Introducing Elsa Schiaparelli
Image: Hat,The Pagan Collection, designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, 1938, Paris, France. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The V&A museum may be physically closed, but its digital learning resources are open and always expanding. In a new film, Sonnet Stanfill, Senior Curator of Fashion & Textiles, takes a closer look at some of Elsa Schiaparelli's most iconic garments, including the 'Shoe' hat and 'Tears' dress, designed in collaboration with Salvador Dali. The film is part of the museum's online only Surrealism collection.
Fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli (1890 – 1973) was one of the most remarkable couturiers of the 20th century, known for her subversive, sometimes overtly surreal designs. The V&A has a collection of Schiaparelli exhibits, which you can see online. Witty, elegant and often strikingly surreal, her designs incorporate humour and surprise, inviting the viewer to look and look again.
Schiaparelli worked within the confines of traditional tailoring but played with subversive details, extraordinary materials and the imagery of Surrealism to create unique fashion statements. The V&A’s collection includes one of her earliest designs, a black jumper knitted with a white bow, alongside her most powerfully Surrealist works, designed in collaboration with the artists Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau.
Image: (Detail) Evening coat, designed by Elsa Schiaparelli and Jean Cocteau, 1937, London, England. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
In an article on the history of the handbag, Carry On, Issue 10, we include a mention of Schiaparelli’s contribution to pockets: “As war loomed once more smart businesslike suits provided the broad shoulders to bear the load, and the envelope bag grew to dossier size. Hands were freed to carry gas masks by shoulder bags in sizes that could contain all essentials – a wise move in times when it was never certain that there would be a house to return to. Elsa Schiaparelli went one step further and reclaimed the female pocket from antiquity to make the ‘marsupials’ of her 1939 collection, including a black crepe dinner suit with muff pocket.”
For more information visit www.vam.ac.uk