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Posts Tagged ‘Elsa Schiaparelli’

Here’s a little story recounted by French fashion designer Paul Poiret (1879-1944) in his autobiography, King of Fashion.

paulpoiretI passed many times in front of the shop of this English master without daring to cross the threshold. One day, when I was feeling in cavalier mood, and since I needed a suit, I went in and ordered one, not, however, without asking the price, through fear of some unpleasant surprise. I was told one hundred and eighty francs – and I gave my order. 

“When shall I come try it on?” I added. 

“Our clothes are made in London,” I was told. “… and yours will not be ready for seventeen days.” 

… and in seventeen days I returned. Filled with emotion in the fitting room, I saw my coat arrive in the hands of the classic tailor, wearing a measure round his neck. I was astonished that they did not try on the trousers. He called the man who received me: “The trousers, Monsieur? What trousers? You did not order any trousers, nor a waistcoat either.” 

In the 1910s Paul Poiret was known for liberating women from the corset, only to confine their movement with the hobble skirt. Influenced by Asian aesthetics and theater, he was called “King of Fashion” and traveled extensively, including to America where he showed his designs and lectured.

I just finished Poiret’s autobiography, King of Fashion (V&A Publishing) first published in 1931. He led an interesting life and he was a good writer, but I was disappointed that he didn’t discuss his design process, his influences, and perhaps share some of his insights into the fashion industry of the era. I know that he fell out of favor after WWI and I was hoping that he might shed some light on that time of his life. I’m also aware that he met and encouraged designer Elsa Schiaparelli and I would have loved to know what he had to say about that, but no mention.

What he does discuss is his childhood and young adult life working for houses of Douchet and Worth. He goes into detail about opening his first fashion house and the many parties he hosted and attended. There’s lots of name dropping, which meant nothing to me as they were all French and a very long time ago.

Overall The King of Fashion is a good read, if you’re not expecting much about fashion.

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The Tear Dress by Elsa Schiaparelli.

 

In difficult times fashion is always outrageous. 

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973), Italian born fashion designer.

Schiaparelli is my favorite designer of all time. Known for her collaboration with Surreal artist Salvador Dali, Schiaparelli designs were unique and fanciful and very much of the Art Deco era.  She turned the shape of a shoe into a hat and circus animals became buttons.

In this quote I wonder if Schiaparelli means that the idea of fashion during challenging times is outrageous. Or is she saying that fashion itself is (or should be) outrageous during such times.

Let’s go with the latter, and if it’s true then 2020 should see some extreme fashion, like the Schiaparelli dress pictured above. The Tear dress was part of the designer’s Circus Collection for summer 1938. The printed image on the delicate fabric is of cut skin reveling dark red blood underneath. There are actual slashes in the mantle worn over the head (pictured above left), which reminds me of the popularity of slashed fabrics during the 16th century.

Judith Watt says of the dress in her book Vogue on Elsa Schiaparelli (Quadrille Publishing, 2012), “The Tear dress remains a singularly hostile work … Taken out of political context in which General Franco was to seize complete power in Spain and Hitler was poised to annex Czechoslovakia and Austria, its meaning and impact is lost.”

Hostile garb for hostile times. What do we wear to reflect our current state of outrage?

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These things you ought to bear in mind always: buy good things only and never be afraid of wearing them too often or of not ‘being in style.’ If you have good clothes, in good taste, you will always be chic and you can ignore passing fads. 

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973). Italian fashion designer.

In these modern days of throwaway fashion, this is good advice.

I used to have a problem with wearing something too often. But since I started making my own clothing as well as having them made, I want to wear my things over and over. That’s kind of the point, right? Plus this is the way to create a signature look. (I have several unique summer and winter hats that I’ve been wearing for years. Now people recognize these hats as my signature.)

The trick is to stay with simple silhouettes that never really go out of fashion – a-line skirts that hover around the knee; sheath dresses; straight-leg pants; Oxford shirts or button down blouses. A basic t-shirt is always in style (but not the ubiquitous cold shoulder). Accessories will add any needed interest.

One might ask – how about getting bored with the same old thing? Well, I don’t find that to be the case because I dress by season. Yep, even up against Climate Change and warming temps I stick with certain styles and colors for each season. After a winter of greens and browns in tweed skirts and cardigan sweaters by spring it feels fresh to revisit my violet shirtwaist dress or my cotton black and white skirt.  It’s almost like a new wardrobe only better because it’s familiar.

 

 

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untitledCertain dressmakers desire to pass for an artist. I have one ambition: that is to have good taste.

Jean Patou (1880-1936) – French fashion designer.

Jean Patou was as successful as Coco Chanel in 1920s and 30s Paris. Like Chanel, Patou ushered in a sportswear look for daytime ensembles. In particular he was known for the long knit cardigan.

This quote makes me think of Elsa Schiaparelli, who was inspired by and worked closely with Surrealism artists in the late 1930s and 40s. Patou was an early supporter of Schiaparelli having encouraged her to open her own fashion house in the 1920s.

Here’s to good taste (and good fashion) for the New Year.

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Don’t you love Ms. Schiaparelli’s turban?

… once you have created a dress it no longer belongs to you. A dress has no life of its own unless it is worn, and as soon as this happens another personality takes over from you and animates it, or tries to, glorifies or destroys it, or makes it into a song of beauty.

– Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) from her autobiography, Shocking Life (J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd, 1957).

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The Schiaparelli woman to me is a woman who knows what she wants, loves fashion with a twist, and has a sense of humor.

 

Farida Khelfa, former model, filmmaker, and all around IT girl.

Ms. Khelfa was recently named the ambassador of Schiaparelli, which has been acquired by Italian fashion businessman Diego Della Valle. No word yet on the chosen designer but the reinvented mason Schiaparelli is to open early in 2013.

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Bridget Foley. Photo: Getty Images.

… houses have become brands, administered by ceo’s; some are parts of great luxury groups, brands unto themselves. Their operating principle (if not the price of their wares) is practically Marxist: The brand is supreme. The individual exists for the good of the brand. 

– Bridget Foley, Executive Editor for Women’s Wear Daily

In her WWD column on June 28th 2012, Ms. Foley discusses the issue of corporations buying closed fashion houses and then hiring designers to help set the tone and style of the new brand sporting the old name. The designer becomes all about the brand.

I’ve been following this trend and the latest is Diego Della Valle’s purchase of the Schiaparelli name. Elsa Schiaparelli was an Italian fashion designer popular from the late 1920s through the 1940s. Her house closed in 1954. Vinatge Schiaparelli pieces are highly collectable.

Mr. Valle is President and CEO of Tod’s, a high-end Italian shoe and handbag company. As of now, the new Schiaparelli brand has set up offices in NYC and they are in the process of looking for a designer. The intent is to unveil the reinvented line in January 2013. How ironic that the Schiaparelli name, one of the first to blend art with fashion back in the 1930s, will now be a corporate brand. It will be interesting to see how the hired designer will rework the distinctive Schiaparelli style for a modern audience.

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Schiaparelli suit. Vogue, September 15, 1938. Photo: Regina Relans.

Dress designing … is to me not a profession but an art.

Elsa Schiaparelli

 

 

 

 

 

Miuccia Prada suit, autumn/winter 2004-05. Photo: Toby McFarlan Pond.

Fashion fosters clichés of beauty but I want to tear them apart.

– Miuccia Prada

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC just opened a new exhibit of designs by Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada. Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations runs now through August 19, 2012. If you can’t make it (sadly, I cannot) check it out online: http://www.metmuseum.org/impossibleconversations

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Schiaparelli’s Shoe Hat, 1937.

We went through minimalism with everyone dressed in the same old dreary styles. People are returning to a more personal style. Surrealism is something that transports one into another world. And that is what we need these days.

Marisa Berenson, actress, model and Elsa Schiaparelli’s granddaughter.  

Readers, you will want to know (of you don’t already) that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a fashion  exhibit coming up – Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations – May 10th through August 19, 2012. The exhibit explores the similarities between fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada.

Check out the website to learn more: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/impossible-conversations/introduction

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