Sparkle Icon: Elsa Schiaparelli

We just can’t rave enough about the great innovator of surrealist fashion and her charming personal style.

Ask any fashion fiend about avant-garde style and one name will be mentioned ad nauseum: Elsa Schiaparelli. The Italian fashion designer (and Coco Chanel rival) brought conceptual fashion to the masses in the 1930s with collections that drew heavily on the Surrealist art movement for inspiration. Like her friend and collaborator, Salvador Dali, Schiaparelli was interested in the nonsensical logic and bizarre imagery of dreams; her most famous pieces were shocking in their violation of accepted rules of silhouette, colour, and pattern. During a time when the sombre Chanel little black dress was the dominant paradigm in womenswear, the Italian innovator was designing uber-colourful dresses printed with images of body parts and food, hats that were shaped like shoes and lamb chops, and even a dress that was padded make the wearer look like a skeleton.

The “Shoe Hat”, 1937

The “Skeleton Dress”, 1938

Schiaparelli was known for wearing her own designs, and was particularly creative with how she wore and arranged her beloved jewelry. Photos show the designer had a talent for pairing suits, dresses or knit separates with unexpected pieces in the Surrealist mode: a snake bracelet and a two-piece brooch were special favourites, and distinguished the designer in a sea of soberly-dresssed women. A particular style quirk of hers was a pair of prickly-looking brooches arranged off-centre at the neckline – an untraditional placement for brooches, but one that appears to have caught on and stayed (paging Michelle Obama!).

Check out Sciapparelli at work and play, below – and mourn, like we did, that the innovator of a colour called Shocking Pink could only be captured in black-and-white. Molto tragico.

Need to see more? This blog has a whackload of images of Schiaparelli and her designs – we were in Surrealist heaven.

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