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Inspired by: Elsa Schiaparelli, Dolce & Gabbana

Inspired by: Elsa Schiaparelli, Dolce & Gabbana


“The film fashions of today are your fashions of tomorrow.” Schiaparelli


January 15th is the unofficial hat day in the States and to celebrate this day I decided to feature couturier Elsa Schiaparelli. In the 1930s, this Italian-born Paris-based designer had a reputation for creating daring and innovative accessories, but her hats were what made the biggest impact as far as her accessories were concerned. She used bold colors, unusual materials and often adapted everyday objects for her designs. The Shoe Hat from 1937, being the most famous of these, was actually designed by Salvador Dali, with whom Schiaparelil frequently collaborated. The only excuse I have for featuring her on my blog is that she costumed several films and theatrical productions with her most famous work on film probably being Mae West’s costumes for Every Day’s a Holiday (1937) and Zsa Zsa Gabor’s costumes in Moulin Rouge (1952). Ironically, she also designed hats for the 1938 film Pygmalion, based on the play by the same name written by George Bernard Shaw in 1912. This is ironic because Pygmalion is the play that was turned into a Broadway musical under the new title My Fair Lady in 1956 and later adapted for the screen in 1964, which featured the beautiful hats by Cecil Beaton and Ralph Lauren that I featured on my first post.

Schiaparelli is best known for translating Surrealism into fashion art. She had a flair for the unusual, and the first to use shoulder pads, animal prints, and is the inventor of the “shocking pink” or now know as “Schiaparelli Pink”. She is also credited as introducing fashion runway paired with music, favoring tall and slim, boyish figures for modeling clothes and for creating the wraparound dress decades before Diane von Furstenberg. She also created the backwards suit, which was copied by Karl Lagerfeld in 1986. Most recently, Schiaparelli served as inspiration for two Fall/Winter 2009 Collections as seen through the shoe hats of Eric Tibusch’s collection and Dolce and Gabbana’s collection, which featured the shocking pink, shell-shaped buttons, displaced gloves used as headpieces and scarves, ballooning shoulders, huge puffed-up sleeves, “Schiap-shaped silhouettes”, and even the Salvador Dali’s references in the watch necklaces. These are just a few examples of how her revolutionary approach continues to influence today’s fashion world.

Here's an example of Dolce and Gabbana's watch necklaces and Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory.


In this hat, Schiaparelli and Dali used the idea of displacement, where an object is selected and then removed from its usual environment, thus by modifying the object’s original purpose, much like the gloves of Dolce and Gabbana's hats.



Here are a few pictures from the Dolce and Gabbana Fall 2009 Ready-to-Wear Collection as well as some of Elsa Schiaparelli's originals.

The 3 images at the top are from Dolce and Gabbana Fall/Winter 2009 RTW collection. The buttons below are from Schiaparelli's original designs. She often worked with two artists in particular to execute her whimsical fastener designs, Jean Clement and Roger Jean-Pierre. Dolce and Gabbana images were taken from Style.com and Schiap's images from Metmuseum.org


Schiaparelli shoulders on the bottom and Dolce and Gabbana's Fall/Winter 2009 RTW Collection on top.


Schiaparelli’s signature Shocking Pink in center, and two examples of Dolce and Gabbana's shocking pink of their Fall/Winter 2009 RTW Collection.


Schiaparelli was the rival of Coco Chanel. Both of them designed for women between the two world wars, even though each attracted a specific type of woman: the risk taker versus the classicist. Elsa reacted against the simplicity and muted color palette of Chanel. She translated the basic elements of modern art into wearable art. She was a close friend of many of the major Surrealist artists including Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Giacometti, Jean Schlumberger, and Jean Cocteau, and she frequently collaborated with them. It was her bold, whimsical approach to fashion that allowed her to distinguish herself from other designers of the 1920s and 30s. Chanel has described her as that “Italian artist who makes clothes.”

Thanks to the MET’s online collection database, I was able to get pictures of some of the amazing hats she designed throughout her career.

Definitely checkout the MET database if you’re interested in learning more about the background info, materials used, and who the wearers of these hats were, as well as the context in which they were worn. MET has this info for the hats for which it was available. Schiaparelli's hats reveal her creative unconventional design aesthetic and often have the ability to elicit a viewer's double-take, partly because of her involvement with Surrealist artists and partly because one is never quite sure what material she used. She enjoyed scouting out unusual textiles for use in both her garments and accessories. The results were often humorous, whimsical, surreal, stylish, decorative and yet functional. The materials used for the hats below include straw, silk, feathers, cotton, synthetic, wool, hair, horsehair, and even metal.




Who knew Schiaparelli was so influential. Sadly, her success at the time declined after World War II as the direction of the fashion world was changing and women sought the New Look that Chanel, Balmain, Balenciaga, and Dior gave them during the postwar years. Her Parisian couture house went out of business in 1954, the same year Chanel returned to business after the war. So there you have it, happy hat day!



All runway photos courtesy of Style.com.

Schiaparelli images courtesy of Metmuseum.org.



© 2011 - 2015, Louise Junker.

Inspired by: The Birds, Michael Kors

Inspired by: The Birds, Michael Kors

Influenced: Rocky, Gray Hoodies and Sweatpants

Influenced: Rocky, Gray Hoodies and Sweatpants