Elsa Schiaparelli had a name no one could pronounce but it was a name everyone knew. They simply referred to her as SCHIAP! and her modern, avant garde designs continue to influence and inspire designers today.
When Elsa designed dresses she felt she was creating art not just clothes. She along with Coco Chanel offered women modern, less constricting clothing in the 1920s and 30s. She drew inspiration from sports uniforms and took them into everyday apparel.
When Elsa began designing evening wear her creativity knew no bounds. Gowns and dress jackets were heavily embellished with palettes, mirrors, pearls and gold embroidery. Opposite to this was the minimalist skeleton dress that used trapunto quilting to create bones on a stark black plain. The skeleton motif has been reincarnated many times on the runway.
In 2012, the Costume Institute at the MET in New York held an exhibit where Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli had a conversation about fashion and design. It was favourite show to date! The show juxaposed Prada and Schiaparelli designs so visitors could see the parallels and influence. There was also a film by Baz Luhrmann that played in the background showing the 2 designers having dinner and conversing. Elsa Schiaparelli was played by English actress Julie Christie. One topic the designers explored was Waist Up/Waist Down. Elsa designed for a cafe society where women were seated and on display so waist up was important. Prada focuses her attention waist down to the organic, earth bound female. Evidence for this is Schiaparelli embellished jackets, Prada embellishes skirts.
Here are two images from the show catalogue that represent this idea:
I chose to do an embellished jacket for the doll. I used different papers to create a parrot which is a nod to a costume Elsa wore to a party in 1952.
The Little Book of Schiaparelli by Emma Baker Wright
Schiaparelli & Prada Impossible Conversations
Lead Image, Parrot costume, dresses – from The Little Book of Schiaparelli by Emma Baker Wright
Schiaparelli Suit, Prada Skirt – Schiaparelli & Prada Impossible Conversations
Doll – Lori Tonizzo