Elsa Schiaparelli

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Elsa Schiaparelli : biography

10 September 1890 – 13 November 1973
Skeleton Dress

Dalí also helped Schiaparelli design the Skeleton Dress for the Circus Collection. It was a stark black crepe dress which used trapunto quilting to create padded ribs, spine, and leg bones. in the collections database of the Victoria and Albert Museum Accessed 5/2/2010

Shoe Hat

In 1933, Dalí was photographed by his wife Gala Dalí with one of her slippers balanced on his head. In 1937 he sketched designs for a shoe hat for Schiaparelli, which she featured in her Fall-Winter 1937-38 collection. The hat, shaped like a woman’s high heeled shoe, had the heel standing straight up and the toe tilted over the wearer’s forehead."Elsa Schiaparelli: Hat (1974.139)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1974.139 (April 2011) This hat was worn by Gala Dalí, in the collections database of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Accessed 5/2/2010 Schiaparelli herself, and by the Franco-American editor of the French Harper’s Bazaar, heiress Daisy Fellowes, who was one of Schiaparelli’s best clients.

In popular culture

The film Gold Diggers of 1933 includes the lines, recalling life before the Great Depression:

‘I can remember not so long ago a penthouse on Park Avenue.
With a real tree, and flowers, and a fountain, and a French maid.
And a warm bath with salt from Yardley’s.
And a little dress that Schiaparelli ran up. ‘

Cole Porter wrote a song Down in the Depths (On the Ninetieth Floor) for his 1936 musical Red, Hot and Blue, about a lonely rich woman who "sits above the town in her Schiaparelli gown/ Down in the depths on the ninetieth floor."

In stanza XV of Louis MacNeice’s epic poem "Autumn Journal" (1939), MacNeice namechecks Schiaparelli as a designer who epitomised modernity:

‘Or give me a new Muse with stockings and suspenders
And a smile like a cat
With false eyelashes and finger-nails of carmine
And dressed by Schiaparelli, with a pill-box hat.’

In Agatha Christie’s 1940 novel One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (US title: The Patriotic Murders), Hercule Poirot first notices a girl in Regent’s Park wearing "a Schiaparelli creation there, under that lime tree", and then realises she is Jane Olivera, one of the protagonists.

In Nancy Mitford’s 1949 novel Love in a Cold Climate, the heroine Fanny wants to wear the Schiaparelli label on the outside of a jacket "so that people would know where it came from".

Schiaparelli is mentioned a number of times as a favorite designer of Mame Dennis-Burnside and Vera Charles in the books Auntie Mame and Around the world with Auntie Mame (1955 and 1958)

In Muriel Spark’s 1963 novella, The Girls of Slender Means, set in the 1930s, the "girls" share a single Schiaparelli evening dress amongst themselves. Its rescue from a fire by Selina forms part of the climax of the story.

In Mary McCarthy’s 1963 novel The Group Schiaparelli is named as the designer of the wardrobe worn by the character Elinor "Lakey" Eastlake on her return to the US from Europe just before the outbreak of World War II.

The narrator of the 2008 film Of Time and the City remarks that "the opening of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King" in 1967 was "The Vatican’s response to Schiaparelli."