Décoratifs, In Copyright