Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shocking Life - Schiaparelli

 Shocking Pink, 9" x 11"

 Sunday I went to see the Schiaparelli and Prada exhibit at the Met. It was the last day.

 'Schiap's famous shoe hat. Don't you love the red lips pocket - so witty.

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890 - 1973) was one ot the leading designers of the 1920s and 1930s with a flair for the unusual. The first one to use shoulder pads, animal prints and the inventor of shocking pink. Schiaparelli collaborated with artists including jean Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti and Salvador Dali to create the Dali Lobsters dress.

 I'll admit I'm biased. I much prefered Schaiparelli to Prada in the exhibit and didn't even give them a look.

 "The more the body is respected, the better the dress acquires vitality...The Greeks...understood this rule, and gave to their goddesses...the serenity of perfection and the fabulous appearance of freedom".

All of Schiaparelli's quotes in the show are taken directly from her autobiography, Shocking Life, (which I'm currently reading) was published in 1954.

 Schiap was famous for her fitted jackets influenced by uniforms and mens tailoring. "[I feel] that clothes [have] to be architectural: that the body must never be forgotten and it must be used as a frame is used in a building…

 "Two words have always been banned from my(fashion) house -  the word 'creation', which strikes me as the height of pretentousness and the word 'impossible'. I kept in touch with the needs of women who had confidence in me and tried to help them find their type. This I believe to be the principal secret of being well dressed'.

 "Waist up/Waist Down" looks at Schiaparelli's use of decorative detailing as a response to restaurant dressing in the heyday of 1930s café society.
 "Types are vastly different. Women's looks should correspond to their way of life, to their occupation, to their loves, and also to their pockets".
Women designers are so much more practical aren't they?

I picked up Schiap's autobiography, Shocking Life at the Met exhibit. It's a terrific read detailing all the ups and downs of her exciting life as a tremendous creator and survivor of the highest order.


  1. Let us all ban the word "impossible" from our lives!

  2. Very interesting post. I did not know much about Elsa Schiaparelli, so merci for enlightening me, Carol! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. Anonymous10:55 AM

    One of the things that surprised me when I read Erte's autobiography was that Schiaparelli didn't create the color 'shocking pink'. It was around a couple of decades before and was called 'tango orange'. During the 1910s, the tango was all the rage. Tea houses gave afternoon tango teas. When that fad fell out of favor, so did the color.

    1. Fab bit of trivia information.
      Love it!

  4. Lucy in the Sky11:20 AM

    Boy those were the days...
    So emminently stylish.
    Women really cared.
    Details mattered and were fun and witty
    Certainly there were other extenuating factors but it does seem more romantic.

  5. Since you're so perfectly located to explore most art and artists, and because you are reading Schiaparelli, I'd also suggest you explore another one of her surrealist friends, Leonor Fini. This artist isn't very well known in North America but I saw one of her works in the Vancouver Art Gallery last year when they have a Surrealist exhibit. Following the exhibit I took a Surrealism course in my final year of university and decided to focus on her. She only had one piece showcased but I found it magnetic. She would often get Schiaparelli to design costumes for her and she would play outrageous characters at balls and such.

    Great Post!
    You should get in touch with Artfully blog's writer Stephanie. She covers art in Paris as well.

    The Wanderfull Traveler

    1. parisbreakfast6:17 PM

      Thank you Murissa for Artfully
      Perfect for me!

  6. Since I won't be able to make it to New York to see this exhibit, I want to thank you for giving us a lttle glimpse :)

  7. very divine Paris pink watercolor and ultra divine, soigne fashion
    Great combo!

  8. Thank you for sharing your visit with us! How lucky you made it to the Met just in time.

  9. I love the vintage photos and your watercolor.
    The "shoe hat" - I wonder how that went over?

    1. parisbreakfast5:43 PM

      The shoe hat was an unforgettable concept

  10. Carol, I also enjoyed seeing that exhibit, particularly the Schiaparelli jackets. Didn't much care for all those mirrored walls in the dark gallery rooms. Too much potential for "walking right into oneself!"


  11. Interesting philosophy she had. Yes, women are practical as designers and understand women's bodies, though I think men who love and appreciate women's bodies also make great designers - I'm thinking Armani especially, who in my (inexpert) opinion combines simplicity with incredible lines.

    1. parisbreakfast6:42 PM

      but are there pockets in Armani's refined lines?

  12. This is really art in its kind!!

  13. Wonderful post PB~

    Schiaperelli was intelligent, practical and beautifully artistic~The photos and quotes ~superb. I added the book to my "to read" list. Too bad the exhibit ends the week before my visit.

    Thank you!!

  14. Geri NJ11:31 AM

    She certainly was very much ahead of her time and would fit in perfectly today. Especially love her timeless 'credos'. I've always been fascinated by "Shocking" perfume, both the name and the notion for those times...sort of like Ravel's Bolero.

  15. Thank you for the introduction. What a fascinating woman. Totally innovative for her times.. wonderful. Shall explore more x


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